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TV Eye: It Was a Very Good Year

The usual suspects and a few surprises marked a great year on TV

By Belinda Acosta, January 7, 2011, Screens

There are a few surprises in this year's Top 10 list. First, I've listed them in alphabetical order. Second, besides including all TV content, I've listed my Top 10s in one list, instead of separating into genres. Did I miss anything? I'm sure I did. If so, tweet me @ChronicleTVEye.

So, here goes.

 

1) 'BLUE BLOODS' (CBS) "Blue who?" is the response I hear when I mention this series to my friends. When I explain it's on CBS (aka the geriatric channel), the incredulity widens. Yet this conventional drama about a multigenerational Irish-American family of New York City cops is smart, well-delivered, and features one of the strongest ensemble casts on TV.

 

2) 'THE COLBERT REPORT' (COMEDY CENTRAL) I was going to lump Stephen Colbert in with Jon Stewart, but really, his brand of comedy (from the Jonathan Swift school of satire) is often more over-the-top than Stewart's. In the past year, I was most appreciative of Colbert's attention to farm laborers, many of whom have endured years of abuse due to ruthless immigration and labor laws.

 

3) 'COMMUNITY' (NBC) This wonky little sitcom only gets better and better. Dan Harmon's series about a mixed bag of community college students in the same study group is really a tribute to the family we create.

 

4) 'THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART' (COMEDY CENTRAL) Critics may remember this year for the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear (co-hosted with Colbert), but I think a higher watermark is the week Stewart railed against the Senate filibuster to avoid funding health care for 9/11 first responders. Besides being personally outraged, Stewart provided damning before and after video of key Republican senators (including Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn) using patriotic hyperbole to praise the 9/11 first responders, only to vote a resounding "no" to their health care aid. Interestingly, after the embarrassing video was aired (as well as an emotional roundtable with 9/11 veterans), a scuttle to provide health care funding for 9/11 first responders occurred in the final hours of the 111th Congress. Clearly, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart is political satire, but the fact that it's the source of cutting-edge analysis on the day's current issues is both a delight and a sad commentary on our actual TV news media.

 

5) 'LUTHER' (BBC AMERICA) By conventional standards, it's a miniseries. Still, what this psychological thriller accomplishes in six episodes is breathtaking. Finely acted and deftly written, it soars far above the conventional cop show.

 

6) 'MAD MEN' (AMC) In all aspects elegant. The fashion of the period gets a lot of broad attention, but it's the stories and the interior nuances of each character that make this fine drama fascinating.

 

7) 'MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE' (TNT) The male version of Sex and the City? Cut out the glam and infuse more reality, a bit of a middle-aged spread, and a lot more heart, and you get the picture.

 

8) 'MODERN FAMILY' (ABC) I've been reading some online chatter about how Modern Family trades in stereotypes, particularly with Latina bombshell Sofia Vergara. I counter that all the characters are stereotypes. As long as the series' creators allow Vergara's Gloria to remain the smartest person in the room, I'm not complaining.

 

9) 'THE OFFICE' (NBC) I'm sensing a happy ending for Steve Carell's Michael Scott and have all confidence that the writers' room will give him the warm and loving exit he deserves. Sorry to see Carell go, but last I heard, Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) was in the running to replace him. That would be awesome!

 

10) 'TREME' (HBO) This dry-eyed fugue set in post-Katrina New Orleans is artful, well-acted, splendidly written, and, ultimately, a tribute to the American spirit. And watching Khandi Alexander's performance as a struggling bar owner trying to find out the truth behind her brother's disappearance while getting her business back on its feet – gets me every time.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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