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The Best and Worst of TV in 2010: 'Breaking Bad,' 'Modern Family,' 'Glee' and More

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 22nd 2010 5:30PM
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston of 'Breaking Bad'During every Festivus season, we here at TV Squad reflect on what's happened during the past year in the world of the boob tube (I'll keep calling it that because "boob flat screen" doesn't flow as well).

We're in the midst of giving you our "12 Days of Festivus," my fellow Squadders have given their best and worst picks, and Mo Ryan has given what she liked and disliked this year.

So, how much more can we talk about? Plenty. 2010 was an active year in the television universe and there is plenty to talk about. As I've done in the past, I'll dispense with the usual "best show/worst show" mishegas and just make up the categories as I go along.


The best season of television that almost no one saw:
The heart-attack inducing third season of 'Breaking Bad.' I've already said that the season, which ended over the summer, was the best season of dramatic television in the past decade, and it seems even better than that in retrospect.

There were at least five "holy crap!" moments during the season, including the intense final three episodes, the best of which came at the end of the next-to-last episode. The scene where teacher/meth dealer Walter White takes matters into his own hands in order to protect his partner Jesse Pinkman was as tension-filled and cold-blodded a scene as most people have seen in quite some time.

It is interesting, though, that despite the great season and an uptick in ratings, many people have still not caught on to the show. Sure, Bryan Cranston's won three acting Emmys in a row, and Aaron Paul won a supporting Emmy this past fall. But the Academy handed 'Mad Men' the best drama Emmy yet again this year, and the Golden Globes didn't even nominate the show in the Best Drama category. To this day, most people I talk to have either never heard of 'Breaking Bad' or they say "Yeah, I've been meaning to catch up with that show. Is it any good?"

I'd put 'Terriers' in this category, but I've got to be honest: I stopped watching after the first couple of episodes.

'Modern Family'Best examples of how to avoid a sophomore slump: Both 'Modern Family' and 'The Good Wife' have given a clinic on how to not to rest on the laurels of first-year success. In the case of 'Family,' Steve Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, and their cast and crew haven't missed a beat, chruning out consistently funny episodes as if its wildly-successful first season never ended. 'Wife' has stepped things up in a big way, going beyond the theme of the scorned wife getting back on her feet to give us juicy continuing storylines along with the usual case-of-the-week stories. Nuanced performances by Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, and Josh Charles have also made the show a must-watch.

There is a corrallary to this, which I'll discuss in "The Bad" section. You probably already know what show I'm going to talk about.

Best recovery from an awful start: Somewhere around Thanksgiving of 2009, there were signs that 'Cougar Town' was going to shed its original "Courteney Cox shagging young guys and feeling conflicted about it" premise, but Bill Lawrence and company refined the transformation in 2010. Somewhere around the new year, it became a true ensemble comedy, and the characters started gaining some depth to them. In addition, Cox relaxed, giving much more palatable performances than she was during the show's early episodes, when she may have felt that she'd have to carry the heaviest comedic load.

The show is going to go on hiatus until April; let's hope that when it comes back, it'll do well enough to get the show a third season.

Platrow on 'Glee'Best guest spot: Gwyneth Paltrow on 'Glee.' Look, it's easy to be annoyed at Gwyneth, as it seems like she makes everything about her life look so effortless. But you've got to give her credit for coming on a show that was so hyped up and so stuffed full of guest stars already and creating a character that will likely be welcomed back as many times as she feels like doing it.

Paltrow not only infused substitute teacher Holly Holiday with a quirky charm, but she held her own singing and dancing with the cast. Even Cee-Lo Green enjoyed her cover of his monster hit 'F**k You' (she covered the radio-friendly version, 'Forget You'), and her showmanship came through in the 'Singin' in the Rain / Umbrella' mash-up that ended the episode.

Best reality shove: For some reason, I can't get over the sight of Teresa Giudice shoving Andy Cohen down during the reunion for 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' Not that she had any problem with Andy, but he was in her way as she started raging towards nemesis Danielle Staub. Poor Andy; he's dealt with a lot during these reunions, but he didn't stand a chance against Teresa, who seems like she could tear a phone book in half once he gets her adrenaline going. The breathless grunting she did as she tried to calm down made me scared, and I was only watching it on TV.


Willaim Shatner in 'Bleep My Dad Says'Worst example of building a TV show around a Twitter feed: When CBS announced it was going to develop a sitcom based on a popular Tiwtter feed, you could hear the eye rolling of critics everywhere. It turns out that even we couldn't fathom how bad it was going to be. '$#*! My Dad Says' started awful and has had to work hard to just get to mediocre, despite the fact that William Shatner is the star and 'Will & Grace' vets Max Mutchnick and David Kohan were brought in to help sitcom neophyte Justin Halpern. If you're being taken off the schedule in favor of 'Rules of Engagement,' you're doing something wrong.

Worst job of talent management: Well, this one is pretty obvious. So much ink has been spilled about the Second Late Night War that there's no reason to explain it here. But, suffice to say, if NBC had just displayed some intestinal fortitude six years ago and put their bet down on either Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien -- not both -- it wouldn't have blown up in their faces like it did last January. Though it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch it unfold.

Worst example of avoiding a sophomore slump: If you really think about it, the sophomore slump of 'Glee' really started during the spring semester of its freshman year. When it went on a four-month hiatus after the holdays last year, the hype machine almost blew a sprocket, with the kids in the cast going on a tour, singing at the White House, and pretty much making fans froth with anticipation of the show's return. But it came back in the spring as a different show; what started as a quirky musical about some misunderstood high school kids and their super-earnest teacher turned into a musical revue show that squeezed story in the cracks between song and dance numbers.

The second season has been better, with episodes that have given viewers some good stories, especially revolving around Chris Colfer's character Kurt Hummel. But the show is still wildly inconsistent, the characters being reshaped weekly in order to service a particular plot. And it also feels like that, besides Colfer, most of the kids have suffered from the show's more musical direction. Given Ryan Muphy's history -- 'Nip/Tuck' kept getting more absurd with every season -- there doesn't seem to be any reason to think the show will go back to its fall 2009 state ever again (I mean... Katie Couric? Is she going to be singing 'Candy Man' or something?).

Kate Gosselin on 'Today'Worst mother on television: Without a doubt, it was Kate Gosselin. You know, I can excuse her appearance on 'Dancing with the Stars,' mainly because it's expensive as heck to bring up eight kids and she could use the cash. But, after the hell her family went through while taping 'Jon & Kate Plus 8,' why would she continue to parade those kids out in front of the cameras? Does she need the money that badly? Oh, and bonus demerits for having a divaish meltdown in the wilds of 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' while her kids were having a blast with the Palins. Shame on you, Kate; you made me feel sympathy towards Sarah Palin, and for that I will never forgive you.

Worst by-product of limited-run cable seasons: 'Breaking Bad' won't be back until next summer. Neither will 'Mad Men,' which ended yet another wonderful season with an intriguing finale -- will Don break out of his rut or get in deeper? We have no idea when 'The Walking Dead' will be back. These three AMC examples are just the tip of the high-anticipation iceberg when it comes to basic cable shows. But I'm sure I speak for all of these shows' fans when I say it's going to be tough to wait for so long before these shows come back. Then again, there's plenty of good TV out there to watch, and I'm sure we'll find something in 2011 to keep us happy.

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter or at www.facebook.com/joelkeller.)

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You know what Joel,

I have been repeatably saying how Sh*t My Dad Says is not that bad and certainly no worse than Mike and Molly.

Today I started watching Boston Legal on DVD and have just been reminded of the acting chops of Mr Shatner. If this is the quality they are putting out with his caliber of ability then it really must be a terrible, god-awful piece of garbage.

January 03 2011 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Doni Whitley

Nreaking Bad is the best show we've seen in years. and were heartbroken that it was stopped, with no future date announced. [at least at the time] We have a house full of avid viewers for each episode. Can't wait for the new ones!

December 26 2010 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree 100% about The Good Wife-- it is so fantastic this season! It always amazes me how The Good Wife has the basic weekly case but really has strong character development and a plot! I agree that Glee's been suffering a little bit, and I'm afraid it will go the insane route of Nip/Tuck (which I did stay with till the end- similarly to Glee the first season was genius and I found myself crying at one of its episodes, which I hardly ever do). I still have hope though! At the very least, it brings Lea Michele's magnificent voice into my life every week.

December 23 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom Stoneburner

Kate wants the easy money from a reality show. With the show, she doesn't have to act (work) to earn money. Cameras record her going about her day. Plus, it's edited to make her look good.

If she truly cared about providing for her children, she would have learned to dance. Each advancement meant a big check for her. Instead, she BS'ed her way through with the absolute bare minimum (mostly walking, not even dancing) on Dancing with the Stars.

December 23 2010 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I disagree about "Glee" that show run to the bottom and became one of the most pander-y shows on TV and lost anything that made it special for anyone who thought it was a Smart, Satirical comedy and ended up becoming the thing they were making fun of in the earlier first season.

December 23 2010 at 9:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

correlary?? Really? Does anyone edit here? I understand that little typos slip through, but there's hardly a post here without one, and much like the case with this one, they're usually not so little...

December 22 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Michelle's comment

Kate is the worse mom I've ever seen on TV and that includes soap opera moms from south america.

December 22 2010 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes, Kate Gosselin probably does need the money that badly. Raising children is expensive.

December 22 2010 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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