Top 50 TV Shows of 2010

Jan 28, 2011
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Under the Radar's Best of 2010 Issue, which is on stands now, features our picks for the Top 50 TV shows of 2010, meaning any show that broadcast new episodes sometime from January to December 2010. Here we present an expanded list, one that includes our thoughts on each of the shows in our Top 15.

1

Modern Family

ABC

In a year where the TV landscape offered up some of the best political satire, criminal anti-heroes, period piece dramas, undead hordes, and smoke monsters, its the laugh-trackless humor of Modern Family that earns top recognition. Now into its second season, the supposed otherness and oddity of the Pritchett/Dunphy family dynamic is identifiably and comically honest. By Mike Hilleary

2

Mad Men

AMC

Don Draper found himself starting over in most aspects of his life on the fourth season of the critically acclaimed drama that continues to both glorify and deconstruct the fragmented morality of the early 1960s. Newly single, Don navigates the bachelor world, causing more riffs with women now than he did when he was married. Needless to say, season four had no shortage of sex and amorality, though it does bear a heavier sense of loneliness and desperation as Don returns night after night to his empty apartment. With Don more vulnerable than ever, last season finally cleared away the lingering cigarette smoke and brought viewers closer than ever to figuring out, “Who is Don Draper?” By Lauren Barbato

3

30 Rock

NBC

Tina Fey’s Liz Lemmon is the person we all wish we could be—unable to find the answers, but plunging headfirst through life regardless. When with faced clingy-coworkers, awkward ex-boyfriends, and surreal scenarios, she manages to maintain her charm—even after her temper erupts in a chorus of “Blerg nerds!” Flanked by neurotic stars (hilariously embodied by Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski) of show-within-a-show TGS and sometimes-mentor Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), Lemmon’s exploits remain founded in the belief that while things may not work out for the best, they always work out for the funniest. By Laura Studarus

4

The Daily Show with John Stewart

Comedy Central

Seven years into is gig as anchor for The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has evolved into one of the most trusted sources of news. It’s easy to see why. Able to effortlessly identify all the major Middle Eastern players, and break down U.S. policy into easily understandable chunks, Stewart isn’t above occasionally appealing to humor of the lowest brow. Interviewing leaders of state or actors alike, the humor is never forced, it simply happens. The gig of a lifetime, and after over a thousand episodes, Stewart’s still milking it for all its worth. Never leave us, okay? By Laura Studarus

5

Boardwalk Empire

HBO

If Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather was a romanticized portrait of the Italian-American mafia and The Sopranos, a kitchen-sink realism confession, then Golden Globe-winning Boardwalk Empire falls somewhere between the two. Highly stylized and intricately written, Boardwalk Empire grounds itself in the slow unraveling of its characters’ moralities. But it’s the thrilling performances by Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, and Kelly Macdonald—who’s turn as the resilient Margaret Schroeder is the heart and conscience of the show—that keeps us tuning in each Sunday night. By Lauren Barbato

6

Lost

ABC

The most ambitious show in television history took its final bow in 2010, ending with a resolution that finally chose faith over science, emotion over reason. No show caused more arguments, created more theories, or inspired more investigating than Lost during its six seasons. Even for those who didn’t agree with where Jack and the rest of Oceanic Flight 815 ended up, their presence is already sorely missed. By Jim Scott

7

Community

NBC

What began as a very funny, albeit mostly straightforward comedy has struck gold in a vein of ridiculousness and willingness to go anywhere, whether it’s a zombie Halloween special or a paintball action fest. The ‘regular’ episodes almost feel bland now, but, fortunately, there aren’t many of those. Daniel Glover and Danny Pudi as unlikely pals Troy and Abed have formed the best comedic one-two punch around. By Jim Scott

8

Breaking Bad

AMC

Bryan Cranston’s revelatory performance as Walter White reached a boiling point in season three: the more Walt has played the bad guy, the more he’s poisoned his soul, the more trouble he has returning to the innocence with which he started to cook meth. If that logic doesn’t seem to work, watch the show, because creator Vince Gilligan and company make the ridiculous seem not only plausible but inevitable and almost unbearably tragic. By Jim Scott

9

Parks and Recreation

NBC

In its second season, Parks and Recreation found a voice in its strong secondary characters. Hilarious performances by Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, and especially Chris Pratt as the excellent and useless members of the Pawnee, Indiana government elevated an Office wannabe into one of the best comedies around. Pratt plays Andy Dwyer with a sweaty exuberance rarely seen in the increasingly pretty world of situation comedies, and the writers know better than to turn him—or any of the characters—into a cardboard cutout. After a spin in renewal limbo, Parks and Rec just returned—thankfully—to Thursday nights. By Jim Scott

10

Doctor Who

BBC America

Matt Smith had a big job this season, stepping into the role of The Doctor after fan-voted favorite David Tennant left the show. A finer successor could not have been chosen. In Smith’s hands, The Doctor became a brasher, bolder incarnation—a perfect foil for new companion, the snarky young redhead, Amy Pond. Along the way towards uncovering the secret to the crack in the universe the two ran across a series characters old and new, including, Enigmatic fellow-traveler River Song, famed artist Vincent Van Gough, and The Doctor’s old nemesis…The Weeping Angels (don’t blink!). By Laura Studarus

11

The Colbert Report

Comedy Central

The ever-snarky, always-truthful Stephen Colbert unleashed a feistier side in 2010, making headlines when he called Sarah Palin “a f---ing retard” and uttered the phrase “corn-packer” in a testimony before Congress. Irreverent, yes, but Colbert has proved to be a fearless leader for those jaded by American politics, and his devoted following now rallies in his name. Twitter, too, has become an even freer outlet for Colbert: His Tweeting efforts garnered him the first-ever Golden Tweet Award for “most retweeted tweet tweeted all year,” which he accepted on his show in late December. By Lauren Barbato

12

Curb Your Enthusiasm

HBO

After seven seasons, Curb Your Enthusiasm is still heralded as one of the funniest comedies on television. Although Larry David seems to have a bottomless vault of plot lines—it doesn’t take much to set him off and turn his latest nuisance into a full-blown episode—he did open up season seven to a larger audience, bringing in the cast of Seinfeld for a reunion special. With the additional antics from Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jason Alexander, as well as Larry’s selfish attempts to win back ex-wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), the season was perhaps the wildest, most irreverent one yet. By Lauren Barbato

13

How I Met Your Mother

CBS

The gang was back in full force during the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother, which saw the relationship pendulum repeatedly sway from first dates to bittersweet breakups. Among the highlights last year was a musical number showcasing Neil Patrick Harris and an eclectic assortment of guest stars, including Amanda Peet, Rachel Bilson, Jennifer Lopez, and Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. But the introduction of Ted’s future wife and the enigmatic yellow umbrella, which has been alluded to since How I Met Your Mother’s very first episode, is what makes season five, in the words of Barney Stinson, “legend...wait for it...dary.” By Lauren Barbato

14

Friday Night Lights

NBC/DirecTV’s The 101 NetworkNBC/DirecTV’s The 101 Network

One of the more understated dramas on television, Friday Night Lights has settled well into its DirecTV/NBC arrangement, to the point where one questions why this doesn’t happen more often (Lone Star, please?). Of course, the quality of the writing and acting that’s found on a show which is about so much more than football doesn’t come along very often at all. By Jim Scott

15

The Walking Dead

AMC

While it started off much like 28 Days Later, with a man waking up in a hospital after the world has been taken over by zombies, The Walking Dead differentiated itself with its patient manner. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, The Walking Dead wrings a great deal of genuine emotion out of the winnowing down of the human race. An early scene in which a character weighs killing his wife, a zombie who still lurks around their home, let the viewers know that The Walking Dead would ask questions others hadn’t, a mission that lasted through the superb season finale. By Jim Scott

16

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

FX

17

Fringe

FOX

18

The Office

NBC

19

Dexter

Showtime

20

The Big Bang Theory

CBS

21

Bored to Death

HBO

22

Eastbound & Down

HBO

23

Family Guy

FOX

24

Being Human

BBC America

25

The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien

NBC

26

Sherlock

PBS/BBC

27

Glee

FOX

28

Futurama

Comedy Central

29

Parenthood

NBC

30

The Simpsons

FOX

31

Raising Hope

FOX

32

Real Time with Bill Maher

HBO

33

The Good Wife

CBS

34

Psych

USA

35

Better Off Ted

ABC

36

Burn Notice

USA

37

The Middle

ABC

38

Rubicon

AMC

39

Important Things with Demetri Martin

Comedy Central

40

In Treatment

HBO

41

Entourage

HBO

42

Sons of Anarchy

FX

43

Damages

FX

44

Archer

FX

45

Chuck

NBC

46

Lone Star

FOX

47

The Ricky Gervais Show

HBO

48

Treme

HBO

49

Lie to Me

FOX

50

Blue Bloods

CBS

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Ariel
January 25th 2012
7:03pm

Sometimes I just cannot understand why Gossip Girl isn’t considered one of the best shows on television. It’s like the soap operas - they have maintained good ratings and people have watched them for years and years. What else proves a show is good then the amount of viewers? Thanks for the post!

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April 12th 2015
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Amazing List.
The Ricky Gervais Show is my favorite.

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May 1st 2015
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Great List. I used to watch 13th, 35th & 39th. :)

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