Best Serials of 2010

We’re a week into 2011, which makes it the perfect time to look back at the year that was and provide a list of the best serials that entertained us in 2010.  Come on, it’s the internet.  You HAVE to list things.

5. LOST (TV Series)

This is going to be a controversial call for a lot of people.  But what’s the point of listing things if you can’t court controversy for the three minutes people are engaged on your blog?  Some are going to go nuts that LOST is only ranked number 5.  Others will be ranting and raving in the comments that LOST doesn’t even belong on the list.  But no matter where you fall on the quality of LOST’s final season, there’s no denying its cultural impact.

The LOST phenomenon captivated people around the globe compelling them to tune in week after week to watch the layers peel away in the countdown to the end.  And that my friends, is the perfect example of a serial working the way it should be.

Whether or not it was actually good storytelling or a satisfying ending is different questions.  (The answers to those questions are yes and very much no respectively.)  But we’re far enough removed from the show that I don’t think I need to get into it here.  That said, if anyone wants to disagree and try to convince me I’m wrong and that the end of LOST was a masterpiece, bring it on in the comments.  LOST may have disappointed me in the end like I knew it was going to, but I was compelled to watch regardless.  Which is what made it one of the best serials in a long time.

4. South Park: Coon and Friends (TV Series)

Here comes the list’s oddball choice.  But long time fans of South Park know exactly why this three part mini-event deserves its place on this list.  Was it hilarious?  Yes.  Did it drop bombshell revelations about the shows continuity?  Yes.  Was that extra weird and hilarious since South Park, out of all shows, has never cared about continuity at all?  Yes.  Do we all still laugh whenever somebody cries “MINTBERRRRRRY CRUNCH!”?  Yes.

For three glorious weeks, this mini-serial ratcheted up the insanity.  You may be surprised by this pick, but Captain Hindsight saw it coming a mile away.

3. Chew (Comic Series)

Chew: The best serial you’ve never heard of.  This Image comic tells the continuing story of FDA agent Tony Chu.  What makes him so special?  Well, Agent Chu is a cibopath.  Which basically means he gets psychic feedback from everything he eats.  If he eats a chicken parm hero, he’ll flash back to the poor chicken’s life, and maybe some of the prep that went into the cheese and sauce.  But Tony Chu solves murders (yes, for the FDA), so that means he’s biting into corpses and severed body parts to get to the bottom of various twisted mysteries.

And twisted is the best word you can use to describe this series.  It is MESSED.  UP.  Seriously.  It will make you gag.  It will make you cover your eyes.  And it will make you laugh.  A lot.

With great character work, a compelling overarching plot, and phenomenally styled art Chew is a highly recommended read.  The first three story-arcs have been collected and can be purchased through Amazon or finer book stores everywhere.  You won’t regret it.  After you’re done throwing up, you’ll start smiling and get ready to dig into the next volume.

2. The Walking Dead (Comic Series/TV Series)

This one is kind of a cheat, since this is a combined entry for two different serials with the same title.  But any way you look at it, it’s inescapable that this was the year of The Walking Dead.  Or at least a month and a half out of the year was dedicated to The Walking Dead with it’s too short, but massively successful first season.

The show is based on a popular (but less popular than the TV series) ongoing comic series written by Robert Kirkman.  And it’s good.  Seriously, if you’ve watched and enjoyed the series, you owe it to yourself to hunt down the first few collections of The Walking Dead.  You will devour them (pun very much intended).  2010 was the seventh year of the series and things have just been getting progressively darker and more dangerous.  The concept has proven to have a longevity no one could have expected, especially given the high mortality rate amongst the main cast.

The TV series has also been great.  Sure it’s had a few stumbles (including a bizarre season finale that came completely out of left field and didn’t really fit the tone of anything that came before it.  I’d actually say that it felt more hoky and dare I say “comic book-y” than anything in the ACTUAL comic book), but all in all it has proven to be a very strong adaption with a great ongoing narrative that should keep it on air for a long time.

But again, I want to plug the series from which it was spawned.  As good as the show was, The Walking Dead is ranking this high thanks to the strength of its print element.  So don’t miss out.

1. Mad Men (TV Series)

Lets get this out of the way.  Yes, Mad Men really is THAT good.  It deserves every award, every bit of critical acclaim, every article of in depth discussion written about it.  From the acting, to the writing, to the costume design, the show is flawless.  And this year, the ongoing story of Don Draper’s two worlds took its audience to new highs and more often, unexpected lows.

And can we just stop and talk about Joan Halloway?

But back to the show as a whole.  Year after year it has proven itself as the best period piece, the best character piece, and the most satisfying ongoing narrative on television.  If you haven’t started watching it yet, there’s plenty of time to catch up on the last few seasons.  The bombshell season finale has guaranteed that next year will be even better, and you don’t want to miss out.

So there you have it.  Our picks for the best serials of 2010.  Agree?  Disagree?  Dismayed over the omission of Weeds, The Amazing Spider-Man or your other favorite serial?  Let us know in the comments!

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Censorship Hits Huck Finn

I wanted to take a break from our festive-yet-mysterious holiday teaser campaign to briefly touch on something that just popped up in my twitter feed (even though by the time I write and publish this, that twitter news will be sooooo one hour ago).

According to Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life column, NewSouth Books is publishing a new edition of Mark Twain’s seminal classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that removes the usage of the words nigger and injun.  (Link here)

The article attributes the idea for this edition to Alan Gribben, an alleged “Twain expert” that somehow missed the whole point of the book despite claiming that title.

SPOILER ALERT for any of you whose only association with Huckleberry Finn is from the Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Brad Renfro generation defining classic Tom and Huck – the book is a caustic criticism of racism also noted for its powerful usage of regional and ethnic dialects as a key component of the work.

Yeah, the book drops the “N” word a lot, but there’s a point to it.  And an important context that is completely lost by whitewashing the text (please forgive the semi-intentional Tom Sawyer pun).

Huckleberry Finn is an important look at a time that is far removed but clearly still culturally relevant.  But neutering the work robs it of the important debates and discussions it prompts.  I still remember the first time I read “The Adventures of Huck Finn”.  It was a while after I had read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and I was assuming a similarly light-hearted affair from a book with a near-identical title, by the same author, featuring carryover characters.  Not so much.

The first thing I was struck by was how DIFFICULT it was to read the book.  I had no idea what anyone was saying.  Twain’s masterful use of dialects made the book a real challenge to get into, and as we worked through the text in class it became clear to me just why that was so important.  As we began dissecting the subtexts and the more overt messages of the book, it became abundantly clear that Huck Finn was an entirely different beast than Tom Sawyer.  Just because they were friends, doesn’t mean they were on the same level.

I don’t want to turn this into any more of a book report than I already have, so I’ll stop here and stress the point that censoring “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” does more damage to any alleged progressive, anti-hate agenda than letting kids see words like “nigger” and “injun” in print.  It is important to let texts like this stand proud for what they are and what they have accomplished.  New generations need to confront concepts like this, and fully understand how important they still are today.

So what do YOU think?  Are the cries of censorship an overreaction?  Are we as a society becoming too concerned with coddling, pandering, and political correctness and ruining the touchstones that have made the American cultural machine what they are?  Let us know in the comments!