As you may have noticed, I’d been spending a lot of time concentrating on my Best of the Decade listing when it became clear that just because I was celebrating the end of the Aughts didn’t mean that I was allowed to ignore the end of 2009.
So I got out a piece of paper (a blank .txt document) and a pencil (my fingers and a keyboard) and began writing down shows that I would want to put into my Top 10 for the year.
My list developed in tiers. I knew what was going to be at the top. I knew what the next three were going to be, but not necessarily the order. I knew what the three after that were going to be, but again not necessarily the order. And then I looked at the list that I’d culled and there were at least 20 additional shows that I’d written down that were nearly impossible to distinguish amongst. And that was before I started glancing at friends’ lists and seeing other shows I’d missed, or shows that they loved that I just couldn’t bring myself to include.
With that in mind, I decided a Top 10 wasn’t happening. I pushed my list to a Top 20 and even after shuffling the order around, I have no actual feeling for what makes Show #9 on my list different from Show #18. They’re nearly interchangeable. That could be a bad sign, but it isn’t.
They’re all good. Very good.
Let’s just say it and say it loud: 2009 was a very good year for television.
I don’t know if it was a great year. I’d probably rather have 10 great shows on a list like this than 20 very good shows. But don’t ever let anybody tell you that there isn’t anything to watch on TV. There’s always something to watch.
And don’t let anybody tell you that television comedy is dead or dying or even that it decided to stay home sick with a head-cold. I went all the way to 20 with my list and I wasn’t able to include favorite new comedies like “Party Down,” “Bored to Death,” “The United States of Tara” or “10 Things I Hate About You.” Since multiple new comedies made my Top 20, that tells you something about the influx of hilarity on the small screen this year. I also had to leave out reliable veteran comedies like “How I Met Your Mother” and “30 Rock.” All of those shows could have made a Top 30 list, but who makes a Top 30 list? My Top 30 list also could have included “Greek” and “Burn Notice” and “House” (mostly for “Broken”).
I didn’t include a single reality show in my Top 20, which is ridiculous for me. Candidates included “Top Chef” (my most-adored current unscripted program), “Survivor” (especially the nearly completed “Survivor: Russell”) and “The Amazing Race” (for a discussion of eliminations via potty breaks, waterslides and word scrambles). But with each of those shows, I put them next to scripted options and I couldn’t keep them on, even for the sake of list diversity.
Then there are the shows that other people love that I watch, but don’t feel the same affection toward as you might. “Glee,” for example, is nowhere to be seen here, though I’ve liked some episodes very much. “Fringe” didn’t make the cut, though the more mythology-based the series gets, the more interested I am. “True Blood” isn’t here either, though it topped my “Worst” list last year and I’ll acknowledge that it was dramatically improved in Season Two. “Grey’s Anatomy” had a great second half last season and it isn’t here.
I desperately wanted to find a way to include “The Vampire Diaries,” my favorite guilty pleasure of the fall, on the list, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I feel like “VD” deserves some kind of recognition for becoming as fun and earnestly silly at it was by the end, but 2009 was too good a year for me to include guilty pleasures.
MY TOP 20 TV SHOWS OF 2009.