by Adam Chitwood Posted:December 27th, 2011 at 6:39 pm
A quick note: this list only includes series that have run through an entire season from start to finish in 2011, and those that are at the halfway point of their current season (ie. premiered this past fall). I did not take into account the back half of previous seasons that aired in the beginning of 2011. Without further ado, here’s what I found to be the best shows on television this year followed by a couple of extra categories at the bottom:
6. GAME OF THRONES
Standout Episode: “Baelor”
Standout Episode: “Duckling”
Standout Episode: “Remedial Chaos Theory”
One of the best shows of the year came from quite an unlikely source: a little freshman Showtime series called Homeland. The heart-stopping psychological thriller featured a brilliant turn by Claire Danes as a CIA operative who believes that an American POW (who was just rescued and returned to the United States) has been turned. The supporting cast, featuring Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis, is equally outstanding, but Danes turned in one of the best performances of the year (in TV or film). The multiple plot twists and turns resulted in some of the most entertaining—and nerve-wracking—television of the year, but the show put just as much emphasis on character development. Each main character would be worthy of his or her own series, but the interaction within this ensemble results in some extraordinary drama. A couple shaky moments toward the end of the season kept Homeland from topping my list, but overall the good was enough to outweigh the bad and I’m anxiously awaiting season two.
Standout Episode: “The Weekend”
2. PARKS AND RECREATION
Standout Episode: “The Trial of Leslie Knope”
1. BREAKING BAD
Breaking Bad is hands down the best show on television. Period. It seems an impossible feat, but each season of the AMC series is better than the last (with not a weak link among them) and season four was no exception. Immediately following “that Gus scene” in the aptly titled season opener, I knew we were in for a treat. Giancarlo Esposito brought such nastiness and humanity to the villainous role of Gus that I found myself rooting for him rather than Walt more often than not. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul turned in another couple of Emmy-worthy performances, and creator Vince Gilligan took the series places I never dreamed it would go—at least not this far out from the series end. The storytelling here is just at a whole other level and I seriously doubt we’ll ever see a show this consistently good or ballsy ever again. Oh, and that other “Gus scene”? Genius.
Standout Episode: “Crawl Space”, though special recognition is warranted for Esposito’s work in “Hermanos”.
Most Addictingly Bad New Show – American Horror Story: I don’t necessarily see AHS as a “good” show, but with all the twists, turns, and over-the-top drama I could not stop watching.
Most Excruciatingly Bad New Show – Once Upon a Time: The concept is actually intriguing, but the incredibly heavy amount of cheesy dialogue and “Movie of the Week”-style life lessons learned in each episode make Once Upon a Time extremely hard to sit through.
Most Pleasantly Surprising New Show – New Girl: While I was initially fearful that this new Fox sitcom would rely too heavily on Zooey Deschanel‘s awkward/adorable factor, the series quickly revealed itself as an ensemble piece filled out with a talented and genuinely funny supporting cast who have come into their own.