TC Top Ten: Television

10. Breaking Bad

The gradual descent into darkness of high-school teacher turned meth dealer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is the harrowing antithesis of 1 Thessalonians 5:22. It is addictive. There is nothing like this show in the history of television.

9. The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin’s latest show is classic Sorkin. Divisive. Moments of brilliance punctuated with banality. Mostly, though, it has the kind of firecracker dialogue that represents the world you wished you lived in. Spoiler alert: Sorkin doesn’t like the Tea Party. However, if you can tolerate a transparent political agenda, this show is a fascinating look into the sphere that shapes the world we live in by telling us what is worth thinking about.

8. New Girl

Once this show stopped coasting on Zooey Deschanel’s cuteness and started letting Schmidt (Max Greenfield) run wild, it really took off. Dude is funny. New Girl absolutely nails the twentysomething generation of non-ironic irony and ambitious apathy. Watch this if you know anyone who shops at Urban Outfitters.

7. Modern Family

It is a rare feat for a sitcom to be a hit with critics and audiences. Quirky, moving and hilarious, Modern Family has perfected the mockumentary formula.

6. Downton Abbey

Wonderful sets, costumes and storylines make early 20th-century English aristocracy seem both desirable and detestable. Acting so great, so nuanced, it will make you root for “cousins” to get married, and make you wish death upon a lowly footman.

5. Dexter

The darkest show on television is not for everyone. The penultimate season of Dexter finds our serial-killing protagonist beginning to realize that his actions, whether he wants them to or not, affect others. This show could be a warning against secular humanism: Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) has constructed his own reality and value system and believes himself to be completely sovereign. Yet in his truly honest moments of reflection, Dexter acknowledges a power outside himself, and the fate that awaits him.

4. The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert and his writing staff continue to pioneer humorous territory I never knew existed. As a Catholic, he regularly covers religious stories, but unlike its parent program, The Daily Show, the jokes are not always directed at the right. Who knew over-the-top silliness could end up being intelligently hilarious?

3. The Walking Dead

With the abundance of zombie lore available, this show stands above the rest. Its unique take on how someone becomes “a walker” is eerily similar to sin: it’s inside all of us, waiting to come out. Season 3 sees our intrepid group of survivors clash with other survivor establishments. Many themes are explored in unique ways: family, loyalty, government, human nature and more. Don’t watch episode four unless you are prepared to cry (and wince).

2. 30 Rock

Any missteps in Season 6 are long forgotten in this beloved show’s seventh (and final) season. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin play such silly ends of the political spectrum (left and right, respectively) that it frames a wonderful meta-analysis of any and every issue that arises, including, this year, the propaganda onslaught of the 2012 election. 30 Rock probably has more JPM (jokes per minute) than any other show on television.

1. Homeland

When you get spoofed by Saturday Night Live, you know you’ve made it. The acting on Homeland lives up to the hype. Plus, Christians might resonate with Homeland on an additional level: Claire Danes’ flawed character, a C.I.A. officer, is privy to information that the world desperately needs, but frequently rejects. Sound familiar?

TC's 2012 Top Ten series also includes John J. Thompson on music, Drew Dixon on video games and Josh Larsen on movies.

Matthew Pittman is finishing up his MDiv at Fuller Seminary, focusing on Theology & Culture. He lives with his wife Victoria and their dog Sir Winston Fur Chill. When he does occasionally blog, he does so here. / Illustration by Schuyler Roozeboom.

Comments (2)

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Surprised at the inclusion (and high rank) of Dexter. I thoroughly enjoyed a few seasons of the show (1, 2 and 4 especially) but the last few have underwhelmed.

Also, I’m sad that Parenthood didn’t make the list—it took me a while to warm up to the show, but it’s now the only thing on network TV that I look forward to watching. The show rides on the strength of its actors, but I think the writing has really blossomed into something great this season, as well.

Dexter got the nod (in my mind) because of the chances they took this season. For me, every “what if” has been played out… well, a lot of them.

Parenthood is a great show. Oddly enough, I can’t get into it because it is too realistic, dramatic, unnerving, etc. My wife and I look at each other during almost every scene with a glance that says, “I think we have had that EXACT conversation!” So for me, it almost feels more like a documentary than fiction. Anyway, that is the beauty of lists—difference of opinion sparks good questions!

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