Thursday, December 29, 2011
Top Ten TV Shows of 2011, Part 1
this is my favorite time of the year... time for lists. top ten movies, albums... fleeting celebrities. this is where we separate the good from the bad, in a nice, neat package of ten (probably because we have ten fingers). i love lists... you love lists (here's why), so let's start listing... the top ten tv shows of 2011.
today, i will review the shows that ranked #6-#10. tomorrow, i will go through the top five.
i feel compelled to say that obviously it's impossible for me to watch everything on television so this list is composed solely from those shows that i did watch (and it was definitely a lot). over the past week or so, because of the holidays and being sick, i was able to catch up on a lot of critically acclaimed shows (like louie), but still there were a bunch i've missed. so on that note, the
two shows i wished i watched:
drama: justified (fx)
comedy: happy endings (abc)
and just so i can squeeze in a couple more shows without ruining the integrity of the top ten list, here are my
drama: revenge (abc)
comedy: modern family (abc)
onto the top ten:
10. enlightened (hbo) - season 1
created by mike white (freaks and geeks, school of rock) and laura dern (inland empire, recount), this show is typical of those on my top ten list - original and willing to take risks. it was thought that showtime had a trademark on half-hour dramadies with strong female leads (see weeds, nurse jackie and united states of tara), but hbo did them one better with this new series. laura dern brilliantly plays a woman in search of fulfillment (enlightenment is another word i guess) after a nervous break-down. it's the sort of character and story that could come across either very hokey or worthy of mocking, yet it's neither. at times, you can't help but feel repulsed by dern as the main character, amy, and at times you can't help but empathize. but at all times, you know you are watching an honest depiction of this character and in that honesty, judgment goes out the window.
best episode: "the weekend"
9. boardwalk empire (hbo) - season 2
this year in television was highlighted by a lot of great endings and courageous choices. none may have been better than the finale of the 2nd season of boardwalk empire. the season starts out with a great conflict between nucky (steve buscemi) and jimmy (michael pitt), the prodigal son of sorts. all the cards are stacked against nucky. and throughout the season, we discover the true nature of these two great characters as they are faced with difficult choices in the face of great conflict. the show, at times, can feel very superficial, especially considering the great production value the show has at its disposal, but when it counted, this season showed that it can test the mettle of its main characters with the best of them.
best episode: "to the lost"
8. masterpiece: downton abbey (pbs) - season 1
it's not tv, it's pbs. isn't that how it goes? no, well, maybe it should. the first season of downton abbey, a british tv show, is streaming on netflix so i urge you to check it out before season 2 premieres in january. this is what's great about critics' top ten lists - i've never even heard of this show until i saw it keep popping up on these year-end lists. so while i was sick, i watched all seven (yes seven, that's what they do in britain... it's like a miniseries year-after-year. though i think in the u.s., it was made into 4-90 minute long episodes) episodes in a two-day stretch. it was like watching a british version of an american soap mixed in with some mad men. but the execution... jeez louise, that shit was tight. the writing, the acting, the music, drama - it was captivating storytelling at its best. a lot of the shows on this list may be more original, but few, if any, were able to pull of storytelling at this level. it also has the distinction for being the guinness record holder for 'highest critical review ratings for a tv show'.
best episode: "episode 1"
7. louie (fx) - season 2
the fact that i have louie ranked much lower than almost everyone else this year should not be taken as a slight. in fact, it may be the most amazing thing on television right now. but, the show is so unique and such a singular vision (louie c.k. writes, stars, directs and edits the show) that it's almost impossible to rank such a show because how do you even begin to compare it to anything else. it's not a straight comedy though it is incredibly funny. it's not a straight drama even though it's incredibly moving. i've watched both seasons in last few days so i think i just need a little bit of time to let it soak in. i vacillated between ranking this show as high as number 1 and as low as number 9, finally settling on 7. i guess i've admitted that this isn't an exact science... sorry? in episode 12 entitled "niece" louie is trying to figure out a way to talk to his 13-year old niece after fellow comedian godfrey makes it seem so easy. louie asks him his secret to which godfrey replies, “You’ve just got to learn how to talk to people who aren’t like you. It’s called empathy, man.” louie is full of insights because it's obvious he's very intelligent - sometimes i just wish he would spend less time trying to tell people why they are wrong and just empathize. that's why my favorite episode this season is the hour-long one where he travels to afghanistan to entertain the troops... it's the least biting and the most heartfelt.
best episode: "duckling"
6. friday night lights (nbc) - season 5
no, i'm not crying.. i just have something in my eyes. we got five seasons (though we can sort of ignore season 2) of this amazing show so there's no need for tears. if this was a career achievement sort of list, fnl would shoot all the way to the top. as it were, this wasn't the strongest season, but it certainly provided my favorite finale of all-time. though the premise of this series (high school football in texas) does not sound so enthralling, between the acting and heartfelt writing, we were sent on an emotional rollercoaster from episode 1 through episode 60. i'm a huge cosby show fan and love claire huxtable, but coach eric taylor and tami taylor have set the new standard for the perfect television couple. it's not because they are perfect - it's because they respect and listen to each other in spite of their differences and imperfections. through their eyes, this show really let the viewer settle into this community of dillon, texas as we shared in their joys and sorrows... as we watched our favorite kids graduate and move on with their lives and watched freshmen turn into the next football stars. all under the watchful and protectful gaze of coach taylor. TEXAS FOREVER.