I watch way more TV than you. This is not a way to sound snobby, just the opposite. It probably just means I watch too much TV, including bad television, but what I can tell you is that I have watched enough to make this list something you can sort of believe in. It’s also not a way to tell people the shows they watch suck (and it’s ok to like sucky TV), but more to get people to watch the best that is on TV, because there are amazing stories being told, and they really should be told to you.
On with the rankings! Also, SPOILER ALERT.
10. Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 7, FX)
What is it?: 4 friends from high school and Danny Devito run a bar. They are all sociopathic, vain, sometimes insane and sometimes clinically retarded.
Why is it awesome?: It’s amazing how a show could get better this late into it’s run, and by doing it through devolving their characters into even more terrible people. Mac gaining 50 pounds (which Rob McElhenney actually did in real life because he thought it would be “funny”) was also comedy genius.
Best Episodes: “Frank’s Pretty Woman”, “The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore”, “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games”, “The Gang Gets Trapped”
Best Scene: The vacation montage that gets incredibly dark in “The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore”, dance number at the end of “The High School Reunion Part 2: The Gang’s Revenge”
9. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 8, HBO)
What is it?: A mostly improve, semi-fictional show based on Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld.
Why is it awesome?: Very hard to top a season 7 that included a Seinfeld reunion, but the move to New York allowed for more Seinfeld style over the top, narcissistic craziness.
Best Episodes: “Mister Softee”, “Palestinian Chicken”
Best Scene: Susie has an unintentional orgasm in Larry’s broken vibrating passenger seat in “Mr. Softee”
8. Archer (Season 2, FX)
What is it?: Animated series about a dysfunctional spy agency.
Why is it awesome?: Just very well written with great R-rated humor. Helps that many of the characters are voiced by Arrested Development alumni. Huge leap from season 1 to this year becoming the best animated show on television by far.
Best episodes: Every episode has been great, but “El Secuestro” is by far the best. Pam gets kidnapped. Nobody gives a sh*t.
Best scene: The origin of Woodhouse on “Double Deuce”
7. Boardwalk Empire (Season 2, HBO)
What is it?: Prohibition era drama about the eventual crime lord Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (based on real life figure Nucky Johnson) in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Why is it awesome?: The emergence of Jimmy as a central character in the show, the twisted origins of his relationship with his mother and just a real step up for all it’s side characters. It’s a show that looks great, is well acted, and features the usual HBO sex and violence.
Best episodes: “Under Gods Powers She Flourises”, “To The Lost”
Best scene: The closing confrontation in “To The Lost”
6. Homeland (Season 1, Showtime)
What is it?: A US prisoner of war is freed from Iraq after 8 years in captivity. Meanwhile, CIA operatives find an Al Qaeda mole warning them that “a US soldier has turned”
Why is it awesome?: Claire Danes submits the performance of her career as bi-polar CIA agent Carrie Mathison, and the tension built up throughout the season’s plot is just fantastic. Imagine 24 without the crazy twists just for the sake of crazy twists.
Best episodes: “The Weekend”, “Representative Brody”.
Best scene: Carrie and Brody have an honest conversation at the lakehouse in “The Weekend”
5. Louie (Season 2, FX)
What is it?: Semi-fictional vignettes and stand up comedy created by Louis CK, currently the best stand-up comedian on the planet.
Why is it awesome?: Insanely real and thought provoking, especially for a comedy, with episodes dealing with suicide, the Iraq war, coming up as a standup comedian, unrequited love and a confrontation with Dane Cook (playing himself). Louie can really find the comedy in making things unbearably real and sad. Oh, and bits of his standup are always fantastic.
Best episodes: “Eddie”, “Duckling”, “Oh Louie / Tickets”, “Subway / Pamela”
Best scenes: Louie professing his love to Pamela in “Subway / Pamela”
4. Community (End of Season 2 / Beginning of Season 3, NBC)
What is it?: A mismatched group of people form a study group in Greendale Community College and go on unlikely adventures.
Why is it awesome?: Community really pushes the bar when it comes to creating a comedy, especially in their “epic” episodes. Really, when it is at it’s best, it is the best show on television. Unfortunately the start of season 3 has been a little uneven. It has however created more of televisions most memorable moments, including “Remedial Chaos Theory”; the single most creative episode of television in 2011.
Best episodes: “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”, “Paradigms of Human Memory”, “Remedial Chaos Theory”, “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”, “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”
Best scenes: Evil alternate universe in “Remedial Chaos Theory”, Foosball anime scene in “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”, and the speech montage in “Paradigms of a Human Memory”
3. Parks and Recreation (Season 3 / Beginning of Season 4, NBC)
What is it?: A documentary style show detailing the activities of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks and Recreation Department
Why is it awesome?: The most loveable characters on television. Seriously. This show makes you feel so good that you constantly root for every character on the show. Not to mention that season 3 was one of the most impressive comedy seasons ever, without a single bad episode. Ron Swanson may also be one of the funniest characters on TV right now.
Best episodes: “Jerry’s Painting”, “The Fight”, “Li’l Sebastian”, “Citizen Knope”, “End of the World”.
Best scenes: Drunk montage in “The Fight”, ending in “End of the World”, anything including Jean Ralphio or Chris Trager.
2. Game of Thrones (Season 1, HBO)
What is it?: Medieval fantasy series based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel series by George R. R. Martin.
Why is it awesome?: Because simply put, the books are awesome, and the show really sticks with the source material. Think of an R-rated Lord of the Rings but somehow more badass. Best new show of 2011 (edging out Homeland), and probably the most anticipated next season in 2012.
Best episodes: “A Golden Crown”, “Baelor”
Best scene: Khal Drogo fights one of his men in “The Pointy End”, Tyrion, Shae and Bron play a version of truth or dare in “Baelor”
1. Breaking Bad (Season 4, AMC)
What is it?: Walter White (Bryan Cranston), an overqualified high-school teacher finds out that his wife is about to have a second child, and that he has cancer and very little time left to live. He joins an ex-student Jesse (Aaron Paul) to create the best meth in New Mexico and begin their life as drug dealers.
Why is it awesome?: Because it shows the slow and subtle downfall of almost every character into what causes people to “Break Bad”. Also includes one of the most complicated bad guys on television in Gus Fring (played by Jean Carlos Esposito), who may overtake Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as the best actor on television. With a cast like that, a plot following the fantastic third season, and an ending that makes it unbearable to wait for season 5 (the series finale), you have my friends, the best show on television.
Best episodes: “Box Cutter”, “Bug”, “Crawl Space”, “Hermanos”, “Face Off”
Best scenes: The origin of Gus Fring in “Hermanos”, I am the one who knocks in “Bug”, Walter goes crazy after realizing the money is missing in “Crawl Space”
Honorable Mentions: The Walking Dead, Fringe (latter half of season 3), Wilfred, South Park, 30 Rock, The League, Modern Family. Variety shows don’t feel like they should count, despite always being entertaining (Best of the Year: The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Tosh.0, Late Late Show with Craig Feguson)
Before we end, a little rant on the worst show on television this year: Entourage (season 8, HBO)
Seriously, how does a show with a decent cast and all the cameo’s they could possibly want come up with the garbage that was season 8? No story has consequence, and everything ties up perfectly in the laziest way possible. There isn’t a lazier writing staff than the one of Entourage, with plots that included Vince trying to make a reporter fall in love with him by bringing her on the most perfect date ever, in which she does…without showing the actual date! What’s worse is how the season began with such promise, yet by the end of the season (only 8 episodes), everyone seems to forget that the suicide of a writer/director, that supposedly traumatized Vince, even happened. And the fact that things turned out great for Turtle and E despite the fact they have been such dicks/idiots for the past few years is ridiculous. How I managed to watch this bull**** for 8 seasons is beyond me.
Feel free to leave comments, and let’s look forward to a great 2012 TV season!