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Top Ten

The Year in Television

Fox Broadcasting Co.

Top Ten 2009

The Year in News Our mayor was indicted and convicted of embezzlement this year. We learned just how deeply a violen... | By Edward Ericson Jr., Van Smith, and Erin Sullivan

The Year in Movies No, you're not hallucinating. Revanche, an Austrian crime flick that starts off in somewhat grim qu...

The Year in Television Raise your hand if you still have cable. As in, that overpriced digital teat that pipes into your h...

The Year in Music We do this because, between the 15 or so of us, we listen to a lot of music, we think a lot about m...

The Year in Local Music The thing that unites Baltimore music is Baltimore the city, a geographic place with a good number ...

The Year in Books No idea why there's such a strong turnout of speculative/sci-fi-ish titles in this year's Top 10. P...

The Year on Stage Local stage talent might be the last untapped well of local greatness. Local music is already an an...

The Year in Visual Art The past 12 months really delivered a blow to the arts--you know, the stuff and ideas that comes fr...

The Year in DVDs 1) Deadly Sweet (Cult Epics) Italian writer/director Tinto Brass' loose 1967 adaptation of a Serg... | By Lee Gardner and Bret McCabe

The Year In Tracks . . . just in the case the album really is dead. | By Michael Byrne and Lee Gardner

Posted 12/9/2009

Raise your hand if you still have cable. As in, that overpriced digital teat that pipes into your home all that crap surrounding the handful of channels you actually pay attention to with any regularity. This past year witnessed the national switch to digital broadcasting--along with the digital antenna and converter box in order to watch it--supposedly giving regular TV viewers improved picture and sound quality. The 2009 money crunch also meant we know a few people who abandoned cable in order to make/cut household expenditures (or, you know, just not give money to Comcast).

And it's difficult to imagine our friends weren't the only ones doing just that. When times are tough, having hundreds of channels reveals itself to be the obnoxious decadence that it is, even though there's often some excellent programming hidden in there among the shopping nonsense and advertisements to DIY green your home with that extra $5,000 you have just lying about. Network TV should be trying to offer viewers better programming to capitalize on the opportunity. Instead, NBC throws Jay Leno out there five nights a week, FlashForward puts all its eggs into hoping people want to fall for a lame Lost-lite of time-hopping storytelling, and trots out the usual cop and medical-related dramas--Trauma, Three Rivers, Southland, The Unusuals, The Forgotten, NCIS: Los Angeles Drama, Mercy--while totally sleeping on its few real gems. As in, the best TV show of the year as voted by City Paper couch potatoes--Anna Ditkoff, Ian Grey, Joe MacLeod, Bret McCabe, and Wendy Ward--appears on Fox, and has already been cancelled. Come on, network TV: You're still the biggest media source for televisual stimulation at the present. At least try to give viewers a few reasons to care.

1 Dollhouse (Fox)

After mucking with Dollhouse's first six episodes, Fox let creator Joss Whedon go loose. And so Echo (Eliza Dushku), a "doll" who services the rich via a new identity imprinted on her each week, started remembering all of them and, in the process, became a million-minded space-case while Whedon demoted his hunky hero (Tahmoh Penikett) to a hapless obsessive--and so a network show with no actual heroes. Instead, the focus is on Echo's largely likable imprinters who are working a greater truth we'll never fully understand because Fox cancelled the fucking show. Unlike Buffy and Firefly, Dollhouse is often remote. But haunting? Unforgettable? Yes. (Ian Grey)

2 30 Rock (NBC)

30 Rock doesn't always work, but it tries, every week, it goes for the wall, every week, that's all it does, and sometimes the whole thing sticks, and even when it falls apart, we're still laughing out loud more times a minute than any other comedy on television. We truly and sincerely appreciate writer/star Tina Fey who, er, stars as a writer, proving again and again there is no depth of personal debasement she (along with Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, Alec Baldwin) will not sink to in order to crack us up. Opposite example: Two and a Half Men. Suck it. (Joe MacLeod)

3 Glee (Fox)

A campy inversion of High School Musical guaranteed to keep Focus on the Family members in conniption fits, Glee is a bubbly dissection of life in the bland depths of Ohio and a valentine to the glee club that struggles to exist there. Despite its rocking disabled kid, way gay boy, and scheming abstinence-not blond, the show is much more than mere troublemaker TV. The betrayals and duplicities that lurk under the show's fantastic musical numbers take five, and tawdry truths proves scalding. While Mad Men sullenly confuses art direction for brilliance, Glee is the real deal. (IG)

4 Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC America)

This kinda/sorta Dr. Who spinoff about a human team that investigates extraterrestrials has been a howlingly entertaining sci-fi show for its first two seasons, but over the five-episode miniseries than ran on BBC America this past summer, Torchwood: Children of Earth blasted off into the stratosphere. An alien species that visited earth previously in 1965 and made a clandestine bargain with the government has come back seeking more of what it made off with the first time: children. Failure to comply: total annihilation of the human race, basically. Why the aliens want the kids is deliciously ghastly. Even better: television dramas that weaponize children en masse. (Bret McCabe)

5 The Good Wife (CBS)

There are plenty of reasons not to like the The Good Wife, starting with the fact that it's another courtroom drama and ending with its "ripped from the headlines" plotbase but, listen, Ridley Scott is executive producer (!) and the wonderful Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, whose district attorney husband (the perfectly paired Chris Noth) goes to jail after a work and whoring scandal. Margulies absolutely convinces as a strong, pained woman whose financial obligation--but also her own sense of self--forces her back into lawyer work while constantly under the hot light of public and professional scrutiny and her mother-in-law's judgemental glare during her kids' confused, conflicted, and media-saturated adolescence. Plus, those suits she wears to the law firm are to die for. (Wendy Ward)

6 The Office (NBC)

Love for The Office seems to be going out of style. Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) got married and are having a baby, making many fans wonder if their child will be the series Scrappy-Doo/Cousin Oliver. But we think the fact that this shows continues to kill while all of this is going on is precisely what makes it Top 10 worthy. Sure, it would be easy to let the characters stagnate, having them do the same things audiences have come to expect year after year, but The Office instead let its characters grow. So now we see Jim in the uncomfortable position of being a boss and Ed Helms' Andy as this season's surprise MVP. (Anna Ditkoff)

7 Bones (Fox)

We're not sure what took us so long on this show, but love for Bones just kind of crept up on us over time. We're David Boreanaz fans from his days being a broody vamp before that was cool on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. As Agent Booth he leaves his fangs behind and inhabits a warm and complex man. Emily Deschanel as forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan displays none of the cutesiness of younger sister Zooey, but still manages to bring dimension to a character that could easily be a one-note. A strong supporting cast and the slow burn of Booth and Brennan's relationship elevate Bones beyond the usual interchangeable procedural, giving it a heart. (AD)

8 Epitafios (HBO Latino)

Five years ago, the Argentine procedural Epitafios stretched the grisly serial-killer hunt of Seven over 13 nail-biting hour-long episodes, plowing well past the uncomfortable and right into the disturbing. The show returned this fall and immediately upped its game: Not only are those capable but emotionally damaged detectives Renzo (Julio Ch%uFFFDvez) and Marina (Argentine beauty and Almodovar vet Cecilia Roth) back, tracking down yet another intelligent and ruthless killer, but so are the series' haunting atmospherics and superficially serene Buenos Aires settings. The best delivery system of genuinely unsettling creepiness this year. (BM)

9 Poker After Dark (NBC)

Seriously, originally we started watching NBC's Poker After Dark weeknights because with the low voices and steady clinking of poker chips it's a really good TV show to fall asleep to, but now we're in so deep we even understand the difference between this and the weekend Poker After Dark: The Director's Cut, that's how deep we are into this poker shit, and we're practicing on the internet now so we can move to Vegas and play Texas Hold 'em while we're wearing sunglasses and eventually we'll get on the show to play cards and realize the players all wear sunglasses so they can stare at host Leeann Tweeden's tits. (JM)

10 Any Real Housewives of . . . (Bravo)

From the horribly catchy ditty "Don't be Tardy for the Party" to debating the laws regarding Countess DeLessups' C-status after her divorce with the stuffy old Count to Jeanna leaving the petty bitches of the O.G. O.C. in order to work on her self and hopefully get her head-injured asshole baller husband outta her house and her asshole baller son off her tit, to wondering if "prostitution whore" Danielle went to Teresa and Jacqueline's bedazzled, animal-print (allegedly) baby showers, The Really Tacky Housewives (and Some Singles) Living in and up to our Expectations of Stereotypically Rich Areas of the United States have, every single one of these series, turned out to be the best outcome of that stupid fucking show with Terri Hatcher. (WW)

The ballots

Anna Ditkoff

1. Bones

2. So You Think You Can Dance

3. Project Runway

4. Top Chef

5. True Blood

6. Fringe

7. I Love Money

8. Lost

9. How I Met Your Mother

10. The Office


Ian Grey

1. Dollhouse

2. Glee

3. Torchwood: Children of Earth

4. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

5. Nurse Jackie

6. Modern Family

7, Flash Forward

8, Dexter

9. Rescue Me

10. V


Joe MacLeod

1. Poker After Dark

2. America's Test Kitchen

3. Law & Order

4. The Office

5. 30 Rock

6. Today

7. Live with Regis & Kelly

8. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

9. The Young and the Restless

10. The Biggest Loser


Bret McCabe

1. Epitafios

2. Sons of Anarchy

3. Occupation

4. Dollhouse

5. Torchwood: Children of Earth

6. Glee

7. Ashes to Ashes

8. Rescue Me

9. Castle

10. The Good Wife


Wendy Ward

1. The Good Wife

2. Any Real Housewives of. . .

3. 30 Rock

4. Parks and Recreation

5. Pushing Daisies

6. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

7. The Rachel Zoe Project

8. The Wendy Williams Show

9. The Office

10. House

Related stories

Top Ten archives

More Stories

The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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