BuddyTV’s picks for the absolute best shows of the year.
#14 Meghan Carlson’s Honorable Mention: Dexter
In season 4, wicked cable thriller Dexter has gone from “must see” to “must throw myself off a tall building if I miss an episode” television. The show’s mainstays–Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, and its standard blend of nail-biting suspense and delicious dark humor–are as on-point as ever, but this season belongs to guest star John Lithgow, who shines as the bone-chilling Trinity Killer, and little Harrison Morgan, whose mere existence has raised the already-high stakes for our fave mass murderer to near breaking point.
#13 Kim Wetter’s Honorable Mention: Friday Night Lights
Was there anything more heartbreaking than seeing Joe McCoy steal the Dillon Panthers away from Coach Taylor? With brilliant acting, writing and directing, 2009 saw the end of season 3 and the start of season 4, a beautiful mixture of hope and sadness as the Panthers lost State and Coach Taylor lost the Panthers. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose! Now if only more people would tune in…
#12 Rachel Cameron’s Honorable Mention: How I Met Your Mother
You can never have too much NPH in your life, and lets face it, we’ve seen a lot of him this year. Plus, viewers finally got to see Robin and Barney together. Slapsgiving 2…need I say more?
#11 Abbey Simmons’ Honorable Mention: Dating in the Dark
For me, Dating in the Dark is a reminder of what reality TV should be. It was like watching a fascinating sociological experiment play out. Yes it was reality TV, but it was also a thoughtful study on the role appearance and expectations play in our society. It warmed and broke my heart, it confirmed and denied my biggest fears, it made me think. What was the last new reality show you could say that about?
#10 John Kubicek’s Honorable Mention: Make It or Break It
I never expected to fall so in love with an ABC Family show about competitive gymnasts, but that’s what happened. Slowly over the first season, the lives of the four primary girls developed, each one playing out as a fully-fledged story. The mid-season finale at the competition provided great drama, a surprising winner and a ton of tears down my face.
#9 So You Think You Can Dance Season 5
Sometimes you don’t realize what a good thing you have until it’s gone. Such is the case of season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance. The dancers had it all: personality, technique, great choreography to show it off, camaraderie, and a stage that didn’t swallow them. Whatever Mia Michaels said, it was actually season 5 that blew people away, not season 6. We miss Five Alive daily.
#8 Vampire Shows (True Blood, The Vampire Diaries)
You’d think we’d be tired of shows and movies about vampires, but these two dramas showed just how much good there is left in this world. The second season of True Blood brilliantly explored religion, the hierarchy of the vampires and the new goddess Maryann, providing pure entertainment and full the whole time. Meanwhile, the CW’s new series The Vampire Diaries became the most daring show on TV, killing off major characters and throwing in twists and turns every week to help make it a huge hit.
#7 Parks and Recreation
Remember season 2 of The Office, when it really started to hit its stride? That magical time when every episode was an impressively efficient, single-serving laugh factory, developing characters well enough to make running jokes at their expense? The veteran mockumentary series has since outgrown those shiny days of youth, but Parks and Recreation is officially its stellar-sophomore-season successor. With writing that finally takes full advantage of the inherent disconnect between effort and result in small city politics, a supporting cast that has gone from nameless gag-givers to a lively band of lovable deviants, and a lead goof (Amy Poehler) who’s never faltered along the way, Parks and Rec has gone from an Office lead-in to a worthy, don’t-miss pleasure in its own right. Consider us proud dual-citizens of both Scranton, PA and Pawnee, IN.
#6 FOX Procedurals (House, Bones, Lie to Me)
We generally don’t care for procedural dramas, but FOX has us thinking different. House was brilliant this year as the good doctor went a little crazy, seeing dead people and ultimately committing himself to hopefully get cured. Bones continued to build steam as the Bones-Booth romance continues to be the best sexual chemistry on TV. Lie to Me found its legs in its sophomore season, blending psychology, crime and character-driven plots into a series worthy of its intriguing premise (who doesn’t wish they knew how to pick out liars?) and its talented man at the helm, Tim Roth.
#5 FX Dramas (Damages, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy)
FX certainly thinks outside the box, and this trio of dramas about truly disturbed anti-heroes showed just how brilliant TV can be. Damages proved the first season wasn’t a fluke with a riveting case that added layers and layers of intrigue as viewers tried to figure out who was on what side and who Ellen shot. Rescue Me returned after a long break stronger than ever, exploring the still-burning emotions of 9/11 and Tommy’s descent into madness as he brought his entire family back to drinking. Finally, the second season of Sons of Anarchy was an absolute joy to watch, with the biker gang coming apart at the seams while the season built to a full boil with the white supremacists as a perfect foil, upping the stakes by viciously assaulting and raping Gemma in the season premiere.
#4 AMC Dramas (Breaking Bad, Mad Men)
The network might be called American Movie Classics, but it’s the original TV shows that are the real hit. The second season of Breaking Bad was even better than the first, exploring Walter’s convoluted world as he slowly became a drug kingpin. Mad Men started its third season slow as always, but as the season unraveled, there were major events and tons of turmoil that helped make the finale a masterpiece.
#3 Party Down
Not a lot of people saw this small Starz original comedy, but those who did recognize why it’s one of the best shows of the year. This hilarious look at cater-waiters in L.A. featured some of the coolest and funniest people on TV, most of whom worked on Veronica Mars. Martin Starr from Freaks and Geek. Ken Marino and Ryan Hansen from Veronica Mars. Adam Scott from Tell Me You Love Me. Lizzy Caplan from True Blood. And Jane Lynch, now on Glee. Toss in guest appearances from Veronica Mars alums Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring and Kristen Bell and you have one brilliant show.
#2 Modern Family
Just when you thought TV was dumbed down as low as it could go, along comes a show with so much intelligent wit and clever pacing that your faith in television comedy is restored. Such is the case with Modern Family, ABC’s masterful family comedy. Every actor is fantastic, every family is interesting, and unlike many shows, there isn’t a weak link. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet are delightfully insane as the gay parents of a newly adopted baby. Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell shine as a happily married couple stressed out by three completely different kids. And Sofia Vergara and Ed O’Neill are revelations with her comedic timing and his ability to completely shed Al Bundy and create a new and interesting dad.
Glee is the best show of the year for one simple reason: it’s what we look forward to the most every week. Every Wednesday at 10pm, we’re angry that we need to wait six days and 23 hours for more. The songs are infectious and catchy. The storylines are witty, kitschy and sentimental. The actors are all fantastic. Sue Sylvester is the single best character on TV right now. And did we mention the songs? We hum along, we sing along, we dance along and we are unapologetically obsessed with this show.