Unique plot lines mean stellar year in television

Robert Rich

2009 was a stellar year for television — evidence that writers were truly happy not to be on strike.

As a result, the year saw almost every story line imaginable in the top tier of TV programming: A reality show returned to the forefront thanks to a controversial new participant, new dramas made their presences known through blackouts, high school kids singing Kanye West, and a faithfully seminal piece of mind-blowing excellence upped the ante to produce its best season yet.
It was a hell of a year, and The Daily Texan salutes the top 10 television shows of 2009.

1. “Lost”
The end date had been set, there was no writer’s strike and the Oceanic Six were on a collision course with destiny.
The fifth season of the show that has had a stranglehold on the imaginations of those faithful to it was its best, albeit most confusing, yet. Answers were finally revealed, time travel was finally discussed in an interesting way, and even haters were finally forced to admit that no one writes like the team from “Lost.”
The show begins its final season in February and, if the fifth season of 2009’s top TV show is any indication, “Lost” will be right back in this spot next year.

2. “Glee”
By far the season’s best new show, “Glee” has taken that wannabe performer in all of us and given it a spotlight, while also making high school drama kids cool again.
Equal parts comedy, soap opera and musical, “Glee” is responsible for talk of phantom pregnancies, confused football players and their homoerotic tendencies and a rendition of “Gold Digger” that’ll have Taylor Swift interrupting Kanye to talk about who really is the best of all time.

3. “30 Rock”
Tina Fey’s SNL-inspired sitcom is, and has been for the last three years, the best comedy on television, bar none.
Fey and Alec Baldwin, who is doing his best work in many years, play off each other perfectly, and supporting cast members like Tracy Morgan and Jack MacBrayer add to the show’s mystique and originality.

4. “Mad Men”
Believe the hype.
The AMC drama about advertising in the 1960s may be all the rage among hipsters and university types, but it’s the real deal. A unique visual style, historical authenticity and ever-evolving archetypes have all lent to “Mad Men’s” quick ascension to the top of the TV landscape. And it doesn’t look like it’s coming down anytime soon.

5. “Dexter”
Showtime’s provocative series surrounding a covert serial killer working for the Miami Police Department (don’t worry, he kills people that deserve it) has maintained a steadily increasing level of brilliance since its inception.
The show’s placement on premium cable allows it more leeway with what it can show and what it can say, and with a topic as gruesome as “Dexter,” it’s needed.

6. “FlashForward”

Admit it or not, this ABC drama owes its existence to “Lost.”
But, by God, it has run with the concept and taken it in marvelous new directions. Rapidly improving writing and constant plot twists serve to keep viewers off balance and make “FlashForward” one of the season’s best new programs.

7. “Top Chef”
Top Chef is tasty. Interesting contestants, great new challenges and a fantastic Las Vegas locale all help to make this season the show’s best yet.

8. “Modern Family”
The single-camera comedy finally hit the big-time with “Scrubs” in 2001, but few shows apart from “The Office” have fully mastered the format.
Until now. “Modern Family,” which revolves around the branches of a single family and those that married or dated into it, follows the mockumentary format championed by “The Office.” Like “Scrubs,” it relies on quick wit and outrageous situations to achieve its goals.

But don’t let all the comparisons fool you — “Modern Family” is unique in its own right. Buoyed by critical acclaim, hopefully it will stick around.

9.“Big Bang Theory”
CBS’ top sitcom (screw “Two and a Half Men”) about dorky science nerds has operated under the radar since its premiere, but the show’s smart writing — and the fact that it doesn’t feature Charlie Sheen — has catapulted it into the public consciousness.

Well-researched topics and plot angles that haven’t been recycled a million times are allowing “Big Bang Theory” to reinvent the traditional sitcom, and the results are out of this world.

10. “American Idol”
America’s favorite reality singing competition began a rapid decline two years ago after the departure of Chris Daughtry. A revamped format and what producers hoped was a fresh approach were put in place this year to save the flagship program.
In reality, it was controversial glam rocker Adam Lambert that did the saving. Lambert’s off-the-wall antics, insane vocal range and intriguing song choices single-handedly attracted viewers and put “Idol” back on the right track.