The Best TV of 2011: Drama

Like yesterday’s post, only more brooding and homicidal.

Breaking Bad: It’s pretty simple at this point. If you’re not watching Breaking Bad you’re an idiot and better be contributing great things to society. Because missing out on TV’s finest hour-long drama is inexcusable. Showrunner Vince Gilligan has steadily taken more risks with the plot and in the fourth season the writers went all out. One five-minute sequence in the season premeire involving a box cutter set the tone, which this season was along the lines of “Holy shit.” A lull in the middle led some fans to question whether the creative minds were on the right track but the last third of the season blew audiences away. Another season, another otherworldly performance by Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston. But season 4 belonged to Giancarlo Esposito as drug kingpin Gus Fring. Special shout-out to composer David Porter and music supervisor Thomas Golubi for his fantastic song choices.

Best Episode: “Face Off”

Boardwalk Empire: After the season two finale this past Sunday I had a lot of conflicting feelings about this show. By taking some dramatic turns it appears that the show is moving away from some of their more intriguing characters. But after reading a few interviews with series creator Terrence Winter I feel more at ease. While people were expecting something a bit more substantial given the creative pedigree behind the show it has consistently delivered as a beautifully crafted, well-acted hour of drama. My only complaint is we have not seen enough of Richard Harrow (the man with the mask). He is unnervingly handsome and it scares me.

Best Episode: “Paris Green”

Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. I’ve already written about the show before but suffice to say it was incredible. The fifth and final season of the show about high school football but not really about football gave die-hard fans some nice closure. If you still haven’t hopped on the bandwagon because you are some kind of loser who think sports are lame, I assure you the football is just a small fraction of the show. At the core is the greatest TV marriage ever between Coach Eric and Tami Taylor. Most of the original cast left after a few seasons but they remained the emotional heart and because of it the show never faltered. Also, fans of The Wire will find out the answer to the eternal question of, “Where’s Wallace?”

Best Episode: “Always”

Homeland: The most surprising hit of 2011, at least in my eyes. An adaptation of an Israeli series, starring Claire Danes and produced by the showrunners of 24. I enjoyed 24 for the most part because it was mindless entertainment and not because I bought into executive producer Joel Surnow’s conservative ideology about how our country should handle counter-terrorism. Despite their previous work on 24, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa take a completely different look at how America wages The War on Terror. The basic premise is Carrie Mathison (Danes) is a CIA agent who suspects Al-Qaeda of turning a POW into a terrorist. From the awkward, jazzy credits sequence it’s unlike any post 9/11 terrorism show you’ve seen. Danes is incredible in portraying the highly intelligent, motivated and fairly crazy Mathison. I love how the show portrays the decaying effect The War on Terror has on the people who fight it everyday on both sides. There’s no strict moralizing and the viewers are left to make their own conclusions.

Best Episode: “The Weekend”

Other Shows People Love But I Don’t Watch: Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Justified, Treme, Men of a Certain Age

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