tongue-tied lightning

2010: The Year in Television

I watched substantially more television this year than I have in the past.  Enough, I think, to justify having a year end list.  The shows at the top aren’t much of a surprise so I’ll be listing things from best to worst.

Mad Men A+:  I think Mad Men is pretty clearly the best show currently on television, perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that every year they find a way to outdo themselves.  In terms of plot development, this may have been the least substantial season yet, but it gave way for great character based episodes like “The Rejected”, “The Suitcase” and “The Beautiful Girls”, among the best episodes of television I’ve seen from any show.  There were weak points, like the voiceover narration in “The Summer Man” and the absence of plot for much of the season led to an episode or two towards the end that felt a bit too plot-driven, but the finale was wonderful and the way things are going there’s no reason to believe next season won’t be even better.

Breaking Bad A:  If season 2 of Breaking Bad was perfectly plotted, season 3 often felt like it was flying by the seat of its pants.  That sounds like a criticism but with a show like Breaking Bad I think it’s a good thing.  Walt and Jesse are often making it up as they go along and it feels right for the writers to be doing the same.  Continuing a turn that began in the latter half of season 2 Jesse has become the audience surrogate and Walt in many ways is becoming a villain.  It’s a more intriguing dynamic than the one the show began with and I can’t wait to see what they do with it in season 4.

Friday Night Lights A:  The jump in quality between seasons 2 & 3 on Friday Night Lights is kind of shocking.  I’m not sure what to attribute it to, but what was merely an entertaining drama has become one of the best shows on television.  Season 4 does nothing to change that.  Mad Men might be the most intellectually stimulating show on TV and the one most attuned to my pleasure centers, Breaking Bad is certainly the most suspenseful show on TV, but when it comes to melodrama and perfectly crafted moments designed to trigger emotion, I’m not sure there’s anything as good as the last two seasons of Friday Night Lights.

Treme B+:  David Simon’s much anticipated follow up to The Wire was met with a fair amount of criticism in the wake of it’s highly praised pilot.  The complaints I most often heard lodged where that nothing ever happened and it lacked a unifying thread.  The latter is easier to combat than the former, as the focus of the show is clearly the city of New Orleans; the music, the food, the culture.  If it’s not as dramatic as the latest reiteration of the CSI/Law & Order formula, well, that’s perhaps for the better.  I think there’s plenty of day to day drama, people struggling to get their lives together and survive in a city that suffered a near-death experience.  I found a lot to love in the first season and I’m looking forward to revisiting it when it hits DVD, I’m also looking forward to season 2.

Rubicon B-: It’s a shame that Rubicon was cancelled because it wasn’t until the final third of the season that it really found it’s footing.  AMC fired series creator Jason Horwitch early on and that’s evident when watching the show.  The first few episodes are much more concerned with crazy conspiracy theories and they move at a glacial pace, even by AMC standards.  There was a Miranda Richardson plotline that took up a third of every episode but seemed unrelated to everything else going on.  It becomes a much stronger show when things start coming together and they focus more on the day to day at API and the conspiracy angle is moved to the background.  The show really found a groove in the last few episodes and then was met by cancellation.  It’s unfortunate that The Walking Dead is getting a second season and Rubicon wasn’t given a chance to flourish.  It had some great characters (particularly Kale Ingram) and some of the best cinematography on TV, but as it stands it’s hard to recommend investing the time.

Boardwalk Empire C:  Given Boardwalk Empire’s pedigree I’m disappointed to find it a completely average show.  It has great performances (the performances are frequently more memorable than the characters themselves) and the direction is usually exceptional but it feels like the writers don’t know what kind of show they want to make.  For much of the first season it seemed to punctuate boredom and aimlessness with bursts of stylized violence and copious amounts of nudity.  And then there’s Michael Shannon’s Van Alden, who is so awash in quirks and idiosyncrasies that it’s hard to remember there is a human being buried in there somewhere.  It did seem to come together a bit during the final few episodes, as Van Alden continued to feel more and more out of place, and the finale seems to narrow things down to a core group of characters and sets up some rivalries that should give season 2 the focus that season 1 often lacked.  There’s a lot of potential here, which I suppose is what keeps me watching.

The Walking Dead D:  If I wasn’t sure whether Boardwalk Empire or The Walking Dead should take the lower spot on the list their respective finales decided it for me.  While The Walking Dead has perhaps been more consistently entertaining, it’s flaws are too many to overlook.   The acting and directing are about what I’d expect to find on a direct-to-video horror film, but it’s the writing that has been the shows weakest point.  Whether it’s an ill-advised racist rant by a redneck character, a character that abuses his wife and daughter and in nuance is lacking only a mustache to twist, a stereotypical latino gang that are just good guys trying to protect their grandparents, or a crazed scientist who is hell bent on confining people in a blast chamber for no apparent reason, the season wasn’t exactly lacking when it came to bad writing.  And while with the six episode season things often felt rushed, it also felt like they were treading water.  Episode long detours that have no apparent value when it comes to theme, plot or character development.  The good news is that Darabont has apparently canned the entire writing staff, and while this could backfire, I can’t imagine it making the show much worse than it already is.  I’m hoping new writers and a 13 episode season will help Darabont & Co. work out the kinks, but if not I won’t hesitate to jump ship.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians:  Let’s face it.  The only reason I watch this show is because it’s as close as I’ll ever get to dating Kim.  I can be such a 14-year-old girl sometimes.  It’s a sad life but someone’s gotta live it.  And hey, at least I’m not watching Jersey Shore.


1 Comment so far
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Walking Dead isn’t THAT bad!
= (

Comment by Smalley

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