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Television Collision: The Good and Bad of TV in 2010

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer


ImageFor my 2010 year-round-up I decided to forgo a Top Ten list of TV shows, as I have done in previous years, mainly because these lists are always highly subjective and a plethora of them circle the internet around this time anyway. Most critics agree on about half the shows that need to be on such a list, although those are hardly ever the shows the majority of viewers actually watch.

So instead of giving you yet another list of shows you may or may not like or may or may not even have watched, I am going to talk about some of my personal highlights of television of 2010 and about some of the more excruciating experiences I shared with my TV screen this year.

I strongly encourage you to share your TV memories with me in the forums. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no particular order to my recap, I mix the good with the bad, the off-screen with the on-screen — all to reflect the sometimes troubling, sometimes elating Year in Television 2010.

In the realm of “news”, and although not a TV-limited topic, the recent confirmation of the Buffy reboot in form of a motion picture was some of the worst news we got this year. While many are outright outraged, I have resigned to the fact that there probably is no way to stop this from happening and so the movie better be decent and not sully the “good Buffy name”. Given that the Kuzuis are involved, who already misguided the first movie, doesn’t give much hope to my optimistic vision, but maybe we can will it so.

Other sad, very sad news included the announcement that Andy Whitfield would not be returning as Spartacus to Starz’ Spartacus franchise. He was diagnosed with testicular Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in March and while originally there was hope he might still be able to return to the show, his battle for health has now eliminated this possibility. I wish Andy Whitfield nothing but the best and I will sighingly commit myself to liking whoever is cast as his replacement. I have no doubt I will enjoy the hell out of the prequel show currently filming called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. But there will be a tinge of sadness in my heart with every viewing.

ImageSpartacus is actually a book some other shows could stand to borrow a page from in terms of “attempting to push the envelope and succeeding”, something at which the Canadian show Lost Girl utterly failed. I have to say that some of the worst times I had with my television this year was every minute I spent watching Lost Girl, with its lackluster attempt at being “innovative” by having lesbian overtones, even kisses, that never went anywhere and a supposedly man-eating, sex-hungry succubus as its star that is only ever seen in engaging in very conventional — albeit a bit more naked than on US television — sex scenes.
I reviewed this show a few weeks back, but back then I had no idea yet of how bad the season finale was actually going to get. This show managed to step into every genre cliché anyone anywhere could ever conjure up. Right up to the villainess actually being a handed a notebook after a murder by one of her lackies, in which she then makes a mark and says “One down, boys! Let’s go start ourselves a war.”

I shuddered in utter disgust at this, and most people will see why. Could a show BE any more cartoonish and immature? There was a hint of promise in the premise (yes, this was a pun), but it quickly fizzled away and the show ended up being as uneven and awkward as Anna Silk’s running style.
And what freaks me out even more: Lost Girl is Canada’s most watched scripted drama on a specialty channel and actually the only non-American show to make the List of “Top Ten Pirated TV Shows”. I cannot begin to describe how much this horrifies me. Just for reference: Lost Girl‘s season finale gives Sarah Palin’s reality show a run for its money for “most alienatingly disturbing images ever to be put on screen”.

One step up and yet a whole mile away from “satisfying viewing” was — sadly — the second season outing of the CW’s Life Unexpected. It may very well be that we have seen the last of this show, since the at one time 18-episode-order was cut back to the original 13 episodes for the season and ratings have been dropping. The quirkiness of Season 1 was replaced by secrets, lies and unmotivated flip-flopping on Lux’s part. When Season 1 still made us feel like the writers understood the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which Lux was screwed up from being a foster kid, in Season 2 it seemed as though they could not make up their minds. One day she was willing to come clean, the next she would lie again, but not about the really important part, just about some other stuff and then she’d attempt to tell the truth but still hold some of it back and… oh, it was just one confusing mess.
And while I was initially a fan of the twist that the boy she meets over the summer turns out to be her new teacher, the fun of this storyline fizzled exactly with that twist, because then it treaded the familiar, irresolvable ground of “student having affair with teacher and no one can find out”.
There was a lot wrong with Season 2 of a show I used to enjoy. It seems it fell victim to “The Sophomore Curse”, which I thought only applied to music, but apparently it can happen to TV shows as well. Unfortunately, I don’t think Life Unexpected will recover from this blow and will leave our airways forever.

ImageAnother show that broke my heart with its departure was FX’s Terriers. Apparently no one watched this tiny little show and people definitely missed out. It was clever, it was entertaining and the characters felt like real people. But, I won’t dwell, since only an average of 700,000 Americans will know what I am talking about. The other 2.3 million will skip this paragraph anyway.

So let’s move on to a show people did actually watch, and which I still wouldn’t dream of putting on a Top Ten List even if I was thinking about putting one together: True Blood. Season 3 of my third-favorite vampire show (No. 1 and 2 are Buffy and Angel, natch) was convoluted, erratic and very forgettable except for Russell’s speech on national television. Season 2 already diminished my euphoria, and this summer did nothing to reignite the spark. No, True Blood did not hold a candle to my “Top Ten Shows I am not putting on a list in 2010”. But there’s always a next time. And HBO doesn’t cancel anything these days anyway, so rest in peace, Truebies.

My summer was made better, however, by ABC’s wonderful — if edited flashily — documentary Boston Med (which prompted a great episode of Grey’s Anatomy early in its seventh season as well, but more on that later) and the always excellent, stellar, all-brain-capacity-consuming Mad Men.
It is impossible not to be enamored with the characters of the show that put AMC on the map (and which paved the way for AMC even being able to afford such a production as The Walking Dead, which received a lot of attention in 2010). The universe of Mad Men incorporates all our nostalgic notions about “the good old days” and then subverts them ever so subtly. There’s not a single character I would want to miss, no matter how much they can annoy me (see Roger Sterling or Pete Campbell). And is anyone else rooting for a Don Draper — Peggy Olson loveship (love+relationship)?

Another favorite TV couple of mine was also out in force in 2010: doctors Owen Hunt and Cristina Yang of Grey’s Anatomy! I was about to give up on this show amidst the whole Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight drama and the murk that was Season 5 and parts of Season 6, but I have to say Shonda Rhimes and Company are back with a vengeance! The Season 6 finale blew all other finales out of the water by a long shot and from the get-go Season 7 has been stellar storytelling. Yes, GA is back to the quality of its early glory days, having found a voice for all the characters that remain at Seattle-Grace after the shoot-out (seriously, we needed that reduction of newbies, as harsh as that might sound) and taking its time with the stories they want to tell.

ImageA big part of this return to form are the aforementioned characters of Owen Hunt and Cristina Yang, more specifically also their actors Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh. Their chemistry permeates the screen and both are easily the best actors of the bunch. Their relationship is handled with an earnest lightness, they give each other room to breathe without ever creating doubts that they belong together and that the best stories involving these two can only be told when they are a couple, a unit, a team. It’s refreshing to see a relationship on dramatic television that doesn’t involve the constant breaking up and getting back together, and while the road ahead is far from easy for Owen and Cristina, every step we get to watch is rewarding and satisfying.

And while Grey’s Anatomy has staged a comeback, there were other shows I have been holding a torch for that let me down a bit in 2010. I would never abandon House, but for some reason the Huddy union we finally got wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped it would be and the show sort of dribbles along. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is off and it’s an itch I can’t stop scratching.

I am also growing increasingly impatient with How I Met Your Mother, even though it added House-alumna Jennifer Morrison as a recurring guest star this season. The hijinks from week to week are all good and well, but after six years I have lost the sense that this is GOING anywhere. Not even the characters that aren’t stuck in this “is the next person I meet going to be the one I have been telling you about” limbo are going anywhere. Robin takes steps down the career ladder instead of up, Barney shows no signs of growth (something even the sometimes one-note character of Joey on Friends displayed when he fell in love with Rachel and wanted to settle down) and Lily and Marshall have been married for four years now and their baby storyline is taking two steps forward and one step back. All in all, the pacing of this show is very tenacious and stretches my patience, something I actually have a lot of when it comes to TV.

Speaking of which, a show I have had a lot of patience with, but which I still don’t really get is The Good Wife. It is continuously praised as great television and yet… I see a legal procedural show with a love triangle in the center, not innovative by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I love, love, love Josh Charles (positive fall-out from his Dead Poets Society days) and Julianna Margulies is a fine actress, but other than that… eh, the universal high praise puzzles me a bit. But hey, The Good Wife is still way better than a lot of other stuff and fluff we are subjected to.

Another show where patience has paid off, btw, is CBS’s Blue Bloods. The pilot was a mess and misleading in some ways, but fortunately the “secret society within the police force” storyline has not taken the front seat and is dealt with consistently in small, believable doses. Instead we get a show about a family dynasty that forgoes the kindergarten drama Brothers & Sisters is content to throw at audiences and in its place subtly deconstructs the tangled webs of “family” and what it means to grow up within a household so firmly interwoven with all sides of law enforcement. Is it even possible to form an opinion that is not entirely informed by this upbringing? I am growing fond of Blue Bloods, while I am way over Detroit 1-8-7.

ImageWhile on the subject of “how to do a cop show right”: I also spent a good portion of the latter part of 2010 getting psyched for the return of a show that was thankfully saved this year: Southland will be ringing in the new year on January 4th on TNT and I have no doubt it’s gonna start with a bang! Yes, TNT made Santa’s list of “very nice people” this year for giving this show a vote of confidence. They shall be richly rewarded.

Richly rewarded is criminally not something my favorite show of 2010 is/will be in terms of the awards that should have been thrown at it, at least in retrospect and in view of its imminent end. I am guilty of being short-sighted about this show’s achievements, scope and impact as well: I managed for two years in a row to NOT make it my No. 1 Television Show of either 2008 or 2009 (instead I picked House and Mad Men, respectively).
Let me offer my sincerest apologies for getting stuck on the hype of the moment in 2008 and 2009 and attempt to do penance by saying that if I had assembled a Top Ten List of TV Shows of 2010, it would have had only one show on it:

Friday Night Lights

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There are no words to describe how much I love this show, its characters, its universe, its heart, its voice, its grace, its vision.
Friday Night Lights has so many things going for it, it’s hard to find a place to start, or stop.
Being shot entirely on 16mm handheld cameras on location in Austin, Texas gives this show a visual richness other shows are sorely lacking and a realism that is palpable with every episode.
It is entirely misleading to classify this show as “being about football” — that would be like saying Lost is about a plane crash. Friday Night Lights is about people, and not just the people being portrayed within the show. Here were a group of individuals who came together, each bringing everything they had to the table, and through a lot of obstacles consistently delivered believable, inspirational, relatable, beautifully visualized tales of humanity.

Like many TV shows, Friday Night Lights will get its recognition in retrospect. People are going to be talking about this one in ten years still and maybe that is the greatest reward anyone could hope for, because it is less fleeting than an Emmy, a Golden Globe or any such award. Connie Britton’s and Kyle Chandler’s nomination for an Emmy in 2010 was a small victory that had me cheering in 2010, which was intensified by the ever-gracious Chandler (who auditioned for the part of Coach Eric Taylor while shooting an episode of Grey’s Anatomy across the lot, another reason why I am thankful to Shonda Rhimes) declaring he wanted to win not for himself, but for all the people who tirelessly worked on the show. It was not to be and maybe it’s better that way. Friday Night Lights will get its accolades outside of the conventional measures of “success”, just like it always has.

A few episodes of Friday Night Light‘s fifth and final season remain for 2011 (and then the whole season will re-air for the general public on NBC), and this makes me happy, because it means I will get another chance to include it on my Top of 2011 list. I dare not yet think about my emotional state after the final episode will have flickered across my screen, so let me push the thought out of my head and reiterate:

Friday Night Lights was the best thing in all of TV of 2010 and if it had been the only show I had watched, I wouldn’t have missed a thing.

Clear eyes, full hearts… can’t lose!

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Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.

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