2010 Year End TV Review: Jason Zingale

It was an especially transformative year of television, at least for me, as my TV viewing diet underwent a bit of restructuring. Once-favorite shows began collecting dust on the DVR (sorry “Burn Notice,” but you’re losing your sizzle), and in the case of a few (like “Chuck”), were deleted altogether. Consequently, NBC’s “Community,” which spent most of its freshman season on the fringe of receiving similar treatment, is now the highlight of my Thursday nights. That’s because while shows like “Burn Notice” and “Chuck” are pretty much running on dead fumes at this point, “Community” has just begun to hit its groove. “How I Met Your Mother” also bounced back from an off-year with some of its funniest episodes to date, “Glee” and “Castle” continue to be as guilty as they are pleasurable, and the new season of “Top Chef” might just be the best yet. But none were able to crack my Top 5, which goes to prove that while there might have been a few misses this year, the hits were a lot more memorable.

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1. Terriers

Clever, funny, dark and provocative, “Terriers” may have wowed critics with its flawed characters and rich storytelling, but that didn’t change John Landgraf’s recent decision not to renew it for a second season. I don’t blame the FX President for the low ratings (most networks would have given up after only a few weeks), but I do blame the rest of America for failing to tune in to the best new show of the season. Yes, you heard right. Although I enjoyed “The Walking Dead” and the overrated “Boardwalk Empire,” the buddy detective drama delivered better acting and writing week in and week out. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James had unparalleled chemistry as the scrappy private investigators (the titular terriers, if you will) caught in the middle of the case of a lifetime, so it’s a shame that we won’t get to tag along on any of their further adventures – especially since the season finale left things wide open. Another brilliant but cancelled television show that, ten years from now, will still be missed.

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2. Modern Family

It hasn’t even completed its second season, but “Modern Family” already seems destined to become a comedy classic. It’s that good, and anyone who says otherwise should get an X-ray to see if their funny bone is broken. Of course, considering that it’s one of the most-watched shows on TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree. But for those who still haven’t experienced the funniest half-hour of television, it’s about time that you do, because there isn’t a single show that even comes close to matching the number of laughs in an average episode. And although the writing staff certainly deserves some credit, it’s cast members like Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara who make every joke that much funnier. Even the kids are funny, and that’s saying a lot from someone who isn’t particularly fond of child actors. It’s almost unbelievable the way the show fires on all cylinders so consistently, but that’s what separates a great show from a good one, and “Modern Family” is nothing if not that.

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3. Sons of Anarchy

The third season of FX’s outlaw biker drama may not have been its best, but after a sluggish start, the series redeemed itself by getting back to the kind of top-notch storytelling that fans have come to expect. Many of those fans were quick to criticize the ambitious Ireland subplot that dominated most of the season, but along with fleshing out some of the club’s back story, it also set the stage for what turned out to be a killer finale. Many of the supporting players got lost in the background this year, but Charlie Hunnam gave the performance of his career, guest stars Paula Malcomson and James Cosmo proved themselves worthy additions to the cast, and Ally Walker put the finishing touches on what might just be the best TV villain in quite some time. The show may have stumbled a bit along the way, but no matter how you felt about the season as a whole, those who stuck around for the long haul were given plenty of incentive to come back next fall.

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The Walking Dead 1.4 – Vatos

Just like in the pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic, tonight’s episode (which he also wrote) picked up right where the last one left off, with Daryl not taking the discovery of Merle’s chopped-off hand particularly well. Fortunately, it appears that Merle is doing just fine on his own, as a trail of blood down the opposite staircase leads Rick and Co. to find evidence that Merle has not only taken out a few zombies, but also cauterized his stump on a hot plate before getting the hell out of Dodge. Worried about his safety all alone in the city, Daryl wants to go chasing after him, but Rick warns to keep a cool head and suggests they retrieve the guns first.

But instead of bum-rushing the bag as a group, Glenn volunteers to go alone because he can do it quickly and stealthily. Better yet, he’s even devised a fail-safe plan for protection involving the other three guys that leads Daryl to ask in disbelief, “Hey kid, what’d you do before this?” “I delivered pizzas.” Unfortunately, not even the best-laid plans always go as intended, and when Daryl gets distracted by some Mexican kid and is promptly attacked by his friends, Glenn comes running back down the alley straight into all the trouble. Daryl manages to shoot one of the Mexicans in the back of the leg, but not before they can grab Glenn and drive away.

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Of course, they also left the kid behind, and although he isn’t very cooperative at first, Daryl’s threats to cut off his feet seemed to do the trick. (If only he knew that Daryl was bluffing with his own brother’s hand.) Nevertheless, he takes them to the kidnappers’ hideout, which is run by a guy named Guillermo, who tells Rick that he wants the kid and the guns in trade for Glenn. The odds were certainly stacked against him, but good old Rick just waltzed right into their little fort and stuck a gun in Guillermo’s face, as if to say, “You want a fight? Let’s go.” Luckily, none of that was necessary, as it turns out Guillermo wasn’t such a bad guy after all, but just a custodian trying to protect the retirement where he used to work. After seeing all the sick, elderly people depending on Guillermo’s care, Rick leaves him a few of the guns and heads back with the others to the van, only to discover that someone (presumably Merle) has taken off with it.

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