Every top 10 list, I like to say, is really a top-9 list plus a 15-way tie for 10th place. Putting together my lists of best episodes and best series this year, there were plenty of shows that could have easily made the list had I finalized it on a different day. There are also plenty of shows that, while they weren’t necessarily top 10 material this year—maybe they didn’t have a standout season, maybe they’re not great but consistently good—are a steady source of pleasure.
We call these shows The Dependables. After the jump, a by no means complete list of Dependables for 2008:
Friday Night Lights. This could easily have been a top 10 show this year. Season 3 (which aired on DirecTV and is coming this winter to NBC) stepped back from the melodrama of season 2, gave moving send-offs to graduating characters Street and Smash, and retained its clear eyes and full heart.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Not sure if this will ever make my top-10 list, but I can always rely on this FX sitcom to go there and find the laughs.
The Daily Show. It had been eclipsed by Colbert lately, but starting somewhere in the summer the election gave it new life and produced some of its funniest bits in a long while. (The reporters trying to make RNC delegates say the word “choice” in reference to Sarah Palin was brilliant, where the roving-correspondent segments often fall flat.)
The Office. Again, could have been a top 10, and with a non-strike-shortened season probably would have been. Veers from slapstick to pathos like no other comedy on today.
30 Rock. Ditto—but for the strike, it might have made my list, and it’s had some strong episodes since returning at the end of October.
How I Met Your Mother. Playing with story structure and time within a traditional three-camera format, it’s the Lost of sitcoms.
House Hunters. I don’t care if there’s a housing bust or not. Sit me in front of HGTV when they’re marathoning this (or, especially, House Hunters International) and I may never get up.
South Park. Few real standout episodes this season, but still a TiVo staple here.
The Venture Brothers. An undersung (by me, for one), surprisingly ambitious Adult Swim standard.
Top Chef. Project Runwho?
I could go on. Maybe later I will. But it’s your turn. What TV could you depend on in 2008?