In the year that ended five days ago, I followed several TV series with focus and frequency as I hadn’t dedicated to TV in quite a few years. I followed, totally or partially, 22 TV series – partially being the ones that didn’t please me much, so I wound up quitting. Among these 22, I chose the ten that I liked best. The rule is that, for the purpose of evaluation, new episodes aired between January 1st and December 31st 2011 count, regardless of what season they’re from. Let’s check the results.
10. The Walking Dead – the seven episodes shown in 2011 greatly oscillated in terms of plot development; for a lot of the time, the show just walked in circles. On the other hand, a promising start and a ravishing finale guarantee an average position – which is not much, for those who expected a top-of-the-line series.
09. Dexter – after the no-better-than-regular fifth season, considered by mostly everyone to be the weakest of the series, Dexter came back for season six approaching religious dilemmas, brought interesting villains, cut screen time for secondary plots (even though it still wasted some time with the expendable Laguerta) and had a few brilliant moments. The main plot’s resolution was less exciting than one might hope, but the cliffhanger left at the final second of the last episode was one of television’s best moments of 2011.
08. Greek – a series that never really took off (at least in Brazil), Greek was put on hold and then came back, in January last year, for a last season of only 10 episodes (against 20 from season 3 and 22 for the first two). What did producers do with these ten episodes? Made them the best of the whole series. Personal plots treated superficially until them gained in depth, comedy worked, and there have been genius moments, such as the episode “All About Beav”. The final episode, entitled “Legacy” honored both its title and the series, masterfully summing up the message that each person is their own way, and learning to live with that, and making the most out of it, is the true lesson of college.
07. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – two very distinguished periods marked SVU in 2011: the second half of the 12th season brought the classic original line-up, headed by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay; by the end of that season, Meloni announced he wouldn’t return to the series, which then came back for the 13th cycle with two new detectives. Still in Stabler era, great episodes like Mask, Pursuit, Bombshell and the devastating season finale. In post-Stabler phase, the surprising performances by Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish were enough to thin out doubts about the future of SVU.
06. Game of Thrones – having its fan base among Lord of the Rings lovers, but aiming for a broader audience, the series based on George Martin’s books became a fever. So much so that there was no lack of people eager to overlook the few flaws brought by the show here and there – and trying to force others to do the same. Fanatics aside, Game of Thrones has many more merits than demerits, and in the list of merits we can include cinematography, art direction and specially acting. The cast, which brings many unknown actors, helps maintain the upper level quality of the series.
05. Community – as it has been since the nearly-perfect first season, Community has ups and downs. The downs represent average quality, non-ravishing episodes. The ups, on the other hand, become the best comedy moments – and some of the best all-around moments – out of any running TV series. Last year kicked off with the triad “Asian Population Studies”, Celebrity Pharmacology 212” and “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”, hilarious and brilliant (and which had the merit of taking the exhibitionism of Chevy Chase – easily the worst actor in the cast – and turning it into something that benefits the whole more than the actor).
04. Homeland – Homeland – the most surprising newcomer of the year, Homeland built, in 12 episodes, a smart, well tied up plot, which flowed very naturally. The beginning was good, but a bit trivial for someone who’s used to spy stories (and I’m an avid Tom Clancy reader). Episode after episode, though, it all just got better. By the end, there were a few bumps, but nothing that could spoil the whole. Claire Danes offers a brilliant performance. It’s a shame that the final cliffhanger was embarrassing, but that’s just a detail.
03. Castle – getting to the podium, a series I’d never seen before, and which I started in 2011. Because it has 24 episodes per season, Castle has some very expendable chapters here and there. The 2011 period, however, ended up privileged. Development in detective Becket’s mother’s murder took many episodes and added incredible amounts of emotion and character development. Add to that episodes like “To Love and Die in L.A.” and the duo “Setup” and “Countdown” (these two, by the way, bring some of TV’s best moments from last year) and Castle would already deserve recognition. Third place in the list is conquered because the series offered nothing more than the best season finale and the best season premiere of the year.
02. Justified – the first season was very good. The second was genius. Surgically prepared dialogues, characters so alive they seemed to jump out of the screen, intelligent plots, character development (even for minor supporting characters), moving moments and a bone-crushing outcome make Justified a mandatory series – which not enough people have been watching.
01. Breaking Bad – do you know how many series in the past months have offered us one of the best seasons of all times? Only one. Only Breaking Bad. Working every aspect of each episode from plot to scenography, from acting to sound effects, Breaking Bad’s fourth season reached such high peaks of geniality that simply don’t allow for comparison with anything that was aired in 2011. Last year, Breaking Bad was better than everything else. It’s that simple.
Obviously, I watched these ten series to their full extent, them being my favorites. For your information, the other series I watched last year were: American Horror Story, The Big Bang Theory, Brothers & Sisters, House, Law & Order: Los Angeles. Terra Nova, Two and a Half Men (completely); The Cape, Desperate Housewives, The Event, The Good Wife, Rookie Blue, Supernatural and Shattered (partially).
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