2010 my year in television

I get so annoyed by the TV naysayers.  There is an amazing amount of truly top-notch entertainment being created for television these days.  Sure, there’s a ton of crap, but lots of books are a ton of crap, too.  It’s a rare novel that offers as much in terms of thoughtful story and character development as a series like Mad Men or The Wire.  Anyway, I’ve watched a lot of TV this year (not all of it created this year) and I felt like my favorites deserved a shout-out.  In semi-meaningful order:

  • Mad Men.  Best Christmas present of 2009– my little sister gave me Mad Men Season 1 on DVD, which finally got me to start watching it. Simply brilliant.  I’m up through season 3 now (I’m planning on watching season 4 of my DVR next month).  I’m consistently amazed at just how smart this show is.  For a long time, I was thinking I would place it just below the Wire.  Now I consider it my co all-time favorite.  Bascially, as far as TV dramas go, I’d say there’s Mad Men, the Wire, and The Sopranos and then everything else.
  • 30 Rock.  Damn this show is funny.  Just the other day, David asked me, “how come some TV shows are so much better than the others?” My answer: “the writers.”  And Alec Baldwin :-).  I didn’t start watching this until season 2 and I’ve now caught most of Season 1 on Netflix.  So good.  My favorite TV quote of the year: Jack and Avery’s Christmas card: “Happy Holidays is what terrorists say.  Merry Christmas, Avery and Jack.”
  • Modern Family.  Along with 30 Rock, these two are completely in a class by themselves when it comes to intelligent comedy.  Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy ain’t quite Alec Baldwin, but its damn good.
  • Lost.  Didn’t miss an episode in the 6 season run.  Just pure entertainment.  I know the sci-fi aspects lost some, but as I love sci-fi, not an issue for me.  And what a crush I have on Matthew Fox :-).  The surprise ending at the end of Season 3, remains pretty much my personal favorite moment of TV ever.
  • Breaking Bad.  This show is really good and so gets the critical love.  I do really enjoy it, but it is so close to being truly outstanding, that it’s weaknesses really frustrate me.  This show is an amazing character study of a high school chemistry teacher (and his junkie partner) turned drug kingpins, but almost every episode there’s something so lazily written it might have come right out of CSI.  Still, better than 95% of what else is on TV.  Looking forward to hitting season 3 after I make it through Mad Men season 4.
  • HBO Sunday Night.  Loved Boardwalk Empire.  Amazing production values and acting and a fascinating time and place. This is what inspired me to finally learn more about Prohibition.  After a slow start, Bored to Death totally grew on me.  It just needed to embrace itself as absurdist farce.  Eastbound and Down was a bit of a let-down after the brilliant season 1, but still had some terrific moments.
  • Last, some disappointments.  I started out as a big Glee fan, but I feel that this show used up almost all its original creative energy in the first 10 episodes or so.  I had to give up on it early in the 2nd season.  Sure, the musical numbers are great, but that’s not enough.  The plots became silly and redundant.  And, the Office– oh, how the mighty have fallen.  More often than not, just boring.  It’s sad to see a show that was once so good, stick around long after all the creative juices have clearly been used up.


    How not to write a textbook

    Interesting story in the Post about how the Virginia history textbook used across state high schools is rife with errors. They have an on-line quiz, and some of these errors really seem pretty minor, i.e., the month in 1865 that the 15th amendment was ratified (I got 5 of 8, by the way).  I was even willing to forgive them being off a full year on the first Battle of Bull Run, but I’m not feeling so charitable after the Post pointed out why the text was under such a thorough review:

    These are among the dozens of errors historians have found since Virginia officials ordered a review of textbooks by Five Ponds Press, the publisher responsible for a controversial claim that African American soldiers fought for the South in large numbers during the Civil War….

    The review began after The Washington Post reported in October that “Our Virginia” included a sentence saying that thousands of black soldiers fought for the South. The claim is one often made by Confederate heritage groups but rejected by most mainstream historians. The book’s author, Joy Masoff, said at the time that she found references to it during research on the Internet. Five Ponds Press later apologized.

    Based on the standards of internet research used in the writing of this text (hey, it’s on some webpage, it must be true!), many of my students may have a lucrative career in writing texts.

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