SUPPORTING GREAT TELEVISION

Rest of the Best (and the Absolute Worst)

In Programs of the Year on December 31, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Watson and Holmes (Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch) in “Sherlock.” (Photographer unknown; courtesy BBC)

I’ll announce my Programs of the Year later tonight, but first, here are my TV favorites in 2010:

Sherlock. The Sherlock Holmes update – part of PBS’s Masterpiece series – was wonderfully imaginative, thanks to its Bourne-style production values and sly performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson.

Modern Family. The ABC comedy boasts television’s best ensemble – and whether or not Ed O’Neill actually said it, Sofia Vergara is funnier than Jane Lynch. So is O’Neill, whose omission from this year’s Emmy race was unforgivable.

Mad Men. For years, I merely liked AMC’s signature drama; in 2010, I fell in love with it. This was the season that the storytelling on Mad Men rose to the level of the show’s gorgeous aesthetics – although I’ll always believe Randee Heller’s crass Miss Blankenship was offed prematurely.

Darren Criss. His debut performance on Fox’s Glee – a charming rendition of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream – was downright swoon-worthy. If the show shifted its setting from McKinley High to Dalton Academy, I wouldn’t complain.

Charlie Rose. PBS’s nightly talk show is still television’s smartest, and Rose remains the medium’s most skilled interviewer. Let everyone else fuss over Leno and Conan; I’ll happily choose Rose over both of them.

Fox & Friends. The Fox News Channel morning show is funnier than anything NBC airs on Thursday nights. Sure, F&F’s humor is unintentional – but why quibble?

Saturday Night Live. NBC’s late-night institution was as inconsistent as ever in 2010, but there were three priceless moments: Bryan Cranston and Fred Armisen’s clueless Bjelland Brothers reprising their 1979 “hit” about sparkling apple juice; Michael Bublé and Sharon Jones’ rousing rendition of Baby (You’ve Got What it Takes) – a rare example of an SNL musical performance that’s actually good; and Jay Pharoah’s brilliant impression of Denzel Washington working the returns and exchanges counter at Macy’s.

The Walking Dead. The debut of AMC’s zombie drama was creepy and suspenseful. The quality dipped with each successive episode, but Walking Dead always left me wanting more.

Lost. I don’t care what the fanboys say; the ABC drama’s last season was solid, and its two-hour finale was moving and satisfying. Like its characters, Lost redeemed itself in the end.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. Saturday, December 18, 3:30 p.m.: The Senate votes 65 to 31 to end the shameful ban on openly gay service members. It was history in the making and thanks to C-SPAN, viewers got to see it live.

My least favorite show of 2010?

That’s easy: Sarah Palin’s Alaska, TLC’s eight-hour infomercial for the half-term-governor-turned-full-time-tweeter.

Palin is always obnoxious, but she outdid herself in the episode where she prepared s’mores for her kids in “honor” of Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity.

The first lady is admirably raising awareness of a serious public health matter; by mocking her, Palin demonstrated her own ignorance and irresponsibility.

The next time someone suggests we no longer need PBS because we have cable channels like TLC, remind them of this indulgent dreck.

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