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Best of 2011: TV shows



Published January 4, 2012

1. “Game of Thrones,”

In its heyday, HBO created programs that transcended genres and offered something for everyone. With “Game of Thrones,” HBO has worked its magic again, turning George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga into a refreshingly audacious program with incredible mass appeal.
The show’s set in a world where seasons last for years and dragons used to fly around. But that’s largely ignored. Instead, HBO presents a delightfully dark tale full of political and military intrigue. Armies move at the behest of lords manipulated by seemingly minor players, such as Littlefinger and the Imp — Tyrion Lannister — who truly run the show. Illusions of chivalry and grace are shattered by pragmatism and horror.
Elaborate plots and wry wit are a credit to the writers room. The cinematography and production design are a testament to HBO’s attitude of “Budget? Psh, we can pay for it with Skinemax.” And of course, there’s that final, shocking beheading.


2. “Parks and Recreation,”

The greatest thing about NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is how easy it is to adore every character. And now, “Parks” has become one of the most beloved TV comedies.

Season four represents what “Parks” is all about. The relationship between Ben and Leslie gets direct attention. It’s refreshing to see them face the music and answer for the office romance instead of finding some sitcomm-y loophole.
And how on earth can we pick the finest hour of Ron Swanson? Maybe it’s when he gives his Pawnee Rangers a handbook with just one instruction: Be a man. Maybe it’s when his mustache “falls off” courtesy of Tammy One, or when he throws away the invasive and satanic device, AKA his computer. Whatever it is, the man can do no wrong.

The fact that “Parks” has yet to win any big-name awards is shameful. Still, it has cemented itself a place with the comedy greats of our time.

3. “Community,”

2011 has been rough for cult hit “Community,” which is on indefinite hiatus. But creatively, the show has been brilliant.

While the first half of the second season was a little uneven, the part that aired in 2011 was insane in the way only “Community” can be. The Christmas claymation psychodrama in 2010 led into a sequence of episodes in which the show’s self-aware mode of joke-telling supplemented the deep characterization and became a part of it.

The best episodes of “Community” are gimmick episodes: a bottle episode that calls itself a bottle episode and episodes with multiple timelines. But what “Community” does with these gimmicks is more than just clever. The show’s tricks help us understand the characters and has become excellent at balancing sharp writing, clever references and character moments. Treasure it while it’s still here, because “Community” might not last long.


4. “Breaking Bad,”

Having concluded its heartstoppingly suspenseful fourth season, “Breaking Bad” has evolved from its “Weeds”-esque premise into something utterly different: A life-or-death competition full of shock value and brutality, an elaborate chess game tempered by guns, organized crime and of course, methamphetamine.

Walt’s struggle with his drug-lord boss Gus comes to a head. After Walt packs yet another victim of Gus’s pragmatic, throat-opening rage into a barrel of acid, the writing’s on the wall — Walt’s a dead man. As Walt plots his survival, and ostensibly, that of his loyal underling Jesse, Gus runs into his own problems — the Mexican Cartel is hijacking his shipments and daring to declare war.

The pressure exerted on all parties slowly comes to a boil until it finally explodes, literally, in the season finale.