In 2010, television brought us cops in Hawaii, bikers in California, British investigators and a different kind of situation at the Jersey shore. The shows on this year’s list however, gave us more than a few intriguing characters. They questioned our concept of family, tested our tolerance for violence and challenged our traditional notions of good and evil. One just gave us a weekly glimpse of paradise which is always a good thing. Here are the Top 10 Television Shows of 2010:
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One of the great strengths of television as a storytelling device is its episodic, yet indefinitely framed sense of time. Television’s season format allows for longer-form storytelling, longer still for stories that span the length of an entire series, while individual episodes allow for more focused moments. The viewer experiences narrative time both in measurements of years and the present moment.
This effect of story experienced both in the long and the short term is evident especially in shows that do not slavishly follow a timeline, but instead shake things up through flashback or dream sequence, as in Twin Peaks and The Sopranos, or in allowing longer periods to suspend between picking back up at the beginning of a season, as with Battlestar Gallactica and Mad Men. One of the most inventive uses of the return from “summer break” at the beginning of a season was the addition of Dawn in the Season 5 premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The sudden appearance of the Dawn character was instantly disorienting, but also interestingly significant of television’s standard practice of haphazardly inserting previously unknown characters into established narrative worlds.
Gok Wan knows good body shapers and isn’t afraid to share. As the host of the UK version of How to Look Good Naked, Wan uses both fashion consultations and mini therapy sessions to teach women how to love what nature gave them. The series, which recently finished its sixth season on Channel 4, is a makeover show but wants to be a life-changing therapy session. This identity crisis reflects reality television’s love affair with therapeutic discourse, but does a disservice to why this show really works. It’s not Wan’s body image counseling that makes his guest feel great at the end of the hour. Rather, it’s his role as best friend.
Since roughly the midpoint of its first season, Glee has been a train wreck. Which means that despite the show’s endless onslaught of WTF moments—like when Rachel and her estranged mother bond, love glue gunning all over the place, during a bizarre take on Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”—I have not been able to tear my eyes from it.
For a while, I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly why the derailment happened. Mostly, my concerns have been about Glee’s slow transformation from a smart send-up of the High School Musical films (and teen dramas more generally) into a heavy-handed, humorless public service announcement. I held off on passing judgment on that transformation because the show did, once upon a time, seem innovative in its attempts to explore topics like physical disability, queerness, and interracial teen relationships. Excepting the wheelchair stunt double kerfuffle, Glee’s writers exposed those issues with equal amounts of satire and sincerity.
At the end of a recent episode of The Event, the mysterious leader of an otherworldly group of visitors tells the American president that her people have been waiting “66 years” and their patience is running out. On the other hand, I’ve only been waiting a few hours to find out what the ‘event’ is and my patience ran out around episode two.
The Event is part Lost and part FlashForward. The group of mystery people alludes to Heroes, but without the charm of a villainous Sylar and the conspiracy aspect places it in the category of 24 but without the fierceness of a Jack Bauer. I might have more patience for this identity crisis if it wasn’t for the show’s reliance on back story flashbacks.