As the 2010-11 TV season gets underway, I’m taking a quick look back at last season to remember my favorite series.
Note: These aren’t meant to be ranked as “best” shows on TV from a quality perspective, but more how excited I was to watch them. I thought of it this way: If all these series had new episodes on my DVR at the same time, what order would I watch them in?
10. PTI (ESPN)
My daily does of sports in about 22 minutes. Wilbon and Kornheiser aren’t as good as they used to be now that they’re talking heads instead of working reporters. But if you’re gonna be talking heads, you might as well be the best on TV.
9. The Office (NBC)
I know, I know, it’s not as good as it used to be. But it lands on this list for the two major Jim-and-Pam episodes alone: Their wedding and baby installments were huge payoffs. Those “big” moments in a series can be tough to pull off without overdoing it, but the excellent crew of writers on “The Office” handled it perfectly. The Christmas episode was also the latest in a string of holiday standouts for this show. I won’t miss Steve Carell after this year; some of the worst episodes of this season were those where Michael Scott was just too dumb to be breathing.
8. Bones (Fox)
Uh, ditto. This show is close to my heart (I named my cat Seeley, for goodness sakes!) but is starting to show its age. I thought the 100th episode was on its way to becoming the best installment of the series … right up until the ham-fisted, tacked-on final scene between Booth and Bones that fell absolutely flat and came dangerously close to destroying the whole deal. That sorta set a bad tone for the rest of the season, but the finale was still satisfactory so I’m hopeful Season 6 will still be OK. I still just love these characters so much, I’ll be with this show ’til the end.
7. Tosh.0 (Comedy Central)
No one made me laugh harder last season than Daniel Tosh. His summer run of eps haven’t been as good as his clips seem to be more about grossing you out than making you laugh, but his work this past spring was gut-busting hysterical. Hopefully he gets back to being witty and un-PC instead of just disgusting.
6. Community (NBC)
This wasn’t just my favorite new comedy of the season, but my favorite comedy, period. Joel McHale has a mainstream-starmaking turn, of course, but it’s the supporting characters who really make this show go. Most notably: The dynamic duo of Danny Pudi (Abed) and Donald Glover (Troy). The show got a little ridiculously melodramatic and incestuous toward the end of Season 1, but I give it a pass because it was so subtly and consistently funny all year; I love how the most laugh-out-loud moments are typically muttered under characters’ breath. And Abed as Christian Bale’s Batman … unbelievable.
5. Lost (ABC)
Now that all the hype has settled into history, it’s easier to look back on this landmark series’ final run with a clearer head. I’m surprised this show is this far back on the list, but I had a hard time getting excited about watching it for much of the season. The opener was as awesome as the show’s ever been, but after that it vamped for several installments before finally hitting its stride again midway through. And the finale, while an amazing experience the first time through, didn’t hold up quite so well the more you thought about it. Don’t read this as a flash-sideways complaint, either, because I was definitely fine with that decision. I wasn’t disappointed, certainly, but “Lost” completed its pattern in the end: the odd-numbered seasons were the best.
4. Castle (ABC)
In this buddy-cop/frustrated-romance drama’s first full season it supplanted “Bones” as the best in this mini-genre. The incomparable Stana Katic and “ruggedly handsome” Nathon Fillion crackle with chemistry in the tradition of Mulder and Scully, and, yes, Bones and Booth. They made some real strides this year in deepening the duo’s unlikely relationship without making it feel put on or cheap. Fillion is as funny as ever, and it’s so great to see him finally lock in a character you can love almost as much as Malcolm Reynolds.
3. Survivor (CBS)
Go ahead and laugh, but the two “seasons” of the granddaddy of reality television that aired this past year provided some of the most exciting drama I saw all year. All of the credit goes to Russell Hantz, the little man-troll who took the game by storm and played it like no other. He was must-see TV all by himself, the way he not only magically conjured Immunity Idols with no clues, but fed on disunity and conflict and still managed to intimidate and talk his way into the finals of back-to-back trips to wild. He gave some of the most memorable Tribal Council performances in the history of “Survivor”—and that’s saying something, considering this show’s been on for a decade.
2. Justified (FX)
I guess this is as close as I’ll ever get to a fourth season of “Deadwood” … and I’ll take it. Timothy Olyphant found his sweet spot by donning a badge once again in this modern-day Western. His U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens scratched my Seth Bullock itch in a show that mixed action, drama, and comedy. Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, meanwhile, was one of the most fascinating and deep characters on TV last season. Throw in cameos from “Lost” and “Deadwood” alums and a killer theme song from Gangstagrass and it all adds up to my favorite new show of the season.
1. Dexter (Showtime)
My perennial favorite show on television upped its game yet again last year. Season 4 took the best aspects of the past three years—Dexter’s tracking a serial killer! Dexter might get caught! Dexter has a friend!—and combined them perfectly into the most intense outing in the show’s brilliant history. Michael C. Hall was outstanding once more in the titular role, but the supporting cast had its strongest season, particularly John Lithgow as the scariest “Dexter” villain yet. And as if all that weren’t enough, Season 4 ended with one of the most shocking twists/cliffhangers I’ve ever seen. “Dexter” is television’s choice cut.
SHOWS I STARTED AND THEN QUIT WATCHING THIS SEASON
SHOW I ALMOST QUIT WATCHING BUT GLAD I STUCK WITH
How I Met Your Mother
SHOW I’LL PROBABLY BE WATCHING MORE OF THIS SEASON
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
SHOW I’M CATCHING UP ON VIA DVD AND IS RAPIDLY BECOMING ONE OF MY FAVORITE SERIES OF ALL TIME