Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best of 2009 in TV - Sepinwall on TV

Last week, I gave you my list(s) of the best TV shows of the decade. Today, it's this year's turn, with my list of the best TV shows of 2009. As often happens, I couldn't limit myself to 10 and wound up with a mix of 20 new and returning series. So go over and read, watch the embedded video, etc., and then come back to yell at me for shows that you feel I ranked too high, too low, or not at all.

UPDATE: A couple of additional list thoughts:

1)As I predicted at the end of 2008, this was an incredibly strong year in television. This list could have easily expanded to 25 or 30 entries to include other Sepinwall faves like "Burn Notice" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "30 Rock" (or even interesting newbies like "Kings" or "Nurse Jackie") that I didn't like quite as much in '09 as I did the stuff that made the list. And based on the screener deluge that greeted me when I returned to the office yesterday, I have no reason not to have similarly strong feelings about 2010.

2)Don't get too hung up on the order. The top 4 shows are more or less interchangeable in my eyes in terms of the great years they had, and I spent a lot of time shuffling other shows around while trying to figure out how you judge a "Modern Family" against an "In Treatment" or "Lost." In many ways, I think Mo Ryan had the right idea with her list, which she insists on doing in alphabetical order.

3)In case you're curious to see what made some of my previous year-end best-of's, I added a category tag at the bottom of this post that will take you to my lists from 2005 (the year the blog started) to the present. Note that the first few years will feature links to non-existent Star-Ledger columns, as for a long time NJ.com stories disappeared after 14 days.

34 comments:

bsangs said...

Pretty solid list Alan. I don't want to get in trouble by criticizing your pick for No. 2 though. ;)

I'd have put "SOA" at No. 1. I thought its second season far surpassed the third season of "Mad Men."

And I may have mentioned this before, but if not for this blog I'd have never started watching "Party Down" - and it only became my favorite comedy of the year, even better than "Curb."

One BIG omission is "Burn Notice." It'd have made my Top 5 and I thought you were a really big fan too. Fun list.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I like Burn Notice a lot. Didn't love the 2009 batch of episodes quite as much as the ones in 2008, though. On a list of 25, it's probably there.

Dan said...

It was a pretty good year in tv viewing.

That being said, I'd say Burn Notice and Sons of Anarchy were the two shows I had to be home to watch live.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the Big Bang Theory are the two shows I rewatch the most.

Julia said...

I would also put SOA at number one this year. FNL would probably ranked a little higher too. Ans BSG would definitely be higher than Modern Family. But it is a pretty good list.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the Conchords on the list one final time! Otherwise, can't say I'm surprised at any of the entries being there. Good list.

Is the list in order? If so, I'd switch BB over to the no. 1 spot instead of MM (but, I haven't watched SOA yet, so I have no opinion on that) - because as a whole, BB's S2 was almost flawless, and stronger than MM's S3 - where there were some (minor) pacing problems and maybe perhaps an overemphasis on Betty (Don's home life) rather than the office.

jcpbmg said...

No HIMYM...

I know this season has been very up and down- however the back half of last season was strong- most notably the Barney/Robin hook-up

Also very happy to see 30 Rock DID NOT make the list- especially given how inconsistent the show has been for the last 2 seasons

Alan Sepinwall said...

The list is more or less in order, but the top 4 entries were so close together that I could throw their names in a hat, pick them out at random and be just as satisfied with that order.

Matt said...

Glad to see Community getting some love from you. Seriously, that final line from Alison Brie in the clip you linked is among the funniest things of the year.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I added a few extra thoughts about the lists to this post, so reload it if you want.

Steve said...

I'm glad you cited the episode of Better Off Ted which featured the motion sensors which failed to detect black people - it was one of the most clever and funny half-hours of the year.

But little did we know it would be prescient, as life imitates art:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4DT3tQqgRM

jasctt said...

3rd season of MM was a wash, except for the classic last ep. Hope they can make it better next year. Am already fearing it turns into THE SOPRANOS (a TV series where the early acclaim was deserved and then coasted along the rest of its run). LOST, of course, should be on all best of lists. Still can't beleive the love for BSG, one of the biggest wastes of time (this entire last season) and still, possibly the worst series finale ever, even worse than SEINFELD's.

Jim said...

I would put Breaking Bad at #1, Mad Men #2. And I have to be honest, I don't quite get the love for Chuck, never got into it ;)

A good list nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

No Shield? No love for the greatest series finale pretty much ever? Come on Alan, you were gushing like a schoolgirl when it came out, and the rest of the season was phenomenal as well...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Shield last aired in 2008 - and it topped that year's list.

fred said...

Good list, although I disagree with Battlestar Gallactica (hated the last season entirely - from the S3 finale actually. Before that though, it was awesome) and, just like in your best of the decade list, you failed to mention Supernatural.

Truly one of the best (and vastly underrated) shows on TV. It belongs up there in the best series ever list, really. Like Lost lately, it keeps delivering one fantastic season after the other, somehow always managing to top the previous season every year.

I'm guessing you might not watch it, but when you'll get the chance, I can not recommend enough you pick up DVDs of Wonderfalls (best show ever) and Supernatural (on that list as well).

Billiam said...

It was good to see some recognition for the Michael Scott Paper Co. arc. The Office has been left off most year-end lists.

Paul Outlaw said...

Nice to see Torchwood: Children of Men on the list. And I think I need to locate Party Down asap.

Tom said...

Alan, have you seen or reviewed "The Mighty Boosh"? Funniest show on TV, IMHO.

JanieJones said...

Good list, Alan. I'm glad to see recognition of Party Down and the excellent S2 of In Treatment on your scribe.
I don't know how to choose between my top three, BB, MM and SOA. They all rank equally for different reasons.
Some have mentioned "Burn Notice." It was the one show that immediately came to my head as I read your column; however you explained your reasoning for it's exclusion.
Alan, let me ask you a question, I don't typically watch crime procedural television like NCIS, the CSI's, etc. However, I did watch the 100th episode of Criminal Minds. I got sucked in and ordered all four seasons on DVD. If you had to pick a procedural, what would it be? I know that they do not match up to quality of your list or mine but I'm curious as to your opinion/choice if you had to pick one.

JanieJones said...

Good list, Alan. I'm glad to see recognition of Party Down and the excellent S2 of In Treatment on your scribe.
I don't know how to choose between my top three, BB, MM and SOA. They all rank equally for different reasons.
Also, I know Nurse Jackie was uneven but I have a strong affinity for the show, if not for the performance of Edie Falco alone.
Some have mentioned "Burn Notice." It was the one show that immediately came to my head as I read your column; however you explained your reasoning for it's exclusion.
Alan, let me ask you a question, I don't typically watch crime procedural television like NCIS, the CSI's, etc. However, I did watch the 100th episode of Criminal Minds. I got sucked in and ordered all four seasons on DVD. If you had to pick a procedural, what would it be? I know that they do not match up to quality of your list or mine but I'm curious as to your opinion/choice if you had to pick one.

JanieJones said...

not a clue as to why it was posted twice, sorry.

Hatfield said...

Yeah, I like the list, but since I don't watch or know anything about a couple of them, I would have definitely dome some shuffling that involved moving Burn Notice up.

As for Torchwood, about a year ago I caught a bunch of episodes (presumably Season 1 or 2) on an HD channel that Verizon Fios cable has, and it was unbearably bad. The acting and production felt like MST3K should be watching it. Did it really get so much better, or is it just a case of it not working for me and no one else saw the same early problems?

And JanieJones, based on his occasional posts, NCIS would be Alan's choice. I'd have to say I agree, mostly because the characters are so strong that it almost doesn't matter what crimes they're solving

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hatfield, Torchwood was pretty bloody awful in its first season, better but still uneven in its second, and absolutely kick-ass in this miniseries. It was a huge, huge improvement over what had come before.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And, yeah, NCIS is my top crime procedural.

jasctt said...

No question that BB easily topped MM this year. Can't wait for S3 to get here!

jasctt said...

No question that BB easily topped MM this year. Can't wait for S3 to get here!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd take SOA and BB over MM tto but solid list.

belinda said...

It's a little sad to read these lists by some of my favorite TV critics and then pop over to the SAG or the Globe nominations.

SAD!

Sam Sevr said...

@Steve 8:19am - I'm glad you posted about that video. I just stumbled on an article about HP's response and was about to ask if it was life imitating art or someone on the Better Off Ted staff running into the problem.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/185270/what_racist_webcams_hp_handled_issue_well.html

Anna said...

Wow, I watch(ed) exactly four of those shows (Chuck, FNL, Lost & BSG). For someone who does absolutely nothing in her life except watch TV, I really fail at it! (At least when it comes to the critically-acclaimed, anyway.)

I never would put BSG 4.5 on any best-of list, though. Granted, "The Oath" was one of the best episodes the show ever did, but all the rest of the episodes (including the "Blood On the Scales") ranged from severely flawed to down-right awful (the finale).

Now how about best episodes of shows that do not appear on your best shows list:

Grey's Anatomy 5.18 "Elevator Love Letter"
Fringe 1.20 "There's More Than One of Everything" / 2.10 "Grey Matters"
Supernatural 4.16 "On the Head of a Pin" / 4.18 "The Monster At the End of This Book" / 4.22 "Lucifer Rising"
Dollhouse 2.04 "Belonging" / 2.10 "The Attic"

Gleeful said...

I'd put both Glee and True Blood on that list.

Kate said...

I've got Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy to catch up on, and the thought of two seasons of two terrific show out there, still to discover, makes me very happy.

Yay for Party Down, Parks & Rec, and Modern Family. What a year for comedy.

Finally, I'm happy to see Kings -- a great looking, ambitious, imaginative, and, on the whole, very well-realized show -- make at least Alan's expanded/other thoughts update. It's the first mention of Kings I've seen on any 2009 TV recap lists, and I was beginning to think I'd just imagined it ... and McShane's tremendous King Silas.

Skitch said...

Kudos for placing "Better Off Ted" on your list and aptly describing it as "the show almost nobody's watching". Why they don't pair this with "Modern Family", I'll never know. I suppose ABC thinks they can solidify Tuesday nights (which they can't until Feb. 2nd) instead of strengthening their Wednesday night lineup.

Anyway, I guess I need someone to explain why people find "The Big Bang Theory" funny. I've watched several episodes and it seems like pretty standard fare. I recall watching the episode guest starring Lewis Black...as an entomologist named (in the style of Bill Simmons...wait for it...wait for it)...Dr. Crawley! Was I the only one who groaned at that knee slapper?

Am I missing something with that show?

Publius said...

Life, if only for the awesomeness of "One," which aside from the last two episodes of Chuck, is probably my favorite hour of TV in 2009.