The best thing about 10-best lists is that they let us fume, fret and argue -- to ourselves, to anyone nearby or to whoever created the offending list.
With that in mind, here's the story I just sent to papers, with my picks for the 10 best shows of 2010. Fell free to commence griping, by posting a comment here or simply upsetting your neighbors:
By MIKE HUGHES
Amid the cascade of 10-best lists,
there's an annual trend:
Critics fill their TV lists with HBO
and other cable shows. I promptly grumble and argue that many of the
best moments are still on the big broadcast networks.
So now it's time for the best of 2010.
Topping my list are … well, an HBO movie and an HBO series.
Hey, forgive me; those people do great
work. Here's my list, with notes about the shows still airing:
1) Temple Grandin, HBO. An autistic
genius, Temple Grandin struggled to exist in social settings – then
became an international leader in livestock handling. Claire Danes
portrayed her brilliantly.
2) “Boardwalk Empire,” HBO. Here is
the ultimate canvas – Atlantic City, as Prohibition begins. With
alcohol outlawed, the outlaws are getting rich. Trying to control the
profits is Nucky (Steve Buscemi), a gentle and fragile-seeming man
who has others do the killing for him. Surrounded by people who are
good, bad and in-between, he provides TV's richest character since …
well, Tony Soprano.
3) “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS.
Nothing slows this daftly wonderful comedy. Not the move to Thursdays
… or the over-the-top moments (Sheldon as computer) … or the new
characters. Wolowitz got a girlfriend, Sheldon got a
sorta-girlfriend, a great comedy just got better. (8 p.m. Thursdays)
4) “Murder on the Orient Express,”
PBS. Agatha Christie's finest story has been remade often, but this
new production was stunning. David Suchet was perfect, as usual, at
Hercule Poirot; director Philip Martin provided a rich look and a
finale that needed few words to show Poirot's deep dilemma.
5) “Doctor Who,” BBC America.
Steven Moffat had already proven himself a master of comedy (the
original “Coupling”) and fantasy (a modern “Jekyll”). Here he
combined the two perfectly. (Season finale reruns at 8 p.m. Dec. 25,
followed at 9 p.m. by a new Christmas special)
6) “Fringe,” Fox. Yes, Americans
can do fantasy, too. This series hit its peak when it created
alternate worlds – each with a different version of Walter (the
Emmy-ready John Noble), Olivia and Broyles. When the wrong Olivia
made it back to this side, the plot got thicker and better. (Some Fox
stations are rerunning the pivotal Olivia episode at 11 p.m. Dec. 25)
7) “House,” Fox. Like “Big Bang
Theory,” this show thrives amid change. The spring finale and the
fall opener tore Dr. House (Hugh Laurie, still waiting for his Emmy)
apart and finally linked him with Cuddy. A young genius (played by
Amber Tamblyn) arrived, offering a fresh moral voice. And amid it
all, the medical mysteries remained great. (8 p.m. Mondays)
8) “American Masters,” PBS. This
show picks wonderfully complex lives, then views them with depth and
detail. It's final one for this season (Glenn Gould) is “Masters”
at its best; so were the ones on Merle Haggard, Sam Cooke and John
Lennon's New York years. (Gould episode is 9 p.m. Dec. 27)
9) “The Daily Show,” Comedy
Central. In the year's final new episode, Jon Stewart raged at
Congress' failure to provide health care for the first-responders of
Sept. 11. It was powerful and involving; other moments are simply
hilarious. (11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, plus many reruns)
10) “Masterpiece,” PBS. Like
“Masters,” this series saved one of its best episodes for the end
of the year. “Framed” is a neatly comic tale of art masterpieces
hidden near a Welsh village. It wrapped up a year in which
“Masterpiece” had one awful moment (“Lennon Naked”) and many
splendid one – “Return to Cranford,” “Emma,” “Wallander,”
“Sherlock” and the previously mentioned “Orient Express.”
(“Framed” is 9 p.m. Dec. 26)
Also: Many other shows rank right
alongside these. They include ABC's “Modern Family,” Fox's
“Glee,” AMC's “Mad Men,” DirecTV and NBC's “Friday Night
Lights,” Comedy Central's Bo Burnham debut, FX's “Justified”
and “Rescue Me,” HBO's “The Pacific” and “True Blood,”
and PBS' “Circus,” “Frontline,” “POV” and “American
Experience.” It must have been a fine year, after all.