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|Written by Lauren Cheal|
|Friday, 23 December 2011 01:23|
Another year of television has passed, and, just like last year, I am giving you a run-down of my favourite shows of 2011. A couple of fresh faces make the grade this year.
My, what a difference a year makes. In 2010, my three picks for best comedy were Modern Family, Cougar Town and Glee. Modern Family and Cougar Town continue to be strong comedy, but they just aren't as funny as the others I have selected. I may be focusing too much on the few episodes of season three of Modern Family, and not giving it enough credit for a solid second season, but the truth is I haven't really loved any of the new episodes. And if ABC would stop showing us the boring Tim Allen (Last Man Standing) and Patricia Heaton (The Middle), and give me back the cul-de-sac crew and let me pound some grape with Jules and the gang, perhaps they would be included here.
My first pick for 2011 is Community. It is actually tied with my second pick, below, but I am giving it top billing because it's ratings are not great and it is important that more people start watching it. Community isn't so much a show that will grab anyone on one viewing. It is a show that masterfully builds relationships, humour and a universe that is damn fun to hang out in. Many other TV critics have compared the show to Arrested Development, and with good reason. Both shows are off-beat comedies struggling to find a solid audience. Both shows are really damn funny, but perhaps not at first. Both shows do something different with the medium of television comedy, which can be disorienting, but is ultimately very rewarding for those who appreciate the genre. If this hasn't sold you, the characters in the show are also just fun to be with. From the elitist and reluctant leader of the group, Jeff Winger, to the wannabe anarchist, Britta Perry, to the adolescent and loving Troy and Abed, to the sweet but scarily determined Annie, to the struggling single mother in Shirly to (finally) the retired CEO of a handi-wipe empire, Pierce Hawthorne. The study group forms a small, um, community, and wackiness and fun ensue. Given this great cast of characters, stellar writing, and the ever-present threat of cancellation to a series that is as good as any I have seen in the past 5 years, I would really suggest you get on board.
Parks and Recreation
The other strongest comedy of 2011 is, without a doubt, Parks and Recreation. This workplace comedy was originally modelled after The Office but in 2011, it found its own voice and style and the results have been spectacular. The workplace of note is the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Pawnee, and you can meet its cast of slackers and workers here. In 2011, a new relationship in Leslie Knope's life made things more complicated for her political aspirations, but ultimately more fun around the office. She also met with professional success when she pulled off a huge project for the department, the Harvest Festival, and saved the jobs of her co-workers. Leslie's insane passion for her work and goofy sense of humour give the show a heart that has always been lacking from the American version of The Office (and which was also missing from the first season of this show). Each week, I look forward to hanging out with Ron and Leslie in the Parks Department, to treating myself with Tom Haverford and Donna, and to proudly ignoring Jerry Guergich.
If Edie Falco can receive an Emmy Nomination for leading actress in a Comedy, I can call Nurse Jackie a comedy too. This is really great show that airs on Showtime, and the third season that aired mostly in 2011 was superb. I have been talking about this show for a while now, and I really do recommend it. It is one of Showtime's many comedies about a strong lady in a difficult situation (see also The Big C and Weeds), but it is perhaps a cut above both of those shows. The comedy rests on Edie Falco's capable shoulders, as does the dark and difficult drama that the struggling addict faces. The third season saw Jackie just barely treading water in her home life and at her job (where she usually does no wrong). It is hard to describe the great comedy in this show, but a superb cast consisting of Eve Best, Peter Facinelli, Anna Deavere Smith, and most particularly, Merritt Wever. Wever's character, Zoey Barkow, is Jackie's protégé and possibly the funniest character on TV today. Think of Kenneth from 30 Rock, but less gooney, more realistic, and infinitely funnier. Nurse Jackie is really one of the best shows on TV today, and I cannot wait for it to come back strong with season four in 2012.
This year, my picks for best drama have only one returning show, mostly because two of my favourites from last year barely aired any episodes in 2011 (Mad Men and Big Love). While the series finale of Big Love was really amazing, the show just doesn't quite make the list here.
The Good Wife
This show is just getting better and better, people. The end of season two saw Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) finally getting to hook-up with her long-time friend and sort of love interest (and partner at the firm where she works), Will Gardner. The hook-up was surprisingly hot for CBS, and the fallout from it during the third season has been fun to watch, too. The relationships that continue to be more interesting, though, are of those between Alicia and the female partner at the firm, Diane Lockhart (the amazing Christine Baranski) and her private detective sidekick, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Punjabi). Diane is looking out for Alicia's future as a strong female lawyer in the often corrupt world of Chicago law, and the relationship between the two women holds a lot of promise. The third season of the show saw the breakdown of the previously quite strong relationship between Alicia and Kalinda, with the revelation that Kalinda slept with Alicia's estranged husband, Peter, before the two women knew each other. The drama is solid, the legal cases are mostly current (even if sometimes they mis-understand "modern" technologies like Facebook and Twitter), and the show is excellent.
I actually only starting watching this show this year, and I don't know why I had been avoiding it. I think my experience of J.J. Abrams other big network TV project, Lost, soured me on his work. I only watched the first two seasons of that show, and found it disjointed and disappointing (and I hear it got worse before it got better). Fringe has some of the same elements of confusion that Lost is so famous for, but I find the series to be very rewarding in spite of that. The basic plot revolves around a team of FBI Agents who investigate so-called fringe events (things that are outside of the normal and usually connected to one major theme that is too hard to describe here). These fringe events eventually lead the team to an alternate universe, which is endlessly entertaining. The team is made up of lead agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), civilian consultant Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and somewhat mad-scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble, who is my new hero). Walter is Peter's father, and he has recently been released from a mental institution to help Olivia with these cases. His relationship with Peter is very complicated, and his genius often presents itself as extreme oddness, but he is a really great character. The show is on a real up-swing in its fourth season, and hopefully it will be back next fall for more Fringey fun.
Game of Thrones
The real final entry for best drama of 2011 belongs to a little show called Friday Night Lights, but when the (Cult)rue team started writing about it, we found we had much more to say than was appropriate for this summary. Look for a full article detailing its greatness soon.
That being said, the next best drama we have for you this year is Game of Thrones. I haven't actually gotten to this series yet, so I turn it over to my dear co-editor, April Yorke, for her thoughts on this show.
For a show that didn't hook me right from the start, Game of Thrones still has the distinction of being the best new kid on the block (oh, The Killing, wherefore art thou so terrible?). It's big on long, not immediately clear monologues, sure, and I'm not all that fond of the gratuitous female nudity (maybe that's your thing?), but it more than makes up for that in compelling characters and fantastically forward moving plot. Arya, Ned's headstrong youngest daughter, and Tyrion, the "imp" Lannister, were early standouts, yet the show didn't stop there. Even feckless Robb has grown on me. And as for learning who the real dragon of house of Targaryen is, well, let's just call "A Crown of Gold," the stand out episode of the year. Yes, for a show I suggested breaking up with in the early going, it's amazing how much I am looking forward to season two.
Tags: amy poehler, arts, best tv, christine baranski, community, cultys, dan harmon, dr. coop, edie falco, faith, friday night lights, fringe, game of thrones, jeanne the cow, jj abrams, john noble, julianna marguiles, merritt wever, nurse jackie, parks and recreation, showtime, six seasons and a movie, the good wife, walter bishop, zoey barkow rules