The Best TV of 2010 – A Repeat Viewing Part 1

The beginning of another year brings the inevitable, innumerable “Best of…” lists, highlighing every topic imaginable found in the previous year – from tweets to fleeting celebrities. So with that gentlereaders, I present my own contribution to the interwebospheres with the Best TV of 2010. More than just a simple compilation of series names, I’ve divided my choices into categories that delve a little further into why praise is so deserved and with hopes to bring those uninitiated into the dedicated viewer fold for any or all of these fine examples of television. First up, the overall best episodes.

These are 30 or 60 minutes that encapsulated everything that makes these shows great – acting, writing, et al. Of course it’s easy to place Mad Men and 30 Rock in this category and they both can do no wrong (usually), but even these stellar shows will rise above the high bar they’ve set for the rest of television.

SELF-CONTAINED GENIUS

Mad Men, “The Suitcase” – Coming in at the mid-point of a so-so fourth season, this episode is, I dare say, the drama’s finest as it showcased the amazing dynamic of its two strongest characters. Giving the bulk of time to just Don and Peggy as they try to tackle a new campaign for their client Samsonite, which was really just a device by writers to setup an all-nighter of cocktails, confessions and a chaste “sleepover,” allowed the acting prowess of Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss to shine most brilliantly and should guarantee them both their first Emmy wins.
Community, “Modern Warfare” – “Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.” One of countless amazing lines found in this late-freshman year episode, the premise – campus-wide last-man-standing paintball game – seemed on the surface only a gimmick to pile on as many action movie cliches as possible. It ended up not only giving us a lot of clever “Oh that’s from…” moments (Spanish teacher Senor Chang as a John Woo movie-type villain is mind-blowingly brilliant), it was able to further develop and be true to the characters at the heart of the show – keeping an edge, being honest about relationships, without getting too schmaltzy – which makes Community one of my favorite new obsessions.

30 Rock, “Gentlemen’s Intermission” – From Liz’s father Dick Lemon in search of an extra-marital dalliance to Jack’s need for someone’s DIHC (that’s Drive, Intelligence, Humility and Chaos) in order to be fulfilled as a mentor and Tracey’s decision to make sure he leaves an obituary that doesn’t include a submarine DUI, this episode contained everything that makes 30 Rock stellar: quotable lines (“Albino ninja!”), absurdity (Tracey’s all-giraffe basketball team the New York Necks), a little low-brow humor (“She’s got just the right amount of DIHC for me. I hear it and I don’t care.”) and a perfect storyline for Jack & Liz, the greatest on-screen couple that will never fall victim to “will-they-or-won’t-they” sexual tension syndrome. Plus we get to see Liz completely fail at “seducing” her father dressed as Tootsie.

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