Fact: Seven of these 10 entries are comedies. These are the days when we all need a good laugh, no?
Community (NBC)—This sitcom about a motley crew of community college students who bond through a study group is the "appointment viewing" of the year, enough to rival Mad Men. The movie spoofs and meta jokes are endlessly creative, touching and sure-fire funny. And the cast is superb.
Breaking Bad (AMC)—New Mexico meth maker Walt White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) is neck-deep in big trouble, just the way we like him. Television's best suspense, and definitely best cliff-hangers, no contest.
Mad Men (AMC)—Divorce doesn't agree with New York ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) as the British Invasion takes hold of post-JFK America. His drinking has worsened, and his business and personal life are in shambles. His cool faade has major cracks. So where is this all going? Like you, I can't wait to find out.
Louie (FX)—Comedian Louis C.K. is a good guy with a great eye for New York City and a twisted view of the world. It's a place where hipster-infested coffee shops are just as toxic to middle-age divorced dads as loud nightclubs where the girls find you icky. In other words, welcome to the ugly truth made hilarious—and illuminated in surprisingly thoughtful ways.
30 Rock (NBC)—Tina Fey's creation about the dysfunctional cast, crew and corporate overseers of a fictional late-night sketch comedy shows has the funniest one-liners, delivered with impeccable timing by the likes of Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. Literally, this show is laugh-a-minute, and keeping up with it actually takes a bit of (rewarding) work.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)—This series about organized crime in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era explores how dirty dealings built this great nation with the epic cinematic ambition of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. And it's nearly as classic.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart/ The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)—I'm calling this a tie so I can include both without driving myself nuts trying to decide which show is "better." Who cares? They both provide the same priceless function: Catching the news that most "news" organizations miss, while providing much-needed comic relief from it at the same time. That's no mean feat, four nights a week.
Bored to Death (HBO)—Jason Schwartzman plays Jonathan, a struggling novelist who stumbles into a life as a private detective. But this comedy is really about a small group of friends (Schartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson) male-bonding in metrosexual Brooklyn. The actors have great chemistry. Danson deserves an Emmy for his hilarious take on harmless, stoned, middle-age vanity as magazine publisher George Christopher, my favorite character.
Men of a Certain Age (TNT)—That Ray Romano sure knows how to make a TV show. In yet other great male-bonding series, nothing earth-shattering ever really happens, but the actors and writers for this personally identifiable comedy-drama make you care about the everyday stuff, without being corny about it. Having Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula in the cast doesn't hurt.
Caprica (SyFy)—Consider this a protest vote. How dare SyFy cancel this engrossing prequel to Battlestar Galactica for "poor ratings"? What else have they got—Ghost Hunters? Sheesh.