Best and Worst TV Shows of the 2010-2011 Season

1. Game of Thrones

With all due respect to Xena fans, the fantasy genre never worked on Television until Game of Thrones came along and did for the Television fantasy world what Lord of the Rings has done for the cinema. The show is unlike anything else on TV (“it’s not TV, it’s Game of Thrones” should be HBO’s new motto). Ever. It is just about perfect and just about the best new show to come along since… I’ll need to get back to you when I figure out what’s better than this show. The setting, atmosphere, writing, characters, acting, action choreography, cinematography, production design, and all the way down the list to the show’s classic theme song and opening credit sequence. All exemplary. Assuming it stays true to the gritty, beefed up Tolkienisms of George R.R. Martin’s unparalleled novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, the show poses a real threat to the reigning Lord of the Rings series as the best fantasy adaption of all time. It goes without saying that it’s also, after just one season, the best HBO show ever, easily surpassing Deadwood, Larry Sanders and The Sopranos.

I love how the world of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is so lived in. The world this show inhabits is of course meticulously sketched out thanks to Martin’s obsessive tendency to describe everything down to the ingredients of the food the characters are eating, the clothes their wearing while they’re eating, the eye color of the person eating and the nipple color/size should the occasion arise. The show is able to capture that without getting bogged down in detail. But this not the kind of fantasy world full of rainbows and unicorns. Everything we see is brought down to a human level. It’s hard to enjoy the jaw dropping sight of the wall (a miles-long ice barrier that keeps undead monsters away from the living ones) when there’s a steaming chamber pot (or pissing dwarf) just inches away. To watch this show is to become a prisoner to the beautiful and magical world full of wretched and filthy people. Realism is key while the fantasy elements are so subtle that it’s more of a Medieval drama than a full-on sci-fi/fantasy genre show. For now. That will change in the seasons to come (get ready for Melisandre!) and I can’t wait to see how the epic moments in the books such as the Blackwatter battle, a one handed bear fight (not epic, just great) and of course the Red Wedding of book three play out. As a promises of what’s to come, the delicate balance in Westeros underwent a major shift at season’s end with (spoiler) the remarkable final scene/reveal involving the fiery birth of mythical dragons long thought dead and a naked Queen Daenerys holding them in her bosom. Really, there’s nothing on Earth, er, Westeros that can beat that combo; it’s the basis for just about every awful tattoo for a reason.

I hope edgy hard core fantasy becomes a predominant trend because the genre really could use some teeth, grit, guts and cu… well, lets just say things that rhyme with guts. While full of guilty pleasures (the sex and action is unbeatable) this is a dark show; perhaps the darkest show ever produced on cable Television (or TV in general) and that’s saying something. While you never know what’s coming next, the one thing the viewer always knows is that whatever DOES happen, it will be dark, depraved, twisted and coming from the sickly depths of human vice (greed, lust, vengeance, all that good stuff). But not fantasy-genre random where, say, a Wizard could drop in and tell people what’s up. The things that happen, happen because they have been established/foreshadowed properly. Simply put, anyone who tackles fantasy from this day forward needs to study both this show and the Song of Ice and Fire novels. The one constant at play is, as I mentioned, everyone’s ability to be not just flawed but cruel at times. Yet not evil. Never evil. Motivations exist in event the most seemingly insignificant (Theon Greyjoy for instance, who’s journey won’t be flayed, I mean fleshed out until book 5!) or tragically underdeveloped of characters (King Robert Baratheon–whose real story exist more in brief references/recollections to the past) yet it all makes sense if you pay close attention. Characters that are fundamentally at odds such as Tyrion Lannister (who I would argue is the main character to the entire series) and Catelyn Stark or Eddard Stark and Queen Cersei all have perfectly sound motivations for why they do what they do. In many cases we would do the same if placed in any of their leather strapped shoes.

Season one of Game of Thrones showed us a world returning the darkness of yore. This is a realm that is long past the gory and magic of its own glorious folk tales. But there has been a quickening and forces seem to be shifting, stirring and awakening. A new era is beginning right here. Despite being on the precipice of a great void, clueless characters continue to plot, kill, grab for power, and land and petty titles as their reality begins to slip ever so slightly into oblivion; the darkness of winter the Starks so love to remind us is coming. Is that a literal winter or a figurative one. Probably both. We shall see.

2. Fringe
Season 3

Throughout most of 2010 I secretly knew (well, unless you read my obnoxious twitter proclamations) that no should could possibly top Fringe for Show of the Year. Then Game of Thrones came along and gave it a medieval curb-stomp, bumping it to a still great number 2 position. Season 3 of Fringe is as close to flawless as a show like this can get. The jump in quality from season one and (all but the last two episodes of) season 2 is off the charts; so much so that season three is for all intents and purposes a different show. A better show. A great show! Not since Lost seasons 4/5 and Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 has a Television (or movie) series creatively saved itself as Fringe did this season. The show has done nothing less than expand the bounds of the science fiction genre. What started as tedious paranormal mystery of the week turned into a parallel universe show that turned into a futuristic flash forward, a futuristic parallel flash forward and ended traveling back into the past which will no doubt affect Earth’s future(s). With help from JJ Abrams’ writing team (though, like Lost, minus JJ Abrams), the actors/characters keep it all from becoming a goofy mess (as Fringe often was early on), grounding the expertly crafted impossible with a vital human element. The central trio of characters played by John Nobel, Anna Torv (who took acting lessons this season!) and Joshua Jackson (as well as John Noble and Anna Torv’s parallel selves) all shined and glimmered this season. Literally.
Unlike EVERY network show on right now, Fringe requires your attention and demands that you ponder the implications. That makes it must-see Sci-fi. As with all great genre shows, it’s not a matter of good vs. evil. The villains on this show, if they can even be called that, are doing everything they can to save their universe from being swallowed by ours. Incidentally, our side is to blame for the multi-dimensional merging. No other story arc was better or more compelling than that last season.

With a myriad of creative uses of science (people who defy gravity, androids, expiated pregnancies, people who can’t die, an ancient tribe of profits etc.) the show recalls the anything-can-happen wonder of X-Files when it was in its prime (seasons 3-7). That most viewers dropped out in favor of more episodes of CSI:NCIS:L.A.:Miami is sad but indicative of the retardation of modern Television watching. While (spoiler) Peter was erased from time and memory at the end of the season, the happy ending to the Fringe saga is that it is the recipient of a truly rare and anomalous instance where creativity was placed ahead of profit. We must give Fox (of all places) credit for understanding the value of their Fringe property. This is a show for fans. Not critics and not even a mass audience. If Fringe should fall next year as Firefly did before it –and make no mistake, it WILL– it is our fault. And by our I mean the fault of people too closed minded to give a paranormal sci-fi show like this a chance more so than the people who actually watched the first season and a half and gave up (as I almost did). Finally, the shameful Emmy neglect of this innovative show (every bit as good as a given season of Lost was) is a good argument for dismantling that flawed and antiquated intuition in favor of a new system of awarding Television excellence. Because, really, there’s just no way one can’t even begin to talk about the best shows of the 2010/2011 season without putting Fringe towards the top of that list.

3. Doctor Who
Season Who The Hell Knows

Last season of Steven Moffatt’s Doctor Who was a surprise in every way. Not only was Matt Smith a good Doctor (a really good Doctor!–not Tennant good though) but the show was smarter and more exciting than it had ever been with a welcome emphasis on the science and logistics of what the Doctor is doing. When the Doctor used his Tardis the show actually bothered to explain what he was doing. When he traveled back into time the show told us how he did it! Even if it didn’t make perfect sense (how could it?), it’s great to see the show evolve with a fine aged sci-fi complexity. Of course Doctor Who also maintained a deep emotional core thanks to the human anchor and best Doctor companion ever, Amy Pond (played so well and winningly by Karen Gillan). Come to think of it… none of that should be surprising considering Steven Moffatt was always the true genus behind Doctor Who. The second season with the 11th Doctor maintains the high quality I came to expect from the series without exceeding it. Which is fine because Russell T. Davis’s problem was that he tried to top and one up things too much and things got messy. The “The Impossible Astronaut” opener was solid. Nothing more. The Neil Gaimen episode “The Doctor’s Wife” featuring his Tardis come to live was a wonderful tribute to the show and it’s fans. I hope to see more of Idrid. Writer Matthew Graham (Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes) did a decent Alien3 homage and created a great new character, the Doctor’s Clone. I also hope to see more of him even though he kinda melted. Oh, and there was a Pirate episode that easily surpassed Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (not that hard to do). And of course the mid-season finale was so good that I only resented the fact that there had to be a mid season finale in the first place. Seeing the show announce at the end of it that “Lets Kill Hitler” was a cruel enticement. Of course I’m saving the best aspect of the show for last: Rory. 

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 6

I can’t think of any television comedies other than perhaps Curb your Enthusiasm that have stayed this good after six seasons. Of course it took two full seasons to get into the proper wavelength that it’s on now but, still, pretty impressive. The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods episode might be the best Sunny to date. And that’s saying something considering the season also contained a Lethal Weapon 5 episode (link)! Other highlights include the Gang buying a filthy boat (and sinking it), working at a High School, Charley engaging in a rat Holocaust with his trusty bat (“”sometimes I wonder if our lives are more valuable than theirs” he muses), getting stuck in an empty pool, burning a house down, and of course the wondrous Rashomon “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” episode in which the Gang tries to figure out what the title suggests. The look on brother Dennis’s face when he thinks it’s him is priceless. There is no question that the show is still hitting its stride and riding that sweet spot all the way to the bank, or welfare line as it were.

4. Justified
Season 2

Season one of Justified was damn good. Made my top ten last year. Season two blows it away with a more intensified, character/story driven approach. The show brilliantly tweaked the once standard crime-of-the-week formula to include more cohesive season long arcs that include a colorful southern crime family and the mostly compelling transformation of Boyd Crowder (Goggins) from an annoyingly flaccid fortune cookie philosopher (Hannibal Lector crossed with Gandhi) to a crime boss fighting the rival crime family (the awesome, scene stealing Jeremy Davies and Margo Martindale) who have the pot trade cornered. All the while, protagonist Marshal Raylan Givens is stuck in the middle… again. Timothy Olyphant is the heart of this show. He projects coolness and can hang with the best of Leonard’s protagonists, and that includes Chili Palmer and Jack Foley. Not surprising considering Raylan was the hero of two amazing Leonard novels, Pronto and Riding the Rap. Unlike a lot of TV cops Raylan is not shallow and his well worn Western hero personality begins to crack and splinter off as the season progresses. I loved the pair of high intensity episodes where the Marshal and his ex wife cover up one of her ridiculous money stealing blunders in the evidence room. It showed that the show was more than capable of telling a story without the typical formula of cop/criminal cat and and mouse games. It was not only a solid anti-redemption for Raylan (who was mostly by the books prior and a bit of a renegade after) but the filmmaker who made it, John Avnet, who broke the law in his own way by making Righteous Kill and 88 Minutes. By the end of season two, Raylan’s hardly even a lawman anymore and that’s when the show was at its best. But he’s also not season 8’s Jack Bauer, seeking revenge on everything that moves. He’s instead somewhere in middle; a complex hero worthy of the Elmore Leonard seal of approval. Speaking of Leonard, not only does the crime master write an episode this season (a real treat for fans of the show and author) but this season as a whole felt even more like one of Leonard’s novels with homespun crimes, great dialogue and, of course, villains just as memorable as the heroes. Justified is one of those rare crime shows on Television that’s actually worth watching.


5. Aqua Unit Patrol Squad
Season 1 (but not really)

Aqua Teen made BIG changes when it’s insane creators Matt and Dave announced it would officially end and morph into it’s own spin-off called Aqua Unit Patrol Squad. The major difference announced was that the Teen or Unit as it were were to go back to being detectives just like they were at the show’s start so many years ago. And when Unit aired one rainy day in May it was just that. The team were on the case, staking out an abandoned house on the sidewalk as old people shuffled by. Then they got bored. Ten minutes later the show was back to its old tricks. I love this because the “new” Aqua is one big hoax on par with the bomb scare they initiated. Nothing’s changed, which would make Aqua Teen/Unit Hunger Force/Patrol Squad the least spun off spin-off of all time which is appropriate considering how nonsensical the show has always prided itself on being. Actually I’m wrong, something has changed: we got a kick ass new theme grind house song by Josh Holmme and the show “moved” from the muddy banks of New Jersey to Seattle… except they didn’t even really movie in the truest sense of the word because my beloved Frylock, Meatwad, and Master Shake (all praise be to him) are still in the same house (somehow) with the same disgusting green Astroturf and of course still next door to the wonderful Carl. So what does this all mean? Nothing. The show is still brilliant and inventive and that’s all that matters to me. Sure, I’d love for the show to really change or evolve but this quasi-non-sorta-sometimes-re-boot is getting the job done like a Shake/Carl/Whoooooorrre three-some (which totally happened this season… well, as much as that can happen with a genderless pistachio milk shake and drunk and probably impotent Giants fan). Each episode finds its warped niche and explores the usual brand of random madness. Smart phones take over, aliens incinerate people from the sky, and a Creditor Predator rips people skulls out. The fans got screwed with but I’m fine with that because most ATHF/AUPS “fans” are not loyal anymore and only seem to be watching so they can gripe how it’s not as good as the early seasons. I have a scary feeling the show wont last much longer and if that’s the case (God, I hope not) then this was the perfect note to end on.

6. Downton Abby
Series 1

The British miniseries is not only not dead but thriving by the looks of it. Julian Fellows applies a similarly inspired upstairs/downstairs approach to this story as he did with the brilliant Gosford Park. The show is simple: a Jane Austin-y family with three unmarried daughters attempts to keep their Downton Abbey estate. As we begin to understand if not always identify with the family’s turn of the century (first world) problems, the show elegantly flips that on its head as we ALSO see how everything works beneath the shallow but well polished veneer of proper society. The formula works and, indeed, as characters prance about with their stubbornness and sense of tradition and etiquette we begin to understand these were most certainly not simpler times. Fellows is critiquing the pre-war English values but not rejecting it outright. The show also does not force too much pathos or folly on the viewer. The show conveys a lot of emotion and dramatic gravity but never tonally goes too far in any one direction. It works so well because it’s traditional but the mildly subversive politics, social jabs, humor and insights that Fellows slips in are fun and provide the Abby with an essential bit of period show flavor. Like reading a good book, watching this show cleans my pallet.

7. Archer
Season 2

Archer is as good as ever. So there’s that. Oh and… ~~~~~DANGER ZONE!~~~~~

8. Community
Season 2

The only show on TV brave enough to reference Farscape in a joke. Community makes the list for that reason alone. Okay, a few more too. First off, I watched the pilot and hated it. After a year of declaring Community to be about as lame as actual community college I finished the first season and was surprised to see this quirky show make the grade, going from another overrated and self-aware NBC sitcom to a genuinely original and entertaining comedy. If any show is worthy enough to inherit Newsradio’s anything-goes comedy title it’s this show. The show is irreverent but there’s a strange gentleness to how the characters act towards each other that I atypically responded positively to. I actually like these people. I can’t believe a show this odd is able to exist on a mainstream network. It may be set in a community college but, really, it could be set anywhere and still work. The setting is almost incidental and only exists to provide a context for the wacky antics of a tightly connected group of friends lead by Joel McHale. The second season shows no sign of slowing down or selling out or, thankfully, cancellation. Considering it’s on NBC that’s all very impressive.

9 Wilfred
Season 1

Yes, another show that involves weed. Hum. It’s great to have a comedy like Wilfred around. Fantasy comedies are notoriously prickly in terms of ratings (Andy Richter, Herman’s Head, that great Chris Elliot show that nobody watched etc.) but if there is any justice Wilfred has a real shot at developing a solid core cult audience. The humor is raunchy but the fantasy element (and by that I mean talking dog played by sardonic Aussie played by Jason Gann) blends wonderfully with the dark tones, creating a winning mix of laughs and cringes. The dog character never gets old. Ever. He’s horny, irrational and emotional. And stoned. That’s ALWAYS good for a laugh. Playing off him of course is a straight man and it’s great to see Elijah Wood find a post Lord of the Rings project like this. He’s not the first actor to jump into my mind for a show like Wilfred but his dainty or, pardon, “effete” and slightly off kilter persona makes him the perfect person to deliver lines like “Eat shit! Eat shit!,” to which Wilfred replies “Again, your tone says insult, but what I’m hearing is a tempting offer.” The chemistry between perpetually stoned Wilfred and Ryan (Wood) are what make this show worth watching, preferably un-sober. I just hope the high lasts. People need to watch this!

10. Louie
Season 2

Many call Louie a comedy. I can understand why but I don’t know if I could call it a comedy. It’s its own beast. More dramatic than people give it credit for but also absurdist and, yes, funny as hell too. Louis C.K. is always looking for new ways to tell old stories and he succeeds (a lot of the time). It’s as is Woody Allen and Larry David’s whimsical sense of place and situation invaded Louie C.K.’s psyche, but through his own filter of dark psychedelic madness. Often times, tender moments will roll by predictably but with a lot of charm only to twist and contort by the scene’s end, morphing into something grotesque and demented. You’ll be watching a sequence ripped from the romantic comedy playbook only to experience it’s randomly bloody denouement where, for instance, a homeless man suddenly charges at Louie who ducks out of his only to see the hobo trip into traffic where his body is ripped open by a speeding dump truck. His head is severed and “pops off like melon” then thumps down the street. Funny? Uh, yeah actually. The picture above occurred after a dramatic talk with his young daughter in which she tells Louie she would rather live with his ex-wife. What’s better than funny, though, is that it’s all so unexpected. If that’s not someone’s cup of tea nobody then certainly nobody can blame them. It certainly is mine. The only flaw is that Louis C.K. and his show feels a bit too self aware, indulgent at times about how good it is but I can’t really blame him for being perceptive.

Mini rant: I had the show ranked at #5 until I saw two HUGE season 2 missteps. First was the hour long Iraq comedy tour episode. Yes, Louie made a Very Special Louie and fuck him for it. It was overlong, self serving, apolitical, pandering and only attempts to do one “funny” thing with a lame subplot about Louie accidentally bringing his kid’s duck through his luggage and now there he is in a war zone. Wacky! Actually, this duck in Iraq thing sounds like a really great idea for a really bad movie starting The Rock. The episode is a bigger fail than the actual war. The second abysmal Louie episode was so bad that I rage quit the show (meaning: violently pressed the stop button). Louie has to watch the most annoying 13-year-old girl on the planet and for 20 straight minutes we are stuck in the worst version of Gloria ever attempted (yes, even worse than the Sharon Stone version).

Curb You Enthusiasm
Season 8

Pretty good… PRETTY, PRETTY good. 

Torchwood: Miracle Day
Series 4

Don’t listen to the haters, this season is just short of miraculous. After finding is footing in season 3 with the much loved Children of Earth miniseries the show once again shifted its town into a much un-loved Americanized formula. This time into a more social conscious parable about life, death and medicine. Doesn’t sound exciting but it is. The show zips around with all the manic energy of 24. There are also no aliens. I applaud the show’s willingness to try new things but if it wasn’t successful I would be the first to poopoo it because I didn’t really like the first two season of Torchwood. True, we’re only about half way through the season but I have a good feeling about this season. Update: Hum, the following episodes I watched stumbled a lot with some turgid storytelling but recovered big time for the final two episodes.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
Currently the best anime show on Earth.

Damages
Season 4

Still have not began watching this season. I have no idea why. It’s a great show and I’m looking forward to two new seasons. So, what the hell, I’m “ranking” it.
Parks and Recreation
It took me a while to forgive this show for it’s first season.
Special Mention: Smallville
I thought Smallville would get better as it’s ten year run came to a close this year but it just refused to come together, often reverting into lazy storytelling tropes and one useless filler episode after another. The episode before the big finale was even a filler about Booster! Really, Smallville?! And the penultimate Wedding episode was bad enough to challenge the Superman saves illegal immigrants episode for worst episode of Smallville ever (which is saying something!). Still, there have been some landmark episodes this season–Clark’s “Reunion” episode, for instance, gave the Buffy high school reunion a run for it’s money and acted as a glorious tribute to the man who was and the man who will be. Also, Luthor was a fantastic episode that saw one of the best characters from the series, Lionel, returning and back to his usual evil ways (he was great this season–as usual). But overall the season was lopsided and misguided. In the end though Clark literally saved the day. The last episode FINALLY saw Clark becoming the man of steel and it was a glorious note to end the series on. Very few shows end with an episode that is also the best of the series but Smallville pulled it off. Note: I’m including Smallville in this list rather than the one below as a tribute to all it’s done (and not done) over the years.

Best Performances and Episodes
Performances/Characters:
  1. John Noble and John Noble (Walter and Walter). Fringe.
  2. Timothy Olyphant in Justified.
  3. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  4. Arthur Darvill (Rory) in Doctor Who.
  5. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) in Game of Thrones.
  6. Philip Glenister (Gene Hunt) in Ashes to Ashes.
  7. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  8. Sean Bean (Eddard Stark) in Game of Thrones.
  9. Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) in Doctor Who.
  10. Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  11. Matt Smith in Doctor Who
  12. Louis C.K. in Louie.
  13. John Hamm in Mad Men.
  14. Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  15. Jason Gann and Elijah Wood in Wilfred.
  16. Bill Pullman in Torchwood.
  17. Alison Bree (Annie) in Community.
  18. Anna Torv (Olivia) in Fringe.
  19. Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation.
  20. Joshua Jackson (Peter) in Fringe.
  21. Bryan Cranston (Walter White) in Breaking Bad.
  22. Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie.
Best Individual Episodes:
  1. Ashes to Ashes. The final episode. Perhaps the best series finale of all time. And the series wasn’t even that good!
  2. “Baelor,” Game of Thrones. Head up!
  3. Almost any episode of Fringe. Except for the Waking Life episode nonsense. And the one where the chick couldn’t die.
  4. “Winter is Coming,” Game of Thrones. Premier episode sets the stage perfectly. Here we go…
  5. “The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  6. The Doctor’s Wife, Doctor Who. Neil Gaimen’s brilliant tribute.
  7. The Cancer two-parter in Archer. Dead serious. Boosch!
  8. Palestinian Chicken, Curb Your Enthusiasm. A classic Curb episode.
  9. Community‘s “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” does a great job of making fun of the (annoying?) trend of documentary style sitcoms (The Office, Parks and Recreation etc.).  It also features Levar Burton, and that’s pretty cool.
  10. “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  11. “Save My Love,” Justified Raylan’s dumb ex makes him break into his own department to return money she stole. The results are surprisingly good.
  12. The masturbation episode Come On, God in Louie. So God’s watching us masturbate… that’s creepy. Good one, Louie!
  13. The Suitcase, Mad Men.

Biggest Disappointments

Dexter
Season 5
Ugh. Worst season ever. And, yes, I sat through the Jimmy Smits season. The acting, writing and directing is all off and out-of-place. Dexter season 5 is not just disappointing but down right bad. The killer camaraderie with Julia Styles and motivational speaker/gang rapist season long big bad derailed a once great character/show. I can honestly saw the season only had one decent episode and can honestly add that I totally don’t even remember what it was! That’s how bad it was! After the wonderful season 4 (sure to the the peek of this show) I don’t think Dexter the show knew how to recover, let alone the Dexter character. He mopes, he kills (sometimes), and he goes through the motions. KILL ME NOW! 

Walking Dead
Season 1

First off, I’m not an angry Walking Dead comic fanboy. Thankfully my dislike of this show does not affect my enjoyment of the comic. When I re-watched Walking Dead after buying the Blu-ray I hated it even more than when it aired. But there’s the catch: I bought a show I didn’t like. That’s gotta mean it’s doing something right, right? Um. This new series from AMC is flawed (more so than Mad Men even) but where else are you going to get a show based on the best comic book series at this moment? I like the unflinching approach even when I hated the acting (it’s like Inside the Actor’s Studio with Zombies), writing and botched aesthetic realism approach by Frank Darabont who does to this franchise what he did to Steven King’s The Mist. The zombie saga has so much potential that to see even a tiny bit of that shine through during the disastrous six episode season run is good enough I guess. It annoys me at times that it diverged almost completely from Kirkman’s comic series–the zombie-less CDC episode was ambitious but dull while the Home Boy Nursing Home episode that Kirkman himself wrote was just plain bad–he really should stick to the comic. Still, the willingness to branch out and try new things is admirable and might just save the series in the long run. As much as I’d love to see Rick’s annoying wife gunned down by a madman’s bullet I don’t think the show will ever be willing to go as far as the comic does.

True Blood
Season 3 and 4

True Blood has jumped the fairy powder pixy dusted shark. To get better it needs to get back to basics or risk becoming a complete joke. That is, if it isn’t one already which it kinda is. Oh, not that I’ll ever stop watching it. There’s no better trash on TV. Season 3 may have been disappointing but it was saved by Russell. Thanks to him he helped the show make the case that even bad True Blood hits the spot. It wouldn’t be summer without it. The upside: season 4 is decent and by decent I mean not as bad as seasons 2 and 3. 

Breaking Bad
Season 4

Last season ranked here as my number one show of the 2009/2010 season. This season is a pale shell that only somewhat resembles the show I once loved. We’re only about half way through so it could turn around (probably will) but I can no longer pretend I’m as into BB right now as I once was. Season four has not captured my interest. The story-lines are tired and redundant and ponderous. Many episodes drift along with nothing happening until the last moment (which is usually just good enough to keep me watching). Some episodes even feel like remakes of the previous episodes. For example two episodes in a row ended with the whiny Hank Schrader discovering, then re-discovering that the Happy Chicken or whatever the cluck it’s called may be up to no good! Ya think?! The actors appear even more scattered and disjointed (is there anyone on BB that’s not a insufferable twat these days?) and the filmmaking is a jumbled mess of corny experimentation (ahhhh no more POV cam shots, it was annoying when Spike Lee over-did it ten years ago), annoying music drops that are meant to imply something profound is going on (but never do) and shallow artistic metaphors pertaining to nothing of interest (a water slowly going down the kitchen drain–I see what you did there!)–the first two episodes alone contain very little plot but a poop-ton of scenes that are either molasses slow (the protracted throat slitting in episode was a waist of time because we could all see what was coming) or retardedly manic (the endless Jessie drug montages–ugh, STOP!).

Mad Men
Season 4

Mad Men is still good but no longer great and certainly no longer what I would call special. Something is missing that was there in the first few seasons. An energy, a feeling an excitement. It’s not the same. To make matters worse the show seems to have run out of new ideas even though what it does, it does with so much style and conviction that it’s easy to forgive the fact that it’s just rehashing old ideas. Season 4 kept things interesting with the single Don arc but it’s also the worst season to date. That’s good enough to get me to keep watching but not good enough to write home about. Hamm is as good as ever though and I hope he gets an Emmy this year.

Boardwalk Empire
Season 1

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh, hey, look Paz De La Huerta’s nasty vag… Zzzzzzzzzz

Mildred Pierce (miniseries)
I don’t know what happened here. Todd Haynes needs to stick to movies. Preferable two hours or under.

 

Best Mini-Series or Movie

 

Carlos directed by Oliver Assayas

So good it made my list for best movies of 2010. Here’s what I wrote:

Weather or not you think it’s one of the year’s best you have to agree that “Carlos” is one of the most important and relevant films of the year, second only to “Social Network.” And it’s not even a film-film! It’s a miniseries but one of the highest order. Aside from the breathtaking, flawlessly paced and thankfully penis free middle chapter concerning the now famous hostage-taking incident by Carlos and his terrorist group at the 1975 OPEC conference, it’s not even that “Carlos” is the most groundbreaking achievement of the 2010. What’s great is more in the way everything is brought together under Oliver Assayas’ pluralistic umbrella. From razor sharp jump cuts to heated cultural interactions to disjointed location sprees to a fragmented sense of history and moral causes and of course the ironic usage of new wave music, “Carlos” is an explosion in all senses of the word.
The film is wise to borrow from the best parts of ”Traffic,” “Che” and “Munich.” It actually surpasses them in a lot of ways. What “Carlos” does it does so well and with such unbridled conviction that it does not need to innovate the crime genre it is playing in. This is a staggering epic that must be experienced in all it’s glory so no settling for the anemic feature length version. The weight of it all is overwhelming and even hard to grasp at first because I was so busy attempting to take in and absorb all the information being casually thrown at me. But once I realize it’s not about the specific facts and details but about the attitude and sweeping gestures then the film worked its complex magic on me. And not to take away from all the beautiful small and innocuous but no less important moments such as the sight of a naked woman on white bed in the afternoon, the way two people look at each other while drinking or even just the way smoke dances through the air. This may be the sexiest looking terrorist movie ever made.
Olivier Assayas has made a lot of cool films (last year’s “Summer Hours” also ranked high with me last year) but none quite like “Carlos.” I never quite knew where the filmmaker was coming from and that kept me as on edge as anything in the film proper. Is Assayas advocating Carlos’ terrorist behavior? Sympathizing with his cause? Mocking him? Demystifying a legend? It is not spelled out for us thankfully but perhaps elements from all four. I just can’t get a fix on things. The same goes for the figure of Carlos himself played so well and with such conviction by Édgar Ramírez. This is not a a film that attempts to explore and psychologically pick apart the man underneath the so called legend of Carlos the Jackal. A wall is always up on Carlos’s true feelings and his “cause” and perhaps the only cause that ever really mattered to him with was his own via self aggrandizement. Unlike a lot of famous movie gangsters (with terrorists being the modern version of them) this film is about the rise and… not fall but sloooooowdecline of a “historical curiosity.” Carlos talks a good talk but never quite seems to care about anything and so his gradual and unspectacular undoingis fitting. You get the sense that he would rather gaze at his naked body in a mirror, got to a swinging party, romance some commie groupies and of course profit from his professional terrorist activity than to make the world a “better place to live in.” All that and so much more is what makes this such an interesting character study.

Torchwood: Children of Earth
Torchwood finally arrives. The key: not only were the annoying characters from seasons one and two killed off but show actually treated the aliens as something real and scary. Rather than a bunch of fun but trivial sci-fi episodes Torchwood eschewed the camp and turned itself into a genuinely gripping thriller.

You Don’t Know Jack
First HBO original movie I’ve enjoyed in some time. And the first Barry Levingston film I’ve enjoyed in an even longer time.

Flat Out Worst Shows On TV
Fiction:
Note:
I’m sure there are worse shows but I had to have seen at least one episode for it to qualify here. So no Grey’s Anatomy.
  1. Glee–Glee is the worst show on TV in years. And the most irritating show to air since The West Wing. Hate is not a strong enough word here.
  2. Glee–loathing is a better word.
  3. Glee–disgusted even better.
  4. Glee–American Idol in a High School. How bad can it be?
  5. Glee–REALLY BAD!
  6. Two and a Half Men
  7. Falling Skies
  8. Terriers
  9. Dexter
  10. Walking Dead
  11. The Big Bang Theory

Non fiction:
1. Jersey Shore. So bad it’s…bad.
2. Jay Leno
3. TMZ
4. American Idol
5. The Colbert Report (I’m half hoping a Republican beats Obama next year just show the Colbert Report and Daily Show can get good again. However there’s no hope for Colbert; his shtick is running on fumes)

My Last 10 #1 Ranked Shows…
  • Breaking Bad Season 3
  • Lost
  • Frisky Dingo
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Battlestar Glaticia (over 24 season 5, what was I thinking?!)
  • Arrested Development
  • Angel
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

2 thoughts on “Best and Worst TV Shows of the 2010-2011 Season”

  1. How is the Simpsons not on the worst list? The show has jumped the shark a billion times and hasn’t been remotely funny in 15 years (when it was the best show in TV history). It is flat out unwatchable.
    I could say the same about The Office. Formerly great, but now boring and unfunny.

    1. Good point. It would totally be on the worst list if only I had the strength to watch an episode from the last year. I loved the show in the 90s and early 00s but I remember the exact episode I realized the show was no longer great, or even good, and had to throw in the towel: Marge got fake boobs. I haven’t watched a single episode new or old since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *