Below are my picks for the best shows of 2011. There are shows listed that I discovered online and a web series as well, I feel that in this time that television and how we watch it are changing, I should represent more than just the traditional TV watching public and share also what I have discovered online this year. I’ll admit, based on buzz I’ve been hearing, I may have missed out on some important players this year such as Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. I vow to catch up on these shows as soon as possible and add them to my rotation for 2012.
10. Raising Hope
Raising Hope is, as someone recently put it to me, a peek into the little bit of WT each of us has the potential to become. It’s wonderful and homey and brings back another of my favorite childhood actresses, Martha Plimpton. I love the quirky cast of rotating guest stars that explain chapter after chapter of the lives of the Chances and how new revelations are constantly being revealed so that it plays out as some kind of backwoods soap opera. I’m on Team MawMaw!
Another UK series that turns a bunch of kids doing community service into accidental super “heroes”, or humans at least. The show is clever in that it is not only the main characters that were affected by a freak hail storm, which seems to be the origin of the powers, but there are many others that have powers as well and some use them for the evil rather than good. This is where the “hero” part comes in for our misfits. There is a never-ending pool to pull from for villains and good guys alike in this series and the fact that the good guys aren’t all goody-goody makes it that much more fun. They are foul-mouthed, horny and criminals to boot, but they are there to save the day and execute these unique story lines with great chemistry and flawless performances every episode.
How do I love thee, let me count the ways…Seriously, any show could take on reviving Chevy Chase’s career has serious cajones. Abed and Troy appeal to the nerd set, especially we filmophiles and overgrown children, while Britta and Jeff’s straight men appeal to those who are just too cool for school…literally. After watching Allison Brie on Mad Men, it’s wonderful seeing her playful side as Annie and she is so darn good at it! I enjoy all the different walks of life that are represented and that even supporting cast get their chance to shine and have their own following (Change, the Dean). The diversity of the characters were well thought out at the outset and appeal to such a large demographic. Throwing in different mediums as in the claymation episodes and this past month’s animation in the fussball episode keeps everything about the show new and fresh in such creative ways. I have adopted each character as my best friend and can’t wait to see them every week, I’m still hoping against hope that NBC will come to their senses!
7. Big Bang Theory
Nerd humor at it’s best, I love this show. The writers are clever and manage to pack so many funny moments into less than 30 minutes I barely come up for air. Sheldon’s character has taken on a life of his own with the huge cult following he has and I think Jim Parson’s’ two Emmys speak for themselves. I am infinitely more proud that Jim Parsons is from Texas than Rick Perry or George Bush. The addition of Mayim Bialik was a genius move to add another dimension to Sheldon that we have yet to see. Being a preteen (tween was not a word yet) and teenager in the 90’s, I really enjoy seeing characters from shows I loved then, as in Johnny Galecki’s David from Roseanne, Sarah Gilbert from the same show, and of course, Mayim Bialik from Blossom. It only makes the show more familiar and nostalgic for me and many, many others.
This UK comedy is about an average guy who mistakenly takes a test to become a spy for MI5 and passes. He falls into this job in the midst of a custody battle for his young son, who acts as though he is a 30 year old man and is thoroughly disappointed in his father. Tim cannot tell anyone he is a spy so everyone in his life still sees him as something of a failure as a man, husband and father. The dynamic between Tim and his son is a fun twist (almost Homer and Lisa Simpson style) to the average parent/child TV relationship. There is a perfect balance between life at home, at work and all the quirkiness that therapy with his wife, her new husband and his son brings. Tim has a therapist that is obsessed with him, a son that disdains him, an ex-wife that pities him and her new husband who seems to care for him on some strange level, and to round out the madcap cast of characters, a coworker who has become a love interest and a nutty boss played by Robert Lindsay. A Spy show hasn’t been so much fun, well ever really.
5. Booth at the End
I have become really involved in the shows on Hulu this past year and discovered Booth at the End, which was a wonderful surprise, though much too short-lived for me. I want more and I want it now. This show delves into the deepest, darkest, most desperate parts of us and lays it all out on the screen. I know it’s a webs series, but as the way we watch TV is changing, web series hold just as much clout as any TV series does these days. The story line starts out with no defined connection between the cast of characters, other than the gentleman that they all come to for help, but soon shows the web of connections all these different people have to one another. The mystery as to who the man in the booth really is and what his purpose is, as well as how much he knows about what will happen and how much he controls what is going on keeps the viewer thinking and hypothesizing throughout every episode. This is a wonderful, thought provoking series that forces us to reflect on our own moral compass and what we would do in the various situations the characters find themselves in. Canadians know how to do it right, I’m glad it’s found a larger audience through Hulu.
Who doesn’t love a good Elmore Leonard adaptation? Though the films have been fun, it’s a welcome deviation from the norm to see one of his stories as a series rather than a movie. I like coming back where I left off, just as if I were reading one of his books. And can I just say I think Timothy Olyphant is one of the most amazing male actors of our time and one of the most underrated. His ability to take on the role of Raylan so completely that I forget he is only playing a part is remarkable. This said, my favorite character on the show is Boyd Crowder. Walton Goggins makes Boyd the man I love to hate. The dynamic between Boyd and Raylan is fascinating and intense and never ceases to thrill me. The same can be said for all the people from Raylan’s past that make up the cast of characters who make Harlan such an interesting place to be. Justified brings new meaning to the saying “you can never go home again”.
3. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is written with a fantastic story line that helps the audience put themselves in Walter’s shoes. The writing on this show truly makes you feel as though you could see yourself doing something like this if you were in Walter’s circumstances and had his ability. Breaking Bad makes the characters so relatable to the average Joe that you cant help but be sucked in. The twists and turns the story takes, especially with the added of question of why Walter keeps doing what he’s doing are intriguing. Even in the midst of all of the madness in the show, audience and Walter are constantly being brought back to ordinary, every day life after he has gotten stranded in the desert or narrowly escaped a drug dealer’s vengeance. The writers never let you fully forget that this is just a regular guy in extraordinary circumstances and such is the magic that keeps me coming back.
I cannot get enough of this show. Louis C.K. is comic genius and pulls no punches. Those of you who enjoy his humor that haven’t delved into parenthood yet, just wait. As funny as he is to you now, the jokes take on a whole new dimension when you are a parent. Louie exemplifies all the real frustrations that come with being a parent, as well as showing the things we all do to or feel about our kids at some point, but no one talks about out of sheer embarrassment or fear of judgement (as in Louie flipping off his youngest daughter behind her back when she tels him she loves her mom more than him). I enjoyed the more serious turn taken this season when Louie went to Afghanistan. Such a moving and poignant episode, very unexpected but very much appreciated, definitely one of the best episodes of any show I’ve seen this year. As my kids grow up alongside his, I cannot wait to see what is to come for us both.
1. Sons of Anarchy
The writing and character development on this show are second to none and the acting is superb. Every character has layers and their own well defined back story, so that we get to know each of them as individuals. The story arcs are fantastic and each episode ends with some intense enticement to return to week after week. Kurt Sutter and his writers’ talent and ability to provide all of these intricacies and make us love or hate these characters is evident every season and I am in awe of their work. It is a true testament to everyone working on this show that so many different people can bring such varied, quality performances over and over again. Ron Perlman has always been one of my favorite actors and Katey Sagal is stunning in her portrayal of Gemma. Charles Hunnam gives amazing performances opposite Maggie Siff. My favorite characters are some of the nastiest ones, as in Kim Coates’ Tig. With Sons of Anarchy I get completely lost in every single episode.
There were so many shows that I wanted to add, but with only 10 slots I had to eliminate a few of my favorites. I’d like to hear more thoughts on what I have included here and let me know what I missed so I can check it out in the new year!