2011! – Part 2: TV

Ready for part two? Here’s my take on 2011’s TV seasons!

MY TOP TEN FAVOURITE TV SHOWS OF 2011 (aka, “Ten Shows You’re Probably Not Watching, but SHOULD BE, DAMMIT”):

10) Chuck

Chuck is one of those shows I feel like everyone has heard of, but no one has bothered to watch. Which is a shame, because it’s one of the smartest, funniest, hippest cross-genre shows around. And in 2011 the show somehow managed to get even better. Normally when a show finally takes the plunge on their “will they/won’t they?” characters, the quality suffers. On Chuck, finally having Chuck and Sarah not only get together, but manage to get engaged and have a normal (well, as normal as spies go) relationship while still trying to save the world made it that much sweeter.

9) New Girl

Cards on the table? I really wasn’t feeling this show after the first episode. The roommates were funny, and there were scenes that made me swoon, but overall? Zooey Deschanel set my teeth on edge. There’s only so much cutesy awkwardness I can take! But then as the show went on and the cast began to gel, I slowly found myself falling in love. By the time they were doing the chicken dance to “Groovy Kind of Love” at a friend’s wedding, I was hooked.

I wish this was my life...

Deschanel’s Jess went from being unbearable, to being sweet and oddly relatable. The slow-build of a romance between her and roommate Nick is the kind of love story that is right up my alley and Max Greenfield’s Schmidt might just be my new favourite character. I cannot wait to see how the rest of this season unfolds.

8) Fringe

Year by year, Fringe gets weirder and more wonderful – this is probably why it is so hard for the show to pull in new viewers. But in 2011 the show not only hit new strides with its brilliant storytelling, it also saw a new level of performance from its cast. Anna Torv found herself playing two different Olivias, and each Olivia was pretending to be the other. The differences were subtle and nuanced, as well as brilliant. And with the kickoff of the show’s fourth season towards the end of the year we got to see the show take on a whole new dimension. I am terrified this season might be the show’s last, but if it is I am confident it will end with a bang.

7) Cougar Town

Cougar Town, (or, as I like to call it, “The Funniest Show With The Most Unfortunate Name”) has such a rough time of it. Doesn’t matter how incredible the cast is; doesn’t matter that the creators are also responsible for Scrubs, another brilliant under-the-radar comedy; all anyone ever cares about is that horrible, mistake of a name. Which is really too bad because each year this show gets zanier and more delightful. In 2011 we saw the Cul-De-Sac crew explore therapy, lay Big Joe (the king of the wine glasses) to rest, play a massive adult game of hide-and-seek, and travel to Hawaii for a Scrubs reunion! The characters of Cougar Town are the kinds of people you wanna be best friends with. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to spend their days drinking wine and perfecting the game of “Penny CAAAANNN!“?

6)The Vampire Diaries

It would be easy to dismiss The Vampire Diaries as nothing more than a weekly version of Twilight for the small screen. But that would be a mistake. Because say what you will about the subject matter, there are few shows on television today with such complex, well-crafted story lines that evolve quickly and brilliantly and almost always keep the viewers on their toes. This past year saw the evolution of Tyler from douchebag jock into sensitive, lonely werewolf; the introduction of two of my favourite complex villains, Elijah and Klaus, the almost-but-not-quite anti-Salvatores; the quadrangle between Elena, Damon, Stefan and Katherine grow thornier and more complicated; and Nina Dobrev showed that she is not just a wide-eyed little waif and can play a bad ass bitch with the best of them.

5) The Good Wife

One of the best things about The Good Wife is its ability to be both a “case of the week” procedural, but also have season long story arcs that develop and evolve over time. It is so rare to find a show that can pull off both without compromising on one or the other, but The Good Wife makes it look effortless. Though I found the start of the third season towards the end of the year to be a little shaky, the tail end of the second season at the start of the year was nothing short of brilliant. Between the juxtaposition of Peter’s career soaring as his marriage fell apart, Alicia and Will’s “will they/won’t they” finally culminating in the sexiest elevator ride since Grey’s Anatomy, and Kalinda’s carefully crafted facade crumbling when faced with owning up to her greatest betrayal, the show really hit its stride this past year. Add to that that 2011 saw Michael J. Fox’s deliciously devilish and cunning Louis Canning appear three times, as well as the return of Carrie Preston’s deceptively clever Elsbeth Tascioni – who might just be my all-time favourite recurring secondary character in anything, EVER – how can you not love The Good Wife?

4) Parenthood

I read somewhere that the reason Parenthood‘s ratings are so low is because people don’t like watching shows that are almost uncomfortably real. And it’s true, Parenthood is often so real it can be uncomfortable – there’s not always a happy ending, there’s not always overblown dramatic stories to tell, there’s not always clean and crisp dialogue. But it’s that realism that makes Parenthood one of the best shows on television. Amber’s spiral from hard-working student to out-of-control teen when she didn’t get into college; Adam and Kristina’s realization that their autistic son Max may never have the life they want for him, but he can at least still have a life; the return of Sarah’s alcoholic ex and the struggles of her children to figure out how to love him when they no longer trust him; Crosby and Jasmine’s fighting and shouting matches that were just painful to watch; all of it made for a year of incredible family drama, humour, and one of the best ensemble casts on television.

3) Justified

There are so many things I could tell you about Justified – How gritty it is, how well written the stories are, how well developed the characters are, how many incredible actors will show up in supporting roles… but what I really want to stress is how funny this show is. It is witty, it is clever, and it always manages to make me laugh. The complicated friendship between US Marshal Raylan Givens and his childhood friend Boyd Crowder, now an on-again/off-again criminal, is incredible. Season two brought us the brilliance that is Margo Martindale in her Emmy award winning performance as criminal matriarch Mags Bennett and the return of such incredible character actors as Kevin Rankin, Stephen Root, and Jere Burns. Season two’s finale paved the way for the ongoing battle for control of Harlan that we’ll see this season and I cannot wait to see how it all pans out.

2) Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation came so close to topping my list. So, so close. The quirky little town of Pawnee and her ridiculous inhabitants had a shortened third season this year, but that didn’t hurt it’s quality any. In fact, Parks & Rec seemed to thrive this year, which is definitely partly due to the addition of the incredibly talented Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, but also due in large part to the fact that this show has more heart, more laughs, and more warmth than most shows on television right now. Season three brought us the Pawnee Harvest Festival, Andy and April’s ill-advised leap into marriage, Entertainment 720, the term “Treat yo’ self!” and my new favourite small screen couple. Oh, and lest we forget, DRUNK. RON. SWANSON.

Need I say more?

1) Community

Dungeons & Dragons. Spaghetti westerns. Mockumentaries. Alternate timelines. Flashbacks that flash back to episodes we never saw. An homage to My Dinner With Andre disguised as an homage to Pulp Fiction. A brief aside purely in anime. And a parody of Glee that would make even the snobbiest Gleek chuckle. Is there nothing the Biology study group (née Anthropology study group, née Spanish study group) of Greendale Community College can’t do? Community is weird; there’s just no denying that. But it’s also ridiculously clever, full of pop culture references that would make the geekiest geek swoon. And did I mention funny? Even my least favourite characters are funnier and more enjoyable than half the cast of some other shows. The chemistry between the cast is phenomenal and week by week I find myself loving this group more and more. The fact that NBC still has this show on hiatus is outrageous.

Hands down, the best show on television.

Honourable Mentions: Doctor Who (I KNOW, I KNOW, but Series 6 was just… not my favourite. It’s capable of better. I have faith for Series 7), Sherlock, Lost Girl, Archer, Modern Family

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