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What 2009 Looked Like (TV Edition)Dec 31, 2009

11. Make It or Break It — Bad title, cheesy scenes, employs Candace Cameron Bure . . . and yet is a show I have to see the night it airs, every single time.

10. So You Think You Can Dance — Kind of a mixed bag, this one: season five had the good production but maybe not the talent/personality, while season six was all personality and talent but had really bizarre production and felt way too rushed at the end. Still a must-watch, though.

9. Glee — Still one of the better pilots I've seen in my life, and while I'm not sure any other episode has quite gotten back to that level, it's still an utterly enjoyable hour (that will be better the second all this pregnancy nonsense ends, good lord).

8. The United States of Tara — This one built slowly into one of my favorite shows, thanks to Toni Collette's performance and the surprisingly compelling kids' stories.

7. Top Chef — At least Bravo's still doing one thing right. This is the first year I've legitimately respected every chef in the top four.

6. Chuck — Oh, I'll love this show no matter what, but the second half of season two really stepped things up a notch. All the disparate plotlines and characters seemed better integrated, the writers threw in some legitimate surprises, and the setup of season three was (er, well, at least should be) ingenious.

5. Parks and Recreation — Most improved this fall by a mile, and it learned a lesson Glee should maybe follow by refusing to be beholden to silly pit stories forever. Plus, Ron Swanson is pure gold.

4. Mad Men — This was the first season I've watched live, so I finally understand what the world is talking about — or trying not to spoil — every Monday. Despite a few notes I didn't love (shocker: Don Draper's fallen into bed with yet another young ingenue!), nothing can compete with it on atmosphere or tone. And the season finale hinted at something new and quite welcome.

3. Modern Family — Up there with Glee for one of the best pilots I've ever seen, and it's extraordinary to get two of those in one year. I've rarely seen a set of characters be so fully formed so early in a show's run.

2. Friday Night Lights — Speaking of genius season finales, what this show did at the end of season three was a brilliant, brilliant move, fully justified by the way season four is unfolding right now. What's impressed me most is the way the show's dealt with the very nature of being set in high school: Rather than try to shoehorn graduating characters into unrealistic storylines, FNL simply says a beautiful goodbye.

1. Breaking Bad — Never has a show sucked me in so fast or kept me so captivated despite my disdain or outright dislike for most characters. Kudos to Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul for making me root for evil.


And five favorite TV episodes:

Chuck's second season finale ("I know kung fu")
Mad Men's third season finale ("Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce")
The Office's wedding episode ("Click")
Modern Family's pilot ("Why the face?")
30 Rock's "The Bubble" ("Do you give lessons?")

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I am so glad that someone else likes Chuck. I know literally two other people who watch it regularly, and I've been kind of amazed both times that it's been renewed.

On an unrelated note, have you watched Better Off Ted? It's utterly ridiculous, but I cannot get enough of it.

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