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Best and Worst of the Year in TV: Staff Picks

by AOL TV Staff, posted Dec 21st 2010 12:00PM
CommunityWhat a year! We had wonderful comedy, great drama and 'Jersey Shore.' 2010 gave us 'Lone Star' (a good moment), but then it took it away from us so quickly (a bad moment). There were more reality show vixens than you could shake a stick at, but equally as many shining "OMG" moments on some of the best scripted TV in years.

From 'The Walking Dead' to '$#*! My Dad Says,' the TV Squad staff picked their best and worst moments of 2010. Join us in reliving the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2010 TV landscape.

Kelly Woo
Best use of an ensemble: The TV landscape now boasts so many great comedy ensembles ('30 Rock,' 'The Office,' 'Modern Family' and see below for 'Cougar Town'), but perhaps the best might be on 'Community.' You can take any of the seven main stars and the handful of supporting players, then mix and match them into hilarious combos. And you can throw anything at the 'Community' gang (parodies, meta-riffic references, claymation) ... they'll deliver.

Worst use of an ensemble: The cast of 'Hawaii Five-0.' The remake isn't a bad show, but it's basically really pretty laundry TV. Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park can do so much more than look good while kicking butt.

Most Improved: 'Cougar Town.' Often forgotten because 'Modern Family' gets all the buzz, Bill Lawrence's comedy got better after it ditched the whole Courteney Cox as "cougar" thing and focused on the antics of the larger group of friends (including the very funny Busy Phillips and Ian Gomez). If you're someone who was put off by the title, 'Cougar Town' has become so much more than that. The latter part of season 1 and the second season have produced nearly as many laugh-out-loud moments as its sibling show.

Circling the Drain: Sad to say ... 'The Office.' I've been a staunch defender this season, but even my resolve is wavering. It just hasn't been on its game lately, and the idea of losing Steve Carell just affirms some fans' opinion that the show should go out with him. A small sliver of hope came in the form of Amy Ryan's returning Holly; perhaps 'The Office' can straighten up in 2011.

Mo Ryan
Mad Men the SuitcaseBest Drama Episode: 'The Suitcase,' 'Mad Men.' The performances that Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss gave in this episode were simply breathtaking, as Don Draper went through a tough day and night that ended with one of the worst emotional breakdowns of his life. Everything that had built between these two characters over four seasons came pouring out, and, in the midst of a truly wonderful season of the AMC drama, the results were awe-inspiring.

Best Comedy Episode: 'Steve Guttenberg's Birthday,' 'Party Down.' There were so many levels of comedy here: Steve Guttenberg played an oblivious, pretentious version of himself, but a Guttenberg that was nevertheless amusing and charming; there was a whole riff on hilariously bad writing and the usual wry observations about the life of struggling actors in L.A. Yet this beautifully constructed gift of an episode also said something valuable and beautiful about not giving up on your dreams.

Chris Jancelewicz
Zach Gilford Friday Night LightsBest Moment: Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen in 'Friday Night Lights'; in 'The Son,' when he delivers his father's eulogy... it's rare that someone embodies a character that thoroughly. Absolutely stirring.

Worst Moment: MTV Movie Awards – ScarJo and Sandra Bullock kissing. Stupid. Just stupid, awkward and needless.

Jean Bentley
Best performance by a 'Degrassi' alum: Nina Dobrev's dual roles on 'The Vampire Diaries' - We knew Dobrev had the sweet high-schooler part down, but who knew she could be so convincing as an evil, leather-clad, centuries-old vampire doppelganger?

Worst performance by a 'Degrassi' alum: Stacey Farber's short-lived stint on The CW with the Canadian comedy '18 to Life' - Okay, so the "worst" is actually referring to the show's performance, not Farber's (which was perfectly funny and smart), but we're still disappointed that the former Ellie Nash hasn't broken into mainstream American pop culture quite yet. Maybe 2011 will be her year ...

Chris Harnick
Best avoidance of a sophomore slump 2010: 'The Good Wife' continues to amaze me. Week after week -- when it's new, I don't know how I survive hiatuses -- I am blown away by how much more I care about each and every one of the characters. Except Alicia and Peter's kids. Anyway, it's only halfway through season 2, but 'The Good Wife' is nowhere near slumping. In fact, the show is taking its great writing, character development and performances and standing very tall and proud, high above the rest of the pack.

GleeWorst avoidance of a sophomore slump 2010: Once upon a time there was a writer who loved 'Glee.' He loved everything about it: Rachel Berry, Sue Sylvester, the music, the drama, the comedy, etc. It was a magical time! Unfortunately, that time was season 1 and this writer currently winces while watching the characters and show he came to love get destroyed on a weekly basis. Yet, he still watches, hoping 'Glee' will rise above the absurd plots, tired songs and character destruction to overcome this very wicked sophomore slump.

Catherine Lawson
Best show moment: I loved how 'Fringe' this season (3) had a lot of visual gags -- some subtle, some not so subtle -- about the differences between our universe and the alternate one, but my favorite has to be in Episode 8 when Penn Station in Newark, NJ was named Springsteen Station in the alternate universe.

Worst show moment: The 'Lost' finale. There's really nothing I can say that hasn't already been said, other than I was hugely disappointed.

Kim Potts
Favorite "that guy" star: Garret Dillahunt, who's been "that guy" in 'Deadwood,' 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' and 'Burn Notice,' but is now the best, scene-stealing star of the funny, charming 'Raising Hope,' one of the few really good new shows of the fall season. And that's no small thing given that his co-stars are the awesome Martha Plimpton and what is one of the cutest TV babies ever.

Least favorite "that guy" star: Josh Cooke, in ABC's dismal sitcom 'Better With You.' How many flopped series has this guy starred in? 'Committed,' 'Four Kings,' 'Big Day' ... the short answer: if you see his name as one of the leads, there's an overwhelmingly good chance you don't even have to DVR the first episode to know the show is a stinker.

Nick Zaino
Sherlock on BBCBest Writing on TV: Steven Moffat. Moffat took on two beloved characters in Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes this year and nailed it both times. He took over 'Doctor Who' for Russell T Davies and had to replace one of its most popular stars in David Tennant. His new Doctor (played by Matt Smith) retained its charm, added a fantastic new companion in Amy, and gave us a mind blowing finale. His modern 'Sherlock' (with Mark Gatiss) redefined the relationship between Holmes and Watson and far outclassed its recent big screen counterpart.

Worst Writing on TV: The 'Glee' Team. This is a tough one to call. The truly bad shows I have stopped watching, so I have to pick the worst of what I still watch on a regular basis. 'Glee' still has some wonderful moments, most of them happening when Sue or Beiste are on screen. But the show sputtered in side stories at the start of this season without the focus on the competitions. Without that, the music often seemed tossed in, something the show avoided nicely in the first season.

Allison Waldman
Best TV Moment of the Year: The penultimate episode of 'Breaking Bad,' called 'Half Measures.' At the time, I called the episode a mind-blower and it remains the most stunning dramatic moment of the year. Walt's (Bryan Cranston) decision to run down the drug dealers who were going to kill Jesse (Aaron Paul) was shocking. It took your breath away. But when Walt then finished off the one surviving dealer by shooting him, it was the ultimate proof that he had truly broken bad.

American Idol season 9 finaleWorst TV Show of the Year: Maybe worst is too harsh a word, but the finale of 'American Idol' was terribly disappointing. The fact that the vote seemed to be a reflecting of little teenage girls pressing buttons to get Lee to be named the winner, flew in the face of the reality that Crystal was a superior singers. Hopefully, the new season will bring new voting procedures, along with the new judges and revamped program.

Dr. Ryan Vaughan
Best Political-type Public Rally and Mixer Extravaganza: The Rally to Restore Sanity and or Fear (Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert). This Rally and Mixer Extravaganza had it all: Kid Rock, R2-D2, people, and enough ironic signage to keep T-shirt designers busy for months.

Worst Political-type Public Rally and Mixer Extravaganza: The Rally to Restore Honor (Glenn Beck). This one didn't have enough "mixer" for my taste. The signage only made for valuable grammar lessons for my 5 year-old, and even though Sarah Palin tried to bring the event some much needed extravaganza, she was no match for "Fearzilla."

Brad Trechak
Best event: Conan moving to TBS. It was completely out of the blue and acknowledges cable as the new source of television innovation with less concern about such concepts as ratings (plus Conan rightfully gets to own his own show, as Letterman did years ago). Plus it gave us that awesome opening sketch for the new show.

South Park episode 201Worst event: Comedy Central censoring the '201' episode of South Park where the name of the Prophet Mohammed was not even allowed to be spoken on the air, not to mention the indecipherable climax of the episode where an entire "moral of the story" speech was bleeped out. While I understand the business logic behind this decision, it was still an act of cowardice. Comedy Central allowed the terrorists to win.

Gary Susman
Best Spiritual Awakening: 'Louie,' 'God'
In a flashback, young Louie's Catholic school class gets a horrifying, clinically explicit lecture from a creepy doctor about the physical agony Jesus suffered on the cross due to the sins of mankind, including Louie and his classmates. But the terrified boy's mother calmly explains that religion needn't mean living in constant fear and guilt, and that he can decide for himself how seriously to take the dogma he's learning.

Worst Spiritual Awakening: 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Paris Green'
Correctly suspecting his partner, Agent Sebso, of corruption, Agent Van Alden is inspired by a black congregation's riverside baptisms to test Sebso's guilt via a test worthy of a medieval witch trial. Forcing a baptism on the Jewish Sebso, Van Alden drowns him in his fury, seeing Sebso's death as proof of his guilt. That he has murdered a fellow Fed in front of several witnesses too terrified to report the crime just seems to Van Alden further proof he has done God's will.

Bob Sassone
Best: 'Mad Men.' It's the obvious, predictable choice, the show that wins all the awards. But it really is the best drama on television right now. Perfect in every way, from the acting to the writing to the set design.

Worst: So many choices. I could have picked 'The Talk' or '$#*! My Dads Says' or 'Jersey Shore,' but how can you pick those shows when something like 'Bridalplasty' actually exists?

Alaina O'Connor
Lost finaleBest season finale: 'Lost.' There are three kinds of Lost fans; those who watch it for the characters, those who watch it for the mythology, and those who watch it for both. I am the later, and after Jack closed his eyes and the words "Lost" appeared on the screen for the final time, a wave of satisfaction washed over me, but shortly after I wiped away the tears and I threw my hands up in frustration....

Worst season finale: 'Lost.' I invested 6 years of my life to Lost. Scouring the forums, theorizing with my fellow Losties, hoping against hope that the investment would be worth it; that I would indeed get an answer to the ultimate question: what is the island? And the answer is... one big tease.

Jane Murphy
The Best in Sports: Did Lou Gehrig's disease kill Lou Gehrig? Say what you will about Bernard Goldberg's job as a caustic Fox News rabblerouser, but he earns high praise for his work on 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel', following the research of Chris Nowinski. Formerly WWF wrestler "Chris Harvard", Nowinski founded the Sports Legacy Institute, which is looking into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, an ALS-like condition plaguing ex-athetes with a history of concussions. It takes your breath away when Goldberg reveals to Nowinski that Iron Man Lou Gehrig suffered head trauma during his career, suggesting the Yankee legend may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease but concussion-related CTE.

The Worst in Sports: LeBron's Decision. The terminally sour Jim Gray and Cleveland native LeBron hold northern Ohio hostage for several commercial breaks until King James finally breaks the heart of Cavs fans and turns off NBA faithful.

Mike Moody

Best: 'Sherlock.'Good storytelling, a crackerjack mystery, and high style. 'Sherlock' offered all three, plus a fine lead performance from UK TV vet Martin Freeman and a star-making turn from Benedict Cumberbatch. The first season of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' cutting-edge crime procedural was inventive, fun and totally absorbing. Series 2 is expected to land stateside sometime next fall. What to do until then? Hmmm ... I hear the show is based on a book or something ...

Worst: 'Jersey Shore.' Sadly, there are people (and blogs) that seem to hang on every word Snooki belches out. Not me.

Ryan McGee
TerriersBest Show: 'Terriers.' What was supposed to be a season-ending episode turned into a series one, but someone became more powerful for the change. Britt and Hank don't know exactly where they are going, but I have a feeling that wherever it is, it's towards a better place.

Worst Show: 'Outsourced.' Milking offensive cultural stereotypes? Check. Playing a dour economy for laughs? Check. Forging the two into the worst show of the year? Check.

Michael Maloney
Best: 'The Bold and the Beautiful' provided the most shocking twist soaps have seen in years at Hope's masquerade/graduation party. The stage was set for Steffy, Hope's rival, to sneak in and seduce Oliver. When the masks come off, Oliver (and the viewers) was stunned to see that he'd been intimate with not Hope, but her mother (!) Brooke. Kudos to B&B (and to the show's ace publicity team for keeping this spoiler under wraps!)

Worst: The primetime Emmys and Oscars manage to include an "In Memoriam" tribute every year. So why can't the Daytime Emmys? The genre's lost so many beloved stars over the years (Beverlee McKinsey, Darlene Conley, James Mitchell, Frances Reid, Helen Wagner.) They deserve to be given the same tribute that their film and nighttime counterparts receive.

Piet Levy
Survivor Heroes vs. VillainsBest Reality Show Competition: 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.' It seemed impossible that 'Survivor' could improve upon the previous season, when audiences were introduced to one of reality TV's most entertaining and cunning players ever, Russell Hantz. But 'Heroes vs. Villains,' the show's 20th season, was often unbearably suspenseful and exhilarating, filled with startling twists, dramatic game play, and a treasure trove of larger-than-life personalities (Coach! Boston Rob! Parvati!) all in one place, although none could eclipse show stealer Hantz in his second "Survivor" appearance. How this season didn't get nominated for an Emmy is an outrage even greater than Hantz's inexcusable back-to-back losses.

Worst Reality Show Competition: 'Survivor: Nicaragua.' If there's one thing "Heroes vs. Villains" proved, its that great personalities and exceptional players make the game worth watching. 'Survivor: Nicaragua' proved that a show with boring people is just boring. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, Jud "Fabio" Birza and NaOnka Mixon just weren't as interesting enough to hold my attention during their ample screen time, and the season's theme of pitting older players against younger players was dead on arrival. A recent episode where Mixon and another player quit added some drama, but by then I had already stopped caring.

Pat Gallagher

Best & Worst: The best and worst TV moment for me happened on the same show, same day: The Ellen DeGenerous (aka DeGeneres) Show that aired December 2 on her first 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways. Ellen read a letter from Natalie Sinclair who asked for a special favor: after selling her car to pay her mother's medical bills, Natalie's 4-year-old twin boys wouldn't get presents from Santa Claus.

Ellen DeGeneresAfter Ellen brought the shocked mom down from the audience to sit beside her on stage, things began to go way off course. When Ellen brought her on stage, Natalie revealed her mother had gotten better, Natalie herself had gotten a raise and she now had two cars! Not only that, but she'd been watching 'Ellen' "a little bit less because it's Oprah's last season." Ellen's staff wisely cued the music; the talk show host took off Natalie's mike, and as Elfish Presley (the holiday mascot began dancing around), she proceeded to give away five of the hottest gadgets on the planet which we're sure Natalie got to take home too.

Jo Garfein
Best Moment: In what had to be one of the year's most discussed and disgusting scenes, 'The Walking Dead' offered up a zombie dismemberment for the purposes of creating a gut suit for the surviving heroes to don in order to blend in. It was a disconcerting visual experience, and a very bold statement about the direction of the series from both the network and the creative team.

Worst Moment: The worst moment in television this year was a harsh wake-up call rather than an actual scene -- the cancellation of 'Terriers.' The criminally low-rated series was easily the best new show in 2010, with a meticulously well-crafted story arc and tremendously talented cast. Despite outspoken critical acclaim and fan fervor on Twitter, FX could not justify producing another season. 'Terriers' will now join the ranks of other fantastic 1-season shows that deserve a space on your DVD shelf, like executive producer Tim Minear's other brilliant series 'Wonderfalls'.

Audrey Fine
Best Acting: As Marlene on 'The Big C,' Phyllis Somerville managed not only to hold her own with Laura Linney (no small feat) but to elicit tears, laughs and ire from the viewers with as little as a single eyebrow lift. The look on her face in the season's penultimate episode ('Everything That Rises Must Converge') when she realized that her Alzheimer's-self had wielded a gun at Adam and subsequently forgotten where she hid it is Emmy worth in itself. She's a gem and will be sorely missed - even with the other stellar actors in the cast staying put.

Two and a Half MenWorst Acting: Conversely, every episode of 'Two and a Half Men' makes me want to move. How can I live among people who think that Charlie Sheen's Charlie Harper is funny? He and his idiot brother are an embarrassment and the half-assed jokes and lame sexist quips are beyond painful. Can't single out a particular episode because they're all equally vile. Oh, and the fact that Angus T. Jones bags a MILLION dollars for every 4 episodes for playing a disrespectful, lazy moron (great modeling for kids) is almost as disgusting as the fact that the show will be on in syndication through 2021. BLECH.

Christine Champage
Best: Fran Lebowitz would likely never use this adjective to describe herself, but I find her delightful, and I applaud director Martin Scorsese for giving the opinionated 60-year-old writer and thinker the floor for 85 minutes in HBO's 'Public Speaking,' allowing us to hear her thoughts on everything from Manhattan to writer's block to technology. I would have been content to listen to this one-of-a-kind wit riff for another hour.

Worst: Forget about whether or not the 'Lost' finale was disappointing. What's really disappointing is that 'Lost' concluded its run in 2010. I wasn't ready for the show to end, and in my sideways reality, the producers and ABC have realized they made a mistake wrapping the series after only six seasons, and they're all working to bring Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the rest of the gang back together again. Let's all go back to the island! If only we could.

Jenna Busch
The Walking DeadBest: 'The Walking Dead' proved that you can't be too gory for basic cable. The show has compelling characters, it's based on a comic book series (always a win for me), and it never pulls punches. Even horror fans flinch at the fantastic makeup and horrifying situations. In fact, basic cable gets a 'best' mention since it picked up Conan O'Brian after his disastrous ordeal with NBC. Team Coco for life!

Worst: The cancellation of 'Caprica.' Sure, it didn't have the ratings that made its predecessor 'Battlestar Galactica' a hit, but it had brilliant writing and a wealth of mythology to pull from. At some point, producers are going to have to realize that most of the people who watch these shows are going to DVR them and probably aren't a Nielson family. (I had the opportunity, but once they found out I wasn't Hispanic, they didn't care what I watched.) If they don't, sci-fi fans are going to stop investing time in a show they know will be canceled before its time.

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Baby Boomer

Not a word about Rubicon? I thought this was a well written, well acted and intriguing show and I am very disappointed that it was canceled. It came in low in the ratings for the 18 to 49 age group, like Terriers, but how about those of us over 49? Contrary to the networks' opinions, those 50 and over are not dead yet. So far this year Law & Order, Law & Order Criminal Intent (one short come back series promised), Terriers and Rubicon have been canceled. Will CSI, CSI NY, Criminal Minds, Detroit 1-8-7 and Anarchy follow? Maybe to be replaced by more reality shows and sit coms?

December 23 2010 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara Gibson

What moron made these remarks about the top rated progams on TV, if you don't like them Moron don't watch them. We enjoy them. And btw Two and a Half Men are on the top.

December 23 2010 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny how you put Glenn Beck as the worst moment and Stewart's farce as the best. Beck's rally drew in the hundreds of thousands and Stewart's in the
low tens of thousands. Only a Liberal would call
the smaller, btter (if of course it is a Liberal
hosting). The great majority of the people in
this country are NOT Liberal. They are Independent
or Conservative. A bare 20% call themselves Liberal.

December 23 2010 at 7:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Have the people who wrote this article ever looked at the 10 top watched shows? Week after week the list includes: NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, and Criminal Minds among others. Seems like they should be mentioned somewhere in this list. Or does the viewing public not count???

December 22 2010 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Seriously, a Phd who insists on being called doctor, then basing his reviews on his own politics is ridiculous. Seriously. What a moron. And how did that rally work out for the Democrats? Seriously...LOL

December 22 2010 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ronald Smith

One of the better new shows on TV with a pretty good acting cast is Detroit 1-8-7. Great lead actors protraying Police Officers, and well thought out story lines, pretty real type cases, down to earth type character actors also. I have watched them all, and have told all my friends about the program for them to watch. I hope its renewed.

December 22 2010 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ronald Smith

Hawaii five-o is over hyped. bad acting and Scott Caan reminds me of a Billy Barty type actor, how tall is he 4ft 5in tall. His hair style is taller that him. Show is not worth watching anymore, all bark and no bite

December 22 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm certain the writers for "Two and a Half Men" are all between 11 & 14 years old and are fascinated by their body parts. CBS is the fool for paying Charlie the salary that they do...I've got news for them Charlie certainly is not worth it. We've stopped watching the show. Their cast is very limited this season due to the fact that they cannot pay extra actors because of the high salary they are paying Charlie.

December 22 2010 at 9:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Dianne's comment

Not only that but if Charlie had taken a pay cut maybe CBS could have kept JJ and Prentiss on Criminal Minds.

December 22 2010 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would like to see Charlie get payed 1.mill a min.just to piss people off

December 22 2010 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

Amazing. An entire article and all the shows mentioned had nothing that I watched. Oh, one exception - the updated Sherlock Holmes. Actually saw two episodes of that on PBS. Interesting show, but never consistant on show times to put it in my favorites list.

December 22 2010 at 7:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom Stoneburner

Worst Reality Show Competition: 'Survivor: Nicaragua.' If there's one thing "Heroes vs. Villains" proved, its that great personalities and exceptional players make the game worth watching. 'Survivor: Nicaragua' proved that a show with boring people is just boring.

- Piet Levy

Yep, it wasn't just a bad season. It was the worst season in the show's history. They tried to rig the show to make Jimmy J a Survivor star and ended up getting him kicked off early. He would have made it to the Jury or even the Finals if the show left out the rigged elements and just played it as a a straight competition.

December 22 2010 at 6:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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