2010 continued to be a year during which reality shows took a back seat to great writing and great drama. Scripted shows consistently remained in the Top 20 most watched programs, as viewers are growing tired of fake catfights and cooked up table-flipping gimmicks.
Of course, viewing is subjective and I make no apologies for my list… but here I present my favorite shows of 2010.
10. “The Vampire Diaries”
While it’s certainly more of a guilty pleasure than a critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller, I still can’t resist these bloody hot vampires. By far, “Diaries” has the best looking cast on television (sorry, “Gossip Girl”) which makes it easy to swallow all that blood and gore. The addition of Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) doppelganger, Katherine, during Season 2 could have turned this into a ridiculous daytime soap opera. However, their battle for the Salvatore brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon’s (Ian Somerhalder) love almost makes us forget that Nina plays the part of both the ladies. I have but one gripe about this season - bring back Mason Lockwood (Taylor Kinney). Damon’s brutal slaying of the buff, chiseled werewolf dropped the hot factor of the cast ever so slightly when he left.
9. “True Blood”
Speaking of vampires, there is of course that other even gorier HBO blood fest. With its pay cable status, the show has more license to thrill with its super gross out scenes. However, what makes it great are the characters… not the slime. Lead vampire Bill (Bill Moyer) and his true love, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), may never be together again, but with vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) around why would Sookie want to? Rather than keep their core characters always front and center, the show added some fun and fresh new faces in Season 3 - werewolves, fairies and were-panthers! And next season, we’ll see some witches. I’d like to give a shout out to the “True Blood” season three MVP - Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare). The vampire king of Mississippi easily had 2010’s best line of the year when, after he killed a local newsman on live television (with a hand through his heart), he puts on his best anchor voice and says, “Now time for the weather… Tiffany?” Classic!
8. “Mad Men”
While many critics have pointed to a “Mad Men” slump in Season 4, I still find this slow moving, yet finely crafted, show about ad executives in the 1960’s compelling. There’s a reason it won the Emmy for best drama in September. Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) sudden engagement to his new secretary in the season finale seemed out of left field… but it’s shocking maneuvers like that which make this show worth watching.
7. “The Big Bang Theory”
If you still haven’t yet gotten to know Sheldon, Penny, Leonard, Howard and Koothrappali, then what are you waiting for? The show, in its fourth season, is starting to get the recognition it’s always deserved, earning its first Golden Globe nomination. Not to mention, the Best Actor Emmy award Jim Parsons received for playing ‘wound tighter than a ball of twine’ scientist Sheldon Cooper. Moving the show to Thursday nights, off of CBS’ hugely successful Monday night comedy block, didn’t deter the fans one bit. In fact, it actually helped bring in more viewers to this sitcom, which is like “Friends” for the nerd set. The addition of Mayim Bialik’s equally socially awkward bioresearcher, Amy Farrah Fowler, as a recurring presence in Sheldon’s life has taken the show in an even more bizarre and hilarious direction. The show is only going to get bigger so I suggest you start paying attention.
6. “Grey’s Anatomy”
Usually by Season 6 most shows have started to lose their steam, but “Grey’s” got a shot of adrenaline this year (Katherine Heigl who?) with its season finale two-part “widower gunman in the hospital” storyline. Never has there been a more pulse pounding moment than when the shooter encountered doctor Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), gun pointed at her head, asking, “Are you a surgeon?!” Her lie that she was a nurse spared her life but many others were not so lucky. The shooter finally found his intended victim, Dr. Shepard (Patrick Dempsey), who did not escape his bullets. Although thanks to Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), he did escape death. Did we really think McDreamy was a goner? Season 7 continues to be consistently compelling as Christina deals with post-traumatic stress disorder and so far has opted out of continuing as a surgeon at Seattle Grace. She’ll be back at some point though, I’m sure of it.
5. “Raising Hope”
Maybe it’s because I’m about to have a baby of my own for the first time, but I am absolutely hooked on this quirky FOX comedy about a young 20-something kid raising a daughter he fathered with a now deceased quirky serial killer. Martha Plimpton not receiving a Golden Globe nomination for her hilarious turn as baby Hope’s reluctant grandma, Virginia, is a shame. If the Chance family had some money and a nice house in the suburbs, they could probably be called a “Modern Family.”
4. “The Good Wife”
I’m typically not a fan of procedural legal dramas where the guilty or innocence of someone is tied up in a nice little package by the end. However, I have forgiven the sometimes hokeyness of this show - private investigator Kalinda consistently finding the one piece of evidence that everyone else overlooked or the time it takes to get from signing a client to a full blown trial being obviously ridiculous. But what makes this show great is the steely grace of star Julianna Margulies. Her subtle, yet powerful performance as scorned wife Alicia Florrick, gives new meaning to the phrase “suppressed emotions.” Will she ever truly forgive her cheating politician husband? Will she and her boss/college buddy Will ever hook up? Who cares - as long as Alicia keeps all her emotions bottled up, I’m hooked.
Did we ever truly figure out what exactly the island was? Do we really know why the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 were chosen to be the ones who crashed? Are they all really dead? When did they die? What the heck ever happened to Walt? Why would the producers think it was a good idea to have a child actor on the show when they knew his growth spurt would not match the show’s timelines? Oops. I’m getting off track here. Well, perhaps some of the show’s diehard fans, who spent hours upon hours trudging through every last detail on the website “Lostpedia,” can answer these and many other unanswered questions, but I’m still utterly confused. However, like Michael Emerson (aka Ben Linus) told me at the show’s finale red carpet, “It maybe didn’t come in the package I expected… but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great.” So, long “Lost.”
While the show remains high on my list, occasionally Season 2 has lost its narrative way. Initially, “Glee” was a show about outcasts trying to fit in and the real challenges we all faced in high school — from bullying, to self-esteem and self image issues (set, of course, to a fun musical theme). Every once in a while it veers off into idol worship for music influences (Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga). While I certainly laughed my butt off when Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) remade the Vogue video and Brittany (Heather Morris) was a sexy “Slave 4 U” with a live snake in her Britney video remake, I would have preferred to have seen those songs used as a one off in a more complete episode - not an entirely worked up story dedicated to the pop divas. Having said that - the show is never better in episodes like “Furt,” in which out and proud Kurt (Chris Colfer) must deal with the brutal bullying he receives from a closeted McKinley High football player. Those are the stories they should continue to tell, while leaving out all the A-list guest stars and hokey gimmicks (like “The Rocky Horror Picture” show Halloween episode).
1. “Modern Family”
Unlike that other sophomore season show, “Modern Family” hasn’t needed to rely on special guest stars or tribute episodes (well, despite a James Marsden here or a Fred Willard there). It just remains consistently funny with each character having their own special quirks and nuiances, which you just can’t help but love. Enough said.
And in case you are wondering what I think the worst show of 2010 was, I won’t keep you in suspense.
It was ABC’s “Skating With The Stars.” This disaster on ice was a bad idea from the word ‘go.’ It didn’t work when FOX tried “Skating With Celebrities” four years ago, yet the cocky producers at BBC America thought they could do a better job since they nailed it with “Dancing with the Stars.” Poor Rebecca Budig. She should have held out for a run at the mirror ball trophy instead of being crowned a skating champion.