When people complain there's nothing to watch on TV, clearly they are missing out on greatness. When compiling this list, I bemoaned some of the shows I was going to leave off, and the low ranking (out of the Top 10) for other series.
Honestly, I could have pulled shows from the list randomly from a hat and gotten an order that I can justify just as easily as the order I chose. I feel bad about certain series that didn't make the cut, either on my list or with the viewers ("The Chicago Code," "Lights Out"), and frankly, as you'll see, I did cheat a little bit.
Anyhow, here goes:
10. "Dramaville," BBC AMERICA: And here is where I cheat. But I ask you, in all seriousness, when you have series the likes of "The Hour," "Luther" and "Whitechapel," (not to mention "State of Play"), how can you leave off what is one of the most challenging hours on TV? While "The Hour" is getting most of the critical acclaim and I'm a huge "Luther" fan already, I found "Whitechapel" to be the most intense of the bunch.
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9. "Friday Night Lights," NBC/DIRECTV: You know what, after five seasons of the show getting renewed because of quality rather than ratings and letting it end on its own terms, I can't really complain about this wonderful drama finally turning off the lights. Throw in an unexpected (but deserving) Emmy win for Kyle Chandler, and the series ended on a terrific note. My only complaint was that Chandler's co-star, the fantastic Connie Britton, didn't get an Emmy as well.
8. "Rescue Me," FX: Speaking of great series that ended on the right note, "Rescue Me" was the quintessential drama that captured Sept. 11, and 10 years after the tragedy, handled it in the same way they handled everything else: with gut-wrenching emotion and side-splitting laughs. One of the most powerful series ever done on TV.
7. "Justified," FX: A series that is just about pitch perfect, the writers and actors manage to capture the incredible writing style of novelist Elmore Leonard, who created the Raylen Givens character. The top-notch cast was headed by Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, but Margo Martindale was the breakout star with her Emmy-winning turn as the matriarch of a drug-dealing mountain clan.
6. "The Good Wife," CBS: Along with "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones," the best ensemble cast on TV right now. Honestly, in addition to Julianna Margulies in the title role, you could spin off almost any character into their own series -- investigator Kalinda, state's attorney Cary, political strategist Eli Gold -- and have a great series in its own right. (The lone exceptions -- Alicia's kids and mother-in-law). It's the rare procedural that manages the perfect balance between the case of the week plot and the characters' other lives subplots.
5. "The Walking Dead," AMC: Some people complained that the first half of Season 2 dragged a bit compared to the pulse-pounding Season 1, but the payoff of the final moments -- Rick shooting the zombified Sophia -- was one of the most stunning scenes on TV this year. The series gets extra points for the Chris Hardwick-hosted "Talking Dead" wrap-up show that followed.
4. "Sons of Anarchy," FX: It's a testament to how good a season this was that "Sons" is only ranked fourth despite turning out its most thrilling season. Yes, some people complained about the deus ex machina ending of the Mexican gang working with the CIA -- thus preserving the main story of keeping Jax and his family in Charming when he had all but left -- but honestly, with the deaths and near-deaths of so many key characters, "Sons" kept the viewers on a wild ride all season long.
2. (tie) "Game of Thrones," HBO: There was nothing about this series that wasn't great, especially when it came to character development. Who didn't root for the quick-witted Tyrrion (Peter Dinklage) or express dismay at the death of noble Ned Stark (Sean Bean)? Who doesn't want Joffrey to get the ass-kicking he deserves? Given the complexity of George R.R. Martin's hugely popular books, making a faithful translation for the small screen is an absolutely remarkable feet. I know winter is coming, but Season 2 can't come soon enough.
2. (tie) "Homeland," Showtime: Since I listed "Homeland" in a tie with "Game of Thrones" among the best new series of the year, I couldn't put one ahead of the other on this list. The masterful acting and storytelling kept the viewer on the edge of his or her seat all season long, with a maze of mirrors in trying to figure out whose side Brody (Damien Lewis) was really on. The scene with the bomb in the bunker was TV's most tense and intense scene this year.
1. "Breaking Bad," AMC: I can't think of a single TV show or movie that has ever so perfectly shown how power can corrupt a good man. Bryan Cranston has always been masterful in his portrayal of the milquetoast-turned-drug lord Walter White, and Aaron Paul has equaled the task as Jesse Pinkman, Walt's partner. But add in amazing, brilliant work by Giancarlo Esposito as Walt's ultimate nemesis, and the twist at the end that shows how far Walt has fallen, and "Breaking Bad" was about as close to perfection as you can ask from a TV series. My only concern is how they can possibly top themselves next season.
What are your Top 10 dramas?
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: It's bowl games galore through the extended holiday weekend, including Georgia Tech vs. Utah Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS, and Georgia facing Michigan State on Monday (ABC, 1 p.m.)
There are also all sorts of marathons this week, from "The Twilight Zone" on SyFy to "The Walking Dead" on AMC.
The blog will be back on Tuesday. Have a happy and safe New Year's!