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.


  1. Jon, I know its very popular, award winning and you love it but I NEVER find Modern Family funny AT ALL. Its not like I don't know good sitcoms, I grew up on the Odd Couple, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Mash, All in the Family, and Seinfeld but I find Modern Family a snooze fest. Please, what do you find funny about it?

  2. Good list, Jon.
    A little surprised not to see True Blood or Spartacus make the list; but I guess that's my opinion.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Sons of Anarchy in 7th place? Are you kidding me?
    This season was CRAZY!! Best show of the year!

    SOA Fanboy

  4. Great list, but your missing Boss. Close second for best new show of the year. Kelsey Grammer is outstanding as Tom Kain

  5. I find it appalling you don't like Louie. Brilliantly paced comedy and beautifully original. Hands down the best comedy on TV. His stand up is great too. Louis CK is my generations George Carlin.

  6. Walking Dead is awful. They suck you in with these awesome zombierific previews, but it's a corny show with laughable dialogue and ZERO characters to care about.

    The rest of your list I more or less agree with. Community is superior to Modern Family in every way, but since you have an unhealthy man-crush on Phil Dunphy I'll let that slide.

    And I sorta agree with you about Louie CK. His stand-up is killer, but since Lucky Louie was terrible I'm reluctant to give his FX show a chance.

  7. Hey now. Jon, where would Mad Men land on this list do you think? Looking fwd to that show returning. Love Breaking Bad...Half way thru 2nd season.

  8. So happy you included homeland. It is incredible. Never really liked claire danes before but she is scary good. Acting is A+ all around.

  9. How about the other direction, Jon? I'd like to see your WORST list of 2011.

  10. Jon, I'm a little surprised at the absence of "Fringe," in light of "Geek Time's" praise! And just as a side note, are you a fan of any of the USA line-up ("Burn Notice" just ended a terrific season)?

  11. Community and Fringe should be on this list but I'm not sure who should come off. Lot of good shows right now.

  12. Great list. Breaking Bad is rivetting. I can't stop watching it. Gus makes an incredible bad guy. And Walter is degenerating into a cold-hearted bastasd. Walt reminds me of Hannibal Lector: highly intelligent + well-educated = a very dangerous motherf***er.

  13. Nice list. Agree with some: Game of Thrones, Parks & Rec. Many I haven't seen. Will try to check out Breaking Bad.

    Burnt out on zombies.

    Thoughts on Fringe? I think some people are including the great end of Season 3 in their mental accounting/calculus. Unfortunately it is in such a nose dive right now in Season 4, I hope they can pull out of it, but I've basically stopped watching.

    Any thoughts on the cartoons/animation of the year? I think South Park and American Dad are doing well.

  14. Here's my list of the Best & Worst in 2011.
    Thanks for checking it out, your time is much appreciated.

  15. I think it is tough to come up with a favorite list for the whole year, I look at it like what will I be watching tonight and what is worth continued watching. I like your list and do not understand all the "hate" towards Walking Dead. It is a great show, compelling dialogue, and I do believe that there are characters that you get to care about.

    Justified is another show that should be getting more recognition.

    Cable in general has some fantastic shows ala: Justified, Walking Dead, Mad Men, Psych, Burn Notice, American Horror, Always Sunny (dark humor is the best) and many more.

    FX in particular has a great line up and can not wait for Powers. FX, AMC, and USA seem to have strong shows, and to me, TVLand and TBS miss the mark with their original programming.


  16. TREME!! How can you be a huge Wire fan and constantly ignore this amazing show???

  17. I think warehouse13 should definitely make the list. I mean, WOW!, what a season.

  18. How about you include which shows you can catch up with on Netflix? Heard the buzz on Breaking Bad and started it on Netflix. Two weeks and a ITunes purchase later I finished every season. It's fantastic! PS, my son hates you for your "guess" about EJ Olmos being a dark passenger on Dexter. Said it ruined his season.