Oh No, Not Another Year-End Countdown…

It’s the time of year when entertainment writers around the country begin publishing their “best of” lists for the year, so I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring with a list of my favorite new shows of 2010.  Notice that I say “favorite” rather than “best of.”  I cannot do a proper “best of” list without having seen every single new show that debuted in 2010, so if one of your favorite new shows is not on this list, chances are that I haven’t seen it.

There are a few interesting things to note about this list, not the least of which is that three of my top five shows (Caprica, Rubicon, Terriers) have already been canceled, while a fourth (The Event) probably won’t make it to a second season, a trend that does not bode well for quality programming on television.  Another thing that stands out about this list is that only two of the shows are on network television (and only one on a “big-three” network), a testament to the fact that most of the best TV can now be found on cable channels like AMC, FX, and USA.

A few other interesting tidbits: only half of these shows debuted in the fall, none of them are sitcoms (unless you count Ugly Americans), and none of them are reality shows (you will never find a reality show in any “best of” list of mine, but that’s a story for another article).
So, without further ado, here are my ten favorite new shows of the year.  In parentheses are the time of year they debuted and the channel where you can find them.

10.  Ugly Americans (Spring, Comedy Central)
This half-hour cartoon fits right in with Comedy Central’s late night lineup.  The premise of the show is an alternate New York where monsters are integrated into society.  The main character, Mark, works for the Department of Integration as a support group counselor for monsters, has a zombie roommate who often winds up losing parts of his body, and a half-demon girlfriend with a tendency to flip out, hell-style.  Though the gags can be hit or miss, the hits are often hysterical, and the Manbird episode was one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year.

9.  Covert Affairs (Summer, USA)
The first of two spy dramas on the list, this started out as one of those guilty pleasure shows that got better with each episode.  I almost didn’t watch it because early reviews tagged it as a pale imitation of Alias (one of my favorite shows).  This show is definitely not on an Alias level, but it is more grounded in reality (i.e. no Rambaldi mythology), so it has been able to carve its own niche.  The always watchable Piper Perabo is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, making this a good hour of escapist entertainment.

8.  Nikita (Fall, WB)
The other spy show on my list could have gone wrong in so many ways trying to build another series around the classic La Femme Nikita, but rather than retreading or rebooting the film, the creators chose to set the series after the events of the film with a little twist: Nikita’s lover was murdered by Division and she has made it her life’s work to bring them down.  To help her, she has placed a mole inside Division as a recruit, enabling her to stay a step ahead of the organization in a weekly game of cat and mouse.  This series is a little weightier than Covert Affairs (a significant death has already occurred), and a strong cast led by Maggie Q make this a solid hour of television.

7.  The Event (Fall, NBC)
The Event is one of those mythology shows that require you to pay attention on a weekly basis, ala Lost or Fringe.  While not in the same league as those two stellar shows, it nevertheless succeeds in pulling you into the story and making you wonder about the nature of the “guests.”  Are they aliens?  Time travelers?  Something else?  Who are the people behind the attempt to kill the president and why?  Unfortunately, NBC has done the show no favors by placing it on a long winter hiatus—this is normally a death sentence for a serialized drama (i.e. Jericho, Flash Forward) because many viewers never return.  I have a feeling that the run of episodes scheduled to air in late February will be the show’s last.

6.  Justified (Spring, FX)
This series was made for Timothy Olyphant.  If you were one of the many to lament the loss of his Seth Bullock character when Deadwood was canceled, this is the show for you.  Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is arguably the most bad-ass character on television.  The series is essentially a modern day western set in Kentucky.  Raylan is a U.S. Marshal reassigned from Miami to the district covering his hometown due to what his bosses believe is a tendency to be quick on the trigger.  Back in his hometown, Raylan must deal not only with criminals, but also with his estranged ex-con father, his ex-wife, and a witness with whom he begins an affair.  The best relationship, however, is between Raylan and Boyd Crowder (played by the excellent Walton Goggins), a childhood friend who grew up to be a criminal.  Their confrontation in the series premiere has consequences that last throughout the first season.  The second season begins in January; you should check it out.

5.  Caprica (Winter, Syfy)
This Battlestar Galactica (BSG) spinoff was a victim of Syfy’s seemingly decreasing tolerance for serialized science fiction (see Stargate Universe, the latest casualty of this unfortunate trend) in favor of lighter fare like Eureka and Warehouse 13.  Don’t get me wrong, both of the latter are very enjoyable shows, but I prefer some weight to my sci-fi, and Caprica delivered the goods.  Admittedly, the series started off slow and likely alienated many BSG fans expecting something more action-oriented, but, much like a Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams series, it got better as it progressed and rewarded viewers who stuck around.  Caprica explored weighty subjects like religious fanaticism, terrorism, racism, coping with tragic loss, and the dehumanization of a technologically advanced society, not to mention depicting the origin of cylons and laying the seeds for the eventual downfall of humanity.  One of the coolest scenes happened late in the series when a prototype cylon was used by a mobster to annihilate his enemies before uttering the familiar phrase, “By your command,” in the well-known cylon voice from the original series.  The show would likely have gotten even better from there as it moved closer to the rise of the cylons, but alas, we’ll never know.  Fortunately, Syfy will be burning off the remaining five unaired episodes in a marathon on January 4th.  I, for one, will be watching.  Even knowing that the series is not coming back, it will be worth it.

4.  Rubicon (Summer, AMC)
Rubicon was one of the more cerebral shows that I’ve seen on television, with a dense, labyrinthine plot—a thinking man’s drama about an analyst for a government think tank who uncovers a vast conspiracy during his investigation into a mentor’s death.  Unfortunately, in this age of instant gratification television, Rubicon may have been too smart for its own good.  It was the type of series that, had you missed an episode, it would have been very difficult to figure out what was going on.  It was also largely devoid of action, which turned off many viewers (the lack of promotion by AMC in comparison to its other shows didn’t help, either).  Rubicon may have been mostly dialogue-oriented, but that just served to make the few scenes of action more fierce and jarring than they otherwise would have been.  This show made many critics’ year-end top-ten lists, and rightly so.

3.  The Walking Dead (Fall, FX)
This has the potential to be the best show on television.  The main reason it didn’t rank higher for me was the small sample (only six episodes in the first season).  However, The Walking Dead provided more quality television in those six episodes than most shows accomplish in a year.  I was originally just moderately intrigued when I first heard about the series, but when I discovered that Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) was heavily involved (writing and directing the first episode), I became very excited to see it—and it more than lived up to the hype.  If you haven’t watched it because you’re not a big zombie fan, I urge you to give it a shot.  It’s really more of a morality/survival drama that just happens to have zombies in it.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of gore in keeping with the zombie genre (the episode titled “Guts” is … well, it’s in the title), but overall the show is about the relationships and conflicts among a group of people who have survived an apocalypse, and the choices they must make to stay alive.  Television doesn’t get much better than this.

2.  Terriers (Fall, FX)
Terriers was the most pleasant surprise (and most disappointing cancellation) of the entire year.  This unheralded show quickly became must-see TV (for me and the other two people in the country who watched it).  Normally when a series this great fails, I’m quick to blame reality television and the short attention span of the average American TV viewer, but in this case the show’s failure can be attributed to poor marketing and an unfortunate title that didn’t give viewers any idea of what the show was about (hint: it was not about dogs).  I almost didn’t tune in myself because the ads made it appear to be just another throwaway buddy detective romp, but I decided to give it a shot because I like Donal Logue.  I’m glad I did because this show turned out to be so much more than its billing.  Far from the lightweight buddy comedy it was sold as, Terriers (with its gritty realism) was actually more akin to the great noir films of cinema. The entire season with its main story arc and numerous subplots played like a novel with well-drawn characters who you actually cared about.  A stellar cast and superb writing set this series above almost anything else on television.  Mystery, crime, romance, family drama, comic relief, heartbreak, shocking deaths—this show had it all, and it’s a tragedy that it never found an audience.  I saw several columns written by critics throughout the season singing the show’s praises and urging people to tune in—if only FX had been half as enthusiastic in its own promotion of the show, perhaps it would still be on the air. Like Rubicon, Terriers made many critics’ top-ten lists for the year (noticing a pattern here?), and I even saw one critic rank it as the best new show of the year.  I was tempted to put it in the top spot myself, that’s how much I loved this show.

1.  Boardwalk Empire (Fall, HBO)
With top-notch production values (including dazzling sets that faithfully recreate 1920’s Atlantic City), great writing, and a stellar cast, Boardwalk Empire is like watching a mini motion picture on a weekly basis, but I would expect nothing less from the legendary Martin Scorcese (who directed the opening episode and remains heavily involved in the production of the series).  Steve Buscemi is great as Nucky Thompson, the crime boss who runs Atlantic City, while a zealous treasury agent, played with brilliant creepiness by Michael Shannon, attempts to bring him down.  What’s great about the show is that it doesn’t just focus on Atlantic City; we also get to visit Chicago, where a young Al Capone interns under Johnny Torrio, and New York, where Arnold Rothstein (performed with great malevolence by Michale Stuhlbarg), runs things while mentoring the likes of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, two young gangsters who will one day run the most powerful organized crime organization in the country.  While not quite on the level of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire is nevertheless the best new show on television, and a welcome return of the gangster genre to the small screen.

Honorable Mention: Futurama (Summer, Cartoon Network)
I know what you’re thinking: “This isn’t a new show!”  Technically that’s correct, but Futurama deserves special recognition since this was its first new season in seven years.  Not only did the writers not miss a beat, but I think the show is actually better than it was during its initial run.

Well, that’s it for 2010.  Here’s hoping that the best new shows in 2011 actually survive past a first season.  Until then, have fun ringing in the new year, which I’ll be spending the same way I always do: sitting on the couch and watching the Twilight Zone marathon (though I may check in on the Buffy and Honeymooners marathons as well).

Happy New Year!

Writer, traveler, photographer, hiker, film/TV addict, amateur chef, casual gamer, and occasional tennis & saxophone player . . . in real life I do web design.

Posted in Entertainment, Television

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Follow Michael Rappa on WordPress.com
Archives
Categories

Join 298 other followers

Instagram Feed
Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming - August, 2017 During my long drive across the entire state of Wyoming I stopped in Cody for a visit to Old Trail Town, a recreation of an old west town using authentic buildings collected from around Wyoming and Montana. The buildings were disassembled, moved and reassembled at Old Trail Town. Among the buildings here are original cabins used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a saloon frequented by Cassidy's "Hole-in-the-Wall Gang," and the home of the Crow Indian scout who led Custer to Little Big Horn. There are also tons of historic Old West artifacts and grave sites of several notable Western figures. It's a nice little diversion on the way to or from Yellowstone for fans of the old west. #cody #historicbuildings #NorthAmerica #oldtrailtown #oldwest #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #Wyoming
Needles Highway, South Dakota - September, 2017 This was taken during my drive along Needles Highway, a scenic, sometimes treacherous road winding through granite “needle” rock formations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The road has a number of one-lane tunnels cut through the rock, wherein you have to be careful and make sure nobody is coming from the other direction before driving through them. Needles Highway was the first leg of a grand loop scenic drive I took through Custer State Park that also included the Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain Road before ending at Mount Rushmore. If you’re planning a trip to Rushmore, I highly recommend taking this loop if you have the time as the landscape is often spectacular. #BlackHills #mountains #needleshighway #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #rocks #scenicdrives #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 The lower portion of Multnomah Falls. #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 On my way from Portland to Mount Hood I decided to take a detour to view the majestic Multnomah Falls. It was well worth the stop. #hiking #landscapes #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This photo features Timberline Lodge (lower left) sitting beneath a blanket of mist and clouds while Mount Jefferson (upper right) rises above the cloud cover. #clouds #landscapes #mist #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 A view of the mountainside looking down toward the valley while riding Timberline Lodge's "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood. I liked the contrast of the white trees against the landscape. #clouds #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mist #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 When I reached the top of the "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood I was treated to this spectacular view of Mount Jefferson peeking above the clouds. I wonder if anyone was standing at the summit of Mount Jefferson at the same time, looking across at me and enjoying a similar view of Mount Hood's peak above the clouds. #clouds #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This shot was taken as I rode up Timberline Lodge's Magic Mile ski lift toward the summit. At the bottom of the photo is a house that almost blends in with the landscape. Above that is a patch of snow dotted with skiers (they look like ants from this distance). The lift is definitely worth the ride if you're visiting the lodge, or you can choose to hike up to the top. Had I had more time, I would have at least hiked back down from the top, but I needed to get back to Portland to catch my plane to Montana, so I rode both ways. #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Sunset on Mount Hood. #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #sunsets
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Berries on Mount Hood. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Looking up at the summit of Mount Hood, shot while hiking above Timberline Lodge (aka The Overlook Hotel), where I stayed overnight. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 This is Mount Hood looming over the city of Portland, shot from my viewpoint in the Japanese Garden. A few days after this photo was taken, I drove all the way out to Mount Hood to stay at the famous Timberline Lodge (aka Overlook Hotel) near its summit. #cities #Japanesegarden #landscapes #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #mountains
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 A rock garden in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #rockgardens #zengardens
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Waterfall cascading into a pond in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #ponds
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Portland's Japanese Garden is so sublime that you almost forget you’re in a major city. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates
Michael is reading…
%d bloggers like this: