There are an estimated 327 million Television Sets in the United States, of which I’m guilty of owning two, on which I admittedly watch quite a bit of TV. To throw some more statistics into the fire, there are at least 300 channels offering 24 hours of various programming each day. That’s over 7,200 hours of shows to choose from daily, or 2,628,000 choices in a year. Among these endless options there is bound to be a handful of quality programs rich in story, acting, and substance.
Here are my picks for the best 2010 had to offer.
Best New Show – BOARDWALK EMPIRE
The odds are always against the success of a new show. Just peak at the stats I listed above and you’ll realize there is a ton of competition out there. My pick for 2010’s best new show is HBO’s Prohibition era crime drama BOARDWALK EMPIRE. With great writing, excellent performances, and epic production value, Terence Winter has done away with the limits of television by ramping up the action and quality to levels normally reserved for the movies. Add the incredible pilot directed by Martin Scorsese and it’s clear to me that Boardwalk delivered more than any other new show this year.
Runners Up: If not for the disappointing finale, zombie/drama THE WALKING DEAD may have resonated higher with me, but there is no doubting the staying power of this visceral new show. The intricately witty, modern day take on SHERLOCK, although only a mini-series, will be a welcomed return in 2011. HBO’s incredibly real, always inspired DIY series THE NEISTAT BROTHERS was another new favorite I hope returns in 2011.
Worst New Show – HAVEN
No contest here. Syfy’s original series HAVEN was by far the worst new offering of the year, yet somehow it was renewed for a second season. Plagued with horrible acting, gaping plot holes, atrocious effects, and loose, laughable even, connections to an obsure Stephen King short story, I absolutely hated this show.
Runner Up: NBC’s perpetual mystery yawn THE EVENT.
Best Episode – “Fly” BREAKING BAD
More than any hour of television all year, the BREAKING BAD episode “Fly” was the most revealing and simplistic. Two men, two incredible performances by Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston which connected two of televisions most tortured souls in one amazing hour of revelation. The elephant in the room turned out to be the smallest, buzzing annoyance of a fly, the Jiminy Cricket to Walter White’s conscience.
Runners Up: Sincerity and baggage in the MAD MEN episode “The Suitcase,” and lessons in directing from Martin Scorsese in the BOARDWALK EMPIRE pilot.
Best Actor – Bryan Cranston as Walter White on BREAKING BAD
Bryan Cranston’s consistent portrayal of Walter White on BREAKING BAD is layered in deceit, betrayal, and an escalating tension that makes the tragedy of Walter the most compelling character study on television.
Runners Up: Michael C. Hall as the always edgy DEXTER, Jon Hamm for a sobering (not literally) season as Don Draper on MAD MEN, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the intelligently neurotic SHERLOCK.
Best Actress – Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan on DEXTER
Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra Morgan provides DEXTER with it’s soul. The foul-mouthed Debra’s conflict with work, love, and a vigilante that unbeknownst to her was her brother, really made her grow to a point she had yet to on seasons past.
Runners Up: Kelly Macdonald’s strong-willed immigrant Margaret Schroeder on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and Chloe Sevigny’s religiously befuddled Nicolette Grant on BIG LOVE.
Worst Performance – Emily Rose as Audrey Parker on HAVEN
Yes, I’m back to HAVEN hating. Was Emily Rose reading off of cue cards? Nowhere else on television this year did I see such a disconnected, annoying performance from another Actor. Just Really Bad!
Most Dissapointing Season – LOST
LOST. Come on; was there really a more disappointing series finale ever in all of TV history? I didn’t think so. To go back and end on the most predictable of outcomes, not answering the questions fans wanted most, LOST really made us regret years of theorizing and obsessing over a show that in the end couldn’t give a shit.
Runner Up: Losing focus amongst the clutter, TRUE BLOOD failed to provide anything more than a hodgepodge of sexy/violent mythical creatures.
HBO’s new post-Katrina drama TREME killed off its best character, Creighton Bernette, played by the always great John Goodman. An apparent suicide, I fear the loss of Bernette “jumped the shark” and really took me out of the series. Too bad really.
Runner Up: While it was certainly its time, LOST will still be missed.
Funniest Show – COMMUNITY
For the COMMUNITY zombie/Aliens parody episode “Epidemiology” alone it’s worth the pick for funniest show. Referential geek humor at its best! What’s better than a half hour filled with pop-cultural brilliance, space shuttle simulations, endless blanket forts, and stop-motion angst?
Runner Up: Danny McBride’s over-confident Kenny Powers spent a memorable debauchery filled season in Mexico on HBO’s EASTBOUND AND DOWN.
Best Reality – THE NEISTAT BROTHERS
Reality is a word and genre thrown around far too loosely. My picks for Best reality TV present life as it is, real reality. There is no other show quite like THE NEISTAT BROTHERS. The premise is simple; two brothers document their lives and adventures. The execution is anything but simple. This is Do It Yourself filmmaking at its best, as Casey and Van Neistat present their lives in some of the most creative and artful uses of editing, stop-motion, and mixed media that I’ve ever seen on TV. These guys bleed style in a world that is too caught up in formality.
Runner Up: The artfully produced, culturally enlightening world of Anthony Bourdain’s NO RESERVATIONS.
Best Sci-Fi/Horror – FRINGE
FRINGE succeeds where so many shows fail. Its strengths in acting, effects, creepiness, and story have propelled it into the realm of truly great Sci-Fi. Crossing universes lead to character developments and revelations that would make the greats of the genre proud. And with John Noble’s uniquely unstrung take on the Walter Bishop character, Fringe is also one of the quirkiest shows on TV.
Runner Up: Syfy’s funny, smart, and witty EUREKA is like a scientific cornucopia of personality.
Show of the Year – BREAKING BAD
BREAKING BAD built on its tension like a master architect, plotting and planning every move Walter and Jesse made in the intersecting downfalls they endured. The totally unpredictable season had me at every twist, turn, and uncharacteristic shock. When Walter saved Jesse by running down those dealers I literally jumped onto my couch and yelled at the TV. And that finale, well, no new season has me more excited for 2011 than Breaking Bad does.