Looking back at 2010 there were a lot of highlights from television. Here’s the ones that standout as the most memorable for me:
– The Lost Finale (ABC): After six years, Lost came to an end with a three hour finale that didn’t seek to solve the myriad of mysteries built up during the show’s run. Instead, the creators chose to focus on emotional closure. There are some valid criticism of the show’s six season, but overall I felt very satisfied by the way things ended. It definitely evoked some of the same feelings I had years ago reading The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Despite my own personal views on religion, I found the “spiritual” ending to not come off as hackneyed. It was also the hardest I’ve ever cried while watching a single episode of television.
– Louie (FX): Comedian Louis CK managed to produce the best new program of the year with his new comedic series. This is not a sitcom and its not always funny, but every single episode is thought-provoking and brutally honest. The show plays like a couple of short films each episode and the level of creative control CK was given allows for one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences you’ll have all year. There are no taboos in CK’s comedy and the show is reflective of that. One standout episode focuses on his experiences attending a Catholic school and how it shaped his own views on faith and religion. Its the sort of thing you would never see a major network dare tackle.
– Misfits (E4): Though I was late to the game for Series One, I was right there through all of Series Two. The UK has managed to present a superhero series that vaults over anything similarly attempted in the States. The premise follows five youths sentenced to community service who happen to gain superhuman powers thanks to a freak storm. They aren’t the only ones and frequently run into others. What could have become a dull “monster of the week” series, is instead one of the wittiest, most surprising, and incredibly transgressive things I’ve ever seen on tv. I guarantee you will be addicted by the end of the first episode and end up chomping at the bit for 2011’s Series Three.
– Boardwalk Empire (HBO): One of the best slow burn shows to debut this season was this historical epic set in the Prohibition days of Atlantic City. Created by Sopranos writer, Terence Winter, the series follows “Nucky” Thompson, a political figure in New Jersey who is basically one of the founding fathers of what would become organized crime in America. The show has a large supporting cast but the best episodes are those that showcase Thompson, who is played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi. While the first season’s narrative sagged in the middle, it picked up by the end to leave the audience’s mouth agape for the finale. This is one I will definitely return to in its second season.
– The Walking Dead (AMC): This is sort of the opposite to Boardwalk Empire. Great start but a quick jump to mediocrity by the end of the six episode season. The series, based on the long running comic book by Robert Kirkman, had a extra long premiere that adhered very closely to the source material, but I was all for the show’s writing staff to take it in a new direction. Sadly, the direction they take it in is very bland and ring false when it comes to character motivation. The final two episodes are an odd way to wrap things up and I am hoping that the second season allows things to get a fresh start.
– Mad Men (AMC): Season four of Mad Men will go down as one of the best seasons of television ever produced. After a meandering third season, I went into the new batch of episodes a bit apprehensive. It felt like this was the season the first three had built towards, Don Draper is put through the emotional wringer in the wake of a divorce and the death of one of his closest friends. The highlight of the season was the seventh episode “The Suitcase”, where Don and Peggy pull an all-nighter on a campaign and finally talk about the tension that has built for the last five years. We also got to see Sally Draper get the spotlight and I am looking forward to how she is developed against the backdrop of the sixties revolution.
– Eastbound and Down (HBO): The second series of this irreverent comedy managed to top its first outing. This time around, ex-MLB pitcher Kenny Powers ends up in Mexico as a small time crime boss and attempts to jump start his athletic career by playing minor league Mexican baseball. Series creators Jody Hill, Ben Best, and Danny McBride pull out all the stops and deliver a serialized film about Kenny’s coming to terms with his lack of fame and still manage to make us laugh our asses off.