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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part One!

All right!  So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).

Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD.  Just need to find the time!!)  These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!

OK, here we go:

10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble.  Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him.  Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child.  Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her.  Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged.  And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business.  It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.

9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson.  There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that we learn about Ron, when he openly admits (to the viewers) that he knows Leslie deserves the award and that he intends to stick it to the IOW and give the award to her.  (“Let’s nail these women.  You know what I mean.”)  Speaking of sweetness, I also love the Andy/April flirtation, which continues to develop in this episode.  (Andy: “You’re like an angel without wings.” April: “So, like, a person.”)  Even Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) gets a terrific story-line: his desperate efforts to gather the money necessary to purchase a small ownership stake in the Snakehole Lounge, his favorite bar.  His power-point presentation is phenomenal.  As with all the best episodes of Parks and Recreation, there are also a lot of terrific little throw-away scenes that don’t directly connect to the main plot, such as a great interaction between Andy and one of his room-mates.  (“Your bag of smells was a fun experiment but it has to stop.”)  Comic gold, my friends!

8. Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode III (aired on 12/19/10) — Another brilliant series of Star Wars satires from the talented folks at Robot Chicken.  Read my full review here, or just watch these:

7. Futurama: “Lethal Inspection” (Season 6, episode 6, aired on 7/22/10) — I still can’t quite believe that new Futurama episodes have actually been made and aired.  It’s an incredible delight that this series has once again returned from the dead.  The first few episodes of the new season were good but not great, but a few episodes in things really picked up steam, and this one certainly stands with the best episodes that the series has to offer.  Bender is shocked to learn that he’s not quite as immortal a robot as he always thought he was, so he and Hermes set off to find the inspector whose mistake, back when he was being built, allowed him to come off the assembly line with a faulty mechanism.  The pairing of Bender and Hermes is inspired, and the episode has a lot of great zingers.  But what elevates this episode into greatness is the surprisingly poignant final minute, in which a series of flashbacks show us what really went down when Bender was being built.

6.  The Walking Dead: “Days Gone Bye” (season 1, episode 1, aired on 10/31/10) — I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the six-episode run of The Walking Dead that aired on AMC this fall.  Developed for television by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), based on the comic-book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the series centers on Rick Grimes, a Sheriff’s deputy who is shot on duty.  When he wakes from his coma, he discovers that the world he once knew is gone, as society has been overrun by zombies.  The premise sounds silly, but I found The Walking Dead to be be gripping and intense.  The production values were top-notch, and the ensemble of actors was strong, particularly Andrew Lincoln in the lead role as Rick.  It helps that this early batch of episodes was grounded by the strong dramatic through-line of Rick’s search for his wife and son.  I thought all six episodes were solid, but the pilot episode in particular packed a really strong punch.  As we, along with Rick, are introduced to the wasteland the world has become, I was totally engaged by the visceral energy and unblinking horror of the episode.  Strong work, and enough to easily hook me on the series.  I can’t wait for the 13-episode season two.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the rest of my list, numbers 5-1!

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