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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
SGN's best of TV 2011
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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SGN's best of TV 2011

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The calendar year of 2011 straddles two separate seasons for many TV shows, some of them entirely different. Take Glee, for instance. The weekly musical comedy turned in a disappointing, confusing season two, but redeemed itself in season three by sticking to good storylines, good music, and less about superstars. And though I had high hopes for Pan Am (and unbelievably still watch it), the show is nothing more than a guilty pleasure (Mike Vogel is my latest obsession). But no one can argue that television has become the new movie theater - with so many great comedies and dramas on the tube, why spend $10 at the cinema? Here are my picks, in order, for 2011's best of the small screen.

1) BREAKING BAD
No other TV series this year had the intensity, the suspense, the unexpected twists and turns, and the acting punch of Breaking Bad. This was the season where former high school teacher-turned-meth cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) really took matters into his own hands, but not before a challenge from thug/partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). The episode where Walter puts a stop to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was bone-chilling, to say the least, and the season finale that solved a mystery (one we suspected) was brilliantly stretched out to the last few seconds.

2) MODERN FAMILY
Still hilarious, this back-to-back Emmy winner for Outstanding Comedy Series is one of the few TV shows that presents the lighthearted, if not manic, side of a same-sex couple. Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are a loveable pair who become more adorable with their petty bickering. You gotta love Mitchell for sneaking out of the house to catch a Lady Gaga concert while Cameron was passed out on cough syrup!

3) HOMELAND
Despite my loathing of Claire Danes, she's due credit for her portrayal of CIA Agent Carrie Mathison, who suspects an Iraq veteran (Damian Lewis) is involved in a terrorist attack on his home country. Showtime consistently churns out thrilling dramas, and Homeland with its gloomy, tense, and genuine behind-closed-doors approach to the federal government in action puts it ahead of the freshman class of 2011's TV season. Even the president watches it.

4) EXTREME COUPONING
Deep in the bowels of reality television, in which every possible occupation or phobia or off-kilter personality is now exposed to the masses, comes this spritely half-hour show dedicated to people who collect coupons. These aren't your average coupon clippers; these are folks who go to extremes - dumpster diving for store ads, using multiple computers to double and triple their stash, 'borrowing' their neighbors' Sunday inserts. Watching these men and women sweat it out at the cash register where they pay $4 for over $500 worth of groceries is oodles of harmless fun.

5) THE WALKING DEAD
Balancing the surreal and horror, not to mention a splash of kitsch, is what makes this AMC series a hit with audiences - its season two finale received its highest-ever ratings. The Walking Dead's foremost storyline revolves around flesh-eating zombies, but sub-plots include an interracial romance, babydaddy drama, a missing girl in the woods, and a father keeping his son alive with his own blood. Besides all this, we got to see a buff, near-naked Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) in one of the season's pivotal episodes.

6) ENLIGHTENED
I've never found Laura Dern likeable in anything she's done, but the two-time Academy Award nominee is splendid as a divorcee suffering from life-sucks syndrome - she's a hot mess, in other words. Co-created by Dern and openly Gay writer/actor Mike White (from Chuck & Buck fame, Amazing Race competitor), Enlightened is a woman's journey of personal rebirth, yet one that comes with its fair share of complications.

7) AMERICAN HORROR STORY
Did you correctly guess the identity of the Rubber Man? Television's creepiest hour belongs to FX's new drama-suspense series, starring the always-great Jessica Lange as nutty, sinister neighbor Constance - her show-stealing scenes have earned her Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations already. A full hour of haunted mansions, dysfunctional family members, freaky sex encounters, and poisoned cupcakes? Yes, please!

8) RAISING HOPE
Don't mind grandma eating the plastic display apples - that's just one of the kooky things going on in the Chance household. Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw is a hoot, but even funnier (if you can imagine that) is Martha Plimpton as a white trash, gossip-crazed store clerk forced to raise two immature grown men and an infant in an environment that's certainly not kid-friendly. The episode where Virginia (Plimpton) loses the sex tape is a riot!

9) PARKS AND RECREATION
I'm still puzzled as to what exactly the dull and miscast Aubrey Plaza, who plays April Ludgate, is doing on this otherwise ridiculously funny sitcom featuring a top-notch cast - Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, plus new additions Adam Scott and Rob Lowe. The 'Li'l Sebastian' episode, where the office crew attempts to organize a memorable farewell to a dead miniature horse, is forever lodged on my DVR.

10) MYSTERIES AT THE MUSEUM
My wildcard entry is Travel Channel's explorative series on American museums. Hunky host Don Wildman, eye candy replacement for the washed-up Anthony Bourdain (a personal crush of years past), unearths hidden facts and true treasures lurking in these precious institutions. I'm partly interested in the mysteries themselves, and partly entertained by Wildman simply appearing on the screen.

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Tony Bennett glistens in flawless Paramount show
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SGN's best of TV 2011
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SGN's top 10 books of 2011
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2011
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Hillary Clinton's most impressive speech on human/lgbt rights in Geneva ...most incredible


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SGN's best (and worst) films of 2011
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Northwest News
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Letters
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