The Best TV of 2009

by PopMatters Staff

7 January 2010


5 - 1


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Cast: Matthew Morrison, Jayma Mays, Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Dianna Agron, Kevin McHale, Patrick Gallagher, Iqbal Theba


Review [19.May.2009]



Glee‘s fake pregnancy storyline was one of this year’s most contrived and poorly executed story arcs. So why is the show popping up on so many top ten lists? Because, when Glee is good, it soars far beyond TV’s usual fare. The show is most often lauded for its musical numbers, which have covered Kayne West to Liza Minnelli, and introduced a talented group of singers. Still, the series has also benefited from two other strengths. First would be the comedic performance of the year in Jane Lynch’s portrayal of über-cheer coach Sue Sylvester. Second would be its exploration of the issues facing today’s teens: parental acceptance or rejection of homosexuality and teen pregnancy; the battle between cool kids and outcasts; and the perplexing world of the teenage crush. Even with musical interludes, each episode of Glee offers more insight into teen life than an entire season of MTV teen-angst reality programming. Michael Abernethy



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Battlestar Galactica

Cast: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff



Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick set out to reinvent TV science fiction. The result was a show that combined a realistic grittiness with an unrelenting topicality while exploring issues in religion, politics, personal morality, and the dangers of technology in a way that especially resonated in the post-9/11 world.  A spectacular ensemble cast led by Oscar nominees Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell combined with great writing and the best special effects ever seen on television to produce a series that will be the standard by which all future space opera will be judged. Some fans quibbled with the finale, but the series ended the way Moore and Eick wished, who told over the course of six years a story of survival and forgiveness and redemption.  No one will ever think that sci-fi isn’t also for adults again. Robert Moore



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30 Rock

Cast: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit


Review [16.Jan.2008]


30 Rock

When 30 Rock is at the top of its game, it easily delivers more funny per minute than any other sitcom on the air. 2009 included some brilliant highs for the show, such as episode “Retreat to Move Forward,” in which Liz breaks out her Slingblade impression and dances sans shirt to help Jack save face at a corporate retreat, and a storyline in which Jenna lands a film role playing a Janis Joplin-ish character named Jackie Jormp-Jomp, and admittedly a few lows (a bizarre appearance by Steve Martin and, let’s face it, the first few episodes of Season 4). But even during a fallow period for the show, there are still more than enough brilliant moments to secure 30 Rock’s place on the list. Meghan Lewit



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Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Elizabeth Mitchell, Michael Emerson, Naveen Andrews, Jorge Garcia, Terry O’Quinn, Yunjin Kim, Jeremy Davies, Nestor Carbonell, Rebecca Mader


Review [3.Jun.2008]
Review [6.Feb.2008]
Review [31.May.2007]
Review [12.Feb.2007]
Review [3.Oct.2006]
Review [14.Jun.2005]
Review [4.Oct.2004]
Review [1.Jan.1995]



Following Lost‘s stunning cliffhanger ending to its fourth season, I wondered if even a portion of the new story opportunities would pay off. Why did I doubt you, Cuse and Lindelof? Once again, the series creators have blown away previous achievements and reached a new high. The fifth season sent Sawyer, Juliet, Sayid and others into the past and built an entirely separate life for them on the island. The connections between their experiences and those still living in the present flow seamlessly and build toward a destructive conclusion. Critics of Lost have never understood the emotional resonance of each twist, especially when it involves characters we’ve grown to love. The time-shifting moments bring depth to the entire series and offer so much more than a sci-fi gimmick.  Led by the gripping Michael Emerson (Ben) and Terry O’Quinn (John Locke), the ensemble cast grows stronger with each successive year. The surprising romance between Sawyer and Juliet is easily the series’ best, which makes her final choice even more agonizing. Easily the least predictable season, this past year raises even more questions about the island and each inhabitant. With the final season beginning on February 4, I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next. Dan Heaton



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Mad Men

Cast: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery


Review [25.Jul.2007]


Mad Men

Set in 1963, the third season of AMC’s critical darling Mad Men takes the assassination of President Kennedy as its central metaphor. Taking place in the penultimate episode and set alongside the death of the Draper marriage, it is the perfect backdrop for the irrevocable change taking place both outside and inside the walls of Sterling Cooper. However, as brilliantly as the show dealt with both the assassination and Don’s crumbling marriage, what people are still buzzing about is the amazing, game-changing finale. As the Draper’s finalize their divorce, Don and company avoid the dissolution of their agency by raiding their offices and setting up a new agency in Don’s hotel room. The wild, Ocean’s Eleven-style finale still has fans talking about what is next. Creator Matthew Weiner has the difficult task of making the series live up to the critical adulation heaped upon annually, and this season did not disappoint. Matt Paproth


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