Season 2 of this show really kicked it up a notch towards the end, and Season 3 has been all killer, no filler so far. The conflict between the two universes, and the contrasts of the two Olivia’s, with isolated members of each side realizing that the other side is far from a purely evil enemy, has lead to some mind-blowingly great episodes. Also, can I just say how amazing “White Tulip” was? Or how great “Peter” was? Even the episode where Peter wanders off on his own and ends up investigating a murder in a small town was really neat, and I’d happily watch a spin-off of Peter as a nomadic fringe science investigator. Also, Eric the Midget’s head exploded. Let’s not forget that.
The best sitcom casts feel like your friends, and Community has the best sitcom cast on the air right now. A group of mismatched characters who come together for a community college study group and end up becoming each other’s pseudo-family. The show gets a lot of attention for its pop culture parodies, and as fun as the action movies, zombie outbreaks, and stop-motion animated Christmas specials are, the best part of the show is its heart. These people really care about each other, as strange as it seems, and though sentimentality is often used as crutch on lesser shows, on Community the sentiment is always earned.
Maybe they should have called it Scruffy Beach Detectives. Either way, the little show that couldn’t (get renewed) is going to be mentioned in “brilliant but canceled” conversations in the same breath as Freaks and Geeks for years to come. It was reminiscent of Veronica Mars, with its mix of clever banter and incredibly dark moments, which proved perhaps too dark for some viewers. Also: the theme music is wonderful. Also: Donal Logue is maybe the best TV private detective of all time.
4. Doctor Who
Before 2010, I’d never seen an episode of Doctor Who. I decided to watch the fifth season when Steven Moffat took over as showrunner, as I was interested to see how the creator of Coupling, one of my all-time favorites, would handle a science-fiction action show. Well, the science-fiction is sometimes silly, but the characters are so wonderful, and wonderfully acted, with great heart and humor, that it became my biggest surprise pleasure of the year. I would go back and watch the earlier seasons, but I can’t imagine Doctor Who without the hilarious Matt Smith and the beautiful Karen Gillan (and, okay, Arthur Darvill as Rory can be pretty good too).
5. Parks and Recreation
And the award for most improved show goes to Parks and Recreation! After a terrible (and blessedly short) first season, suddenly it became one of the best sitcoms on TV. What absolutely terrific characters! The charming and idealistic Leslie Knope, the ultimate midwest manly man Ron Effing Swanson, and my definite favorite TV romantic couple Andy and April. Andy may not be the shiniest shoe in the shoe shine stand (or something), but his positive attitude and relentless sincerity melted my heart even as did April’s, slowly poking holes in her ironic, sullen shell.
I think Lost actually did answer all of the important questions. To prove it, I present…
LOST EXPLAINED (IN A NUTSHELL): So there’s this Island where all of the “life energy” (or whatever you want to call it) of intelligent, sentient beings resides. People living on the Island are able to tap into this energy through sheer force of will, not unlike Green Lantern’s power ring, and make things happen that would otherwise be impossible. This is how things that one wouldn’t expect to find on the Island, from Locke’s dad to Kate’s horse, kept managing to appear there. They were willed into being. A long time ago, a crazy woman who lived on the Island killed a pregnant lady and took her children, and sadly taught them to be just as crazy as her. One of the kids, Jacob, threw his brother into the energy source, which gave said brother mastery of his very molecules. Still, Jacob’s will was stronger, and because both believed that he was in charge, and could prevent his brother from leaving, their belief made it so. Jacob’s paranoia, loneliness, and messiah complex caused him to ruin many innocent lives, drawing people to the Island and putting them through ultimately unnecessary tests. Some of the people who found the Island were scientists who conducted experiments there, and that’s basically all Dharma was about. In the end, when Hurley took control of the Island, it worked because he believed he was in control. He ran things “differently,” as, despite his time in a mental institution, he was nowhere near as nutso as Jacob was. Also, the sideways universe is the afterlife, and was totally irrelevant to the main story, except that without it, there would not have been a happy ending with all the characters, given most were dead, and that’s why the sideways universe was included.
7. Adventure Time
Adventure Time is almost incomprehensibly imaginative. Every childhood fantasy you ever wish you had exists in the Land of Ooo, where Jake the Dog and Finn the Human help the downtrodden from their giant, amazing treehouse. Whether they’re hiding from the knife rain, or following a frog carrying a crown to see if he puts it on, or hiring thawed-from-ice businessmen to do their adventuring for them, the fun will quite possibly never end. Adventure Time is one of the best kid-appropriate cartoon shows in years, maybe of all time, and with more jokes for adults than anything since Animaniacs.
Archer, on the other hand, is a cartoon that’s the exact opposite of kid-appropriate, and is barely adult-appropriate. It’s a workplace comedy where the workplace is the International Secret Intelligence Service, and the comedy is a mix of perverse sexuality and obscure pop culture references. This is a show where a mad scientist builds a robot named Fister Roboto, and where a woman is described as the Pele of anal. If you can handle it, it’s terrifyingly hilarious.
9. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Before 2010, I’d never seen an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m glad I finally gave it a shot. There are so many crazy and unique moments from this year that stick out in my memory. Denim Chicken and Worm Hat. Nature is bulls–t, I’m done with this. It’s the implication. Lethal Weapon 5. Dee as an ostrich. I want french fries and a ginger ale. I’m having feelings again, like a 14-year-old. Do you remember feelings?
10. The IT Crowd
Though it only aired six episodes in 2010, and though the season was uneven to say the least, for delivering incredibly funny moments like Roy’s obsession with how his girlfriend’s parents could possibly manage to die in a fire at a Sea Parks, and Moss playing the dangerous “street” version of a quiz show, the IT Crowd manages to squeak its way onto this list.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: 30 Rock, Better Off Ted, Cougar Town, Dollhouse, The League, Louie, Men of a Certain Age, Modern Family, Rubicon, Sherlock, The Venture Brothers
IMPORTANT SHOWS I DIDN’T GET AROUND TO WATCHING IN 2010: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Justified, Mad Men, The Pacific, Treme