Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Posts Tagged ‘Boardwalk Empire

Marvel’s Figured It Out

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Agent Carter

Marvel is on a hot buttered roll right now, with its tentacles touching everything from movie theaters, television networks, and even on-demand giants like Netflix. The world’s arguably foremost comics company is currently in the midst of a near-unprecedented, sprawling journey that sees it bringing its characters to screens everywhere in an interwoven narrative, and ABC’s Marvel’s Agent Carter is the latest offshoot on this voyage.

Taking the Peggy Carter character from the Captain America series and building a show around her, Marvel’s Agent Carter stars Brit Hayley Atwell as the titular Carter. As the central personality, Atwell has a strong screen presence that allows her to anchor a cast of familiar faces that that includes Dominic Cooper returning from the films as Howard Stark (AKA Iron Man/Tony Stark’s father), Shea Wigham (Boardwalk Empire’s Eli) as her superior at the S.S.R. (Strategic Scientific Reserve), and One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray and Dollhouse’s Enver Gjokaj as fellow agents. The thrust of the series sees Stark enlisting Carter to clear his name after he’s accused of treason by way of selling weapons to enemy organizations, thus putting the S.S.R. on his tail and Carter in a number of precarious positions as she hides her clandestine mission from her co-workers. There’s also a twist near the end of the first episode that puts allegiances in question in an interesting manner as the narrative moves forward.

What sets Marvel’s Agent Carter apart from the Marvel series that it’s replacing in the ABC lineup – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – is that is has style to spare, which is evident almost immediately with the shot of Carter walking to work in her bright red hat and lively blue suit, the only hint of color in a sea of drab gray commuters. It also feels – at least in its first two hours – less like a television show and more like a Marvel film that’s been chopped into eight equal parts, as the first season will run only eight episodes. That, along with its production values (which are high), already make it feel more like a true Marvel project than Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does, though I’m admittedly only halfway through season one of that show and have heard that there was a quality uptick. Its fight sequences are also impressively staged, making Atwell potentially the next in a long line of strong female television action heroines.

With more Marvel television shows on the way as a part of the company’s deal with Netflix – which includes April’s Daredevil as well as series based on the Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist characters – Marvel’s Agent Carter stands perhaps as the template for the quality that we can expect in future series that promise to bring all of the fun of Marvel’s big-screen adventures to the comfort of your couch.

Episode 1.01/1.02 Grade: B+

Stray Thoughts:

*Shea Wigham just can’t stay away from period pieces, apparently, as his Roger Dooley has more than a little Eli Thompson in his DNA.

*In addition to the actors listed above, other TV vets like Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita) as Carter’s new neighbor, Andre Royo (The Wire) and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) as notable guests in the first two episodes respectively, and Costa Ronin (Oleg from The Americans) as Howard Stark’s future partner Anton Venko are all present in the first two hours. Agent Carter apparently has one hell of a casting director.

*As someone who’s only familiar with the majority of these stories via the films, the fact that Howard Stark’s assistant Edwin Jarvis shares a name with the butler/OS software that Tony Stark uses in the Iron Man films and in The Avengers isn’t a coincidence, is it?

Where to Watch: Marvel’s Agent Carter on ABC.com / Marvel’s Agent Carter on Hulu

HBO Does The Obvious, Smart Thing And Renews Girls And Veep

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In a charming bit of serendipity, HBO announced yesterday that it’s renewed its two newest comedies, Girls and Veep. I say serendipitous because I just wrote about Girls on this very site yesterday. Lesson to TV producers – if I write about your show, you’ll get renewed. FACT. All kidding aside, both of these moves seemed to be no-brainers based on the strength of both shows’ early returns. Girls, as I wrote in my review yesterday, brings Lena Dunham’s unique voice to television and the show’s examination of twentysomething women in NYC struggling with the cusp of adulthood has the potential (if it’s not there already) to be an essential show. I’ll likely have something up on Veep in the next few days but suffice it to say, it might have been my favorite comedy pilot since perhaps Community back in 2009. Both of these shows absolutely deserved a renewal – which is pretty much a fait accompli with HBO series – and they, along with shows like Game Of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are helping to restore the HBO cache that had lost some luster in recent years.

Written by jeremylikestv

May 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Morning Links: 2/14/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Happy Hallmark And Russell Stover’s Day! Here are some links to get you and your better half started today:

*Cougar Town finally – thankfully – returns to ABC’s schedule tonight. If you’ve never sampled the show – and I’ve talked about this in the past – you’re really missing one of the best comedic ensembles on television. Yes, its title is horrible and yes, its producers know that. If you’ve ever been inclined to watch it in the past but couldn’t get past that title, check out this piece from Alan Sepinwall over at Hitfix that extols the virtues of the show and comes complete with copious video clips. What you’ll see is one of television’s funniest sitcoms by far.

*The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere drew a record 8.1 million viewers to the AMC apocalyptic zombie thriller, proving that people (who aren’t my six-year-old son) really, really like zombies. Seriously though, those numbers are staggering and solidify The Walking Dead’s standing as one of television’s most popular shows. Gotta say… love that people are getting into something as bleak as this show. That doesn’t happen every day. Good on ya, America. (Via The AV Club)

*What the what? John Goodman is reuniting with his former television wife by joining the cast of Roseanne Barr’s trailer-park sitcom for NBC, Downwardly Mobile? Shit… I’m gonna have to watch this now, aren’t I? Damn you, John Goodman. (Via Warming Glow)

*Awesome Casting News Part 1: Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) will be joining Jason Katims’ medical drama pilot for NBC, County. Jordan’s Parenthood co-star Jason Ritter had been previously announced as part of the cast and, to be honest, this is shaping up to be the pilot that I have the highest hopes for. And, as any post about Jordan must require, I leave you with this: “Where’s the boy, String? Where the fuck is Wallace?” (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Awesome Casting News Part 2: Stephen Root will be joining the cast of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire for its third season this fall. Find me a bad Stephen Root performance and I’ll call you a liar to your face. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Awesome Casting News Part 3: Bradley Whitford. Parks And Recreation. That’s all. (Via The AV Club)

*According to series star Joel McHale, someone will be dying on Community when it returns to NBC’s schedule at some indiscriminate time in the future. Warming Glow has placed odds on some of the suspects here. There’s no way that it’s a major character and Leonard is waaay too obvious, so I’m going with Magnitude although I’m giving Annie’s Boobs an outside shot.

*Craig Ferguson has signed a deal with CBS to continue as the host of the Late Late Show through 2014. Ferguson’s one of television’s best late night hosts bar none so it’s good to see him rewarded like this. Let the speculation over whether he’s Letterman’s official successor begin. (Via Warming Glow)

*Ryan Phillippe will be taking his first starring television role in Everwood creator Greg Berlanti’s untitled police drama pilot for CBS. Phillippe joins the previously announced Chi McBride (Human Target) and Kevin Alejandro (True Blood, Southland) in the promising-sounding cast. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Per EW’s James Hibberd, Fox announced their spring schedule which, frankly, looks a whole lot like their winter schedule save for the welcomed return of Bob’s Burgers, the second-season premiere of the previously-thought-dead Breaking In, and the proper premiere of the utterly laughable Touch. Oh God… was Touch ever horrible. I’ll have some thoughts on that posted closer to its mid-March debut.

*NBC announced that the Bryan Fuller-helmed reboot of The Munsters that isn’t really a reboot of The Munsters because it stripped away almost everything that signified anything about The Munsters is being retooled and has thus been pulled from NBC’s fall schedule to be held until midseason. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “That shit was on NBC’s fall schedule?!” (Via The AV Club)

*Oprah’s apparently at the point that she needs to beg for viewers on the Titanic… er… Oprah Winfrey Network. How the mighty have fallen. (Via EW)

Morning Links: 2/7/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Let’s get to it:

*According to EW’s James Hibberd, Super Bowl XLVI (even though the end result sucked a big one) became the most-watched television program in history by attracting 111.3 million viewers on Sunday night, good for an INSANE 40.5 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic. The fact that four of the top five most-viewed television programs of all-time are the last four Super Bowls is incontrovertible proof that football is king in the United States. As it damn well should be. It also boosted the second-season premiere of The Voice to the biggest non-sports rating (37.6 million and a 16.3 rating among 18-49 year-olds) in six years. Again… football = king.

*So M.I.A. flipped off the camera during her appearance with Madonna at halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday night. I’d like to think that middle finger was directed straight at the Parents Television Council because those fascists deserve a big one being waved right in their collective faces. Danger Guerrero over at Warming Glow has a much more eloquent take than mine on the subject. Seriously – go read it.

*Will Ferrell did an ad for his pro-bono Old Milwaukee ad campaign that for some reason only aired in Nebraska during the Super Bowl. Because of course he did. (Via The AV Club)

*According to TVLine, ABC Family has picked up a new series from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino that stars Broadway mainstay Sutton Foster (Flight Of The Conchords) as a Las Vegas showgirl who gets married and moves to the small town that her new husband grew up in. Yeah… I realize it doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise in the world but Sherman-Palladino created Gilmore Girls and if anyone tries to say anything negative about Gilmore Girls I swear I will end you.

*Cougar Town finally returns for its third season a week from tonight at 8:30 on ABC. Creator Bill Lawrence has taken the unusual step of releasing a trailer that shows much of the upcoming season’s goings-on as a way of enticing people who may not have sampled the show before. Believe it or not, despite its horrendous title, it’s actually one of the funniest shows on television. Do yourself a favor and check out the trailer. You’ll see what I’m talking about. (Via Hitfix)

*Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall has an interview with the Teresa Rebeck, the creator of NBC’s latest big hope, Smash. I admit that shows like Smash aren’t usually my bag and NBC’s incessant pimping of the show over the past month has been off-putting but there are a lot of people – including Sepinwall – who I have a lot of respect for who’ve said that it’s actually a pretty good show so I plan on at least checking out the pilot on Hulu later in the week.

*This doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but HBO announced that Paz de la Huerta will not return for the upcoming third season of Boardwalk Empire. It’s not like her Lucy Danziger character will be missed but, I think I speak for everyone when I ask, “Where’s all the gratuitous nudity going to come from now?”

 

Morning Links: 2/6/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Busy weekend of news to get you started on a Monday morning. Let’s get to it:

*From Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall, NBC has relegated its tepid adaptation of The Firm to Saturday nights (which is essentially cancellation) after it performed horribly in its Thursday at 10PM slot, ceding that real estate to one of Fall 2011’s most intriguing pilots, Awake. While Awake received the strongest critical buzz of any network pilot, most expressed concern over whether the show, which follows a detective who’s living in two realities – one where his wife died in a car crash and his son survived, and another where his son perished and his wife lived – can exist as a series. That it comes from Kyle Killen, whose Lone Star was essentially the 2010 version of Awake and lasted a scant two episodes on Fox that fall, isn’t helping fears about its long-term prospects. Still, I’m very excited to see how the pilot comes off even as I have no expectation that it’s going to do well in a tough timeslot. But, hey… no one saw Grimm becoming a modest hit for NBC on Friday nights. Maybe lightning can strike twice? Maybe? Awake premieres Thursday, March 1.

*30 Rock hit a ratings low on Thursday night, pulling in numbers that were much worse than what Community was doing in the same slot earlier this season. Hey NBC… maybe Community didn’t deserve to be unceremoniously yanked from your schedule after all. Just sayin’. In other ratings news, NBC opened February sweeps in a fourth-place tie with… wait for it… Univision. Really. (Via EW and The AV Club)

*Interesting factoid thrown out by the guys over at TV By The Numbers – a recent article in the LA Times states that more than 60% of the two-billion-plus hours of video streamed by Netflix subscribers in the fourth-quarter of 2011 was television content, not movies. This is a fascinating piece of data as it shows the shift in television-watching patterns over the last couple of years. Speaking as someone who has Netflix access via Xbox Live, frankly, it’s the tits. The ability to catch up on old shows whenever I want is incredible and with these numbers it’s obvious why Netflix is anxious to get into the original content game via the upcoming Kevin Spacey/David Fincher project House Of Cards as well as the Arrested Development revival in 2013.

*FX’s top hit, Sons Of Anarchy, has been renewed through a sixth season and series creator Kurt Sutter has extended his own deal with the network through a potential season seven which has been his ultimate plan for the series all along. While SOA experienced a bounce-back year in terms of quality in its fourth season in 2010, I fear that this extension means that nothing drastic is going to happen over the next two years making me wonder if it’s going to be worth sticking it out until the end. There was no good reason for Ron Perlman’s Clay to survive this past season other than Sutter drawing his storylines out to fit his seven-season plan so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m pessimistic about the series’ thrust going forward. (Via Hitfix)

*Even the day after a Super Bowl that saw one of the worst possible outcomes – a New York Giants win – the news coming out of Indianapolis that the NFL is adding five more games to its Thursday Night Football slate of games on NFL Network, bringing it to 13 weeks of coverage beginning in Week Two of the 2012 season, is great news. More football on my TV can never be a bad thing and the fact that we now live in a world where live football almost every single night of the week in the fall between the NFL, college football, and local high school football games is a glorious thing. (Via TV By The Numbers)

*Per EW’s James Hibberd, veteran actor Bobby Cannavale (Louie) nailed down (SPOILER ALERT) a role as the character replacement for Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody (END SPOILER) on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Should be interesting to see how he interacts with Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson on the gangster epic.

*In other casting news, Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life On The Street) has booked the lead role in Shawn Ryan’s (The Shield) new ABC submarine drama, Sanaa Lathan (Nip/Tuck) will be joining the second season of Starz’ Kelsey Grammar-starring Boss, and – say it ain’t so – revered alt-comedian Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) is going to be guesting on <stifling vomit> Two And A Half Men as a foil for Ashton Kutcher’s character. I think I speak for comedy fans everywhere when I say, “What the hell, Patton?” (Via EW and TVLine)

*Finally, would that Ron Swanson’s Bacon ‘N Eggs were a real cereal. (Via Warming Glow)

 


Morning Links: 1/27/12

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Welcome to a new feature here on the blog, the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Light news day as I’m pretty much scraping for content, but the links don’t care. They just want to be loved:

*Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall is on a nice interview streak here this week, this time sitting down with two of the brains behind the new HBO horseracing series Luck – head writer David Milch and executive producer Michael Mann. Needless to say, with those two involved, Dustin Hoffman taking his first television lead role, and people like Dennis Farina and Nick Nolte among the cast, this is one that I’m really, really looking forward to and even more so after seeing the pilot a month and a half ago when HBO previewed it in full following the Boardwalk Empire finale. It premieres on Sunday night so set your DVRs and in case you’re wondering, yes, Milch does seemingly talk like he writes dialogue. It’s kind of weird, but in a cool way.

*Via Warming Glow, here’s a pretty goddamn awesome four-minute video spanning the entirety of Breaking Bad’s run thus far. If you’re not up-to-date beware – spoilers ho. And if you’re not up-to-date, shame on you because this is one of the best television shows ever made and you’re missing it. Also? “I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS!”

*Part three of The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff episode-by-episode interview with Homeland co-creator Alex Gansa is up. Only one more day of me pimping this interview series. Promise.

*Alias fan fave Marshall (known as Kevin Weisman in real life) is set to join the cast of NBC’s very intriguing Awake, according to EW’s James Hibberd. That is, he’ll be joining the cast whenever NBC decides to get around to actually scheduling Awake. I mean, really, NBC – you find room for Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler sitcoms along with a television version of The Firm that no one ever asked for yet can’t find room for Community or Awake, the show routinely listed by critics as the best pilot of the 2011 fall season by far? But then, this is why you’re a fourth-place network.

*Yesterday was apparently Gossip Girl Day in New York City by official proclamation by NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of a celebration of the CW series hitting the 100-episode milestone. Because of course it was.


Top 13.5 Shows Of 2011

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If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen my (infrequent) TV Power Rankings where I list what I feel are the best shows airing on television at any given time. Because I love lists [1] and it’s considered standard for critics [2] to compile a year-end list, here are what I consider to be the 13.5 best shows that aired in 2011. Why 13.5? Because I’M A MAN. I’M 33. I do what I want. Here now without any further adieu, I lovingly present to you the Top 13.5 Shows Of 2011.

[1] Who doesn’t love lists, really? You know who doesn’t? Communists.
[2] Something that I fool myself into believing that I am. Humor me, please.

Honorable Mention: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia; New Girl; Curb Your Enthusiasm; The Walking Dead; Bob’s Burgers; Portlandia; Childrens Hospital; Happy Endings; Awkward

13.5. Cougar Town (ABC) – The fact that Cougar Town is currently without a place on ABC’s schedule while the flaming pile that is the now-cancelled Work It  “earned” a timeslot is infuriating not only for the fact that ABC would think that airing Work It was a good idea, but because Cougar Town has developed into one of television’s most consistently funny comedies. Unfortunately, its uninviting title (owing to a premise that the show has long since abandoned) has scared away many who would probably enjoy the show and has been a source of frustration for its creative team. Almost a post-Friends Friends, its ensemble cast has gelled into a comedic force that encompasses the heart and absurdity of a show like Scrubs, which isn’t surprising since both series were created by Bill Lawrence. ABC has said that the show will air at an unspecified point in 2012 and from this man’s point of view? Would make a really nice pairing with the nearly-as-funny Happy Endings. (Ed. Note: ABC announced Tuesday that Cougar Town would be returning to its schedule on February 14, taking the place of Work It. Ironic, no?)

13. Treme (HBO) – HBO’s Treme is definitely not a show for everyone. Its glacial pace with regard to its storytelling can be frustrating for some but for those willing to grant it the faith to watch through patient eyes have been rewarded with one of television’s most unique shows. More than anything, it’s a show where the city of New Orleans IS the main character and all of the people who inhabit it are secondary. I know some people abandoned it in frustration during its first season in 2010 but David Simon and his team actually did tighten up the narrative a bit in its sophomore season, which made for an even better year than the first, one that included no small amount of surprises like (SPOILER ALERT) the shocking death of Steve Earle’s street musician, Waylan (END SPOILER ALERT). It’s not The Wire, Simon’s last project for HBO, but it’s not trying to be. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but Treme makes me feel like I actually have. It makes the city that vibrant, and earns it a place on this list.

12. Sons Of Anarchy (FX) – Even if it didn’t completely stick its landing, the fourth season of FX’s biker drama, Sons Of Anarchy, was an encouraging rebound from the morass of the ill-advised Irish adventure that encompassed much of season three. Series creator Kurt Sutter went back to basics in returning the focus of the show to the SAMCRO crew and their machinations in the California town of Charming. The complex web of conflicts included a new sheriff, an ambitious prosecutor, Mexican drug cartels, and no small amounts of violence. Basically, it was the pulpy goodness that Sutter says is the series’ raison d’être. By far, the most compelling aspect was the internal conflict between Charlie Hunnam’s Jax and Ron Perlman’s Clay that unfolded throughout the season. Some critics, including myself, took issue with some of the choices that Sutter made in the series final episodes as they lessened the impact of that particular storyline but just as the third season’s strong finale couldn’t save a bad season, this year’s slightly disappointing final chapter doesn’t ruin what was a fine return to form for Sons Of Anarchy.

11. Archer (FX) – Put it this way – you can’t be dumb and expect to fully enjoy Archer. A bawdy and ribald take on the spy genre, the show’s second season in 2011 didn’t quite reach the heights of its out-of-nowhere triumph of a debut season in 2010 but it continued to be the show that’s home to television’s smartest and most intelligent references and jokes. Creator Adam Reed experimented with actual story arcs in the season’s final few episodes as well as the three-episode mini-season that aired in September (“Hearts Of Archness”) so when the show returns later this week it should be interesting to see if he continues in that vein.

10. Game Of Thrones (HBO) – When HBO announced that they were going ahead with an adaptation of the acclaimed fantasy novel series A Song Of Ice & Fire, I was skeptical. Outside of something mainstream like the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, fantasy has never been my bag. So after the first footage of Game Of Thrones leaked out and was INCREDIBLE, I was much more excited for the series to air and that excitement was rewarded by just how good the show’s debut season turned out to be. My wife is even more fantasy-averse than I am and she enjoyed the hell out of it as well. HBO poured no small amount of money into this project and it most surely shows on the screen as the sets and overall design of the show are breathtaking to watch. And then (SPOILER ALERT) killing off the ostensible main character – Sean Bean’s Ned Stark – in the season’s penultimate episode? (END SPOILER ALERT) That took some BALLS.  It also seemed to play just as well to newcomers as it did to veterans of the books, which is not an easy feat to accomplish. I, like most viewers, cannot wait to see what happens next when Game Of Thrones returns to HBO this April.

9. Parks And Recreation (NBC) – The great television critic Alan Sepinwall had the number nine show on my list, NBC’s Parks And Recreation, as his top show of 2011. Much as I respect the hell out of Sepinwall’s opinions – and love Parks And Rec itself – that’s a little too lofty a perch for Parks And Rec to sit, in my opinion. While it’s probably the most consistently funny show on the list, it doesn’t aim quite as high as two other sitcoms that I have ahead of it, but that’s not taking anything away from Parks And Rec itself. In the past two years, it’s evolved from an uneven and at times disappointing first season into, as I said, perhaps the most consistent comedy on television. It’s hard to hate on a year that integrated new cast members Adam Scott and Rob Lowe seamlessly into the ensemble, (SPOILER ALERT) gave us the wedding of Chris Pratt’s Andy and Aubrey Plaza’s April (END SPOILER ALERT), as well as provided numerous classic Ron Swanson moments (“I worry what you just heard was: Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.”). In episodes like “Smallest Park” and “Citizen Knope” the show also hit on the perfect combination of hilarity and heart, earning it a well-deserved place in the top ten.

8. The Vampire Diaries (CW) – The Vampire Diaries is the best drama currently airing on network television. You heard me: The Vampire Diaries is the best drama currently airing on network television. Whether that’s more an indictment of network TV drama than it is an endorsement of The Vampire Diaries is up for debate, but the fact remains that it’s a wildly entertaining show that in some aspects has burned through six seasons of plot in two and a half years. Plot twist upon plot twist is expertly executed with no looking back, and it’s the perfect melding of supernatural storytelling with Dawson’s Creek-esque teen drama. You know all of that hype afforded to True Blood and the Twilight series? The Vampire Diaries is the franchise that’s really deserving of it – and then some. There is, in fact, a sense when you watch a show like this that you know that its breakneck pace will not be sustained for much longer, simply because it’s not possible to keep such a frenetic energy for any length of time. Until then, just enjoy the ride. I know I am.

7. Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – HBO’s Boardwalk Empire saw the risky storyline gambit that Game Of Thrones pulled off and raised it to another level. Its sophomore season had a much cleaner narrative throughline than its first year did – the battle for control of Atlantic City waged by its two central characters, Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson and Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody. In the end, one man emerged victorious and the other suffered real consequences as (SPOILER ALERT) Nucky shot and killed Jimmy in cold blood in the finale’s final moments. Dispatching Pitt from the show is a risky yet incredibly bold and incredibly ballsy move by series creator Terrence Winter. Arguably, it’s even bolder than Game Of Thrones killing off Sean Bean’s Ned because there, Game Of Thrones’ creative team is just staying true to the books. Here, Winter is essentially blowing his show up at the end of his second season. (END SPOILER ALERT) One thing is certain – the choices that Winter made in Boardwalk Empire’s finale (indeed, one of the best moments on television in 2011) will make for an incredibly compelling beginning to season three.

6. Community (NBC) – If you’ve spent any length of time on the site, you’ll know that my feelings on Community are pretty clear. It’s a gem that not nearly enough people are watching, nor is it a show that NBC is treating properly. However, that’s a story for a different time. For now, let’s just reflect on an incredible year that saw the show venture off into different genres (mind-bending alternate timelines; anime games of foosball; paintball; an Apocalypse Now/Hearts Of Darkness homage; more paintball) with relative ease, all while showcasing perhaps television’s tightest and most talented ensemble. That more people aren’t watching Community is a crime (couldn’t help myself) because it’s doing so much more than the average sitcom. It tries new things. It challenges the genre to be something more. It doesn’t always land, but it always TRIES. And in today’s television landscape that’s to be commended – not punished. Thankfully, it will be back on the air at some point in 2012 to finish its third season and I’m not going out on a limb in saying that it’ll probably be back on this list at this time next year. I just hope it’s not the last time.

5. Homeland (SHO) – The top first-year series on this year’s list, Showtime’s Homeland might have had the highest degree of difficulty of any show present here. The drama – about a Marine prisoner of war who’s suspected to have turned terrorist by a CIA analyst – could have easily fallen prey to the melodramatic histrionics that pockmarked much of 24’s seven-season run, particularly when considering that much of the 24 creative team was behind Homeland. Instead, Homeland turned out to be a nuanced portrayal of two people whose lives become intertwined (sometimes literally) and the effects that their choices have not only on them, but on their families as well. Its plot twists were expertly executed throughout the entire season, building towards a satisfying and powerful finale that stayed entirely true to what the series had been attempting to do for its entire run. The three central performances – Claire Danes’ CIA analyst Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis’s tortured Marine Nicholas Brody, and Mandy Patinkin’s surprisingly understated CIA vet Saul Berensen – were some of the best on television in 2011 and it believably set up a second season for a show whose premise had seemed very close-ended.

4. Justified (FX) – Justified has provided me a roller-coaster of emotions since it premiered in Spring 2010. I was at first excited for a new project from Graham Yost (Boomtown, Band Of Brothers) and Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood), then dismayed at how it seemed to be turning into a slightly-better version of a network procedural, and finally encouraged when the second half of its debut season became more serialized and finished with a pretty tight and entertaining story arc. So, to see it go from “promising” to one of television’s five best shows in its second year was enthralling. Wisely, it stuck to the serialized storytelling in its second year, basing the entire season around the conflict between Olyphant’s Marshall Raylan Givens and the drug-dealing Bennett clan, lead by the remarkable performance of eventual Emmy winner Margo Martindale as the murderous and cutthroat Mags Bennett. The show was note-perfect from beginning to end in its second season and the fact that it began its third season this week has me giddy.

3. Friday Night Lights (NBC) – This one was tough. Full disclosure: Friday Night Lights is without question my favorite show that has ever graced the television airwaves. It had everything I have ever wanted in a television show: realistic plotlines, naturalistic conversation, atmosphere in spades, incredible music, and above all, great performances. The citizens of Dillon, Texas were the types of people that I was glad to spend an hour a week with for the past five years. But the saying that all good things must come to an end is a prevalent one for a reason and the fact that this little-watched gem of a show managed to make it to five seasons (thanks to an unusual sharing arrangement made by NBC and DirecTV) was nothing short of a miracle. Its fifth and final season was every bit as good as the four that preceded it and its finale was a gut-punch of emotion that was a fitting capper to a brilliant run. It could not have ended in a more perfect way, or in a way that was truer to the characters that we had grown to love. This is my way of saying, yes, it got a little dusty in the room when that one aired. If some cruel, cruel person allowed me to watch just one show for the rest of my life, Friday Night Lights would be it. And I can think of no higher praise for a television show than that.

2. Breaking Bad (AMC) – Again, if you’ve spent any time reading this blog in the past, you’ve noticed the roughly eleventy billion words I’ve written about Breaking Bad in the past year. In 2011, the show was tasked with following up on one of the best seasons that a television show has ever had and, by every measure, lived up to the high standards that it had set for itself. It also clearly set up the series’ end-game as 2012 will see Breaking Bad enter its final stretch run (AMC has yet to announce whether the series’ final 16 episodes will air as a single season or as two eight-episode mini-seasons but, either way, there are only 16 hours of Breaking Bad left). Bryan Cranston was expectedly brilliant, but the fourth season showcased the brilliance of Aaron Paul as conflicted meth dealer Jesse Pinkman and the sublime menace of Giancarlo Esposito’s drug kingpin Gustavo Fring. Satisfyingly, the show seemed to find some mainstream appeal as almost every Sunday night – and every following Monday morning – people were talking about the show. The final season will be dark and it will be brutal – of this I’m sure – and I’ll be hanging off of every minute of it.

1. Louie (FX) – And finally, we come to 2011’s best show. FX’s Louie, as I’ve said in the past, is the perfect example of what happens when networks get out of the way and let talented people do what they do. For those unfamiliar with how Louie works, FX gives creator/star/director/editor/caterer (maybe not that last one, but the guy does almost everything on the show) Louis CK a more modest budget than most half-hour shows receive and, in return, he gets free reign to do what he wants. He shoots the show, edits it himself, and sends it into the network And they air it. Simple as that. And that’s lead to the creation of some of the most ambitious entertainment on television in 2011. The stretch of shows that ranged from the season’s fifth episode (“Country Drive”) to its eleventh (“Duckling”) was a creative hot streak unlike any that I can remember in recent years that saw CK make a compelling episode out of nothing more than a car ride with his daughters (“Country Drive”), to an incredible examination of his real-life feud with comic Dane Cook with Cook himself (“Oh Louie/Tickets”), to a poignant look at serving in a USO capacity (“Duckling”). Simply put, to watch Louie is to watch an entertainer who is so completely on his game that it’s almost unfair for his contemporaries. It aims higher than almost any other show on television. Even its misses are admirable but when it hits, it hits harder than anything. And that, more than anything else, is why Louie was television’s best show in 2011.