Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best TV of 2011

Just like any other self-appointed TV expert, I feel obligated to create a "Best Of" list as 2011 comes to a close.

It was a strange year for TV. Folks stopped watching Glee (thank you) but kept watching the Kardashians (inexcusable). The big networks continue to struggle while the smaller cable networks innovate with new content.  HBO and Showtime made statements with two incredible original series. And NBC might be turning things around by hiring my boss to judge America's Got Talent.

The good news is that there's still plenty of great television out there.  Taking only this year's episodes into consideration, here are my top 10 shows of 2011:

10.  The Walking Dead (AMC)

The second season was not as good as the first, but the tension on Herschel's farm was gripping. The last episode of 2011 was memorable as Rick became the guy we loved in the comics. The upcoming final half of the season without Darabont's influence will make or break this show.

9.  Modern Family (ABC)

Still the class of network comedies and it makes me laugh every time I watch it, but cliches are starting to creep in. They never should have replaced Lilly.

8.  Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Everyone loves Louis CK.  I don't, but I will try watching Louie again.  I love Larry David.  From Bill Buckner to Palestinian chicken, Curb followed up its Seinfeld reunion with a hysterical season in NYC. Give me more Funkhauser and Leon. Please.

7.  Sons of Anarchy (FX)

FX is gaining on AMC for can't miss original programming. Sons got back to Charming and had a crazy season where you didn't know what to expect every week. Kurt Sutter makes bold choices, and his actors deliver solid performances, especially his wife.

6.  Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

I have mixed feelings about Boardwalk.  Buscemi is perfectly cast, and all the men have great backstories and eat up the screen. I don't love the female characters, other than Jimmy's mom (Gretchen Mol) who has issues of her own. I applaud the bold choice made at the end of the season, but it will be tough to move on from here. Great season, great show.

5.  Justified (FX)

Man do I love this show. I'd be there for the adventures of Raylan and Boyd, but it's so much more than that. Margo Martindale gave the best performance of the year and brought the intensity each and every week. Justified has hit its stride, and could move up this list next season.

4.  Parks & Recreation (NBC)

The funniest show on television takes place in Pawnee. Great characters, fun situations, and a little bit of love to go around. Amy Poehler and crew gel so well. This show reminds me of how good The Office used to be (you won't find that show on this list).

3.  Homeland (SHOWTIME)

I'm not sure if Claire Danes is acting or really that crazy. I got to interview Damian Lewis, so I know he's acting and he's been brilliant. Mandy Patinkin is the icing on this government pursuing terrorists cake. It's got the twist and turns of 24 but seems grounded in reality. This is the best show Showtime has produced since Dexter.

2.  Game of Thrones (HBO)

An epic. Perfectly made for TV. So many characters to follow with fabulous storylines. It looks great. No one, and I mean no one, is safe week to week. This was the best new show of the season. And I've read four of the books now, so I know what's on the horizon and it's fantastic. Winter is coming.

1. Breaking Bad (AMC)

It doesn't get any better than this.  You can't take your eyes off Bryan Cranston, unless you're watching Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring.  Aaron Paul more than holds his own. Even Anna Gunn didn't annoy me this season. The best acting and writing on TV was right here once again, all the way to the end.

I hope you all have happy holidays, and here's to a great 2012.  What's Worth Watching returns with Cougar Town/Scrubs/Spin City/Clone High creator Bill Lawrence on January 5th.