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Best Shows of the Year

Shaun Harrison
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1 of 15 Mario Perez/ABC

Lost

Sure, Lost's time-tripping fifth season was the most difficult to follow (at times even we had headaches and nosebleeds), but it also provided many weighty moments for the characters we've grown to love. Sawyer took on a leadership role and gave his heart to Juliet; Hurley helped Miles reunite with his long-last father; Jack finally tested the water of being a man of faith; and John Locke is, well, still dead. Throw in the introduction of Jacob and the death of Daniel Faraday, and it's no wonder why we're so eagerly anticipating the next and final season.
2 of 15 Carin Baer/AMC

Mad Men

Viewers were shocked when the third season resumed in early 1963, but creator Matthew Weiner made the best of his surprise timeline. We not only got to watch the show's handling of JFK's assassination, but also the birth of a new Draper baby, the reveal of Don's darkest secrets, and ultimately the dissolution of the Draper marriage. Bryan Batt, Christina Hendricks and newcomer Jared Harris delivered stunning performances as we learned about the secret origins of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
3 of 15 Lewis Jacobs/AMC

Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston picked up his second straight Emmy for Season 2 of this itchily addictive AMC drama, which continued to chronicle a humble chemistry teacher's transition into a methamphetamine kingpin. Cranston carried the most weight, but this year also featured outstanding performances by Aaron Paul as White's partner in meth and Bob Odenkirk as a criminal lawyer who's a criminal lawyer. The final sequence, where Walt's every moral shortcoming comes crashing down from above, couldn't have been more artfully set up or delivered.
4 of 15 Eric McCandless/CBS

How I Met Your Mother

Five seasons in and this show is still awesome. Continuing to expand the limitations of a traditional multi-camera sitcom, Mother had a stellar year in which Barney and Robin finally got together, and offered the usual, time-jumping trickery and silliness along with surprisingly touching moments. It more than earned its first Emmy nomination for comedy series. If only there was a prize for best playful concealment of two actresses' pregnancies.
5 of 15 HBO

True Blood

True Blood seduced even more viewers with its record-breaking, out-there second season. Creator Alan Ball expanded the show's world beyond Bon Temps, to take viewers deeper into the vampire-hating cult, The Fellowship of the Sun, and the general vampire hierarchy. Meanwhile, those back in town were bewitched by a maenad who turned everyone into black-eyed nymphomaniacs. Somehow, weirder equaled better.
6 of 15 Trae Patton/NBC

The Office

After four seasons of waiting, The Office not only brought us a Jim and Pam wedding, but a pregnant Pam — guaranteeing us a whole new generation of stilted pauses, misfired pranks and helpless glances at the camera.
7 of 15 Randy Tepper/Showtime

Dexter

Seeing Dexter as a daddy was interesting, but most of the credit for Season 4's success goes to the delightfully creepy John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer. Serving as both a mentor and nemesis for Dexter, Lithgow returned the show to its roots after an entertaining but cartoonish guest spot by Jimmy Smits. Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) also had a weighty arc to play out, as she recovered from being shot and searched for the person who murdered her lover.
8 of 15 Craig Sjodin/ABC

FlashForward

On Oct. 6, 2009, the entire world blacked out and saw the future. Viewers will have to wait and see how everyone’s flash-forwards pan out, but the verdict is already in on this serial drama. The series is obviously reminiscent of Lost, but has worked to distinguish itself from its famed predecessor and become a nail-biter in its own right.
9 of 15 NBC

Southland

None of the cops on Southland pun about the bodies piling up around them, flirt with their partners, or solve mysteries with sexily arched eyebrows. They fail as often as they succeed, and that makes their successes feel all the more earned – and inspiring. NBC cancelled the show before its second season even aired, but TNT, lucky for us, is giving it another chance.
10 of 15 Prashant Gupta/FX

Sons of Anarchy

As Jax and Clay's personal battle ripped SAMCRO apart from the inside, an outside force (Adam Arkin as a white supremacist business man) pounded the club while it was down. Gemma's brutal gang-rape was heartbreaking, but seeing the club — and family — united was as satisfying as anything dramatic TV had to offer this season.
11 of 15 Danny Feld/ABC

Modern Family

The sitcom had a strong comeback year, but this one stood above the rest. From the gay couple adjusting to life as adoptive dads to the patriarch dealing with his hot, younger wife's stepson, each family unit was well-drawn and hilarious. The writing is sharp, allowing all the actors — even the kids — to grab laughs each week.
12 of 15 Eric Leibowitz/FX

Rescue Me

After a long 19-month break, Rescue Me roared back with its best season to date. The show felt creatively rejuvenated as it put the focus back on the firefighters and their struggles and fears in the aftermath of 9/11. Garrity battled cancer, Franco took heat for believing 9/11 was an inside job, and Tommy ended up with a bullet in his chest after pulling the entire Gavin clan off the wagon.
13 of 15 Fox

Lie to Me

This show survived being on the bubble after its midseason debut, and an off-season showrunner switch brought it back better than ever in the fall. Shawn Ryan (The Shield) made the show a little grittier, and used the procedural stories to delve deeper into the lives of his characters. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) becomes more fascinating to watch each week.
14 of 15 Bob Mahoney/The CW

Vampire Diaries

Based on a popular book series, this supernatural romantic thriller always kept us guessing. Since no character — human or vampire — is safe from death forever, each episode is incredibly unpredictable, and often hilarious. Damon's comic relief and the passion behind the Stefan-Elena romance remain this show's increasingly powerful lifeblood.
15 of 15 Carin Baer/Fox

Glee

Glee has captured the hearts of millions. There’s a character for everyone to relate to, whether its geeky gal Rachel, football jock Finn, unlucky-in-love Will or vulnerable bully Sue. Through music, Glee has been able to show that we don’t all fit into specific slots. Plus, the incredible set list has ushered in a new era of must-have iPod songs