Thursday, March 31, 2011

Queue Tips: The Town, Inside Job

Two movies that feature bad men stealing your money, and one is a true story.  Are they worth your time?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: Top 10 Android Apps

A friend recently got a Droid X and asked me what my favorite 3 apps were... how about 10 instead?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TV Tuesday: The Wire

So many people told me it was one of the best TV shows of all time that I eventually gave in.   What's the result?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Monday: Paul

The rumors are true, this movie is awful, but maybe for reasons you wouldn't expect.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Favorites of 2010: Top 25 Movies

A couple weeks ago I released my favorite TV Shows for 2010, it resulted in this post appearing on my Facebook:

"Your list surprised me. Almost all of the shows that made this list are shows that my family finds too vulger and offensive to show in our house. Lots of sexual references and crude language.... Not intending to be rude. I'm just saying it seems odd to me....."

So stretches the razor wire that any Christian who engages in public pop cultural (or even just cultural) dissection will walk on a consistent basis.  With so many different opinions and convictions on what kind of content is acceptable for viewing, it's almost inevitable that to some the art you choose to view will be seen as a bad, if not sinful, choice.  I'm not saying this is what the above words intended, in fact they really almost sound more curios than judgmental. What I am saying is that if you thought my TV list choices were odd, I'm about to jump off the deep end with some of the movies I'm about to list.   Unfortunately, this list isn't the best place to delve deeply into what makes art valuable viewing or when art has become worthless because of the content it portrays.  My guess is that the reason we each have drawn different lines in that regard is that God intended our journey to be a progressive walk with Him where he guides us through those choices, based on his full knowledge of who we are as individual human hearts and minds.  If you see movies listed  below that shock you, please know that I am not intending to recommend each of these movies for everyone, and certainly not for all ages.  I've even gone so far as to put an asterisk by films that are rated R.  These are films you may want to do some further research on before adding them to your Netflix queue or sitting down to watch them with your pastor (remind me sometime to tell you the story of the time my wife and I saw "Jerry Maguire".)

This is the response I posted to my Facebook friend:

"Hey *********, thanks for the comment. I don't find it rude, in fact I can understand where you are coming from. My list is an honest list about the shows I enjoy watching. There is some objectionable content in many of these shows, but for me content is only part of the equation. Quality and Message are also both very important to me. I certainly don't consider many, if any, of these shows "family shows", I don't think I'd watch any of them with my kids, but I also don't believe that as an adult seeing or hearing immorality is the same as being immoral. Where content can become dangerous is when it becomes temptation to action or attitude, and each of us have different weaknesses that play into that. It's is my responsibility to be in such close contact with my creator that He guides these decisions in a way that keeps me healthy and allows me to interact with my world and culture in a real and relevant way, in short to be IN but not OF my world and culture. Thanks for your honesty and your patience with my long winded answer and I hope we can still be friends :)"

Here are my favorite 25 movies I saw for the first time in 2010 (not necessarily released in 2010) with a few honorable mentions throw in for good measure.  After reading them I hope we too can still be friends.

Honorable Mentions:

Capitalism: A Love Story * - Say what you will about Michael Moore (not that you needed permission), but the guy knows how to craft a story.  Whether the ins and outs of each situation in his films are accurate, he still makes you wrestle with some pretty compelling topics.  In this case, questioning whether or not the capitalistic ideal is really one that is honorable or beneficial.  I came away from this thinking hard about my own economic tendencies and likely better off for doing so.

Date Night - It's hard to fail with the power of both Carell and Fey on the screen, but this movie is so finely crafted it could have succeeded with almost any two competent actors.  This movie is also pretty high on my, "go ahead and make a franchise" list.  Not to mention there is a quality pro-marriage message buried in the comedy and action.

The Invention of Lying* - Initially you might think that I liked this movie because I'm a Gervais fan, but he really is kinda hit and miss with me.  I love him in "Night at the Museum" and "Ghost Town", but (and here comes the sacrilege) I think he is extremely overrated for the British version of the "The Office".  In "The Invention of Lying", he's nothing better than mediocre, as is most everything in this movie.  So why did it make the list?  Solely, based on the concept and the execution of it.  As a card carrying member of the over thinkers guild, any movie that turns my gears for days after I see it is doing something right.  Even if as the credits role I vehemently disagree with the conclusion (in this case that faith is a blessed lie) I still appreciate the journey of thought and the challenge to my own beliefs.

Clash of the Titans - Can we just move on?  Do I really have to admit I enjoyed this?  My credibility really can't stand too many more hits.  It could have been the lowered expectations.  It could have been that I have an unfortunate thing for big eye-candy spectacles.  It could just be that I like yelling "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!" in the hallways at work occasionally.  Whatever the case, it's probably best for all of us if we just move on.

Green Zone* - I'm not usually one to give props to over politicized movies (says the man who already put a Micheal Moore film on his list), and yet here stands a movie about Iraq that captured my attention in a way few movies do.  There are two primary reasons for this, one named Matt, the other Paul.   Mr. Damon is likely familiar to you, but Mr. Greengrass may not be a name that pops to the front of your brain.  Director Paul Greengrass not only directed the last two Bourne movies, but between them directed what may be one of the top 10 movies of the past decade, United 93.  He has an impeccable gift for creating emotion through kinetics, and even though this story handcuffs him in many ways, his touch is evident.   Without him, and the earnestness of Matt Damon, this movie is likely forgettable, but with them it's well worth the two hour investment. 

Alice and Wonderland - This movie should have been so much better than an honorable mention.  Depp seems like the perfect hatter, and I can't imagine a more perfect director for this world than Tim Burton.  His visual acumen is on display in the effects and design, but unfortunately his lead actress doesn't seem to have enough life to pull the story along.  It's an enjoyable time but I don't know that I will revisit it.  It's not often you really like a movie but still walk away disappointed, but this movie should have been a home run and instead ends up as ground rule double.

The Top 25:

25. Night at the Museum 2 - This movie had a lot to live up to.  The first museum evening was full of wonder and magic, not to mention one of the funniest movies of it's year.  Museum 2 isn't quite as good, but it follows the DNA of the first enough that it's a wonderful ride.   I did miss Dick Van Dyke though.

24. Whip it - Is it possible that Drew Barrymore is a great director? Judging by her first and only effort so far, I'd have to say it's either that or she got lucky.  There is so much joy and life in this film, and surely that has something to do with the bubbly personality of the little girl who once screamed upon discovering an alien in her closet.  And to be honest, I don't think it's just smoke and mirrors.  The performances and subtle moments all seem deftly guided to add up to a movie that is fun, heartfelt, and compelling to watch.  Ellen Page may have something to do with it as well, somehow delivering a grounded reality to a plot centered around the silliness of the roller derby.  Add in that it is also willing to make a strong statement about choices and consequences and I found it delightful.

23. Michael Jackson's: This is It - This documentary is a revelation not just because it reminded me that Michael Jackson was an actual human being (and an extremely talented one), but also because it proved he still had some gas in the tank.  As impressive as this show would have been had he lived to see it through, it's all overshadowed by a life damaged by fame, abuse, and personal choices, that ended before he had a chance to pull it off.

22. Moon* - I'm an easy target for movies like this one; movies that twist and turn, revealing pieces to a puzzle until you have that a-ha moment.  What sets this one above your typical twisty journey is how wonderfully textured and woven the overall fabric of the story is.  Add a tour de force performance by Sam Rockwell and you have one of my biggest surprises of the year.

21. The Informant* - This may just be on here for Matt Damon's mustache, I'm not sure.   Aside from his goofy transformation, the thing that blew me away was that this was a true story.   If this was fiction, I wouldn't have bought it for a second, but knowing this plot actually happened still baffles me.  The movie takes itself only as seriously as it needs to, and that tone serves it well.  But I'm still pretty sure it's the mustache.

20. Sherlock Holmes - Widely perceived as a miss for Downey, I must have enjoyed it a lot more than most.  I felt like the chemistry between Holmes and Watson was brilliant and I loved the way Sherlock's thinking was represented visually.   I'm not sure I left thinking it was the greatest story (it was a tad on the dark side, for one) but I know I left hoping they would make more.

19. Couples Retreat* - I have a soft spot in my heart for movies that portray marriage as valuable and worth fighting for, also a soft spot on my funny bone for Jason Bateman.  These two things, along with a great supporting cast and some genuinely funny moments, make up for the occasional moments of infantile humor.   Another genuine surprise.

18. The Princess and the Frog - Disney hand drawn animation is back, and get this, it's good again.  This movie is beautiful and captivating and even though I'm nowhere near the target audience, I enjoyed it immensely.

17. Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - The Ocean's 13 of computer generated films.  Not quite as good as the first, but much better than the misguided second one.  Much of this is due to the genius turn of Simon Pegg as Buck, a "larger than life, swashbuckling, one-eyed weasel." Sheesh, even his character descriptions are entertaining.

16. The Hurt Locker* - Like many Oscar winners before it, this film wasn't nearly my overall favorite, but it's still a great flick.  Jeremy Renner's performance is intense and engaging and just the idea that there are men who actually have the job portrayed here is humbling.

15. Inglourious Basterds** - Tarantino makes you feel his movies.  He is the master of not just telling you a story, but grabbing you and shoving your face in the emotion and reality of a very particular world he has decided to create.  He uses style and especially music better than any other director working, and though I've found the results hit and miss, he definitely locked me in with this one.  Brad Pitt's performance is also the most engaging character act he has pulled since 12 Monkeys.  All that said, that second asterisk is not a mistake, it's there to say, "no seriously, you see asterisk #1? He meant what he said."

14. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - I'm positive my view of the Narnia films is directly tied to the nostalgia I have for the original text, so it's hard for me to judge them with objective eyes. Knowing that I'm apt to love them no matter what, it's still of note that Dawn Treader may be the best of the bunch.  It's certainly better than Caspian, and it may even be better than the original.  Much of this has to do with Will Poulter, whose journey as Eustace from snide entitlement to honest humility is pulled off perfectly.

13. (500) Days of Summer - I saw this movie on an airplane, on a tissue box sized screen in the back of a chair whose owner spent most of the flight unsure of exactly to what degree he wanted to be reclined.  So the fact that I loved this movie under those circumstances is perhaps the highest praise I can give it.  It's a beautiful love story that has something to say about the human condition that is poignant in a way I'm not sure I've seen before.  It helps that the leads are completely up to the challenge as Gordon-Levitt (quickly becoming a superstar) and Zooey Deschanel (maybe the cutest thing in movies) have a captivating chemistry that drives your heart deeper into their story until you are fully invested in the outcome.

12. Iron Man 2 - OK, I know it wasn't as good as the first, but come on, this was fun, right?  It gave me everything I could want from a summer blockbuster and I still think Downey's Tony Stark is one of the most enigmatic characters to have ever hit the screen.  Throw in a scene stealing performance by Sam Rockwell, and I left the theater grinning a big popcorn smile.

11. The Karate Kid (2010) - There is no way this was supposed to work.   The original crane kickin', Machio staring, wax on-wax offin' version was too ingrained in our consciousness for this to have a shot, right?  So how is it that I came away from watching this thinking it's a better film than the original?  I'm sure much of it comes from young Jaden Smith, who is quickly proving to have the same charisma as his father and apparently put in the work to be a true martial artist (certainly more than Machio did).  It's true that Jackie Chan is no Miyagi but he didn't have to be.  His "Mr. Han" was layered and deep enough to impact me in a way I wasn't fully expecting.  If you dismissed this as a cheap knock-off remake, give it a try, you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

10. The Blind Side - This is what a "faith based" movie should look like.  The message becomes woven so deftly into the performances and texture that it doesn't feel like a hammer coming down on your head.   I'm as big a champion for movies of truth as the next guy (someday I hope to meet this next guy to see if we really are as similar as I think), but so often beating home the message takes precedent over crafting great art.  Why can't we just let great art reveal truth in it's natural habitat.  The coup of course is nabbing Sandra Bullock, whose performance is absolutely stunning and grounds the movie even further in truth.

9. 9 - I think I probably liked this movie more than I should have, but I have a thing for movies that build a unique universe with distinct rules and then craft a story to navigate it.   I love the way 9 progressively reveals it's landscape leaving us to wonder and wander with our burlap protagonist through each revelation. Though I'm not completely sold on the ending, the journey itself was beautiful and rewarding enough to earn it's self titled location on this list.

8. Exit Through the Gift Shop* - In my opinion the best documentaries are the ones that follow stories that reveal themselves in the making.  "King of Kong" is likely the best example of this, but "Exit" is the most intriguing.  The anonymous and clever Banksy is at the heart of it all, but the world of street art is the true star.  Trying to navigate through what about this story is prank and what is reality is only periphery fun to the ultimate joy that is seeing these artists at work both on the street and on the screen.

7. Where the Wild Things Are - The first of a one-two punch of kids movies that aren't kids movies.  This one is a movie for adults about what it was like being a kid.  It captures those emotions and confusions so vividly that you can't help but feel that you are little Max trying to navigate a world of monsters to whom you are king and a world of grown-ups to whom you are an aside.  Director Spike Jonze continues to operate on a different frequency than anyone else, one that apparently resonates deeply with me.

6. The Fantastic Mr. Fox - The second kids movie made more for adults (though my boys enjoyed it well enough) is from another director with his own unique sense of the world.  Wes Anderson's vibe has never fully landed with me, but what he made here is something special.  The stop motion, non-claymation art style is itself a singular experience, but the way the story takes it's time and builds momentum is where the real genius happens.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - I often compare this movie to "Moulin Rouge" in that they are both movies that take place in surreal stylized universes, and yet somehow manage to ground them in an emotional reality.  It's true that your enjoyment of this movie might be heightened if you are a child of the video game culture, but I don't think a knowledge of that lifestyle is necessary to engage with it.  Almost anyone will be able to identify with the trials of young love and will enjoy digging into the visual feast that Edgar Wright has prepared here.

4. Tangled - This movie kicks off what may be the strongest top 4 since I've been making these lists (10 years by the way).  The year overall was fairly weak compared to years past but these four movies are transcendent.  It's well known that I am a softie and it's not hard for a movie to make me pull the "something in my eye" routine, but during the lantern scene in "Tangled" I didn't just tear up, I openly wept.  I'm fully aware my man card is likely to be revoked, but something about being a parent and seeing that expanse of lanterns each possibly representing a soul in a lost generation.... whew....    it still chokes me up.  Even apart from that one scene, the movie deftly alternates between hilarious slapstick (I still think the horse should have gotten an Oscar nod for best supporting actor) and clever plot moves that result in not one second of disconnect opportunity for the audience.

3. Toy Story 3 - If you've seen my office, it's probably no surprise that this movie would land in the top 5.  In fact, its likely more of a surprise, especially to those who know me best, that there were not only one, but two movies I would dare to rank higher than a Pixar flick.  It's a testament to the strength of these four movies that even as Pixar has crafted another gem from the toy box that it lands in the three slot.  Make no mistake, Toy Story 3 is a phenomenal film that rightly takes its place in the Pixar pantheon, and the incinerator scene alone is some of the best film making I've ever seen, but I'd rank it 6th amongst Pixar movies behind Nemo, Up, The Incredibles, and the other two Toy Stories.  I was glad to see it get such a push for a best picture Oscar (something an animated film will never win as long as they have their own ghettoized category) but I thought Up was probably Pixar's best shot at winning that award.  I'm a huge fan of this movie, but Pixar has set the bar so high that even greats like this can feel like they fall short.

2. How to Train Your Dragon - The best Pixar movie of the year.  Wait... What?  It's Dreamworks?  No, you must have read it wrong.  The depth of emotion, the intricate plotting, the beautiful animation, the lack of infantile humor, casting voices based on character instead of star power, there's no way the same people that made "Shrek" put this out.  John Lasseter must have snuck the script in under their door, right?  Brad Bird must have slipped directing notes to them or something.  Whatever the case, this movie is pure joy, and the "learning to fly" scene gave me as much giddy excitement as anything I've seen since Dash realized he could run on water.  If the other animation companies are finally catching on to what makes Pixar king I say, bring it on.    But I still think there's the outside chance Pixar gave this one to Dreamworks out of pity.

1. Inception - It's one thing when a director can carve out a niche and own a genre.  It's completely another when they create their own.  Christopher Nolan has somehow combined the Escher like imagination of Charlie Kaufman and the pop sensibilities of Steven Spielberg into a workable format for film.  Starting with "Momento", and then later with "The Prestige" you can sense his confidence growing to where "Inception" became inevitable.   What makes this movie the best of the year isn't that it bends brains (the structure of the plot device is actually pretty straight forward), it's that it weaves that complexity with nuance and emotion to the point that the payoff is much more than just a eureka moment, it's a cathartic release as well.  Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Leo Dicaprio, Joe Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page on your team either.  Despite much of the backlash I'm already seeing on this film, I truly believe 20 years from now it will be the film from this year that I most want to revisit.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Queue Tips: Red, Knight and Day

"Red" and "Knight and Day"  are extremely similar movies, so why did I like one so much more than the other?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: AT&T U-Verse Review

We signed up for AT&T's U-verse TV and Internet. The internet works great, the TV, uh.... yeah.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TV Tuesday: Doctor Who

Doctor Who may be the best show you aren't watching.  For a taste check out the new 8 minute short on Youtube!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Movie Review: The King's Speech

Should the King's Speech have won best picture?  I finally get around to seeing it and having an opinion.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My 41 Favorite TV Shows of All Time (2010)

TV shows are like your kids.  Sometimes they have good days, sometimes they have bad days, and if they're really good you just hope they don't get cancelled.

Ok, that last part is probably more for just TV shows.

Unlike my children, though, I have no problem playing favorites with my television.  And since it's the time of year to update my favorite 41 TV shows of all time list, the time has come for them to fall in line.

It's important to remember that I'm not saying these are the best shows of all time, just my personal favorites (with a little weight given to cultural importance).  First of all, I haven't seen some of the shows that many of my friends rave about.  That's why you won't see "The Sopranos", "Breaking Bad", or "Dexter" on here.  And second, tastes vary so much in TV land that with the expansive pool of shows to choose from there is plenty of room for disagreement.  It's also likely I simply forgot about a show that could have made the list, so please comment with your favorites that didn't make the cut. If you clue me into one I blanked on, I'll re-edit the list to rectify my amnesia.

Here is the list with each show followed by it's movement from last year.

1. Dick Van Dyke Show (+1)
2. LOST (-1)
3. The X-Files
4. Survivor
5. Doctor Who (+4)
6. Firefly (+1)
7. The Wire (*)
8. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (-3)
9. The Cosby Show (-3)
10. The Simpsons (-2)
11. Pushing Daisies (-1)
12. Quantum Leap (+1)
13. MacGyver (+3)
14. Futurama (+3)
15. Freaks and Geeks (-3)
16. Family Ties (+2)
17. Alias (-6)
18. 24 (-4)
19. Arrested Development (+1)
20. Star Trek (+1)
21. House (+1)
22. Friends (+7)
23. Malcolm in the Middle
24. I Love Lucy
25. The Office (US) (-6)
26. The Amazing Race (-11)
27. The Monkees (-2)
28. The Twilight Zone (-2)
29. Seinfeld (-2)
30. The Mole (-2)
31. Modern Family (*)
32. The Brady Bunch (-2)
33. CSI (-2)
34. Get Smart (-2)
35. Home Improvement (-1)
36. American Idol (-1)
37. So You Think You Can Dance (+3)
38. Mythbusters (-5)
39. King of the Hill (+2)
40. Fringe (*)
41. Monk (-2)


Fresh Prince of Bel Air - Watched an episode recently, not as good as I remember.  I think I was must have been entranced by the super fly theme song.

Extreme Home Makeover - As time has passed what I originally thought was a show about helping people has evolved into a weekly ode to materialism.

Jericho - I loved that universe (and the belated finale) but its short run is not deserving of this honor.

Did I miss anything?  Anything too high?  Anything too low?  Let's discuss, shall we?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Queue Tips: Wall Street, Nanny McPhee Returns, and Buried

Should any of these three movies be on your Netflix queue?  Well, that's kind of up to you, but here's what I think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: The Super 8 Trailer

What makes the perfect movie preview?  Well, having JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg behind it doesn't hurt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TV Tuesday: Survivor Redemption Island

Some thoughts on the new season of Survivor, Rob and Russell, and if Redemption Island works.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Movie Monday: The Adjustment Bureau

"The Adjustment Bureau" will certainly make you think, but will you enjoy it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorites of 2010: Top 10 TV shows

I love making lists.  Lists of things to do, lists of things I want, lists of the moments in each Pixar movie where I wept openly, you know basic lists.  But most of all I enjoy making favorites lists.  It's as if ranking things and getting them in the correct order somehow gives those things purpose.  As if they were just sitting there being all unranked and complicated, and my agile brain was up to the task of putting them in their proper place.  I even like to pretend that when I'm done they line up to thank me for my service, but that may actually be indicative of a deeper sickness.

Here in order from honorable mention to number 1 are the best TV Shows I saw during the calendar year 2010.  These shows are solely judged on new episodes that aired during the calendar year.

Honorable Mention: 

The Middle - I feel like 2010 ushered in a new era of great comedy TV, which is interesting because there isn't a single new comedy on this list.  But so many of these shows seem to be at the top of their game right now that it feels like a new movement.  The Middle is consistently funny and somehow finds a way to accurately portray life in a real middle America family without being overly condescending or cloying.  It plays it just over the top enough to get the laughs, but keeps it just enough grounded in reality that you feel like this could be your own family.  Though not quite as funny as many of the other comedies on this list, you walk away feeling warmer and more deeply fed after spending time in The Middle.

Parks and Recreation - The Thursday NBC block of comedies all come from the same genetic pool.  It could be the mockumentary style, or the over the top characters, but sometimes it's hard to decide where The Office ends and Parks begins.  This isn't a bad thing.  Parks is a good show on the verge of being a great show, and sticking to the formula is a big reason why.  I should also mention that casting Rob Lowe was a genius move that has given the show some new life and led to some of the funniest moments of the season.

The Event - This is the only show that debuted in 2010 to even make this list and it almost didn't (it's actually the only new show of 2010 that I even still watch).  The Event is a compelling mystery with very interesting plot points that suffers from a stone faced cast and characters that aren't extremely compelling or engaging.  Of notable exception is Jason Ritter, who alone is worth tuning in for, as he walks with us as a man as lost in the mystery as we are.  The problem is that with each new revelation the mystery looks less and less worth looking into at all.  Certainly compelling enough to land an honorable mention in 2010 but I doubt you'll see The Event anywhere on my 2011 list.

30 Rock - 30 Rock is one of the most well written shows on TV, which shouldn't be a surprise with Tina Fey at the helm.  The lines delivered on this show are some of the smartest and most pointed you are likely to hear and yet they are disguised as pure silliness.  It is, however, that same silliness that sometimes over extends its welcome and takes me out of a plot I was previously invested in.  If this show could find a way to ground itself a little more in reality it could be one of the greats.

The Office -  A great show that just had a lousy season.  Still well worth watching and laughing at, but the characters are starting to feel a little stale.  Yet, even if for no other reason than Ed Helm's portrayal of Mr. Andy Bernard, it's a show that still has a strong pulse.  As much as I love Carrel and Michael Scott, I think this show may actually benefit and find a way back to it's greatness with his departure.

So You Think You Can Dance - Nope. I don't. But I think these guys can.  Speaking of shaking things up and taking a risk.  Wow.  The show broke from it's old format and brought back former "So You Think You Can" dancers to partner with the contestants. The result was spectacular.  Even in a season plagued by injury, these guys and gals put in performance after performance that floored me.  This show consistently has solid judging and top notch hosting to compliment these amazing stories in movement, giving it the complete reality package.  

Castle - Nathan Fillion.  'Nuff said.

Survivor - Jeff Probst said in a recent blog post that Survivor has jumped the shark more often than any other show on TV, and he's right.  It's incredible how many times this show has taken a risk that seemed like it would ruin the show only to come out the other side kicking and more alive than ever.  Heroes vs. Villains was one of the most engaging and exciting seasons of all time.  So why, then, is the show only in Honorable Mention?  That would be Survivor: Nicaragua, a rare misfire in casting that left the show without any true stand out stars, and a bit hard to watch.  Still with the capable Probst at the helm and one of the best production teams on the planet, you know no matter how many sharks are jumped the show still has a shot to touch greatness.

The Simpsons - I really don't know what there is left to say about this powerhouse.  After being on the air for 22 seasons I think it's likely all been covered.  Though there is some truth to the idea that the show was at its best in the 6th-9th seasons, there really is a very minuscule difference in quality between then and now, or any season for that matter.  It's exactly that consistency in wit and satire that has woven this half hour of genius into our cultural fabric so completely.

The Top 10

10) The Sing Off - Committed's version of "Apologize" would rank as the biggest moment in television this year for me if it weren't for a certain island farewell.  I think we may have rewound and watched it at least three times (it's all foggy now, I was in some sort of euphoric haze).  Point being, a capella music, when done right, is some of the most powerful and impressive music in existence, and to do it live, and in the pressure of competition, wow, just, wow.  Even without Committed in the competition The Sing Off is still a good show (the best judges on reality TV led by the incomparable Ben Folds), but with them, it's a top 10 show.  I also want to take the time to commend the producers of the show on doing a short run series.  So many of these reality competition shows are packed full of filler (I'm looking at you Idol) that you forget how good something can be when it respects the value of your time.

9) Futurama - So good to have this crew back making new deliveries after several years off the air.  I was nervous that the move to cable would result in more boundary pushing and unnecessary vulgarity (a la South Park or The Family Guy) but the writers seem to be keeping it in check and relying mostly on their wit and intelligence to get the laughs. 

8) Fringe - Some shows, especially the Sci Fi ones, tend to find themselves stretching to remain interesting as the seasons go on, but Fringe really appears to be catching it's stride.  Beyond the monster of the week episodes that make it feel so much like the X-Files (I'm not complaining, I miss the X-Files, it's nice to have it back on TV) the dual universe conceit is providing some of the most compelling drama and thought provoking  stories I've ever experienced.

7) The Mentalist - Ensemble driven procedurals are a thing of the past, now it's the personality driven procedurals that are the template.  It's not just that our protagonist is great at his job, it's that he has so much fun and adds so much improvisation to it with his care free attitude.  And blast those rules,  if they get in his way, he will toss them to the side.  This is the first of three shows in my top 7 that follow that outline to the letter, so I guess that means it works with me.  In this case the underlying menace of the unknown villain Red John adds to the proceedings.

6) Lie To Me - What's amazing about Lie To Me, which is the 2nd of the personality driven procedurals on this list, is that the science of the show is almost as compelling as the stories and characters.  I say almost because of all the shows on this list, I think this one has made the largest strides season over season.  The latest episodes have been intense and compelling in both the way the characters have evolved and the way the stories progress.  If this show grows as much next year as it did this year, it may just be the best show on TV.

5) Community - The thing I admire most about this show is that it is completely fearless, and it requires the actors to be so as well.  Some of these story lines require such a commitment to the bizarre that to see it pulled off is a miracle.  Not to mention the depth of self reference, parody, and tribute that is built into each episode as part of a rif on pop culture tropes and movie genres.  Oh, and did I mention it's like really funny?  It is.

4) Modern Family - But not quite as funny as this one.  Modern Family week in and week out delivers the best guffaws on television.  These characters are so finely drawn and each play such a particular role that the plot lines and joke structures play like a symphony of hilarious.  Also, no character plays to the mockumentary camera better then the one, and the only, Phil Dunphy.

3) Doctor Who - Excuse me for giving into my nerdish tendencies on this one, but this show is pure glee endorphins for me.  Newcomer Matt Smith has embraced the role of the Doctor with such ferver and charm that I almost don't miss David Tennant (almost).  The true genius of this show though is in the newly anointed pen of Stevan Moffat, whose mind bending plot devices combined with the insanity of time travel make for some of the most brainy sci fi this side of the Dharma initiative.

2) House - The granddaddy of the personality driven procedurals continues to be the finest example of why the genre works.  Hugh Laurie's House somehow continues to subtly and genuinely evolve and at the same time remain the cranky amoral MD we've always known.  I'm not sure how long he can continue to misdiagnose patients so often and still be considered a leader in his field, but for however long it lasts I'll be watching. 

1) LOST - I'm on record both in the moment and after deliberation and a second viewing as saying the finale was a spectacular closing to one of the most ambitious and even courageous shows ever to land on network television.  I know, to many LOST failed to live up to its gigantic promise and solve each and every mystery, but for me it tied the story together in a way that was cathartic and emotionally satisfying.  The rememberings in the finale will remain some of the most touching moments I've ever seen on TV, and even now I miss the feeling of anticipating how the island would twist my brain each week.  As Jack's eye's closed for the final time, I felt like and incredible story had been told and I was just glad the storytellers took the time and energy to tell it to me.