Well this is a hard one. And for a variety of reasons. First, there are a lot of shows I really like, but are in no way remarkable by now as they’ve been on for a long time, so I’m not even going to talk about them. Second, I watched some shows that aired years ago. Third, I can hardly even remember what I watched. But whatever. Here’s the television that I liked that I watched in 2011.
Misfits: This started in 2010, but I didn’t start watching it until early this year. Misfits is like Heroes if it didn’t suck and had a sense of humor. It’s a British show (but now available on Hulu) about a group of young adults that are on a work release program that end up getting super powers during a freak storm. They are not at all heroic and just wind up getting in trouble. Well shot, well acted, dramatic when it needs to be, hilarious at times, and always awesome. Series 3 (British television has “series” not “seasons”) just finished. It wasn’t quite as strong as the previous 2, but it’s still great. All of seasons 1 and 2 and part of season 3 are on Hulu.
The Fades: A little darker than Misfits, The Fades is also a British show. Awkward teen Paul realizes he can see ghosts (“Fades”) and has to deal with the fall-out when The Fades decide they want to be human again. Paul’s best friend Mac serves as the pop culture expert and emotional center of the show. Every episode starts with a recap narrated by Mac but they do it in a really cool way. Great looking show, good makeup effects, interesting story and mythology. Probably my favorite show that actually started in 2011. The Fades starts on BBCAmerica January 14th. Set your DVRs.
Friday Night Lights: So, this actually did air in 2011, but I didn’t watch it until November, and once I started I watched the entire series in 2 weeks. That’s like 4-5 episodes A DAY. I liked it that much. One of my favorite shows ever. I’d chastise people for not telling me to watch it, but pretty much everyone did, so I can’t. High School football is a big deal in small-town Dillon, Texas. FNL follows new Coach Eric Taylor as he takes over the Dillon Panthers and tries to get them to state. The show loses focus on football pretty quickly and instead follows the drama around the players, the coach, and their families and friends. Just awesome stuff. Good teen drama. Good family drama. Coach Taylor and his wife are my favorite married couple in TV history. Teary-eyed quotient is high. Watch it so every time someone says “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” you can nod knowingly. On Netflix streaming so you have no excuse.
Breaking Bad: I almost didn’t put this on the list because it’s been on for a while and I think I just take the quality for granted. But there’s at least one scene in every episode of Breaking Bad that is genius. If you don’t know about this show then you must live under a rock. And if you’re not watching it, you’re making a mistake. The first two episodes are brilliant. They play out like a movie. One of the best shot shows on television. Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix streaming. Season 4 finished in October on AMC and is currently being rerun there. Season 5 will be the final season but possibly split into two 8-episode mini seasons. No premiere date yet.
Luther: Another British show but not the last on this list. Series 1 of Luther aired in 2010 and series 2 aired in 2011. I actually already talked about Luther, so read that to catch up. Series 2 didn’t have quite the snap of series 1, but I still really enjoyed it, especially the finale. Idris Elba is the F*ing man (he scored a Golden Globe nom for Luther last year and an Emmy nom this year). The downside to series 2: it was only 4 episodes, which is kind of weak. Luther series 1 is on Netflix streaming. Series 2 is on DVD and I’m sure will be on Netflix soon. Series 3 has been commissioned but no premiere date yet.
Skins: Ok, here’s my final favorite British show of the year. It probably shouldn’t even be on here since I only watched series 1 and 2 and those aired ages ago. But I watched them when I got bored this summer because a couple friends said it was good. Skins is basically just a teen drama but with teens that actually do drugs and have sex and swear. I watched about 5 minutes of the US version and wanted to kill myself, but the UK version is awesome and was the kind of show where I would watch 2-3 episodes in a row. Loved it. They changed out almost the entire cast after the 2nd series and I was told that it took a big hit in quality, but you should definitely check out the first two series if you were into shows like Dawson’s Creek or Felicity back in the day. It’s like a more brutal, real, British version of those. Streaming on Netflix.
Game of Thrones: Beautifully shot. Badass dudes with swords. Rampant sex. And the most awesome dwarf ever (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage). If you’ve ever liked any movie or show that had knights and swords in it, then you’ll like this show. Also, Shakespearean political conniving and back-stabbing. Nominated for 13 Emmys this year. Catch it on HBO GO or DVD. Season 2 starts in April. Winter is coming.
Shit I Hated
Terra Nova: Awful effects. Silly characters that actually changed mid-pilot. Trivial plots that have little to do with the fact these people are living with dinosaurs. Bad acting. What a let-down.
The Killing: What started as a beautifully shot, well-acted, interesting murder mystery with great characters turned into a beautifully shot, well-acted piece of shit. Halfway through the season the sheer misery of Rosie Larsen’s family started to wear on me, so you can imagine how I felt by the end. The ONE cool novelty of this show, that there would be one mystery that WOULD BE solved by the end, was totally abandoned via one of the most betraying plot twists in the history of television. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe this show. Such a shame.
Homeland: Everyone and their mothers (literally, my mom loved this show) was talking about Homeland this December. And not for nothing. I finally caved and watched it. Did not really enjoy the first few episodes, but definitely caught the bug by around episode 5 and was fully on board by the finale. Which I HATED. Highlight to read if you’ve seen it: The last 3 or so episodes build and build to this showdown between Brody and Carrie. Brilliantly so. She becomes more and more unhinged, we learn more about Brody, find out that he really IS a suicide bomber, and they ratchet the tension up to the one event when he’s finally going to kill the VP and Carrie will get vindicated and then… naw, just kidding. Nothing’s resolved. Classic American television. Just drags you along until you lose interest. I hate it. The first hour of the finale was awesome, too. Season 2 goes into production in Spring with a probable late Fall premiere.
Downton Abbey: Not one single person has been able to tell me why I should watch this show aside from “it’s so good!” which annoys the crap out of me. But man, it sounds awful. I plan on giving it a go this weekend, just because everyone likes it and I’m including it here because I’m actually going to recommend it without having seen it. Also, it’s on Netflix Streaming (series 1 anyway) and I love that. Series 2 already aired in the UK and premieres January 8th on PBS here in the states. PBS. Ew. Series 3 should start airing this September in the UK.
Mad Men: Don’t worry, Joe. I’m sure it’ll be back at some point.
Sherlock: Managed to skip 2011, but DID premiere on New Year’s Day last week in the UK. It didn’t quite live up the series 1, but I did enjoy it and am looking forward to the other 2 episodes.
Ok, that’s it for now. I’m sure I missed about 20 shows, feel free to discuss in the comments. No spoilers please, I know a lot of people that are planning to watch Homeland but haven’t yet. Besides, I know all you people only want to talk about Downton Abbey for whatever reason. Ian, I’m looking at you.
Forgot Suits. Loved this show. It fits nicely into USA’s “brogramming”. It’s a lot smarter than TNT’s frat-law Franklin and Bash (which I find enjoyable, just not great). The two leads have an awesome give-and-take and the set-up (law school drop out/hustler but legal genius cons his way into a big firm) is awesome. Definitely check it out when it comes back this summer.