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The Best New TV Shows of 2010

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Every year the networks pump out new shows hoping for something that sticks, that becomes a classic. Most of them will fail, but some will become winners. When compiling this list, I was surprised at the amount of quality shows coming out on the FX Network, whether they made the list or not. The same network that gave us ‘The Shield’ and ‘Damages’ is now giving us a lineup of potential classics. HBO is having a similar run. However, where are the networks with their great shows? Only one network show made the cut. These are all shows that premiered after January 1st, 2010.

Justified (FX) – Hands down the best show of the year. Based on a short story from acclaimed writer Elmore Leonard, ‘Justified’ finds Timothy Olyphant back in Western mode as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, who has a penchant for getting into gun fights, lots of them. While it took a couple episodes to find its voice, this became the most captivating hour on television, even in the face of Lost’s final season. Nothing better than Kentucky terrorist groups, gun fights, smart writing and some sex.

Rubicon (AMC) –AMC just announced it was canceling ‘Rubicon,’ being stocked up with ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Breaking Bad’ and new smash hit ‘The Walking Dead.’ However, ‘Rubicon’ is/was a near perfect show about analysts at a New York government firm, and the growing conspiracy surrounding James Badge Dale’s character. A beautifully crafted and acted show that will never get to the end of its conspiracy, meaning I will just have to stick to drinking (in volume) since I will never know what happens next. I blame everyone who did not watch, you are all the bane of my existence.

Terriers (FX) – A sneaky pick here, this show about two unlicensed private investigators (Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James) living in San Diego has some of the most well drawn out characters on television. Looks like the USA Network isn’t the only place where characters are welcome. Trying to describe the plot or anything in this show is to make it sound much more formulaic than it is. But I will say it starts slowly and builds over episodes with its intensity, emotion and humor. Please don’t let this one also be canceled (it currently sits on the bubble).

Luther (BBC) – Idris Elba (The Wire) stars as John Luther, a brilliant detective just back from suspension. He tackles disturbing crimes, matching wits with some of the most original criminals on television. What separates this show from all other cop shows is Elba’s performance as the brooding, intense Luther. He’s unpredictable and full of machismo and rage, making him utterly captivating to watch. In addition to the murders he must solve, he must battle wits with a cold and brilliant sociopath (Ruth Wilson) and come to terms with his crumbling marriage to Zoe (Indira Varma). First rate.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – Incredibly built up, this show feels like it’s supposed to be important. While a good show, it began a bit too self congratulatory but has settled into itself, making up for the loss of ‘The Sopranos’. One of the best ensemble casts featuring character actors Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Gretchen Mol, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, among others. If it keeps moving in the right direction, this will be another legendary show for HBO.

How to Make it in America (HBO) – From the crew that brought us ‘Entourage,’ this show about two guys in New York trying to start a business has the same excitement of early seasons of its HBO big brother. Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk) hustle to make something happen while seeing their friends go on to bigger things, and ex-girlfriends move on to other guys. Exciting, funny with some real emotional depth to it. This one flew in under the radar, as much as any HBO show can.

The Walking Dead (AMC) – This show gets a few things right (mainly the zombie stuff) and a lot things wrong (most of the rest). However, the level of intensity and realness of the dead provides for some great television. Time will tell if this becomes a great television show, but it has enough to be exciting for the time being. This is also the only show on television about the zombie apocalypse, giving it a corner on the market. However, I would like to see it take more risks and develop these characters so when it comes to the emotional scenes, we care more rather than roll our eyes and wait for zombie heads to explode.

The Good Guys (Fox) – A bit of silliness to cut through all the tedious cop shows out there. There are only so many times one can watch a ‘Law and Order’ show or ‘Bones’, etc. A bit like ‘Psych’ in that the characters stumble upon bigger crimes than they could ever imagine, but no one claims to be psychic here. Instead, Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks make a convincing comedy duo with Hanks playing the straight man to Whitford’s bumbling idiot. Nothing to be taken too seriously here, however don’t write it off just because it’s funny. One of my favorite shows of the new season.

Other notables: Archer (FX) which aired its pilot episode back in September ’09, then the rest of the series in 2010. Louie (FX) A lot like Curb Your Enthusiasm, this has comic Louis C.K. playing himself as he navigates divorced life and comedy. Though it has some brilliant moments, it also hasn’t found the right voice, moving from realistic moments to fantastical and flash backs.