best tv of 2010

It’s my favorite post of the year! It feels a bit different this year, because I pretty much watched everything on hulu. So, no show had a place in my week or a home on my tv. It was all just a to do list waiting patiently for me on my computer.

And I have to say, I feel that it’s a fairly dismal year. Because there were a lot of things I liked (a lot), but very few things that just blew me away. and yet, I managed to come up with two Honorable Mentions. The Vampire Diaries is the best show on tv I’m not watching. Just looking at the promos with their rich, lush colors you know this has to be good. Plus all the actors are shockingly attractive and the writers are all talented. You know if I was watching this, I’d love it.

Also, Nikita which seems sharp and dark (and is) but also is strangely comforting and surprisingly engaging. with a good season two it will likely make the list next year.

Sadly, this year marks the demise of not just a show, but the one show that has consistently been on every list from the beginning. But I stopped watching Supernatural in October of ’09 and so even though it’s still on, it has fallen from my list.


10. Hawaii 5-0
It’s hollow, fast fun but it’s so pretty. Of all the new shows this year Hawaii 5-0 is the only one I really enjoyed and am still watching. The stories aren’t bad and the action is exciting and did I mention it’s pretty?

CRUSOE poster cropped 2010

9. Crusoe.
Even though NBC aired this in ’08 – ’09, I watched all 13 episodes this year on hulu. It’s beautiful and has exciting action and good emotion. The estranged romance of Crusoe and his wife was handled well and his backstory was interesting. Plus, his friendship with Friday was a lot of fun. Overall, good show with a good ending.


8. Fringe.
I’ve never loved Fringe, though I’ve mostly liked it. It makes the list this year because of two strong episodes (Peter and White Tulip) and one obvious surprise. Peter was just so emotional, full of such strength and conflict and willing heartbreak. and I stole a name from it. White Tulip seemed like a storyline we’ve all seen before but had a moment of great heart with Walter and then the endings were both actually unexpected and sweet. But seriously, these people keep making rookie mistakes because they never ask the infuriatingly obvious question! Still, the obvious oversight this season created a surprisingly engaging storyline. They just could have been smarter getting themselves into it.

LEGEND OF THE SEEKER Season 2 cropped 2010

7. Legend of the Seeker.
What began as a Saturday Morning Show in the first season turned into a world of exciting, fast paced and powerful stories about powerful and intriguing women. Legend of the Seeker wrestled with such interesting entanglements of the human will and power and the twisting of a human being through pain and also kindness and the places where strength comes from. And then, the girls got to have all the cool knife fights. what’s not to love?

CASTLE Nathan Fillion Stana Katic 2010

6.5 Castle.
I vacillated between Castle and Hawaii Five-0 as I was compiling the list this year. s3 of Castle has been good and fun but not great. Then, much to my horror, I realized that I’d overlooked the end of s2 with Michael Trucco. Because that’s when it was awesome. Not just because Trucco himself is awesome, but also because of the dynamic he brought to Castle and Beckett. I loved Demming and Castle talking sport-speak about the whole thing and Demming fighting with Beckett and then charming her. And his still subtle sense of rivalry with Castle. It just seemed to make the whole show come alive and totally worthy of being on the list this year.

EUREKA Cafe Diem Niall Matter Colin Ferguson cropped 2010

6. Eureka.
The thing I like is no matter how much this show changes it still feels like Eureka. Its greatest flaw this season was that it wasn’t as quippy and funny, but it was still fun. In place of the amusing bits it became a show more grounded emotionally. and then there was this last scene between Jo and Zane in the finale that was reminiscent of the great shows on lists past; full of longing and sadness and love and shrouded realization and a little passion. It was fantastic.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Season 1 cropped 2010

5. Friday Night Lights.
I watched the first 4 seasons on dvd this year and realized I should have listened to my sister years ago when she told me to watch it. The characters and the drama are so authentic they’re wonderful. There were only a handful of moments I really loved (early in There Goes the Neighborhood and of course The Son) and s2 was my favorite overall, but Friday Night Lights is one of the few shows that doesn’t need outstanding pieces and moments because the whole of it is so good. except the end of The Son which is astoundingly brilliant and the reason I started watching.

DOLLHOUSE 1x05 Tahmoh Penikett cropped 2010

4. Dollhouse.
Admittedly, this is a sentimental favorite. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It had great writers and great actors and great people that made it so exceptional. In its final episodes, Dollhouse willfully shattered itself, did the unthinkable, changed all the rules and then found a way to still offer a satisfying conclusion. And of course, there was funny in the darkness and truly remarkable performances. I miss it.


3. Stargate Universe.
I admit it took me a while to get into Stargate Universe. In the beginning, I felt it was a misguided attempt at a character driven BSG-esque show. The problem was none of the characters were particularly likable, which is the key to a good character drama – flawed yet likable characters. So, I stopped watching it. But then, “Peer pressure, man. I’m far too sensitive.” So, I started watching it again and found it placidly interesting. Until Incursion: Part 2 happened. and Chloe and Eli were so fascinating and Chloe was so piercingly lonely and the story was suddenly complicated when I realized that even though she’s sleeping with Scott, they always make Eli her hero which is not how that story normally goes – so of course I found that intriguing. and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. and suddenly there was no going back. TJ was still strong and subtle and Greer was a good guy and even though Chloe and Scott and Eli had been this simple, obvious triangle they were suddenly dark and beautiful and captivating. that was what hooked me.

WHITE COLLAR Matt Bomer 2010

2. White Collar.
This show has grown into it’s own really well. I love White Collar more with every episode because it’s charming and funny and clever. Peter is surprisingly competent where you don’t expect him to be and not bland, which he could be. Mozzie is appealingly quirky (and I don’t always find quirky appealing) and Neal walks this adorable line between innocent sincerity and cunningly charming which makes him both sweetly fun and interesting.

MERLIN Season 2 Banner cropped 2010

1. Merlin.
The dark horse comes from Honorable Mention to #1 on New Year’s Eve. Because I love Merlin, despite any ability to justify it. The production values aren’t brilliant and yet it’s not a cheap show because so much of the money is put into the recreating the period (costumes and art dept work is beyond exceptional) instead of other things like stellar VFX (not bad, but not Stargate or Supernatural level) or lighting/camera/etc that makes something look sharp and bright (like Hawaii 5-0 or White Collar). Each episode moves quickly through a story and still leaves time for character moments, but the writing isn’t brilliant. The performances are good, sometimes even great. But, the dynamic between Arthur and Merlin is brilliant and hilarious and also poignant. And it’s funny and sincere and has great action including visceral jousting and exciting sword fights. But when push comes to shove, this show just makes me delightfully, blithely happy.

January 3, 2011 | Annual Best TV List , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | this post contains affiliate links

12 responses to “best tv of 2010

  1. Cheers for the shout out to Legend of the Seeker. This is one of the better advertisments this show got, seeing the network that bought it didn’t really put much effort into promotion.

    There are quite a few good shows on that list, and it is good to see you cover a variety of genres.

  2. Lady Ravenwood

    Legend of the Seeker’s women definitely packed a wallop and showed enormous strength and resilience in the face of incredible odds. I loved the show’s positive messages and that it was truly an ensemble, not an all boys club. The plot twists leading up to last year’s season’s finale had fans in a frenzy and there were so many difficult decisions to make. It’s a shame that because of poor marketing and a bad time slot this gem is no longer allowed to shine.

    • aj

      I really enjoyed the women of LotS and thought they were intriguing. I would have liked to see where they could have taken it in another season.

  3. JW

    What do you have against capital letters?

    I pretty much watched everything on Hulu. FANCY! Did Hulu suggest that you buy a Toyota a million times and now you will never, ever buy one out of spite?

    The Vampire Diaries is the best show on tv *I’m* not watching. False. I just can’t believe that. I watched about 2 minutes of the pilot (thank you Silversun Picktups song in background) but since we are able to judge a show that we have not actually watched there is no way that show is on a top 10 list.

    Nikita which seems sharp nope. Okay, I didn’t get through the Nikita pilot either. It was horrendous. Also, because this is the 2nd CW show I am lamenting, please do not get me wrong, there is definitely a time/place/audience for their fare, but these two examples are cringe-worthy. Though the one thing we can agree on is that their casts are extremely attractive which is a holdover from the days of the WB.

    I promise not to disparage your beloved Supernatural. I am sure it took a lot for it not to make your list.

    Hawaii 5-0Okay, after that nice Supernatural moment, it’s back to disparaging. I don’t even need to read any further. This show is bad. B-A-D. It seems in reading further, you also understand the show is B-A-D. I too think it (the pilot I suffered through) is a very good looking show, but you cannot tell me that you are okay with this existing in the televisual universe simply because of its high production value. Do you want your tv plastered with shows with horrible stories and bad acting, but shiny exteriors? Soap operas, anyone? That is not what good tv is about. The production value is only a part of a whole.

    8. Fringe. I am amazed at your dedication. If something isn’t up to snuff I stop watching it. Though a serialized show would definitely be something I would stick with to see if could pull through its mediocrity.

    6. Eureka. The thing I like is no matter how much this show changes it still feels like Eureka. Fantastic summation. Even to someone who (shocker) hasn’t seen the show.

    5. Friday Night Lights. I watch this show! Yes. You should listen to your sister. This show looks nothing like the rest of the network landscape and also has the most endearing (and enduring) couple on tv: Eric and Tami Taylor. Also, The Son is a huge standout episode. So nuanced and superbly acted. What about Tyra’s college admissions essay?

    3. Stargate Universe. Dear AJ, Why do you not believe in commas and/or periods? What is your fascination with the word “and”? Faithfully yours, JW.

    2. White Collar. USA has really nailed their demo and has had success in finding shows that fit into their system very well. That said, I can’t stand that they have exploded onto the airwaves with these shows. Now, I know I’m a hypocrite, because I have nothing bad to say about Monk, Psych, or Burn Notice. But the 20 minutes I watched of Covert Affairs was so, so, SO bad in the lowest common denominator type of television. As for White Collar…haven’t seen it.

    1. Merlin. The dark horse comes from Honorable Mention to #1 on New Year’s Eve because I love this show, despite any ability to justify it. Sometimes that is enough. See now that is a reason to watch a show. Not because it’s pretty or whatever. If it makes you happy, that is what we are in this for, right? I’m off to cue up my dvds of The OC.

    BTW, there are things missing from this list that I hope you are watching. Mad Men (which I watched on iTunes this year) is the popular, glaring omission, but it also that good and has such fine arcs for its women characters.

    Also, what do you have against the comedy? Tv comes in half-hours as well as hours!

    • aj

      Exceptional rebuttal. Thoughtful and not wrong in some places and thoroughly engaging. It’s the most fun I’ve had since I wrote the list! 🙂

      e.e. cummings didn’t like capital letters either. uncapitalized “and”s and things are continuation of thoughts where I was forced to put a period before, like soft lingering thoughts. capitalizing them makes them too harsh.

      hulu did suggest I buy a Palm PrePlus and I obeyed and am quite happy. Way too many Geico commercials, though. Except I don’t really feel that I can complain since they fund my hulu experience.

      You can’t judge a show by its pilot (though we totally can judge shows we don’t watch). The stronger reason this made honorable mention is I have a friend who watches TVD and Dexter and tweeted that she was watching Dexter and expected them to take the story wherever but they didn’t go there and she thought, “TVD would have gone there” I figure if a show is willing to push its story into the unfathomable that easily, and more so even than a show about a serial killer, it deserves some respect. And good or not, I’m pretty sure I’d like it if I was watching it.

      I didn’t see the Nikita pilot. I started watching probably 4 episodes in (maybe 3). There’s a lot of drivel but there’s some good moments of depth and interesting. And agreed – very attractive casts.

      I promise not to disparage your beloved Supernatural. I am sure it took a lot for it not to make your list. thank you.

      10. Hawaii 5-0 mostly true. In response to being okay with it existing in the telvisual universe – well, there are a lot of procedurals that exist in that universe and most aren’t as pretty as this one. This one tries hard and wants to be good and might figure out how in the next season or two.

      8. Fringe I actually did stop watching in the middle of the first season. Then watched the s1 finale out of curiosity and it was good so I started watching again.
      That said, if you continue to watch things that are mediocre, the market will continue to produce them. true. But… (see next note)
      I seem to remember something else you wrote about not paying for bad movies. Isn’t this a similar instance? why, yes. Yes, I did. Love that you read it. And no, this is not a similar instance. There is bad (Desperate Housewives), mediocre (NCIS:LA) and good. Fringe is mostly good.

      5. Friday Night Lights
      What about Tyra’s college admissions essay? Unfortunately, I only vaguely remember that (and only that it happened and wasn’t bad). But I have watched a lot of CW/WB shows and so have heard a few college essays. My Fatal Flaw by Ephram Brown on Everwood remains my favorite: (third bullet point down)

      3. Stargate Universe Dear JW, My editor wholeheartedly agrees with you. Commas and periods, however are obtrusive little things that try to interject themselves into my cadence. Except for when they are useful in being definitive or creating the aforementioned cadence. “And” is a lovely, little soft word that isolates the different aspects of a thing, but still links them because they belong together. Sometimes, it’s a little whimsical. With love, aj

      2. White Collar
      Now, I know I’m a hypocrite, because I have nothing bad to say about Monk, Psych (hilarious and #8 on the 2007 list), or Burn Notice. But the 20 minutes I watched of Covert Affairs was so, so, SO bad in the lowest common denominator type of television (Covert Affairs is mediocre, and that rating includes credit for being one of the only roles where Piper Perabo hasn’t seriously annoyed me and that it has Christopher Goram, who I like from Jake 2.0. Still, I watch it.). As for White Collar…haven’t seen it. (Higher end USA fare on par with, though completely different from, Burn Notice).

      I watched I think most of s1 of The O.C. that was a bad knock off of a WB show. But if you like it, I won’t judge you.

      I have heard nothing but good things about Mad Men. It remains off the list because I haven’t watched it. Sadly, I am also not that interested in watching it. I am content to know that it’s very good and to respect it and to not ever need to watch it. If, however, I ever do watch it I would not be surprised if, like FNL, I admit I should have been watching it all along. But until that day comes… (how do you like them commas?)

      I do watch half hour comedies. How I Met Your Mother and The Office and just started watching Modern Family recently (because it was a trade with a friend – I’m watching Modern Family and he’s going to watch BSG). While I like to laugh, it’s much more difficult for funny to stick with me and make me think something is great. It has to be really clever or wildly hilarious, otherwise comedy is just the sort of thing that passes through a moment.

      • JW

        Though I understand that you might not be able to fully judge a show solely on its pilot, it is the one episode that should set up a show for the season or seasons to come. With that, if it does not tell me what the show will be about then I have a big problem.

        aj: I agree that a pilot should show you what the show will be about, but I think so many shows really find themselves and get stronger after their pilots when they figure out what works and what resonates in the story instead of necessarily what a creator is trying to force it to be, that a show can be redeemed from a bad pilot.

        10. Hawaii 5-0 fair enough.

        8. Fringe. Okay. I’ll give you this one. Mostly because the promos for the show are cool and JJ rules.

        5. Friday Night Lights. You should rewatch that ep. To see how far Tyra has come was so uplifting. So brilliant! Also, Everything packed inside the showdown between East and West Dillon in the finale was amazing!

        aj: that’s right! The showdown was fantastic, and the way that Eric just kept getting beat up on and so much of it was so unfair and then turned it around was so amazing.

        The OC was self aware. That is what I loved about it. Oh, and the music. They had that down. The sad thing about it is that it really found it’s stride (again…something it had definitely lost in S3) in S4 which made me sad it had to leave.

        (how do you like them commas?) Love it.

        • aj

          I agree that a pilot should show you what the show will be about, but I think so many shows really find themselves and get stronger after their pilots when they figure out what works and what resonates in the story instead of necessarily what a creator is trying to force it to be, that a show can be redeemed from a bad pilot.

          5. Friday Night Lights. that’s right! The showdown was fantastic, and the way that Eric just kept getting beat up on and so much of it was so unfair and then turned it around was so amazing.

  4. S.Crusher

    When posted on a website called girlspeakgeek I can see how many of these choices made it on the list, however, putting Friday Night Lights on it opened it up to shows not of the ‘geek’ genre. Friday Night Lights is the best show you have on this list and you should have listened to your sister a long time ago so you wouldn’t of had to go back and watch all the seasons. I don’t know where to begin with shows that should not have made the list so I will tell you shows that should have and did not. Chuck, it’s funny, fun, well written and acted. And Zachary Levi is lovable and hilarious one of the best casting choices in a long time. Parenthood, you will go back one day and watch all the episodes…maybe not because it’s you, but you surprised me with FNL. It is well written and very true to life. Glee, is not your cup of tea understood, but it is a very well done very original show that I love. Unfortunately there was not a lot of good shows on in 2010, but I think that in 2011 you should give some major networks more attention and see what they have to offer.

    • aj

      On the best tv list – any genre is fair game 🙂
      I can mainline tv pretty well, so I didn’t mind watching all of FNL at once. It also meant I didn’t ever really have to wait to see what happened next.
      Chuck is good and funny and has made previous lists. And Zachary Levi is, indeed, fantastic. I’ve just never really loved it.
      I have seen one episode of Parenthood and didn’t enjoy it much. I sort of defiantly don’t like a few things about it (not the least of which being the foolish audacity to try to connect itself to the movie) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I did put Brothers & Sisters because it’s 1st season was very authentic emotionally.
      I really don’t enjoy Glee. I’ve tried. and I have to admit, I don’t respect it much either. I feel like there really isn’t much story or character depth. It’s just wildly popular because the music is engaging.
      I do agree, though, that there wasn’t a lot of great tv in 2010. Hopefully, 2011 will bring good things.

  5. S.Crusher

    I think if you watched more Chuck you might have a different opinion because it is funnier when you know the characters rather than catch an occasional episode. I think Parenthood is not trying to greatly connect itself to the movie. I think the characters and very few plot points have been based on the movie and maybe not even the characters themselves, but the set up of the family. It is a very good show that I think you should give a fair chance. What don’t you defiantely like about it? I agree, Glee is just a fun show because of the music and for no other reason. There really isn’t much story so if you dont’ watch it strictly for the fun of it and the music then it belongs no where near any list!

    • aj

      I do watch Chuck 🙂 I’ve watched it pretty much non-stop since the end of s2. like it, watch it every week when new episodes show up in my hulu queue. don’t omgosh-adore-it. It’s cute and sweet and amusing but never funny enough to make me laugh out loud or dramatic enough to really engage me. I have enjoyed Linda Hamilton this season, though, and Timothy Dalton.

      No, I agree, Parenthood isn’t trying to connect itself to the movie. It just took the basic premise and sort of the same characters (though, you’re right, not entirely) and of course the name. That’s probably most of why I don’t want to like it. Also, now that I think about it, it probably also suffers from the Terriers Effect. Otherwise, I’d probably give it a better chance.