Most every critic will tell you that 2010 was a great year for television but, in reality, it was mostly just a good year for cable television. Broadcast networks saw their ratings continue to decline overall, and a number of high profile shows failed out of the gate. Qualitatively, this was one of the weakest pilot seasons in recent history, producing duds like Outsourced, The Defenders, Outlaw, The Whole Truth, and Feces My Dad Says. However, amidst the unimpressive fare, there was some truly great TV in 2010, which made the compilation of a Top 10 rather difficult.
I’ve never been one for the “everybody gets a trophy” approach, but I do think it’s worth noting several shows that just failed to make my list. Southland, Louie and The League were all tough omissions, though for different reasons. Southland’s unintentionally abbreviated second season was tremendous, but suffered from the fact that it only had 6 episodes to strut its stuff. Louie deserves commendation for its ability to change shape every week. No show kept me guessing in the way Louie did, and that’s a real compliment. And then there’s The League, which was probably the funniest show of the fall.
As aforementioned, there were a handful of shows canceled in 2010, before they got the chance to find their feet. Fox pulled the plug on Lone Star after only 2 episodes, and ABC did the same with My Generation. Arguably the two best pilots of the fall season, the shows deserve a tip of the hat. Then there’s Fox’s Running Wilde, which may or may not get to complete its run sometime in the future, and their already discarded Sons of Tuscon. Both series showed real potential but failed to attract enough viewers. The same could be said of ABC’s Better Off Ted and Scrubs: The New Class, which were funnier than anything else the network has aired in 2010 but suffered from criminally low numbers.
House, which has frequently found itself near the top of my list in previous years, fell out of my Top 10 in 2010. Last spring House was limping towards the union of House and Cuddy, and it became painfully obvious to those watching. This fall, the show has suffered from the loss of both Olivia Wilde and Jennifer Morrison. Heroes, which at one time was my favorite show on television, ended its run in 2010 with several strong episodes. But, even though it rebounded from a messy 3rd season, it was in no way strong enough to make my list. Contrarily, Lost ended its run on a low note for me. The vast majority of its final season revolved around the flash-sideways, which proved to be a highly unsatisfying mechanism. The show’s lackluster finale also didn’t help.
Finally, it seems as though I should address why several shows that have found themselves on other critics’ lists didn’t make my own. Since I’ve yet to catch up on Breaking Bad, you will not find it on my list. That isn’t a knock against the show, but rather a knock against me for failing to watch the show from its start. Similarly, I missed the boat on Dexter, though I’m told this season wasn’t list worthy anyway. 2009’s breakout comedies Modern Family and Glee both failed to make my list, because of the incredible unevenness of their 2nd seasons thus far. Glee has received the brunt of the backlash, but Modern Family hasn’t been much better. Airing episodes out of order since the 2nd season premiere, Modern Family has lacked both narrative consistency and laughs. Glee continues to underutilize the vast majority of their cast, while meandering through unrealistic storylines. The best new comedy of 2009, Community, also failed to make the cut. Although Community continues to be one of television’s better comedies, for much of this fall, it seems as though the show has been chasing after the magic of “Modern Warfare.”
Note: I also decided to forgo the inclusion of The Pacific since my list is meant to applaud the best series of 2010, and that was a mini-series.