J’s Top 10 Performances of 2010

… and the Top 10 Worst too!


So the ranking continues! Today we cover the ten best performances of the year, a list exclusively saved for regular characters (and one TV movie star), who’s day job is putting on great performances as their characters. There were a lot of great performances in 2010, forming this list of ten was harder than the last few, there were so many worthy performances.

10. Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard on Lost – There was something different about Jack this season – he began dejected as his plan to change the future failed and Juliet lost her life, and over the course of the season we watched as Jack accepted his fate to become the next protector of the Island and came to realize that everything he once opposed, everything that Locke had stood for had been true; he evolved as a character and Fox evolved with him. Matthew Fox has always been a solid member of the Lost ensemble, but this year for the first time he stood out far and above.

9. Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert & Katherine Pierce on The Vampire Diaries – I can’t imagine a dual role would be easy for anyone, especially with the vastly different parts of Katherine and Elena; but Dobrev nails both of them. As Elena she’s good, she hit all her emotional marks and not succumbing to overacting. But as Katherine, Dobrev’s outstanding. I literally feel as if I’m watching another actress take on nasty villain (and Elena’s vampire ancestor) Katherine.

8. Alison Brie as Annie Edison & Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley Bennett on Community – Brown plays Shirley as possibly TV’s most confident and unapologetic (and still very likable) Christians. With a split second shift in tone Brown’s Shirley can go from sweet to sassy, her secret weapon is her dazzling array of voices. Brie is turning into one of TV funniest physical comediennes, earning her spot on the list for the chloroform scene alone. I constantly look forward to everything Annie, her new bag dance (from the Chicken Fingers episode) to the look on her face when she popped out of the trash can in the bathroom ambush scene from Modern Warfare.

7. Anna Gunn as Skyler White on Breaking Bad – Season 3 was Skyler’s season. It was an honour to watch Anna Gunn’s Skyler breaking bad. This season she went downright nasty; with three words she was able to destroy her estranged husband (I.F.T. if you know it, good, if not it’s too good to spoil) and watching her spin her improvised lie of Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) supposed gambling addiction to her sister was like watching a prodigy at work. Cranston is the best actor on TV deservedly winning 3 back-to-back Emmys and Aaron Paul ‘s performance finally got him the Emmy he deserved, but for some reason there was no love for Gunn this year. If Skyler’s meeting with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and her argument for purchasing the car wash showed us anything, it’s that Gunn is just getting started.

6. Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife – Panjabi is easily the breakout performance of the year. Her Kalinda is TV’s greatest enigma; watching do her job is seeing her at her best, using everything in her arsenal to get what she wants. Normally we see Kalinda on the offense, disarming with a smile or intimidating with a glare, but with the season 2 addition of nemesis Blake Calamar (Scott Porter) we get to see Kalinda cover new ground, and when Kalinda is on the defensive Panjabi is enthralling.

5. Sandra Oh as Dr. Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy – Who would have thought that Oh would be her best when Yang isn’t cutting? Sandra Oh’s performance of a doctor suffering from severe PTSD is one of the main agents of Grey’s creative renaissance. Whether slinging drinks in Joe’s, fishing with Derek or generally avoiding surgery Oh is always at her finest. I especially love her tense encounters with estranged best-friend Meredith.

4. Claire Danes as Temple Grandin in Temple Grandin – The last time I thought Danes was good in anything was as a regular on ABC’s 1994 series My So-Called Life. To say she’s simply good as Grandin is a severe understatement, she’s uncanny – she essentially becomes Grandin (at times throughout the film I forgot it was Danes). She’s in pretty much every scene, and commands the screen at all times even earning a much deserved Emmy. She’s flawless, embracing Grandin’s ticks and quirks, even changing the tone of her voice. On the same level of biographical portrayal as Jamie Foxx’s Ray and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote.

3. Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Batiste-Williams on Treme – Alexander stands out amongst Treme’s mega-talented ensemble. In 2010 we followed LaDonna on her 2006 (just post Katrina) quest to find the truth about her missing brother. She was a character of many faces; the sultry barkeep, the protective mother, the amicable ex-wife, the loyal daughter, and the grieving sister and Alexander was a pro at each one. I can’t see where season 2 will take LaDonna but whatever it is Alexander will nail it.

2.  Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men & Danny McBride as Kenny Powers on Eastbound & Down – Though their mediums were different Hamm and McBride offered brilliant twin portraits of loneliness, addiction, delusion and ultimately redemption. Don Draper spent his fourth season alone and depressed, hell bent on using his vices and addictions (booze, ladies, smoke, etc..) to either take away his pain or his life. Whether it’s the drunk making an ass of himself at an awards ceremony, or the father fighting for his children; Hamm was perfect, he gave 100% all the time. Powers’ second season was spent picking up the pieces of his life, deeper invested into his delusions. In Mexico, Powers confronted his father (Don Johnson) played minor league ball and even fell in love and had his heart broken. Throughout all this we got to watch him learn lessons in family and humility, and was set on the path to becoming a real human being. Kenny Powers and Learning – not exactly PB and J – but McBride was superb. Though Mad Men’s quality may have afforded Hamm the single best performance of the year (The Suitcase and Tomorrowland alone), McBride in a quarter of the time was equally as moving, dedicated and convincing.

1. The Fringe Team: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson as Olivia Dunham, Fauxlivia Dunham, Walter Bishop, Walternate Bishop, Peter Bishop and Olivia’s Peter Bishop Hallucination on Fringe – 3 people, 6 different characters – colour me impressed. The core of Fringe’s cast are the tightest team of performers on TV and together they give us the year’s finest performance. These three actors, when engaged onscreen together have the greatest chemistry and constantly make each other better. Joshua Jackson is severely underrated subtle performance was fantastic as Peter came to terms with his past and who he is. Noble was pitch perfect as the often childish, but brilliant Walter. In 2010 he started to emerge from the fog of his mind and accept responsibility for his actions. And while Noble and Jackson’s second characters were glimpses, Torv played two complete (or four if you’re this guy who’s not entirely wrong) fully realized people. Both O and Faux – livia were conflicted and complex characters, but in terms of personality, they were night and day, and like Dobrev, Anna Torv was not one but two forces to be reckoned with.

Honorable mentions go to Timothy Olyphant – Damages, Mae Whitman and Dax Shepherd – Parenthood, Chris Colfer – Glee, Campbell Scott – Damages, Iffran Khan – In Treatment, Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead, Scott Caan – Hawaii 5-O, Amy Poehler  – Parks and Recreation and the entire Modern Family cast.

The Top 10 Worst Performances of 2010

The following ten people just spent the better part of the year rubbing me the wrong way. Now even though this list is the worst performances, I don’t blame the actor entirely. It’s the crucial combination of casting, writing, directing, and acting that totals in my mind, a performance.

10. Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester on Glee. There’s nothing gleeful about Mr. Schuester; to me he’s simply  a one dimensional inspirational-teacher type. I never understand his motivations and I don’t think Morrison does him either.  He spent the first chunk of Glee mostly rapping (just the worst) and since that stopped he’s only been singing adult contemporary. To put it simply – Give me Holly Holiday over Mr. Shue any day.

9. Shane West as Michael on Nikita. Insanely miscast. West lacks that physical bravado that an action man requires – and even though his fighting skills are killer – he looks like a hobbit next to statuesque Maggie Q.

8. Lauren Velez as Captain Maria LaGuerta on Dexter. I will say I believe Velez tried her best and that it’s the way LaGuerta’s written that makes her suck so hard. I doubt even Meryl could make good with LaGuerta, the most ineffectual (non corrupt) police person in TV history.

7. Will Estes as Jamie Reagan on Blue Bloods. Jamie, the youngest of the Reagan brood also comes across as the most wooden and unrelatable of the bunch; It doesn’t help that his character is one of those Ryan Atwood martyr types.

6. Jessica Szohr as Vanessa Abrams on Gossip Girl. A complete waste of a spot on Gossip Girl’s regular  cast (along with complete wastes of space Rufus and Jenny Humphrey). Vanessa is supposed to be the good one, free of the evils of greed, yet Vanessa continues to do the most obnoxious things and Szohr doesn’t sell it for one second.

5. Sarah Roemer as Leila Buchanan on The EVENT. I once heard the Event referred to as an acting vortex, and I can’t possibly think of a better term. The entire cast, most of whom are quite talented, slum it week after week but Roemer stands out as the worst of the bunch. She spends most of her time whining about her missing sister and waving a gun she looks like she can barely lift.

4. Parevsh Cheena as Gupta on Outsourced. I get that this character is supposed to be annoying, but Cheena makes Gupta a billion times more cloying than he has to be. He is the sole reason I stopped watching Outsourced after 2 episodes, it wasn’t the fact that it wasn’t funny, or that it was mind-numbingly stupid; it was Gupta.

3. 2. & 1.  Three Way Tie! Michael Chiklis, Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett as The Powell Family (minus Julie Benz’s Stephanie): Jim, Daphne and JJ on No Ordinary Family. The only thing out of the ordinary with the Powells is how much they – for a lack of a better word – Suck! As a family they have no chemistry, they could just as easily be strangers, and individually they’re even worse. Bennett is all face acting; big expressions and eye rolls – also the worst hair on TV. Panabaker is as believable as real teen as Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed and she’s actually a teenager. And Chiklis – poor Chiklis, going from one of TV’s all time bad asses on the Shield to a eunuch like Jim. He seems just as miserable and bored as hell. Of the Powells the only one who doesn’t grate on my every nerve is Stephanie played by Julie Benz, which is ironic because as Rita on Dexter, that’s all she did.

Outraged I forgot anyone up top or included anyone on the bottom, let me know!

For more Best of 2010, be sure to check out:

J’s Top 10 Guest Stars of 2010

J’s Top 10 TV Character Deaths in 2010


One response to “J’s Top 10 Performances of 2010

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