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Best of 2011: TV shows

BY DAILY TV/NEW MEDIA STAFF

Published January 4, 2012

In its second season, the show proved it could master episodic and season-long arcs and enrich its excellently crafted story with compelling characters beyond just Raylan and Boyd (Walton Goggins, “The Shield”).

The best of these new characters was certainly Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale, “Secretariat”), the pot-growing matriarch of the Bennett family and longtime nemeses of the Givens family. Boyd has been a fantastic recurring antagonist, so combining him with the Bennetts provided positively explosive tension and excitement.

Raylan (and Timothy Olyphant, for that matter) remains the best part of this show. He’s a perfect protagonist, mostly because of his imperfections, his gray sense of what’s right and wrong. While most recent antiheroes on television evoke ambivalent feelings from audiences, even in his darkest times Raylan is ultimately a hero who we want to root for.

-KAYLA UPADHYAYA

9. “Archer”

James Bond was suave and seductive and snooty, but also relatively chivalrous and gentlemanly. But if you had his gadgets and cars and guns, you’d probably be a giant asshole — and so, to our delight, is secret agent Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, “Bob’s Burgers”) of ISIS. In the latest season of FX’s snarky classic, the overgrown, Hermes-wearing, “Bag with which one douches” gets married, breast cancer and a hooker pregnant, dealing with each subsequent conflict by letting loose the “whatever farm animals of war.” And also by using the wittiest, most offensive sarcasm ever to hit TV.

But the great thing about “Archer” this season wasn’t Archer himself, but his supporting characters, who stepped into the spotlight and exposed their depraved backstories to the world. The impossibly talented voice actors, many of them veterans of comedy masterpiece “Arrested Development”, stepped up to the task, bringing the twisted “Archer”-verse of “unsexy” gangsters and illegal tontines to glorious, animated life.

-DAVID TAO

10. “American Horror Story”

The basics behind “American Horror Story”?

Freak. You. Out.

Somehow, amid all the gross-out effects, psychotic characters, sex and dead babies, you want to keep watching. This isn’t some low-budget, cheap-thrill-seeking, straight-to-DVD horror flick. “American Horror Story” gets to you.

Sure, it overdoes it a bit, but the hypnotic style ends up offsetting much of the freak-you-out-just-because-we-can factors abundant in the series. “American Horror Story” deals with a more sophisticated side of the horror genre, craftily expanding upon real-life fears that aren’t so uncommon and turning them into ghoulish nightmares that will haunt your dreams. Following the Harmon family’s perils at the hands of their new haunted house and creepy neighbors, the series deftly extols on the deeper issues of the human condition: impurity, suicide, murder, miscarriages and so on.

Series creator Ryan Murphy announced FX will renew the show for a second season, though he plans to change the cast and bring in old faces as completely new characters. If any show could pull that off, it’d be “American Horror Story.”

-KELLY ETZ


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