Monday, December 26, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

Why do a year end post? Well, mostly because everyone else is doing one, and I don't want to seem like an idiot because I didn't do one. But why should you listen to me? After all, you won't find any MTV shows on here, or reality shows, or anything else at the top of the Nielsen ratings.

But mostly this list makes me feel important. What kind of a TV blogger would I be if I didn't write this article? Where would I get my own personalized sense of importance, thinking that I could tell everyone what the best shows on tv are? And especially, where would I get the idea that you even care what I think?

This is the brilliance of Top Shows Lists: They are arbitrary. I could put whatever I want on here, and it doesn't matter. It's my list. I could put the Killing on here, but then I would lose all credibility, since it doesn't belong on anyone's list. Except for most infuriating show with no ending and a half-witted showrunner.

A couple of caveats, though. Not all of these shows are family friendly. I dot believe that only shows that are suitable for families are the only redeemable programs on the small screen, nor do I think that if a show contains sex, violence or language that it is unredeemable.

Second, I have not yet watched Homeland, Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy or Justified, so when you ask why these weren't on the list, it's because I am not yet caught up. No other reason.

Also, these are just dramas, and I will say a little bit about comedies as well at the end.

So here we go.

1. Breaking Bad
This was a no brainer. With no Mad Men in 2011, Breaking Bad was the runaway favorite to win this award (despite what the Hollywood Foreign Press says with the Golden Globes), and Vince Gilligan continued his masterpiece. Season 4 saw Walter White continue his moral decline, and we saw Walter become one of the most unlikeable protagonists in television history. Even Tony Soprano acted with his family's best interests in mind on occasion. Walter, on the other hand, put his whole family in danger, wife, 2 children, brother-in-law and his kinda-son Jesse Pinkman of course. We saw Walter take down a Mexican cartel almost singlehandedly, we saw him make 1.6 million dollars, and saw Skyler lose it almost as quickly. There is no show on TV that is as brilliant in its writing, acting and directing than Breaking Bad.

2. Game of Thrones
How do you describe HBO's adaptation of George RR Martin's epic fantasy series? Let's let Adam Scott from an episode of Parks and Recreation handle that: It’s a crossover hit! They’re telling human stories in a fantasy world.“ Human stories like family strife, loyalty, betrayal, kingship, more betrayal. A fantasy world that included white walkers, dire wolves, and of course dragons. Game of Thrones might have been consistently the fastest 60 minutes on tv each week, and when it ended, you wanted more immediately. Put it this way, there are few shows that I get mad at while watching, but not because of stupidity or poor writing, but because I'm actually angry at certain characters for behaving in a way that is contrary to good. That is the sign of a good show.

3. Friday Night Lights
Dear Coach Taylor, You have taught me so much in the 5 years that you coached in Dillon. The way you helped Smash Williams every night so that he could play college ball. The way you vouched for Tim Riggins while in prison, even though he repeatedly skipped your practices to go to Mexico, drank all the time and then ran a chop shop. Breaking the headlights of the guy your daughter was sleeping with. Referring to Landry repeatedly as Lance never got old. What you did with Vince Howard, you saved his life, man. You saves his mother's life. You won 2 state titles in 5 years with 2 different schools. But it was what you and your wife Tammy meant to each other that I'm going to take away the most. You never doubted your love, and you never doubted her. And when it came down to it, you gave up the chance to coach the number one high school in the nation with the number one quarterback in the nation to move to Philadelphia (which is a crappy city) for your wife. You, Coach Eric Taylor, are a great man.

4. Boardwalk Empire
The Sopranos set in 1920s Atlantic City. Compelling, fascinating, crushing, and emotionally charged. Steve Buscemi somehow works as Nucky Thompson, to the point that I don't see Steve Buscemi any more, but rather Nucky.

5. Dexter
So many things about this season were fascinating, none moreso than Dexter's search for religion. Season 2 put to rest the idea that Dexter Morgan is a sociopath, since he clearly feels and worries about others. So his search for meaning and for the possibility of an afterlife fit right into his ongoing search for himself (which is when the show is at its best). Mos Def, Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks were excellent additions to the cast (even if the Geller mystery was never really done very well and everyone suspected he wasn't real from the opening episode). Moreover, we got Angel back and refreshed, not being bogged down by LaGuerta. My biggest problem on the season was that they abandoned Dexter's religious angle as soon as Brother Sam died, and that made it feel unfinished.

6. Person of Interest
The only freshman series on this list, Jonathon Nolan's Enemy of the State/Big Brother drama stands out as something that is worth watching every week and which builds upon its mythology without hammering you with it. Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson are perfectly cast and equally mysterious, and both of their own personal motivations are not perfectly clear. Nor are their pasts. But you know that they will both be smarter than those they are trying to save and the people they are trying to save the victims from. The case of the week works, especially since there are still a few serial elements to the show.

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