TV: 2010 top 10 shows

2010 has been a relatively good year for television, but science fiction, or for that matter, any content worth considering to be entertaining, is scarce and getting scarcer. On the other side of the fence lie dramatic gems like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, but if we stick to our focus, the offerings this year are hard to pin down. Here is our pick of the 2010 best productions though:

  1. Stargate Universe

Stargate Universe has become the focal point for all science fiction fans this year as its second, more sophisticated season, took an unexpected leap forward. An all-you-can-eat buffet of hard(er) sci-fi, SG:U has been quite the ride. The show finally departed from the uber-claustrophobic, yet painfully realistic depiction of the miserable survivors stuck on a floating ancient husk of a ship that is intent on traversing through galaxies until the end of time, and instead allowed the writers to turn their attention to exploration of new relationships built with neighbouring species.

Dr. Rush, played by magnificently potent Robert Carlyle, finally gained control over ship’s complex framework, only to be presented with the much bigger, more mysterious problem of the initial ship’s mission. There is a pattern resonating throughout the universe, he explains toward the end of the season, and it is more organized than anyone anticipated.

The show also lost its cuteness as the character of Chloe, traumatized after a kidnapping by a combative alien species, started to change. Her Kafkaesque metamorphosis included extreme changes in DNA and bodily fluids (blood), improved mental capacity resulting in her ability to solve complex problems, and slight physical changes to her epidermis. In the beginning it resembled sleepwalking and magical healing powers, but soon, Chloe became more interesting than ever, emerging as a smarter, sadder, more experienced victim of circumstances beyond her control who increasingly grew disenfranchised from the crew and the man she loves. Like the bride of Frankenstein she is left waiting for the abrupt, yet anticipated arrival of those who tampered with her genetic code.

Even David Blue’s likable, geeky and childish Eli, the always bumbling character that we’re all meant to relate with, has experienced more of life this season. His somewhat shallow and annoying naivete, a nod to previous SG incarnations, has been carefully tinged by new, more sophisticated emotional ranges including anger and loss, as he was facing both metamorphosis of the object of his endless affection, Chloe, as well as a sudden, cruel murder of his very first lover.

The saddest part of all of this is that this superbly crafted show, one that I can count amongst to be the best of all time, has been announced as canceled. There will be no third season, we’re told, so make sure you carefully watch the first two.

2. Fringe

Fringe is one of those shows that noone expected to get better with time, yet somehow, surprisingly and despite all odds, it did exactly that.  This third season of Fringe can be considered no less than spectacular, as agent Dunham finds herself hostage on the other side of the looking glass.

I cannot but recommend Fringe as one of the best things to happen to television, and while initially during the introductory seasons, the script degraded to episodic X-files-ish moments, resembling largely all the other cop shows, this season’s story-arch has well made up for it.

We found out a lot: the truth of Peter’s origin and Walter Bishop’s past, what the life and technology on the other side appears to, as well as gotten the taste of upcoming war between dimensions all somehow related to the most incredible story involving “first humans” technology.

Fringe is quickly becoming more intriguing and complex than BSG, and that is saying much. The multi-dimensional aspect allowed for a far more nuanced approach to standard good-guy-bad-guy narrative.  If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, now is the time.

3. Misfits

UK show Misfits is an unheralded gem. This low-key, low(er)-budget production about disenfranchised slackers in their mid-20ties with superpowers will take you for an unforgettable and delightfully humorous ride.

The events that take place during the second season of the group’s community service solidify the relationships between the characters, but also present us with a far firmer understanding of just how detached they are from the remainder of society that continuously graces them with an uncaring, violent and reckless attitude.

Every episode is chock-full of hysterical funnies, gore, death, and sex, sprinkled with a hefty dose of beauty and touching humanity.

Misfits grew this season into characters who finally grasp that they are a group, as well as that the powers given to them are meant to complement their delicate personalities and in many ways protect them.

The show stays away from heavy CG and instead relies on its wonderful, no, scratch that, AMAZING cast and writing. With just enough sadistic humour and violence, sharp wit and scathing dialogue, this is definitely one of the best things to grace our small screens.

4. Doctor Who

I’ve complained incessantly this year over casting choices and script picks for the newest incarnation of Doctor Who, but the Xmas special has definitely changed my mind. It was not hard to notice that Smith felt more confident in his role, more at ease with himself, and the quirky mix of steampunk and scifi just did it for me. This year’s Doctor Who is by no means bad, but I am looking forward to its even better continuation in 2011.

5. True Blood

Fairies. Yes, fairies. True Blood has left me elated this year, and I am begging for more. The vampires got more complicated as were their strange, communal laws, power struggles and violent, backstabbing ways. We also had delightful introduction to werewolves and fairies.

Most importantly though, the Suki-Bill connection remained unresolved, which means more True Blood for all of us. Yeey!

6. Lost Girl

Came out of nowhere, Lost Girl turned out to be a full-fledged Made in Canada production focused on a culture of long lost creatures, including our own Bo, a terrifyingly inexperienced succubus who for the first time relies on friends and frenemies.

Compared to Timur Bekmambetov’s DayWatch / NightWatch series, the fantasy world has its underbelly as well as its ruling class basking in sunshine. Bo works as a private dick along with her thief sidekick, Latvian super-Kawaii delight Kenzi, played by Ksenia Solo.

Lost Girl appeared right after True Blood ended its season, and we welcomed it with open arms. The two are not comparable by any means. Lost Girl is a light romp that barely stands on its own, yet it is succesfully filling that massive gap left by previous year’s cuts of some very important productions, feeding our inner monsters, I guess.

My tip is, watch it. It harkens back to 90s shows. It is light and entertaining and that’s good enough.

7. Burn Notice

Two words: Bruce Campbell. I don’t care that it isn’t sci-fi. This is after all a show the likes of which we grew up watching. Smart narrative, interesting storylines, and cheeky undertones give this show an incredible value as we watch Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) dogged pursuit of those who burned him from CIA.

Packed full of action, comedy and Miami, entertaining does not even start to describe it.

8. Sherlock

Came out of nowhere, featuring one of my favorite British faces, Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, the newest incarnation of Holmes can only be described as labour of love.

Written by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the two do an amazing update to the all-famous detective work and produce hours of compelling drama that manages to smartly integrate contemporary themes and issues with that of original Doyle.

9. Supernatural

Let’s face it, Supernatural was conceived as a light murder mystery without the mystery part. But somewhere along the line, the stakes became higher and instead of killing the regular set of vampires and monsters lurking in the dark, the issue of good and bad, heaven and hell got a lot more complicated.

The line that the two brothers, hunters by occupation, used to draw, applies no longer. Sam’s soul for example, ended up in hell, and rescuing it back may not be such a good idea. Heaven is in turmoil, as  angels deal in ancient weapons, collect souls and are out for heads, while Hell is still the pit that rules the mob, just by an unexpected characters.

More surprises than you can shake a stick at, Supernatural has grown into a real television show but not at the expense of its sense of humour.

10. Spartacus: Blood and Sand

When conceived, Spartacus was meant to fill a hole left by the raucous adventuring of Rome, but then it turned into oh so much more. Think even pervier, more comic-book version of Rome, with an edgy, porny perspective, offering incredible visuals of mounds of oiled bodies ready to fight and kill.

John Hannah and Lucy Lawless are the masters of a gladiator house, a ludus, who not only invest in Spartacus, the tried fighter who survived despite all odds in the ring, but are also quite enthusiastic on climbing the social ladder. A lot pends on successes of a common Thracian, Spartacus, who continuously emerges as a champion, but in the world of politics and battle to death, a lot can go wrong as Machiavelian plots try the luck and the will of the Thracian.

Overall entertaining, the show has a unique visual appearance, deriving a lot of its imagery from graphic novels. Truly worth watching for visuals alone, the show starts off shaky but then continues to develop at a faster pace and is sure to draw you in as you follow Spartacus trying to survive, make friends and do the honourable thing.

Many of you may wonder, why these 10, and why 10 only, to which we can only reply: beggars can’t be choosers.