The 2011 Listgasm by Adam Heath Avitable

2011 Listgasm: Best TV Shows of 2011

It takes talent to make a good movie that will engage you and entertain you for two hours. It takes genius to make a TV show that will engage and entertain you for twenty-two episodes. That being said, it was hard for me to narrow down my top ten television shows of the year, because it was a good year for TV!

The 2011 Listgasm by Adam Heath Avitable

My top 10 television shows of 2011:

  1. The New Girl – It started out a bit generic with only Zooey Deschanel’s quirky personality keeping me interested.  After a bit, though, her roommates have evolved into much more interesting characters separate from lovely, amazing Zooey.
  2. How I Met Your Mother – My biggest obstacle with this show has always been the ridiculous laugh track.  It’s unnecessary, and it panders to the lowest common denominator.  An audience should not be told when to laugh – a well-written show will make it obvious.  Once I can ignore that poor decision, though, I’ve found a show that layers stories tremendously well, builds on history for each character, and manages to walk a fine line between hilarity and drama.
  3. Walking Dead – The second season suffered a little bit from some lackluster pacing, but the fact is that it’s one of my favorite dramas on television and it’s about zombies!
  4. Doctor Who – I love Amelia Pond, I love Matt Smith’s Doctor, and I absolutely loved the season-long mystery about the final death of the Doctor.  This show has finally transcended the cheesiness that has been its birthright.
  5. Childrens Hospital – In fifteen minutes, this satire manages to cram more laughs per second than any other comedy on television. Skewing every medical show and television cliche possible, Childrens Hospital is best viewed all in one sitting, because the wait between episodes is miserable.
  6. Saturday Night Live – Every week, the cast puts on a 90-minute sketch comedy show, and every week, they come up with some really funny shit.  Anyone who expects the show to be consistently funny with every single beat doesn’t get the point.
  7. Community – One of the smartest shows on television and definitely the smartest comedy.  Defying conventions at every turn and taking risks with format and structure, this show has only gotten better, and it will be a shame if NBC caters to the morons of the world by not renewing it.
  8. Shameless – I haven’t seen the original UK show, but the US version of Shameless, starring William H. Macy and a delicious Emmy Rossum, is like a gritty, realistic version of Malcolm in the Middle.  It’s funny, dark, sad, and twisted, and I can’t wait for the 2012 premiere of season 2.
  9. Boss – Kelsey Grammer as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane is cold, calculating, ruthless, and compelling.  I expected this show to be predictable, but it threw me for a loop, especially with the last two episodes.
  10. Louie – Created, written, edited, directed, and acted by comedian Louis CK, this show is about the life of a comedian. It’s funny and sad and decidedly fucked up.  I absolutely love it and have so much respect for Louis for what he’s accomplished with this show.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Onion News Network – Mostly sharp, with a few missteps and weird tonal shifts, this show is an entertaining look at news television.  Anything including the autistic reporter Michael Falk is a favorite bit of mine.
  • 2 Broke Girls – Rampant cliches and a stupid laugh track almost ruin this show, and if it wasn’t for the chemistry and presence of Kat Denning and Beth Behrs, I wouldn’t even watch it or consider it.  Something about those two broke girls, though, really intrigues me and keeps me entertained.
  • Fear Factor – I love this show for the depths to which it will sink.  People will do anything for $50,000, which is a relatively marginal sum of money, and I love to see how right I am about the stupidity of the world.  Plus, Joe Rogan’s disdain for every contestant is quite fun.
  • American Horror Story – It’s little more than a compilation of every horror cliche out there, but it’s equal parts creepy, sexy, and thrilling.  There were a few twists I didn’t see coming, and it managed to avoid being too cheesy.
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – There were some fantastic parts of this season so far, including almost all of the Jersey Shore episode.  I love these guys.

And the worst television shows of 2011:

  • Two and a Half Men – I don’t get the appeal.  It’s obvious, tired, and trite.
  • Big Bang Theory – It’s worse than Two and a Half Men because it has the potential to be a very funny geeky show. Instead, it relies on stereotypes and terrible premises.
  • Whitney – This show is like Whitney’s stand-up.  It might have been good in 1984.
  • Terra Nova – I’ll never understand how they managed to make a show about time travel to the dinosaur age boring and predictable, but they did.  Bravo, idiots!

Disagree with me. I dare you.

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27 Replies to “2011 Listgasm: Best TV Shows of 2011”

  1. B.E. Earl

    I easily expected to hate the Schmidt character on The New Girl after the first few episodes. Instead, he became my favorite character on the show and one of my favorite comedic roles on TV today.

    HIMYM is awful. Except for Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, Cobie Smulders and Jason Segel. Hmm….

    I hung in there with Terra Nova and it rewarded with with a couple of decent episodes there at the end of the season. But I agree…boring as hell for the most part.

    I need to check out Shameless and Boss. I’ve heard great things.

  2. Dave2

    “Shameless” made my list too. I am pleased to see that other people found it, because it really is too good to be overlooked. Still hate “The New Girl” despite it starring Zooey Deschanel, whom I love more than Jagermeister. “Walking Dead” took a complete dive for me… the more they keep deviating from the comic, the more they’re screwing up what once was a perfect show.

    • Avitable

      @Dave2, Walking Dead went a bit downhill, but I think that it’s following along with the general tone of the comic pretty well, and it’s not like it’s without Kirkman’s input. I think this season just suffered from AMC being idiots and getting rid of Frank Darabont and cutting the budget.

  3. Nenette

    Hmm… I haven’t seen many of those shows, so I have no say on them. However, as for the ones I’ve seen, I have to admit I agree with your assessment of Doctor Who and disagree with Big Bang.
    I’ve been a longtime fan of The Doctor, and the current doctor, with his Amy, Rory, and River, is my favourite EVER.
    As for Big Bang, I’ve lived in that nerd world from the age of 17 onward, and I’ve met many Sheldons, Leonards, Howards, and Rajs. In fact, I’m married to my own Leonard/Howard/(and to a lesser degree)Sheldon amalgam. I find the stereotypes to be within acceptable range.

    • Avitable

      @Nenette, I’ve met people like the characters in Big Bang Theory, too. They’re still caricatures that are crudely sketched at best, and half of the laughs that the show gets are from people saying things that are unexpected from that type of person, like Raj saying “Fo shizzle”. It could be a smart show but chooses to go the dumb route.

      • Nenette

        @Avitable, good point, but using the example you gave, it’s funny listening to my nerd friends try to be cool by talking street. It’s still stuff that happens in real life — far too often than it should. Ew.
        But I agree that they (the show’s writers) do tend to use that as a crutch for cheap laughs.
        I don’t know — perhaps I’m just tickled by all their proper use of formulae and equations, the cameos of science/engineering personalities I recognize, and the fact that I’ve never seen a show that showcased the amusing side of nerdism that I’ve lived and always appreciated.
        Perhaps it’s just that they blinded me with science. (See what I did there? I know. Ew.)

      • Nenette

        @Avitable, okay, sweetie, I’ve said my piece, but my husband, the engineer and academic, wanted add his own comment. He said that the Big Bang cast is a reflection of the reality in science/engineering academia. He sees his colleagues — from both graduate school and at the college where he now teaches — in all of those characters. Yes, they are caricatures, but they are not crudely sketched by any means.
        That is all. Many hugs. Happy New Year!!! xoxo

  4. Dawn

    Oh my God, January 8 cannot get here soon enough: SEASON PREMIERE OF SHAMELESS!!!! I can’t wait! What a rockin’ great show that is. I wasn’t impressed with the first episode of it, but I’m so happy that I hung in because it just kept getting better and better.

  5. Clown

    I don’t expect SNL to be funny for every beat. No show is. It should be amusing though. I just expect it to not be miserable for 60+ minutes. Between the awful music acts, the completely miserable sketches, and the parts of the funny ones that carry on way too long, it’s just not worth watching. I HATE people breaking character or laughing at their own material, so the live aspect is lost on me. They could be pickier with their choices or they could edit the show down to a 30 minute taped format and be much better.

    If week after week, only a third of Community was amusing, I wouldn’t watch it.

    I know this is your favorite shows of the past year, but really? Both SNL AND New Girl made it ahead of Fringe? You’re not caring for it anymore? I’ve really liked what they’ve done so far this season! I would even put Fringe ahead of Walking Dead, as at the end of every episode (until the mid-season finale) I didn’t complain that I was bored. I really hope the second half of its season turns around and builds on the momentum of the last episode.

    • Avitable

      @Clown, I actually meant to put Fringe as an Honorable Mention, but it slipped my mind. I like the show and I like all the layers they build to it, but if it went away tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss it. I would definitely miss SNL, maybe the New Girl, and absolutely Walking Dead.

  6. annabelle

    I don’t know how this season was, but I’ve heard good things…I am a late comer to Sons of Anarchy, I’m watching previous seasons on DVD, but I think it’s one of the best shows around. Love it!

    I’m with you on New Girl and Two Broke Girls, I want to like them, I really like the actors, so I make consessions for the lame pieces.

    Roseanne was a show of my youth, therefore I am enjoying Raising Hope. It’s lowbrow, it’s trashy, it makes fun of demensia, what’s not to like?

    Revenge is soapy, cheesy, over the top, 80’s Dallas/General Hospital type drama – SOLD.

  7. Susannah

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for not putting “Modern Family” on this list. I know I’m in the minority but that is the most overrated and lazy show I’ve ever seen. It has potential, I think the bones are there but they invariably go for the easy laugh and it makes me insane. And yet the accolades just keep rolling in. I will never understand.

    Also? Boss. YES. Love.

    My own list would include Homeland, Sons of Anarchy and Top Gear (British, NOT the American version).

  8. martymankins

    I will disagree with you on Big Bang Theory. The casting, jokes and writing are all top notch. I like the idea of how they use geek speak to carry the show. And who doesn’t love Evil Wil Wheaton as a guest star. And Mayim Bialik for that matter.

    As for the likes we like, HIMYM and Walking Dead. Did you not watch Happy Endings? That show is at the top of my list for 2011.

    I have yet to watch Louis, but I’m sure once I see it, I will like it (we don’t get FX on our cable line up)

  9. Megan

    Mayim Bialik is hysterical on Big Bang. I love that show. And I agree about 2 Broke Girls. I like it, but I don’t even know why – but I suspect it’s the girls.

    I desperately want to see Shameless and Boss, but I don’t want to pay for more movie channels. 🙁

    And I’ve never heard of Childrens Hospital – what channel!?

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