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Originally published Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 7:00 PM

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Top 10 TV shows of 2010 — plus two

"The Good Wife," "Mad Men," "Community" and "Modern Family" lead the list of the year's best television shows, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tonight in Prime Time

Next time you want to hurl a brick at the TV, either turn it off or maybe consider giving one of these top series a try, either on TV or DVD:

1. "The Good Wife"(CBS): This legal drama offers TV's most potent mix of procedural stories, character drama, family drama and even political intrigue as it chronicles the lives of lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), her politician husband (Chris Noth) and a cast of fully formed secondary characters.

2. "Mad Men"(AMC): As much a psychological thriller as it is a period drama, this series continues to uncover new facets of its characters.

3. "Community"(NBC): This season the Thursday-night comedy has grown into its own, relying more on laughs that originate with viewers' knowledge of the characters than on situations.

4. "Modern Family"(ABC): We relate to the characters in this series because it's like looking in a mirror: We see ourselves and our foibles in the misadventures of three different types of families, and we have no choice but to laugh.

5. "The Middle"(ABC): One of the only shows on TV that attempts to portray a relatable, middle-class lifestyle, "The Middle" does so with recognizable humor, mostly stemming from the Heck family's three children: slacker Axel (Charlie McDermott); optimistic, failure-prone Sue (Eden Sher); and bookworm Brick (Atticus Shaffer).

6. "Breaking Bad"(AMC): "Breaking Bad"feels real, gritty and dangerous as Walt (Bryan Cranston) tries to manage his life as a drug dealer, father, husband and in-remission cancer patient.

7. "Spartacus: Blood & Sand"(Starz): Although it began as a blood-soaked, over-the-top gladiator spectacle, "Spartacus"eventually settled down to become an above-average serial drama with strong performances, especially by Lucy Lawless and John Hannah.

8. "The Walking Dead" AMC): The short, six-episode first season didn't allow a lot of time for character development but it did create a believable, grounded post-apocalyptic world where you can be fishing with your sister one minute and preparing to put a bullet in her zombiefied brain the next.

9. "Terriers"(FX), "Lone Star"(Fox) and "Rubicon" (AMC): Viewers failed to show up for these three low-rated but quality TV shows: the well-reviewed gumshoe comedy-drama "Terriers," the con-man drama "Lone Star" and spy drama "Rubicon."

10. "Glee"(Fox): Yes, it's a schizophrenic series with an ever-changing tone and a penchant for gross hypocrisy — preaching "don't make fun of people who are different" even as "Glee" uses its oddball characters for comic fodder — but it's also one of the most entertaining, drop-dead funny shows on TV (thank you, Brittany).

Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com.

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