As much as I enjoy movies, I am very much a child of TV. When I was young, it was a matter of watching endless re-runs of Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island and Hogan's Heroes.* With so many channels producing so much great stuff these days (and heaps of crap as well), the 21st century is not a bad place to live.
Living in Canada does pose some constraints--no FX, no TNT, and we don't get the US Showtime shows at the same time or in as predictable time slots. So, no Not Men of a Certain Age, Justified, Terriers, or Louie. We only started getting AMC reliably last year, so I have not started watching Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy, preferring to get the DVDs and catch up--next summer's project.
There are some shows that I like a great deal but did not make the list. I just don't have enough time to watch the Daily Show and Colbert on a regular basis and still get the beauty sleep I need. Also, these are the two shows that the internet does the best job of distributing--getting links to the best clips. The only problem is that living in Canada means I cannot access those clips but have to hunt through the crappy Comedy Network website for the right clip. Still, I can get what I want w/o watching every night.
Also not on my list are shows that I still enjoy greatly but had uneven seasons such as How I Met Your Mother and The Office. Smallville inspired a post about when to quit a show, so I cannot possibly put it my top ten even though the fall has been much better than the Zod-ful spring. The show is better off for having a spring end-date. There are almost no new shows on my top ten list, as No Ordinary Family has been disappointing, but still fun enough to follow; the Cape has not yet made it to air; and Hawaii Five-O is fun but so shallow that it does not merit inclusion below. I didn't get into Treme or Boardwalk Empire. Both are well done, but I just didn't find either compelling enough to stick around. That I play ultimate on Sunday evenings most of the year probably also hurt. I was willing to tape and watch Mad Men obsessively but not these.
So, my favorite shows of the past year are:
10. Walking Dead: It would have shambled further up the list but we only had six episodes of this Zombie greatness. The show was terrific, with excellent production values, lots of good drama, action and even some comedy. I look forward to next season
9. Mentalist: Heaps and heaps of smugness deployed to amuse and entertain. Simon Baker is terrific in this, and it is a nice tart ending to a night of comedy.
8. Chuck: Who says you have to keep couples apart to keep the tension alive? Bringing Chuck and Sarah together has not hurt the show. The comedy is still high, and the action quite good. Plus Timothy Dalton is a great villain.
7. Modern Family: I haven't watched enough episodes, but each one I watch is pretty terrific. Lots of different comedic combinations all working well.
6. Friday Night Lights: Simply one of the best acted dramas on TV. I am so glad I left Texas, but I still love this show for how well these characters are drawn and then acted. Clear Eyes, Full hearts, Can't Lose, indeed. I have not seen any of the final season yet as we do not have DirectTV.
5. The Pacific: Just an amazing production. As others have said, this is quite different mini-series than Band of Brothers in that you do not feel that you are part of a group of guys who want from Curahee to Austria, but instead was on the sideline witnessing combat at its most intense and at the highest level of brutality. BoB had one or two episodes of such intensity (Bastogne and the Breaking Point), but Pacific had about seven or so. Plus we had more aftermath. It did a great job of telling the story of battles that we had never really seen before. BoB did great even though we have had a ton of movies on D-Day and Market Garden and the rest of the European war.
4. Community: The best combo of funny and heart on TV. Plus as a pop culture fan, I love the references and meta-ness of it all.
3. Lost: If I measured favorites by how much I blogged about shows, this would be first. And it would have been had not it been for the other two shows.
2. Mad Men: Simply a terrific season. Each character had a fully developed arc building on the previous years, whether it was pregnant Joanie, the failure that is Roger Sterling, the joy to behold that is Peggy, or Don Draper's journey from misery to mistake (unless marrying Megan works out).
1. The Wire: Is this a cheat to include a show that was over years ago but I am only watching now on DVD? Maybe, but it is my list and my blog. And The Wire is just great, great TV. The tragedy of the American city is on display but played with not just pain but also humor. The acting, the writing, the scenery is all terrific. I need to continue my mission to catch up. Good thing I have a frisbee friend with the complete set. Of course, this means I should include Freaks and Geeks here as well. Well, consistency is the hobgoblin of something..
For other opinions, see Ken Tucker, Tim Goodman, Alan Sepinwall. Note the latter two moved from newspaper sites to primarily online locales....
* To be clear, the late 70's were the high point in the history of sitcoms: Mary Tyler Moore, MASH, All in the Family, the original Bob Newhart show, Happy Days at its prime, WKRP, Barney Miller (sad to lose Steve Landesburg--I was nicknamed Dietrich, by a camp counselor I think, because I always had overly well-informed opinions I was unafraid to share), and so on.