The Best TV Shows of 2010

by PopMatters Staff

11 January 2011


10 - 6

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Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, John Noble




Fringe avoided being the X-Files rip off that it initially looked like, to become one of the best shows on television. Somehow creators J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci brought together outlandish bits of theoretical science, combined it with a collection of well-rounded characters, and made it work. Who thought you’d care about a show starring Joshua Jackson? The heart of Fringe is Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), who is charming, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at the same time. In 2010 he stretched himself even further, playing the brilliant, though befuddled Walter, who viewers have come to love, as well as version of himself from an alternate universe, a cold, calculating politician bent on causing a full-scale war between realities. Hopefully Fox’s decision to move Fringe to a Friday night time slot (beginning in January) is not the death sentence it was for other beloved shows, like Firefly. Brent McKnight



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Cast: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Tate Donovan, Campbell Scott, Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, Lou Cariou, Ben Shenkman, Keith Carradine


Review [24.Jul.2007]



Along with its riveting melodrama, Damages also raises thematic questions that underscore its interplay of ambition and desperation. Patty and Ellen’s complex relationship as mentor and protégée exposes the emotional and physical extremes of a rite of passage (for the less experienced) and exercise of power (for the more experienced). In the opener to this third series, Patty and Ellen enacted the ambiguity of separation. Ellen acknowledged her loss, even as that loss was empowering. And Patty seemed reconciled to her erstwhile student’s apparent independence, even as that independence marked the triumph of the mentor’s training. Their now longstanding relationship merges both parental and sexual intensity, hinted at in each woman’s dogged persistence and curiosity about the other, while the script leaves open spaces for viewers to indulge their own emotional legacies. On a much broader palette, Patty’s actions, rather like those of Jack Bauer in 24, dramatize the fundamental contradiction at the heart of any democratic society. When one’s enemies will play every single dirty trick possible, how does one win without transgressing familiar moral imperatives? Both shows peddle a brutal realpolitik of necessity in the pursuit of the greater good (and personal survival, of course). But they also force audiences to confront their own complicity in accepting the benefits of such actions without acknowledging responsibility for their execution. “Behind closed doors” operates as a convenient fiction for both those who take action and those millions more who benefit from it. The selective blindness that saves human beings from acknowledging barbarity is rarely more visible than it is in Damages. Lesley Smith



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The Walking Dead

Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs



The Walking Dead

Despite airing only six episodes in its first season, The Walking Dead, AMC’s new drama about a plague that turns most of the world’s inhabitants into zombies, gained immediate acclaim as perhaps the finest new series of 2010. Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s critically-acclaimed comic is not really about monsters, but is instead a profoundly intelligent and compassionate exploration of what it means to remain human in a world where being human has become impossible. There are some truly astonishing action sequences, but the show is at its greatest when it brings human experience to the breaking point; no show on television features so many emotionally naked moments. If you don’t cry two or three times an episode, you aren’t paying attention. Great direction and superb acting was mildly hampered by mildly inconsistent writing, but a revamp of the writing team should help. Along with its AMC stable mate Mad Men, this could well be one of the three or four best shows on TV. Robert Moore



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Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase




For all the much-deserved attention Dan Harmon’s imaginative series gets for “big” episodes like the paintball-filled “Modern Warfare” or the aptly-named “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, it’s the wholly believable characters that populate the world of Community that make it such a unique treasure. The characters themselves, as season two’s “Cooperative Calligraphy” easily proves, are like a well-made chain: they support each other, yes, but would fall apart if one link in the chain was cut. Recent episodes, showcasing life-altering moments such as the death of Pierce’s (Chevy Chase) mother, the extremes Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) will go to in order to defend her faith, Troy’s (Donald Glover) 21st birthday realization that he’s just as much an adult as the rest of the gang and Abed’s (Danny Pudi) discovery of the real meaning of Christmas (“Thanks, Lost”), demonstrate how these characters need each other, because together, they really have created a community. Kevin Brettauer



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Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sam Anderson, Naveen Andrews, L. Scott Caldwell, Nestor Carbonell, François Chau, Henry Ian Cusick, Jeremy Davies, Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jeff Fahey, Fionnula Flanagan, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia


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]



The end of season five set up a huge cliffhanger going into Lost‘s final season. That cliffhanger wasn’t really resolved until the final moments of the series finale, a source of frustration to many. Really, two big questions dominated season six of the show and threatened to overwhelm the wonderful main story and character development that was going on. But if you were one of the people who was able to avoid getting bogged down in “What the hell IS the Sideways World?” and “Are we ever going to get ALL the answers?”, then Lost provided a hell of a lot of thrills. The sideways stories gave the show the chance to re-examine its characters in a different context, while the main storyline gave us the gradual redemption of Jack Shepherd, the story behind Jacob and The Man in Black, and the final battle between the forces vying to control the Island. In the end, producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse got to wrap up the show the way they wanted to, on their own terms. That alone makes Lost a towering achievement among long-running serialized television, but it helps that the show was pretty awesome from the beginning right through to the end. Chris Conaton


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