[16 December 2010]
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:
If you watched The Wire, you know it’s just fun to say: “Five-O.” Add Hawaii to it and it’s even better. Why fight bad guys in Baltimore when you can fight them in Honolulu? The plots are simple and the characters are predictable but this remake keeps me coming back. Maybe it’s for Scott Cann’s exasperated ‘I love NJ’ Danno, or for the iconic theme music. But really, who am I kidding? It’s all about location, location, location.
9-So You Think You Can Dance
Among reality television’s catty housewives and scheming survivors, the contestants on So You Think You Can Dance are a refreshing mix of talent, ambition and humility. The show has capitalized on the talent show format made popular by other reality series but instead of watching contestants do a paso doble and thinking:“Why?” you may find yourself thinking: “How?” and then: “Wow!”. This series offers a master class in how to showcase ordinary people being extraordinary.
8-Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Yes, the CGI fight scenes are a little too video game (and not in a cute Wii kind of way) and the shots of bloody body parts may make you cringe but this retelling of the legendary warrior slave’s story is a prime example of unconventional and provocative television. The stylized violence is both an assault and a delight to the senses. It also allows this series to push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable viewing.
7-Sons of Anarchy
While this season’s Ireland storyline was a disappointing detour, Sons of Anarchy offers an entertaining and intriguing look behind the scenes of a motorcycle club. It’s violent but it’s also funny, thoughtful and the best portrayal of a dysfunctional family on television this year.
Jim and Pam got married and had a baby. Andy lost Erin to Gabe. Dwight and Angela have a sex contract. The relationships in The Office are funny, messy and just plain “ew”. But it is Michael’s never ending and usually misguided quest to be his employees’ best friend that keeps this show both hilarious and a little bit heartbreaking.
Sure, this series leans toward guilty pleasure status with its Team Eric versus Team Bill dynamic. Yet, underneath the show’s soap opera exterior lies a smart commentary on the politics of exclusion. Combine that with the best title sequence ever and you can forget that Edward guy.
Nucky Thompson is a man who has a soft spot for babies and widows. He also extorts money, runs a bootleg alcohol trade and sanctions murder. He is the most powerful man in Atlantic City and his empire is the boardwalk. Watch this show for its artful reconstruction of Prohibition but love it for Steve Buscemi’s nuanced portrayal of a conflicted businessman/gangster.
Mad Men is often celebrated for its meticulous recreation of 1960’s America. It should also be applauded for its critique of the collective nostalgia assigned to the era. What makes this show one of the best period pieces on television is the balance it maintains between loving tribute and subtle introspection.
Jackie Peyton is a great nurse, wife and mother. She’s also a drug addict and an adulterer. Leaving Carmela Soprano far behind her, Edie Falco’s portrayal of this fascinating character is so compelling that you root for Jackie to kick the drug habit and at the same time, hope she doesn’t.
How I love DCI John Luther. Let me count the ways. He’s dangerous. He’s emotional. He’s a genius investigator. He’s friends with a woman who murdered her parents and her dog. The cases in this British crime drama are gritty but it is Luther’s relationship with his dark muse Alice that makes this series a brilliant example of what police procedurals can be if they disrupt conventional notions of good and evil.