2010 has been a rubbish year for just about everything except TV, and it's been a pretty damn great year (for once) for British TV! Here's my top 10 of 2010, the only criteria being that these are all shows that screened for the first time this year in the UK, so I might be a little bit behind the US shows.
(Incidently, if I was including all the programmes I saw for the first time this year number one would be The Wire, since I finally got the box set this year. People aren't exaggerating when they say it's the best show ever. Go watch it.)
10. Being Human - Series 2
Series 2 showed a drop in quality from the first series, but it was still must-see TV, and Russel Tovey is never less than heart-breaking as the werewolf trying desperately to lead a normal life and just getting werewolf Tourettes for his efforts. This series also introduced the wonderful Ivan (yay!) then killed him off (no!). If they'd let him live, this might have been higher on my list.
9. Nurse Jackie
This strange little beast - half-hour episodes but not a sitcom - has been overlooked a lot but is one of my hits of 2010. Edie Falco makes Jackie a real, flawed person, both hero and villain at the same time and the supporting characters were all fantastic. Jackie saying "fuck you" into the severed ear of a rapist before flushing it down a toilet was one of my TV moments of the year.
8. Ashes to Ashes - Series 3
A2A may be Life on Mars' jealous cousin but it finally hit its stride in its last series with the addition of the devilish Jim Keats and boosted roles for the supporting cast. But it only really makes this list for an ending that beat Lost to it - and did it better too. Although it did take me two viewings to get over my anger that - SPOILER - everyone was dead and to realise that it was actually the best ending they could have done.
7. Downton Abbey
This was a hell of a surprise - an ITV costume drama that was actually good. It was great fun, a soap for posh people, treading just the right line between class politics, romance and back-stabbing. Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Hugh Bonneville flew the flag for classy acting but the real stars were a scheming gay footman and his bitter ladies maid sidekick.
6. Mad Men - Series 3 & 4
British viewers got two series' of Mad Men this year thanks to the BBC rushing out series 4 before the rights switch to Sky in 2011 (boo!). Series 3, in particular, was sublime, shaking up the entire format of the show, finally giving Don and Betty their big confrontation (and a divorce) then dodging expectations to pull a light-hearted heist caper out of the bag for the finale. I found series 4 slightly weaker, but Don's arc was fascinating and The Suitcase, a near two-hander between Don and Peggy, was beautiful television.
5. True Blood - Series 2
Some say it was better than series 1. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was damn good, mainly for the following reasons: Jason's adventures with the Fellowship of the Sun, the line "smite me, motherfucker!", Godric, Bon Temps unlikely A-Team, the adorable romance between Jessica and Hoyt, and of course, Eric. Lovely, bastard, naked Eric. Yum.
Had the quality not dipped in the second half of the first series, Glee would have been higher on my list. It's an absolute phenomenon and deservedly so. The mix of near-the-knuckle jokes, weird adults, high school cliches, soap opera plotting, song and dance and Sue Sylvester is spot on - when they get it right. I worry that it's getting too kiddie-friendly for its own good, but at the top of its game it's the best and most original US show of the year.
3. Misfits - Series 2
While Being Human's second series was a slight disappointment, Misfits managed to actually be a step up from its first. As filthy and funny as ever, it became darker and delved deeper into its own mythology without sacrificing tone or losing what we love about it. Simon became an unlikely sex symbol, Alisha became a good character and Robert Sheehan continues to be the best youg actor on TV. It also pulled off one hell of a game-changing cliffhanger. Nice work guys.
This makes the list almost on the strength of its first episode alone, which was the most perfect hour I saw on TV all year. Benedict Cumberbatch was magnetic as Sherlock and Martin Freeman surprised everyone. The two of them have been the best bit of casting all year - up there with Matt Smith as The Doctor - and the programme lives and dies on their chemistry. Mark Gatiss also somehow got away with giving himself the plum role of Mycroft. Luckily for him, he was good.
1. Doctor Who - Series 5
We all expected great things from Steven Moffat and he delivered on all fronts with a great series arc, wonderfully written episodes of his own (The Eleventh Hour and A Christmas Carol stand out), a great choice of guest writers (Richard Curtis and Simon Nye surprised with their episodes), and guest actors (especially Sophie Okonedo and Tony Curran). But the one thing we weren't expecting was for Matt Smith to be that damn good. Karen Gillan let the team down a little, but Alex Kingston is wonderful.