Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Shows of 2011

10. Gossip Girl
This spot should probably go to Justified.  Or Louie.  Or Boardwalk Empire.  Or Community.  But I haven't made it to any episodes of those shows yet so, yeah.  They don't get to be on the list.  (But you should watch Community.  Because every smart person I know loves it and I'm all for saving a cult favorite).  So instead, soapy teen drama Gossip Girl gets on this list.  Why?  Because somewhere between getting rid of the extraneous cast members and a few juicy story lines (pregnancy, fraud, possible death) this show became one of the few that I look forward to every week.  But really?  It's all about Dair.  It's no secret that I'm a fan of the magic of Dan and Blair and this year introduced the best non-couple to grace the CW, well, ever.  It's great to find two characters who spark when they're in scenes together, even if their relationship isn't romantic.  The very unique nature of these two characters and their journey from hatred to friends to the potential for something more someday earns it a spot on this list.

9. Parenthood
I'm a little ashamed to admit that I wasn't sold on the Parenthood pilot and had given up on it for a short while before diving back in this year on the recommendation of a friend.  Thank god I did.  The Braverman clan is showing week in and week out that complex but relatable characters are all you really need to make great drama.  From Adam and Christina having to explain to their son that he has Autism, to Julia and Joel's baby woes and struggle to adopt, the show reflects real life problems in a way that is both painfully true and somehow heartwarming.  With the other Jason Katims show off the air, I'm glad that Parenthood has shown that it is the go to show for the heart that television too often lacks.

8. Game Of Thrones
If you've been reading my posts these past few days, you know that I just started Game Of Thrones.  But it still makes it onto this list.  I'm sure that something awesome is just down the road that would bump it even further up, but right now it earns a spot on its beauty alone.  Seriously, has there ever been a more visually stunning thing on TV?  The look of GOT instantly transports you to a different time and place and yet the story is still amazingly easy to connect to.  For a show with a ton of history and a plethora of characters Game Of Thrones manages to explain everything with flair.  The large cast also allows everyone to have someone to root for and against, which gives it a much wider accessibility than one would think a fantasy show would have.  I'm pumped to finish Season One and can't wait to see what next year will bring.

7. Homeland
Homeland is one of those shows that you are kind of surprised that no one thought of before but are glad that someone finally did.  Full of tense nail biters, this show kept viewers on the edge of their seats.  I adored the cat and mouse game (but who was who?) between Carrie and Brody and her eventually falling for him was a twist I didn't see coming.  When Brody's mystery faded away I became a little less enamored but it was still one of the best shows of the year.  We also got some damn fine acting from Damian Lewis and Claire Danes and I officially have to stop making fun of my mother for her decades-long crush on Mandy Patinkin.  I'm curious to see how Homeland can keep up the pace of the first season and am dying to see these actors in action in the new year.

6. The Vampire Diaries
2011 was the year that I stopped apologizing for loving The Vampire Diaries and began to tell all naysayers that they were biased judgemental minds who needed to give this amazing drama a chance.  I HATE that the show has such a stupid title.  I wish it were called Mystic Falls.  Maybe then people would realize that it is one of the few shows on network television with complex character relationships, a rich history, huge twists and a faster pace than should work but somehow does.  This year brought us the juiciness of Stefan The Ripper, introduced the entire original family, taught us that Vampire/Werewolf hybrids can and do exist and wasn't afraid to kill off the few characters who didn't work (Please, take Bonnie next!)  It also brought us some sweet movement towards a potential Damon/Elena relationship and introduced (and ended) the hotness of a Tyler/Caroline coupling, the best Vamp/Wolf couple there's ever been.  And we got guardian (aka Giles) Alaric!  If you aren't watching The Vampire Diaries, get off your high horse and start.  You'll thank me for it.

5. Awkward
I was a hard core Daria fan back in the day and have been scouring MTV shows for some quality ever since.  Enter Awkward, the most unexpected enjoyable show of the year.  Both offbeat and quirky, Awkward opens with our protagonist getting a mystery letter that tells her to stop being so invisible which then causes her to accidentally spill some aspirin and pull a cord into a bathtub, making it seem as though she tried to kill herself.  From the mystery of who wrote the letter, to Jenna's awkward school, home and boy issues, this show entertained in every hysterical episode of the season.  It also introduced perhaps the only love triangle in recent memory where I was torn over which guy was best and introduced "behymen" into the TV lexicon.  It's a little show that made a big impression and showed that the girl underdog is still alive and well on MTV.

4.  American Horror Story
Let's ignore the ramifications of turning this into an anthology show and instead focus on what American Horror Story was for most of its season...and that was fun, campy horror fun.  From crazy creatures living in the basement to the Rubberman and the ghosts of the Murder House, AHS took the broken Harmon family for a crazy ride that ended in their subsequent deaths.  I loved watching Moira(s) toy with the men who entered the house, got a creepy thrill seeing Vivien consume raw brains and literally gasped when Addy was hit by a car.  But most importantly, American Horror Story introduced us to great characters Constance and Tate Langdon.  Watching Jessica Lange steamroll her way over other characters in a blaze of racist glory was a joy to watch, and Evan Peters' turn as the most charming serial murderer/rapist/emo boyfriend there's ever been showed that this boy is one to watch.  I looked forward to watching this weekly more than any other show this season and am grateful for the time I had I had with the gals and ghouls of the murder house.

3. Parks And Recreation
This show has single handedly restored my faith in the network sitcom.  That was a heavy task, and yet Parks and Recreation proved with ease that it is possible to be crazy funny without needing a taboo topic as a driving force.  This show relies on having great characters (and fantastic actors playing them) to propel its humor and its story into something special.  From watching April and Andy become the most shockingly cute married couple to Leslie's decision to run for office while hiding her relationship with worthy Ben, the show evolved yet stayed true to its core.   I never tire of Tom's crazy attempts to become a crazy successful business man, love poor put upon Jerry and have even come around to uber peppy Chris.  And if that's not enough I have three words for you.  Ron Fucking Swanson.  I also adore that Parks and Rec does comedy with heart as I like some tears with my laughter.  Congrats for being so awesome Parks And Recreation.  Li'l Sebastian would be proud.

2. Friday Night Lights
They say that all good things must come to an end.  Well this was a really good thing that came to an emotional yet wonderful end.    In it's final season, Friday Night Lights let our new players grow, letting Vince become one of the show's finest characters and Luke and Becky the cutest couple since Matt and Julie in season one.  It also brought back most of our favorites, from Street, Tyra and Landry to the emotional reappearance of Matt and the heartbreaking return of a changed Riggins from prison.  We got a lovely makeshift family unit with Billy, Mindy and Becky and struggled to watch the Taylors manage to keep theirs in a good place.  We also got to continue out love affair with the East Dillion Lions, taking us to our first successful State win since the first season.  Seeing where all of these characters ended up provided a sweet sense of closure (although I'm still super game for a movie) and left me bawling like a baby.  The lights may be out in Dillion but this season will not soon be forgotten.

1. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad reminds me why I love television.  It makes you hold your breath and cover your eyes one minute and has you cheering the next.  This year brought us the epic breakup (and manipulative reconciliation) of Walt and Jesse, proved that Hank may just be smart enough to figure everything out and made Gus Fring into one of the best TV villains ever.  From Walt declaring to his wife that rather than cower when baddies come to the door, he is "the one who knocks" to Gus poisoning the cartel this season was filled with more bad ass moments than should be possible in 13 episodes.  The epic finale, in which Gus was finally defeated and Walt finally seemed to "break bad" just took the show to a whole new level.  What's great is that they could end Breaking Bad right now and it would completely work.  But I'm thrilled that we have some more time to keep those heart pounding moments a'comin.  Breaking Bad, I love you.  Never change.

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