While figuring out how to properly end 2011 here on Please Welcome Your Judges, it became clear that a farewell to a year's worth of television needed to be made in addition to my normal Top 10 Movie list. Of course, I write about my TV favorites so much and have already covered the highs and lows with regards to award shows like the Emmys, so merely writing a Top 10 TV Shows list seemed to be a bit redundant.
Instead, I've compiled a list of my favorite shows that I discovered in 2011. Some of them are brand new shows, some of them are shows that I finally caught up with, others are shows that I cannot believe I missed out on during their original runs, and all of them are fantastic. If you've seen them already, use this as a way to celebrate these phenomenal series; if you haven't, then let this be a solid endorsement: go get these DVDs, stream them on Netflix, add them to your DVR. You'll thank me later.
So, in alphabetical order, here are my favorite TV discoveries of 2011...
A comedy about dysfunctional, sexually-active high school students. It's not exactly a fresh concept, and in theory I should not be the show's demographic, but MTV's Awkward. has the perfect blend of comedy, spunk, wit and, most of all, heart to make it stand out of the pack. Whether it's in her constant battles with school bully Sadie, her on-and-off romances with Jake and Matty (btw, I'm totally Team Jake), or her struggle against the infamous letter, Jenna Hamilton is a girl I love to root for. I may not understand half of the abbreviations she and her best friend Tamara use (DTR = define the relationship), but I am totally on board with Awkward. and cannot wait for Season 2 next year.
[Side Note: I laugh every time school guidance counselor Valerie is in a scene. No exceptions]
Okay, truth be told, I'm pretty sure I started watching it sometime in 2010, but I finished my viewing of Battlestar Galactica last spring and I never gave it the love it deserved here. What I once dismissed as a nerdy sci-fi show turned out to be one of the best series I've ever seen. Like most great dramas—and there's another one later on this list—BSG is about so much more than its obvious premise. Yes, the show is about the near-extinction of the human race by a group of rogue robots and the quest for a new home in the far reaches of space (can you see where I got "nerdy sci-fi" from?), but it is also about the strength of love and the human spirit, the ever-present debates of religion and politics in our society, the need for faith and the longing for answers. From the triumphs of Laura Roslin and Bill Adama to the complexities of Kara Thrace and the growing mysteries of the Cylons and the Final Five, Battlestar Galactica is a must-see series. So say we all.
Better Off Ted
You know those sitcoms that you know you should watch, but then they disappear before you get a chance? Better Off Ted seems to be "that show" for a lot of people, and with the help of Netflix I decided to finally cross it off my list this summer. I am so glad I did. The insane corporate world of Veridian Dynamics was the perfect setting for comedic foibles, whether they be frozen employees, interoffice romances or a secret project only known as "Jabberwocky." I loved Ted, Veronica, Linda, Phil and Lem and wish they would come back into my life. Maybe there's a chance in 2012 when Jabberwocky is finely unveiled?
Friday Night Lights
Right after finishing BSG, I jumped into a little series about Texas high school football called Friday Night Lights. What I didn't know at the time was how many highs, lows, victories and defeats I would witness and truly feel a part of throughout the course of five glorious seasons. The character development in this series is unrivaled; I have never felt more connected to a team, community or family on television the way I do to the citizens of fictional Dillon, Texas. After watching all of FNL, my new life goals are to have the wisdom of Coach, the patience of Tami, the drive of Tyra, the heart of Riggins and the rapping skills of Smash. Four out of five wouldn't be bad, either. This series sadly ended its run this past spring, but fans of the show know it will always be Texas Forever. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
Game of Thrones
I already did plenty of gushing over Game of Thrones in my Sick Day Review of the series, but it was worth mentioning it again on the list as it is certainly one of the best new series of the year. Medieval-esque fantasy is not my normal cup of tea, but the intricately woven stories within the Realm kept me on the edge of my seat all season long. Season 2 cannot start soon enough.
The inclusion of this new sitcom should come as no surprise since it's part of my weekly Happy Family Jules posts and I say "a-mah-zing" just about every four words (sorry, real life friends). But that's now. If you rewound the clock nine months to the end of March when Happy Endings was just another in a long list of Friends clones the 2010-2011 season had to offer us, the idea that it would become one of my favorite shows would be simply laughable. That ABC held the show until mid-April and decided to burn it off at 10pm was not exactly a rousing endorsement, but somehow I decided to tune in and see what it was all about. Obviously, I've never looked back. The chemistry that the six characters have with each other is something you don't see every day on TV, and the rapid fire jokes and insane situations always keep me coming back for more. Essentially, Happy Endings is totally a-mah-zing.
Parks and Recreation
When it first started, Parks and Recreation was unbearable. Paired with The Office, Leslie Knope came off as a female Michael Scott who was less funny and more awkward than her predecessor. After four episodes, I called it quits. And while Season 1 reviews continued to be lukewarm at best, word started getting out that Parks and Rec had found its groove in Season 2. So when the third season premiered in January, I decided to see what all the buzz was about. The Pawnee Parks Department is still an island of misfit toys, but they have transformed into a zany little family. They get into trouble and they don't always get along, but the show maintains a positivity and compassion within its characters that is endearing and refreshing. And all the while, it is also the funniest show on television.
Apparently this was the year I discovered and fell in love with Adam Scott. After instantly adoring him as Ben on Parks and Rec, I started watching Party Down, the Starz series he left to join the group in Pawnee. Though it didn't last long—two seasons, ten 20-minute episodes each—it was the little gift that kept on giving. Following the misadventures of a Los Angeles-based catering crew, the series always managed to get weirder and funnier as it went along. Featuring a slam dunk cast of Scott, Mean Girls' Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr, Megan Mullally and a pre-Glee Jane Lynch, Part Down is comedic gold. "Are we having fun yet?!"
[Image Sources: MTV, NBC, Starz, SyFy]