2009: Year in review: Television 

So good that this may well go down as the best year of television ever. Not kidding.

So good that I'm going to have to spend the first part of 2010 catching up on shows I've liked in the past, but didn't have time to watch this year (Dexter, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Breaking Bad, Entourage, South Park).

So good that at least 30 shows are worth putting in the Top 10.

And so good that even quality new shows like The League (on FX) and legacy series like Survivor (which is in the midst of a great season right now) won't make that list.

But here's what does:

1) Mad Men (AMC). Simply one of the greatest dramas ever, Mad Men serves as both a period piece and a commentary on contemporary morals and ethics. Watching the characters live through the Kennedy assassination was every bit as stirring as the finale, in which Sterling Cooper's principals slipped out to start their own ad agency. No one — neither the characters nor the viewers — saw that coming.

2) Men of a Certain Age (TNT). Three forty-something friends navigate middle age in this series that's both low-key comedy and drama and feels incredibly real.

3) Modern Family (ABC). Consistency delightful sitcom about three interconnected families. There seem to be at least five laugh-out-loud moments in each episode, and just as much heart.

4) Thursday night sitcoms (NBC). I'll say it: The foursome of Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock is NBC's best Thursday night lineup ever. There's no weak link (no Night Court, no Wings), and both The Office and 30 Rock can stand alongside Cheers and Seinfeld in the pantheon of classic TV comedies.

5) Glee (Fox). Ryan Murphy's show got progressively more outlandish as it went on, but the combination of intricate choreography, high school histrionics and Jane Lynch still made for a winning combination.

6) Hung (HBO). Thomas Jane's role as a man who's, well, hung, played as both funny and poignant.

7) The National Parks (PBS). Ken Burns painted another masterpiece, this time a six-part, 12-hour look at how our national park system developed. Burns found just the right people to tell the story and framed the battle of environmentalists vs. developers beautifully.

8) Californication (Showtime). The antics of writer, sex machine and now professor Hank Moody (David Duchovny) continued to be hilariously entertaining.

9) The Big Bang Theory (CBS). This smart, funny sitcom about nerdy geniuses and the girl who sometimes loves one of them gets smarter and funnier each week.

10) The Middle (ABC). The nicest surprise of the season, this sitcom looks at an extremely average Indiana family struggling to get by. The parents make mistakes, the kids are unexceptional and the show is a worthy successor to Roseanne.

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