Thursday, January 14, 2010

Best Shows of 2009

Again, things get on this list by having a season end in the year in question. Even if all but one episode was shown in a different year. Causes some odd situations, but it makes it a bit easier. This was a good year for shows I like, with lots of them either maintaining high standards of quality or bouncing back from relatively sub-par seasons.

Best of 2009

8. Pushing Daisies (ABC)

This is one of those odd situations. ABC failed to renew Daisies for a full second season, so they waited until the middle of the year to unceremoniously air the last three episodes. The show's second run didn't have quite the verve of the first, but it was still a beautifully shot, fiendishly clever, and highly charming show while it lasted. Maybe too cute for some, but it never bothered me.

7. Mad Men (AMC)

I really thought this was the show's best run, showing just how much good stuff there was last year. It featured a few of the series' greatest moments so far, some of its best humor, and some truly game-changing upheaval of the status quo in the last couple episodes. Ultimately though, I want to know what happens now more than I want to revisit what already did.

6. Dexter (Showtime)

The show's best go-round since the first, it wasn't perfect but managed to recapture a lot of what was missing the last time and tell an exciting story again. John Lithgow was probably the best pure villain on TV last year, and there were a number of scenes as shocking, disturbing, and downright just as tense as what you can accomplish in the medium. Plus it was the only thing on this list to have a significant supporting character regularly show her tits, which doesn't hurt. Nah, if that actually mattered True Blood would be here.

5. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

This year's best comedy, and I'd be tempted to name it the comedy of the decade if it weren't for Arrested Development. It's not as smart or subtle as some network shows, but it's just so damn laugh-out-loud funny all the damn time that you can't not love it. This was the year I feel Dennis overtook Charlie as the best character, but they're all so good that your personal pick doesn't really matter. I kind of wish the seasons were longer, but it might dilute the humor if they had to hire more writers.

4. Kings (NBC)

I kind of wish I had given it a shot when it was still airing. Not that it would have mattered, because I'm just one person and I don't have a Nielsen Box. Of all the shows I saw last year this one could be considered unique, with its own sense of pacing, dialogue, design, and themes. And Ian McShane played what was probably the year's best character. Just watching him pontificate while he shook hands with one arm and held a noose behind his back with the other was a treat every time he was on screen. Farewell Kings, I hardly knew ye.

3. Dollhouse (FOX)

It's really, really too bad FOX insisted on changing Joss Whedon's vision for the beginning of the series, because the consistently low ratings after just a few weak episodes show that it never really had a chance to recover, despite every nerd who kept with it shouting "No really, it's good now!" at everyone they come across. The show came to its own in the back half of season one, and the unaired (in America) finale was a big-time game changer.

2. Lost (ABC)

You can probably pencil this in for a similar place on the list for this year, as my anticipation for the show's final season is approaching a fever pitch and the creators have done nothing but prove they can do this sort of thing better than anything else on TV right now. Despite saying they weren't going to do time travel early on, they ended up instead creating one of the best long term time travel stories I've seen without coming close to overdoing it, and it ends with a few more shocking revelations while setting up what could be a truly special last run.

1. Breaking Bad (AMC)

Two straight years at the top of the hill. I don't know how much longer Vince Gilligan and company can keep it up, and it's going to take some doing with Dollhouse currently near the end of possibly the best season of science fiction I've ever seen. Still, I can see them doing it. The second season moved a bit beyond the first's angle, showing the meaning of the title as Bryan Cranston ably depicts a man who's lost sight of what's important and will do increasingly terrible things just to keep a leg up. Few shows manage its combination of genuinely good, intelligent drama and heart-wrenching, brutally intense moments. Just consistently brilliant.

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