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The best and worst of 2009: TV

By Hank Stuever
Sunday, December 20, 2009; E01

BEST

1. Balloon Boy -- Set aside the distasteful, Warholian, fame-seeking aftermath and just admit it: For about one hour, the Falcon Heene hoax was the most riveting TV all year.

2. "Glee" (Fox) -- Worried that Fox's whip-smart comedy is already faltering? Don't let Sue Sylvester hear that.

3. "Weeds" (Showtime) -- Mary-Louise Parker's drug-dealing dramedy went epic this season. Nice work with the croquet mallet, Shane!

4. "True Blood" (HBO) -- Them Louisiana bloodsuckers are the only vampires worth lusting over.

5. "The Good Wife" (CBS)-- Julianna Margulies is riveting and so is the unfolding tale of infidelity and marriage. Lawyers and law firms are interesting again.

6. "NCIS: Los Angeles" (CBS)-- If you have to just pick one easy-on-the-brain CBS crime procedural, go with LL Cool J and the gang. Stylish and weirdly . . . is "original" the right word? No.

7. "Lost" (ABC) -- That scene where Jacob and "Esau" are watching that tall ship off on the horizon? Now it all makes sense; or does it? Best season yet.

8. "Sons of Anarchy" (FX) -- Have you noticed that America is really just an aging biker gang? You haven't? Then hop on.

9. "Modern Family" (ABC) -- Smartest new mockumentary series of the season, with a standout performance from Ty Burrell's new twist on the doofus-dad stereotype.

10. Michael Jackson's funeral -- Who would have thought, amid all the Jacko death hype, that Staples Center could take on such a reverent, dignified air? Tell 'em that it's human nature.

WORST

1. "The Jay Leno Show" (NBC) -- 10 o'clock's bold experiment? Phhhfffft. Our bedtime isn't that early, after all.

2. "Real Housewives of New Jersey" (Bravo) -- What started out as sharp social commentary in Orange County devolved in the Garden State into a slimy bunch of screaming women. Bravo knows how to do better, right? Sure, just ask the Salahis.

3. Susan Boyle -- A hundred gazillion YouTube hits can't be wrong . . . unless they are. I'd rather weep at Adam Lambert's rendition of "Mad World."

4. "Hank" (ABC) -- A clinical depiction, courtesy of Kelsey Grammer, of everything wrong with the sitcom formats of yore.

5. "The Jeff Dunham Show" (Comedy Central) -- You know it's bad when the New York Times has to write about ventriloquist Dunham's red-state meaning and significance twice. (What are we, dummies?)

Bonus! BEST and WORST

"Mad Men" (AMC) -- The style, the mood, the feel of it! (But also, the inertia, the staring off into space, the relentless Emmy-grubbing.)

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