The Best TV Shows of 2010

Running the gamut from the ever-present to the new and novel, PopMatters' TV picks prove that, as a medium, the small screen challenges the big at every entertainment (and aesthetic) level.

TV Show: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Network: FX

Cast: Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Danny DeVito


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Display Width: 200It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Though difficult to top the viral sensation known as “Kitten Mittens”, the sixth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still provided plenty of dark-hearted laughs for devout followers of Dennis, Dee, Mac, and Charlie. Kicking off the year on the right foot, “Mac Fights Gay Marriage” was one of only a few spoof episodes in 2010, a year in which Sunny was mainly character driven. The show has always balanced social satire with the gang’s personal squabbling, but recently the FX program seems to be becoming more and more fascinated with their character’s wild, often offensive, antics. No complaints here. After 58 episodes, the audience knows these characters well enough to follow them anywhere. Whether it’s Sweet Dee’s mystery pregnancy, Mac and Dennis appearing in black face for Lethal Weapon 5, or Charlie cracking under the strain of his rat-bashing job, Sunny proudly retains its title as the best adult program on television. Ben Travers


TV Show: Tosh.0

Network: Comedy Central

Cast: Daniel Tosh


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Comedy Central

Cable has been trying to tap into the whole "viral" video phenomenon for a few years now, with everything from VH-1 excellent Web Junk 20 (only when the equally brilliant Patrice O'Neal was host) to the lesser E! sensibilities of G-4's Web Soup. Thankfully, Comedy Central has decided to go more dark and biting, bringing on acerbic host Daniel Tosh to mock everything YouTube generation holds dear. Riffing unrelentingly on the stupidity of those who would risk life and limb for a few moments of Internet fame, he always finds the right combination of ridicule and rationalize to win over the viewer. That Tosh is also laugh out loud funny helps as well. As long as there are adolescent lunkheads injuring their testicles for the joy of others and fame starved no-talents in need of a reality check/"redemption", this show will continue to soar -- and so will it's hilarious host. Bill Gibron


TV Show: Sons of Anarchy

Network: FX

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Ron Perlman, Mark Boone Junior, Dayton Callie, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan


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Fully embracing its Shakespearean roots, Sons of Anarchy boldly forced familial secrets and lies to the forefront of Kurt Sutter’s brilliant biker gang drama. Featuring brilliant guest performances by the likes of Hal Holbrook, Paula Malcomson and others, the show’s third season brought most of the cast (including Ron Perlman as the Sons’ pater familias) to Belfast in search of Abel, the abducted son of club Vice President Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). The series’ unique use of cover songs, most notably series star Katey Sagal’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”, continued to hammer home the dire straits these characters find themselves in week after violent week. Ryan Hurst, as the second-generation Son Opie, shined brightly, especially in the season finale, finally achieving what fans can only hope is a small amount of peace and personal forgiveness. Sagal, as the blunt matriarch Gemma Teller, continues to give the best performance on television. Kevin Brettauer


TV Show: Supernatural

Network: The CW

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles


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The CW

Supernatural successfully swerved away from the X-Files pitfall, concluding its five-year, Apocalypse-themed story arc without unnecessarily stretching it out (along with the show’s credibility). The Season Five finale saw the Winchester brothers staving off the end times at the cost of younger sibling Sam’s life. Season Six picked up with a new show-runner (Sera Gamble in place of still-Executive Producer Eric Kripke) and a new story arc. The once-grizzled Dean has become a harried suburbanite while formerly sweet Sammy has embraced soullessness upon his surprise return from the dead. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki display fine acting chops, retaining five seasons’ worth of characterization, while convincingly adapting the brothers to their new life roles as they unsteadily trying to find their way back to who they used to be and deal with the supernatural fallout of an averted Apocalpyse. Despite the change in storyline dynamics, at its core, Supernatural remains centered around the “for-better-or-worse” relationship of two brothers. The well-researched demons, angels, and occasional “monsters of the week” are just an added benefit to drive this relationship forward. Lana Cooper


TV Show: Conan

Network: TBS

Cast: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Jimmy Vivino


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Yes, for a few weeks there were lots of jokes, self-deprecating with more than a hint of genuine anger, about our man losing The Tonight Show and shuffling over to the basic-cable home of Family Guy reruns and edited broadcasts of American Pie movies. But something happened as compulsive talk-show host Conan O'Brien adjusted to his new TBS show: he only got looser, funnier, and weirder. A scaled-down set, a more involved audience, and the invaluable improvisations of Andy Richter have given the new show a more intimate, comedy-club atmosphere that leaves Jay Leno's needy lameness in the dust. Don't be surprised if the networks start calling back in four or five years -- or if O'Brien stays put in his welcome new home. Jesse Hassenger


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