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Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tune In: A glance back at 2010

December 30, 2010

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TruTV continues its “Top 20 Most Shocking” (9 p.m., TruTV) with “Practical Jokers Gone Wild 3.” This series comes from Nash Entertainment, pioneers and long purveyors of reality and shock-umentary programming. Perhaps most famous for the long-running “Before They were Stars” franchise and “Breaking the Magicians Code” specials, they also brought us such memorable moments as “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” and the “Glutton Bowl.”

While we’re talking “Glutton Bowl,” perhaps it’s time to look back at the year in television. For the networks, 2010 was notable more for departures than arrivals. This was the year we saw the final episodes of “Law & Order,” “24” and “Lost,” as well as the final “American Idol” featuring Simon Cowell.

The fall season of 2010 will not be remembered for many admirable new series. “Lone Star,” the best of the lot, was canceled first and canceled quickly. “$! My Dad Says” and “Mike and Molly,” among the worst, have survived. The success of the remarkably unremarkable “Hawaii Five-O” speaks volumes about CBS’ ability to play it safe for a dependable, if older audience. An honorable mention must go to “Raising Hope,” a new Fox comedy more critically admired than watched. Let’s hope it survives to become a sophomore hit, like ABC’s “Modern Family.”

With network TV in a bit of a ditch, I have to turn to premium cable for the year’s best and worst new shows. This was the year HBO outdid the competition. With shows like “Mad Men,” Breaking Bad,” “Justified,” “Damages” and “Men of a Certain Age” vying for the attention of its audience, HBO returned to former glory with “Boardwalk Empire,” a lavish, expensive, well-written and rewarding series filled with great performances. Most notably, “Empire” doesn’t show the 1920s as an excuse for costumes and sets, but depicts a complex period not unlike our own, coming to grips with its own past — from the lingering wounds of the just-concluded World War I to the fading memories of aging Civil War veterans, who were the “Greatest Generation” of their time. Like “Mad Men,” “Empire” stands out as a work of literature might on a bookshelf of genre novels and comic books.

And HBO’s “Temple Grandin” was also the best of the vanishing field of TV movies.

Many candidates vie for worst-of-the-year status. A show like “Bridalplasty” seems to have worked that notion right into its publicity plans. But for sheer pretentiousness, wasted talent and exasperating smarminess, I have to nominate Showtime’s “The Big C.” For squandering a strong cast with smug, unbelievable dialogue and for trivializing a serious subject, “The Big C” wins the dubious achievement hands down.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The gang rings in a new year on “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Avery becomes jealous of Liz on “30 Rock” (7:30 p.m., NBC).

• A mother falls under suspicion on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• The 2010 British TV movie “When Harvey Met Bob” (8 p.m., BBC America) offers a dramatic re-creation of the forces behind 1985’s “Live Aid” concert.

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