5 Monumental TV Performances in 2011

5 Monumental TV Performances in 2011 The key to a great TV show is great writing. But when you add a talented cast to read all those well-written words, then you have true TV magic.

Even without the presence of "Mad Men," 2011 was still an amazing year for television. The bounty of compelling and well-acted dramas was accompanied by a collection of ridiculously funny comedies, complete with cast members capable of making us laugh and get a little choked up at times.

But among the many amazing shows that wowed us in 2011, which ones had the most monumental TV performances, the roles that were played to perfection? Read on for five of the best performances of the year across dramas and comedies alike...

Giancarlo Esposito, "Breaking Bad"

A hero is only as compelling as his villain. To make the audience really root for the hero, you need a villain who is so downright despicable that you want to see him defeated at any cost. So to get an audience to root for the morally ambiguous Walter White, the very definition of anti-hero, you're going to need one heck of a villain.

Enter Giancarlo Esposito, who played Gus Fring on "Breaking Bad" this year. Esposito proved that, while having a truly evil villain is important, making him more than just one-dimensional is equally important. Esposito carved out a character so rich (and so bad-ass) that there were times I actually hoped he would win. That's one heck of a performance.

Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"

I promise this whole list won't just be actors on "Breaking Bad" (although it easily could be). However, Aaron Paul deserves some recognition for the performances he puts in on the show not just this year, but every year. Paul has yet to win an award for "Breaking Bad" and he, and Giancarlo Esposito, were snubbed for a SAG award nomination this year.

When you consider even just the work that Paul did as Jesse Pinkman in the episode "Problem Dog," that's a complete injustice. Watch this clip and tell me it doesn't deserve a SAG Award, Golden Globe, Emmy, and whatever else you can throw at it:

Margo Martindale, "Justified"

This was the year of the villain, as we not only saw Gus become a serious threat but also saw Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale, become the best part of each episode of "Justified." And that's saying a lot, too, considering how talented the cast of the show is.

Martindale was so good, in fact, that she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the villainous bootlegger matriarch. Like Gus, Mags had that perfect blend of rage and stillness that made her truly dangerous, and at times totally unpredictable.

See a clip of Martindale's work on "Justified."

Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"

Steve Buscemi's performance on "Boardwalk Empire" has the distinction of having earned both a SAG award and a Golden Globe in 2011. Granted, that was for his performance in season one of the show back in 2010, and you could argue that Nucky Thompson had better moments in the first season. But Buscemi continued to do great work this year, and might just find himself holding another statue or two in early 2012.

If you need proof, you can watch a clip from a recent "Boardwalk Empire" episode below. SPOILER ALERT, though, as this clip comes from a pivotal point in the show.

The Cast of "Parks & Recreation"

Comedy is hard. If you need proof of that, try watching roughly half of the sitcoms out there. A lot of them are not very funny.

So when the cast of "Parks & Recreation" comes at you every week and makes you laugh your teeth out while also giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling with all of their cute, heartfelt scenes, you know there's something special going on. So far, Amy Poehler is the only one who has gotten any kind of awards recognition among the performers on this show, which is a damn shame: Nick Offerman at the very least should have a nomination somewhere along the line.

The hilarity that the cast of "Parks & Rec" brings each week can be summed up in this clip: