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The Best TV Series of 2010
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
The best TV series of 2010 is NBC’s brilliant and irreverent Community.
Last season, having seen some 12 episodes of Community when I wrote my best of 2009 column, I thought Community was a good, but not a great show. Some of the early episodes were a bit unfocused and it took a while for the writers of Community to find the voice of the series. But when they find that voice — and I think they found it the moment Abed (Danny Pudi) appeared as Batman in the Halloween episode “Introduction to Statistics” — Community went from a show I watched Thursday nights to one I couldn’t wait to see.
Episodes from the first season, like “Contemporary American Poultry” which was a take on the movie Goodfellas but with chicken fingers instead of cocaine, and “Modern Warfare” where the Greendale campus turns into some post apocalyptic nightmare after a “last man standing” game of paintball assassin goes awry were some of the best sitcom episodes of the last decade.
What I find most interesting about Community is that I suspect the writers of the show are knowingly trying to subvert the sitcom genre. Be it with some characters of Community who realize they’re sitcom characters on a show to the fact that certain episodes requite multiple viewings with one story happening in the foreground and another quite literally occurring in the background make Community different and “streets ahead” of just about every other sitcom on TV.
Modern Family: Sometime in the mid-1990s the sitcom focusing on families morphed from being shows directed towards adults to ones directed at children. Series like Family Matters, Step By Step and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air defined this kid friendly, sitcom-lite style of the day. And while Disney Channel has gone onto use this formula to great effect with essentially every live-action series they run, the family sitcom had been so well defined by the end of the 1990s the family sitcoms that came along after were essentially rehashing ground covered a decade before. That held true until the series Modern Family premiered and redefined what sitcoms focusing of families were about.
Gone were goofy kids cracking jokes while they outsmarted the adults and were instead replaced with a more naturalistic way of storytelling. The humor of Modern Family doesn’t come from a forced setup and punchline, it instead comes from the situations the characters of Modern Family find themselves in.
Better Off Ted: While Modern Family continues to be a critical darling and an important ratings winner for ABC, Better Off Ted, also on ABC, never really found an audience and was unceremoniously cancelled this year. There aren’t too many workplace dramas on TV anymore, unless you count hospitals and police precincts as “workplace dramas,” and Better Off Ted was extremely adept at lampooning the realities of the modern corporate office environment.
The Walking Dead: The last few years AMC has had one heck of a track record with TV dramas. First with Mad Men then Breaking Bad, AMC has gone from a network once known as a knock-off to TCM to the home for innovative original series. And the new AMC series The Walking Dead is no exception, premiering to both great ratings and, well-deserved, critical acclaim. The fact that The Walking Dead is a hit is a bit surprising considering that it’s a horror-based series, something that on the surface seems to have a very narrow appeal. I bet it’s only a matter of time before the other networks, both cable and broadcast, start developing their own zombie shows.
Damages: It’s unfortunate that FX cancelled Damages after its third season as I found this latest season to be extremely enjoyable and a return to form. However, it’s fortunate that the DIRECTV channel The 101 picked up Damages for a fourth season starting in 2011!
Mad Men: Mad Men continues to be one of the best dramas on TV. Though the show is starting to show some signs of age and is beginning to lose its luster, I found the fourth season of Mad Men greatly enjoyable and can’t wait to see what happens next.
Running Wilde: Much like Community, it took a few episodes for the writers of Running Wilde, on Fox, to find the voice of the show. But after they did, Running Wilde became one of the best things about Tuesday nights.
Honorable mentions goes to Big Bang Theory, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and Raising Hope and Sym-Bionic Titan.