Yidio Writers Vote: The 5 Best TV Shows of 2011
Truth be told, it was an astounding year for television. For every ridiculous, exorbitantly expensive and potentially fraudulent Kardashian wedding and drunken overseas "Jersey Shore" debacle, there were a plethora of really great options for those seeking well-written, well-acted television or just a good reason to laugh on virtually any night of the week.
We asked some of our television writers to pick their top five shows of the year, and, make no mistake about it, it was hard work.
Between AMC, F/X, HBO and Showtime producing great programming slates of quality hour-long original dramas to the explosion of comedic talent over at NBC, it actually feels like we're going through some kind of revolution.
While it's not always properly recognized by the networks (cough "Community" cough) or even at the Emmys, audiences are embracing more interesting and challenging fare than ever before. Check out what our writers loved in 2011 and let us know your favorite shows of 2011 in the comments section.
1. “Breaking Bad” - From the nail-biting suspense of “Box Cutter” to the heart-pounding pace of “End Times,” every single episode of this season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” was as engaging as a television show can be. Not only were Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul Emmy-worthy once again, but the performance of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring was also a thing of beauty. It will be a long time before we see another TV villain as good as Gus.
2. “Community” - Even in what some fans are considering a bit of an off year, “Community” has provided smarter, funnier television than just about any other show out there. Not only is it a TV show about TV shows, it’s a TV show about writing, about story structure, and about the nature of storytelling itself. Also, it’s hilarious.
3. “Louie” - Simultaneously capable of making you pee yourself with laughter or tear up a bit, “Louie” is a prime example of the excellent series development going on at FX (honorable mentions go to “Wilfred,” “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).
4. “The Walking Dead” - What’s more amazing then a show about zombies? How about a show that, in its second season, deftly humanizes its zombies and dehumanizes its humans? So far, season two has provided some truly gasp-worthy moments in addition to the character drama.
5. “Parks and Recreation” - Thank goodness this show survived its prescribed NBC hiatus, because it has hit its stride in a big way over the last couple of seasons. The characters get more specific, and therefore funnier, every episode.
1. "Dexter" - Somehow, season after season, television's most fascinating character - barely edging out Don Draper of "Mad Men" - just keeps evolving. With every new turmoil that enters his life, he becomes a new "Dexter." His moral quagmires never end, nor does his fight for survival ever remain static. What's more, he's pretty much acknowledged by now that he's become a magnet for killers with passengers as dark as his. Easily, far and away, this is 2011's best show.
2. "Bones" - "Bones" is a funny show, in a way. As ensemble dramas go, this one and "NCIS" have probably leap-frogged the "Law & Order" franchise by this point. Though it's obviously led by the adorably awkward Emily Deschanel and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" brood-meister David Boreanez, the pair have evolved beyond cliched mismatched-partner chemistry. But really, it's the fact you can pair any combo of ensemble members in a scene and it always works.
3. "Community" - Oh, yes. I'm going there. Some shows are just too damn smart for their own good. While the characters themselves are always entertaining, the show is just a marvel of controlled irreverent insanity, clever pop-culture gags that make effective use of everything from "Beetlejuice" to jabbing at "Glee" with a stick and making a barely-veiled wink at "Doctor Who," and fan-service call-backs that leave no doubt what is easily the best-written comedy on TV. And somehow, it's losing to a sitcom starring funny-drunk-girl Whitney Cummings. Sometimes, atheism seems plausible.
4. "Psych" - I'm not sure how James Roday and Dule Hill do it. I've never seen what I could really call a "bad" episode of "Psych." Now in its sixth season, the show hasn't declined a bit. It's still got clever, fast-paced humor and I really hope James Roday gets an Emmy nod before the show ends. But just as importantly, they've finally paired Shawn and Juliet for an entire season without a hitch. Just as importantly, that development has given the show a lot of heart on several occasions and let Shawn develop.
5. "Suits" - For as popular as shows with great ensemble casts have become, it's easy to forget that magic between two leads that just have "it." Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams as superstar attorney-savant apprentice combo Harvey Specter and Mike Ross have Clooney-Damon, "Ocean's 11" timing and chemistry. That's why Adams now has a SAG Award nomination to his credit, and USA has another in a seemingly endless string of breakout hits.
1. “Boardwalk Empire” - While you can take away some angry points for the way the season ended with a giant sucker punch to the audience, this show is easily one of the richest, most fully realized and compelling shows on the air and it continues to shock and amaze with great stories. It’s easily the best new show of the last five years, and this year it was the best show on TV period.
2. “The Walking Dead” - Where “Boardwalk Empire” pissed a lot of people off with their climactic season finale, “The Walking Dead” brought a lot of fans back into the fold with its chilling midseason ending. While it felt for a little while like the show had really suffered from the loss of showrunner Frank Darabont, with all of the survivors' ridiculous woods-wandering escapades, they brought it all back full circle and reminded us why we were so geeked about this zombie splatter-fest in the beginning.
3. “Louie” - While he’s really got none of the gimmicks or comedic stunts in his bag of tricks that someone like coked-up and nutty 80's comedians like Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy had in their prime, Louis C.K. is really one of the most hilarious and completely honest comics of this era. The way he presents his weird, poignant and self-loathing observations about himself and humanity in “Louie” makes “Seinfeld” seem like a gross caricature of comedy, even when he's trying to debate what "eat a bag of d&*ks" actually means.
4. “Dexter” – No big surprise here. Besides how simply amazing it is that Michael C. Hall has overcome cancer and managed to keep us riveted on Dexter’s daily struggles with his dark passenger in the process, this season the show brought in it’s best Big Bads yet – with Colin Hanks and James Edward Olmos as the Tyler Durden-esque Doomsday Killer and Mos Def as Brother Sam. Now they’ve taken to exploring the sexual tension between Dexter and his Deborah, which is made all the more interesting by the fact that Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter are divorced in real life. For six seasons, Dexter has simply failed to disappoint.
5. "The Daily Show with John Stewart" and "The Colbert Report": Sure, technically they're two separate shows, but the way this double-shot of fake news has impacted the real news media continues to boggle the mind. It's a little disturbing, but these show are way more important than they should be, and almost always must-see (or at least must-DVR) watching.
1. "Justified" - The show that manages to balance drama and comedy so seamlessly you don't even realize you've gone from laughing to crying. It also sports some of the best characters on the dial and this year featured a show-stopping, Emmy-winning performance by the great Margo Martindale as the terrifying Mags.
2. "Breaking Bad" - Yes, "Breaking Bad" ends up on the best of list every year but this year seems particularly worthy. The tension was ratcheted up to almost inhuman levels every week this season and it was glorious to see just how bad Walt would break.
3. "Friday Night Lights" - One of the best, most naturalistic shows on television left us with a season of renewal and hope. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
4. "Parks and Recreation" -The sweetest comedy on TV got even sweeter this year with the introduction of the love story between Leslie and Ben. Political nerds have never been as sexy.
5. "Community" - Please watch this show. NBC has taken it off the winter slate, which is a mistake because it's one of the freshest and most inventive comedies on television right now. Six seasons and a movie!
What are your top five shows of 2011? Let us know in the comments below.