Let me state this upfront: I enter the realm of top ten lists unwillingly. Composing one makes me feel like a pompous clerk in High Fidelity, and I hate the implied distinctions in the numbering: "Which is better, a slapdash-but-ambitious HBO melodrama, or a supertight, witty network sitcom?" So, since this is my first year as TV critic, I rebelled and made what I fully acknowledge is a random list of ten shows that are excellent, with a bunch of other great shows wedged willy-nilly in the sides, like spare coins stuck in the sofa cushions of my critical judgment.
For those who want some mathematical rigor (or for me to have watched every episode), I apologize. Choices two through ten are arbitrarily ordered — read nothing into their rank! My Number One is a true top pick: Mad Men, we miss you and we love you, all is forgiven, please come home.