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.
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.
Tonight brings the glorious return of the one-and-only, gangly, invisible-string dancing, ginger-hair-havin’ late-night talk show host and there’s high hopes that the hooplah surrounding Conan’s return won’t all be for naught. Really I’ve no doubt CoCo will deliver the goods, and the only things to truly speculate on are: will we get regular visits from old Late Night gags that were deemed too inappropriate for the Tonight Show timeslot (my own ridiculous favorite the masturbating bear) and will we see a tone that harkens back to Conan’s goofy roots?
FIRST SHOW POLL WINNER
You clicked and we listened! Who will be the poll winner: The Pope? The Sultan Of Brunei? Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Gerhard Ertl? WATCH AND FIND OUT!
SETH ROGEN Polls aside, our REAL first guest is a mega superstar who you know from such blockbusters as “Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” and “Funny People!” He helped us out on tour in his home town of Vancouver, BC; he’s the man who always brings the funny, SETH ROGEN!
LEA MICHELE (@MsLeaMichele)You can see this Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress each week as Rachel Berry on the smash hit TV show, “Glee!”
MUSICAL GUEST: JACK WHITE Legend has it that Jack and Conan first met in a Detroit area bowling area in the 90’s. Since that meeting, Jack White has gone on to rock n roll stardom in The White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and Dead Weather! Conan and Jack cut a “45 record at Jack’s studio in Nashville, and when these two get together, you never know WHAT’S gonna happen! Ladies and gentlemen… JACK WHITE!
TOM HANKS (@TomHanks) Multi Academy Award winner, one of the greatest actors of our generation – and more importantly, the man who coined the nickname “Coco” – TOM HANKS is joining us tonight!
JACK MCBRAYER You know him from movies like “Talladega Nights” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – and of course, as Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock.” WE know him as a dear friend who got his start playing bit parts on our show! Don’t miss the hilarious JACK MCBRAYER!
MUSICAL GUEST: SOUNDGARDEN (@Soundgarden | Myspace)
This legendary and highly influential Seattle-born multi-Grammy Award winning rock group is back to rock us all with a track off their new album “Telephantasm!”
JON HAMM This dashing Golden Globe winner can be seen on AMC’s “Mad Men” as the suave and sophisticated 60’s ad executive Don Draper and most recently in the Ben Affleck helmed crime caper, “The Town”… JON HAMM!
CHARLYNE YI This charming actress and comedian has appeared in such movies as Knocked Up, Semi-Pro, and Paper Heart! Her new movie is “Fast”… The lovely and talented CHARLYNE YI is on the show!
FISTFUL OF MERCY (@fistfulofmercy | Facebook | YouTube | Myspace | Official Site ) This supercool rock n roll supergroup consists of Dhani Harrison, Joseph Arthur, and Ben Harper – who will be stopping by to rock us out with a slice of their new album “Fistful of Mercy”!
MICHAEL CERA He’s starred on the hit show “Arrested Development” and in such films as “Superbad”, “Juno”, and “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”! The awesome and hilarious… MICHAEL CERA!!
JULIE BOWEN From her co-starring role on “Ed”, to her guest starring stint on “LOST”, to her current Emmy nominated turn on ABC’s breakout hit “Modern Family”, Julie Bowen continues to amaze and astound! “Modern Family” airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on ABC!
JON DORE ( @TVsJonDore | Facebook | YouTube | Myspace ) Hey! It’s the hilarious comedy stylings of stand up comedian JON DORE! You’ve seen him on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Comedy Central Presents…”, “Held Up” on Crackle.com, and on “The Jon Dore Television Show” on IFC and The Comedy Network in Canada.
As stated in a post regarding last year’s Emmys, me and awards show have a love/hate relationship – I love them and they seem to hate me, or rather me and the collective viewing audience. Uninspired would best describe them of late, but Academy of Television you actually kept my rapt attention this year. It might be because I didn’t watch them live, but the pace overall for the Emmys telecast was brisk, peppered with many worthy laughs and filler moments that weren’t completely eyeroll-inducing. I credit a lot of this to the stellar hosting job executed by current Late Night helmer Jimmy Fallon. From the amazing Glee-ful opening with four of the hot show’s stars, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale and more joining him in belting out a Springsteen classic, through his moments introducing the various genres with the help of nominees Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert and Julianna Margulies in the audience and even the “Shows We Lost” montage he never failed to entertain.
Naysayers can say nay about his time on Saturday Night Live – his were never peek performances like Will Ferrell, usually breaking character first and unable to deliver most of his lines laugh-free – but I was always a fan and thought he had his best years behind the Weekend Update desk. It also didn’t hurt he pulled duty next to my Fey-vorite.
He’s also no slouch when it comes to the melding of music and comedy, which seems to be all the rage these days thanks to belle of the TV ball Glee. My first memory of Fallon was his dead-on impersonation of Adam Sandler, another SNL alum known for wacky comedic songs, and a couple of years into his stint on the seminal sketch show he released an album with a track I still frequently revisit, “Idiot Boyfriend.” Just try not to smile at the hilarious video below co-starring then-up-and-coming-now-It New Girl Zooey Deschanel.
Knowing Jimmy had the ability to MC as shown by the success of his talk show’s first year it wasn’t a surprise when he was tapped to take the reins of the Emmys hosting gig, but I had further confidence he would deftly lead the telecast by the sheer merit of his work back in 2002 at the MTV Video Music Awards. That opener still sticks out as one of the most memorable beginnings to an awards show of all time and had yet to be topped on my list of favorites until Fallon, Fey & the Glee gang’s “Born to Run” performance.
The buzz and ratings after Sunday both suggest that Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman aren’t the only song-and-dance men to call on if you want to have a successful live show telecast.
Not to forget about the awards part of the show, Glee took home a couple of high-profile wins with Jane Lynch nabbing Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy and Ryan Murphy getting Best Director for the top-notch pilot episode. Mad Men continued its drama domination with their third-straight year of trophies for both series and writing, and freshman favorite Modern Family went away a big winner with Best Comedy and Writing for its pilot as well as a pleasant surprise with Eric Stonestreet taking home a Supporting Actor in a Comedy trophy for his phenomenal work as Cam in the ensemble sitcom. An additional surprise win in an acting category went to Aaron Paul getting a much-deserved statue for his supporting role along-side fellow winner and co-star Bryan Cranston for AMC’s needs-to-get-more-recognition drama Breaking Bad.
Major category winners:
OUTSTANDING COMEDY Modern Family
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch (Glee)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Betty White (SNL)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A COMEDY
Ryan Murphy (Glee)
OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY
Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Levitan (Modern Family)
OUTSTANDING DRAMA Mad Men
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA
Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men – “Shut the Door, Have a Seat”)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
John Lithgow (Dexter)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Ann Margaret (Law & Order: SVU)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A DRAMA
Steve Shill (Dexter)
Variety, Music or Comedy
OUTSTANDING VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY SERIES The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL
Bucky Gunts (The Winter Olympics)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A VARIETY SHOW
Dave Boone and Paul Greenberg (The 2010 Tony Awards)
TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special
TV MOVIE Temple Grandin (HBO)
MINISERIES The Pacific (HBO)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Al Pacino (You Don’t Know Jack)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Claire Danes (Temple Gradin)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Mick Jackson (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
David Strathairn (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Julia Ormand (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Adam Mazer (You Don’t Know Jack)