Once upon a time, I wrote “Top” and “Best of” lists. Top Movies, Top Television Shows, Top Albums, etc. On further consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that I was not so much making “Top” or “Best of” lists, as much as “favorites” lists. I am no more qualified to make a best of list than I am qualified to write a weighty tome on astrophysics. I do not have experience with all of the entertainment releases of the last year, so I am hardly qualified to write a “Best of” list. However, based on my limited exposure (even less so since having my son a year and a half ago), I am uniquely qualified to write a list of my favorites of a given year, and that is what you will find here. Today’s topic: Television shows of 2011. I watch a lot of good TV, so limiting this to 10 was difficult. If I’m speaking strictly of these shows based on episodes they released in 2011. I am ranking them 10-1, but it’s impossible to choose the order, so take that with a grain of salt and know that it might very well have been different had this list been written or published even an hour later. The absence of Mad Men from our televisions in 2011 and the decline of The Office left some spots wide open. Here’s my list:
10. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory – MF is a consistently funny sitcom whose heartwarming moments never feel contrived and are always just what they aim to be. With so much consistency, it’s hard to chose a favorite episode. They all just roll on through and make me laugh and cheer each week. BBT has been back on its game the past two seasons with the addition of Amy and Bernadette. I’m not wild about the whole Howard dates Raj’s sister storyline, but it doesn’t take much from the rest of the show. This rag-tag bunch of geeks gives me some of the biggest belly laughs episode after episode.
9. Bones – Bones and Booth sleep together and we don’t see anything? On any other show, this might have really irritated me. With Bones steady ways and intriguing character development, I was merely slightly annoyed. The kicker of season six came in the last few minutes of the finale: finding out Bones is pregnant and seeing the look on Booth’s face. It is a delight to watch as this season unfolds and the relationship between them so seamlessly (in terms of the show, itself) falls into place. We’ve seen all the joy and appropriate conflict we would expect of a coupling between the two – and those kisses and hugs add to the quiet, shared tender moments already so characteristic of Booth and Bone’s relationship. I’m intrigued to see how Bones fares with a child of her own to wave her phalanges at.
8. Chuck – Chuck and Sarah planning their wedding whilst still carrying out the spy life? The lovely and talented Lauren Cohan appearing in the role of Vivian Volkoff? Ellie and Awesome with a baby? Come on, what could be better? I’m behind on this final season because of our move and its complete lack of iTunes availability, but you can bet I will be downloading it just as soon as it’s available.
7. Vampire Diaries – If this show upped the ante any more, I’d fall off the edge of my seat. Having Lauren Cohan on another one of my shows as yet another favorite (if short-lived) character was just another highlight in a stellar second season. Season three has proven just as surprising and enjoyable. Down deep, I don’t see so many similarities to draw between this and my favorite show ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but in terms of how the show has continued to get better in its first three seasons and how it wonderfully bends genre norms to appeal to the masses open-minded enough to give it a go, it is certainly similar. I find myself rushing to watch this as soon as it’s available. I’m addicted. As a die-hard Buffy/Angel shipper, I never thought I’d ship Elena/Damon… yet I am. I am shipping them hard. And um… despite the wicked-weird eye thing that he does, I can’t get enough of Somerhalder as Damon. Cannot. Get. Enough.
6. New Girl – It’s Zooey Deschanel at her goofy, happy, optimistic best. Some of the funny bits are hit or miss, but I find myself unable to stop watching and have gone back to re-watch each episode of this multiple times. I think my favorite episode so far is Naked, in which Jess sees Nick naked and is completely unable to say the word ‘penis’ – “Bonjour le pene!” Oh, I love it.
5. Big C and Californication – Easily my favorite of the cable comedies this year. Had I seen Laura Linney as Cathy last year, it would have been my favorite somewhat-dark comedy of 2010, too. And oh, Hank, how do you find yourself in these bizarre situations on Californication? I felt the return of Hank Moody was truly inspired and loved watching the drama, action, and comedy of season four unfold. I always find myself saying, “This could only happen to Hank.”
4. Happy Endings – I have watched every episode of both seasons of this show multiple, (multiple!) times. I LOVE it. I can’t stop watching. It is 2011’s answer to Friends if ever such a feat were possible. I go back and forth on which character is my favorite, but I can’t say any of them are my least favorite. Together, this band of six thirty-something buds makes for a uniquely hilarious show, funnier with each re-watch. I simply cannot get enough.
3. Ringer – “OMG, SMG!” My best friend and I uttered this little saying the day the pilot aired and have probably used it at least two or more times per episode. Each time we think it can’t get crazier, it does. I won’t say the writing is special, but the ploting and performances are fun and its wildly unpredictable nature keeps me coming back week after week. Is it the “best of” 2011, probably not, but it’s compulsively watchable and highly enjoyable and thus certainly one of my favorites of 2011. I have the highest admiration for Sarah Michelle Gellar, so it’s no shock that this show would be on my list. I can’t help it, I just love the insanity. OMG, SMG!
2. Revenge – Oh what a tangled web we weave! When I first saw the teaser for this show and heard Angus and Julia Stone’s beautiful “For You” playing in the background, I knew this show would be something special. It did not disappoint. I wasn’t sure it would be one I’d go back to re-watch, but I have. I love the complex plot, the surprising twists, and the delightfully wicked smile that spreads across the face of our villainess, Victoria Grayson (played with graceful aplomb by Madeline Stowe). Emily VanCamp was one of my favorite parts of Brothers and Sisters (her absence was one of the many reasons I didn’t watch much of the final season), and she’s given real room to shine here as the lead. Is she a villain or a hero? Can we possibly cheer for someone with such nefarious intentions? Happily, the answers to those questions are both and yes. Somehow, her back story and the way she goes about carrying out her plan despite the conflict she’s clearly feeling about the effects of her actions make her character someone to watch, cheer for, and marvel at. What makes this “nighttime soap” even more enjoyable is that it doesn’t take itself so seriously. Some things are clearly unbelievable, but we go with it. Revenge is a ridiculous ride we are more than happy to climb onto.
1. The Good Wife – It was tough for me to make a choice between my favorite new show of fall 2011, and a show that is just of such top quality episode after episode. In the end, I went with experience, because “Revenge” has only just begun. Julianna Margulies continues to shine in the role of the good wife. She has made Alicia into someone more than just a wronged woman making her way in the world, and we delight at where her journey will take her next. Archie Panjabi as Kalinda broke our hearts as we watched the strain and fallout from revalations about her prior “dealings” with Alicia’s husband. Her one friend in all the world that she’d betrayed before they even knew each other–and yet we root for her. We root for Alicia. My one request for this season would be more Chris Noth as I enjoy the tension when he’s on screen with… well… anyone, but especially Ms. Margulies. I’m excited to see where this season takes us.
Honorable Mentions to shows that didn’t have their most stellar years last, but ones I still make it a point to see: Supernatural, Dexter, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, and The Walking Dead.
The jury’s still out on American Horror Story (but in the 5 or 6 episodes we have seen, it’s easily the most shocking show of the year). Two I did not include here are Homeland and Once Upon a Time, each of which seem truly special. But only having seen three episodes of each, I’m hardly able to make a real assessment. I’m not sure which I would remove from up there to include these (I’d probably just combine them with another one) if I love the remaining episodes as much as I did the first three.
Hope you enjoyed reading any or all of this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m waiting to do a favorite films of 2011 post until I’ve seen a few more from last year (one of which is Moneyball, which I just purchased this past weekend). Till next time 🙂