The best TV of 2011

We've had the Worst TV of 2011, and we'll have the 2nd Annual On the Box Awards (the 'Boxies) here tomorrow. Today, we continue with the Best TV of 2011.

It's been a relatively strong year for television: many new shows became hits and returning shows hit their stride. The problem with making a Top Ten list in a strong year - in any year, really - is that there are bound to be great shows that don't make the cut.

As Time critic James Poniewozik pointed out, this isn't a "Top 10 and Everything Else Sucks" list. These are merely the 10 shows that, when I thought about it, were my favourites this year. If your favourite show isn't listed, please don't assume that's because I hate it.

Also, as mentioned yesterday, remember that On the Box covers local channels, so only shows that have aired in New Zealand have been considered for this list. Keep in mind too that this is all just my opinion. I'd love to hear your thoughts - so tell me what I've missed, and what you considered the best this year, in the comments section below.

Here we go - my picks for the Best TV of 2011:

10) Parks & Recreation (Four)
Parks & Recreation is a clever comedy with an ever-expanding world and a super-strong cast, including standouts Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope and Nick Offerman as man's man Ron Swanson. The closest we might ever get to a live-action version of The Simpsons.

9) The Good Wife (TV3)
Boasting a strong ensemble cast led by one of the best leading ladies around - Juliana Margulies is brilliant as Alicia Florrick, well deserving of the Emmy she won for the role - The Good Wife is not just the best legal drama on television, but one of the best dramas, period.

8) The Almighty Johnsons (TV3)
The best of a trio of Kiwi original hour-long shows, this fantasy-drama about Norse gods living in West Auckland improved with each episode, then left us hanging with a brilliant finale that set things up for a second series (now in production). Plus, thanks to that fantastic Thor episode, I'll never be able to look at a simple household hammer the same way again.

7) Fringe (TV2)
The third series of Fringe proved the most innovative as it switched back and forth between alternate universes, tried out an animated episode, and even had Anna Torv do a Leonard Nimoy impersonation for a few weeks. The final three episodes were the best though, setting things up for a spectacular fourth season with top-quality effects and a surprise ending that M Night Shyamalan would be proud of. I also have to mention John Noble, one of the year's standout performers as kooky scientist Walter Bishop.

6) Justified (One)
Early in the first episode, Raylan Givens slightly adjusts his Stetson before matter-of-factly responding to a question by saying "it was justified" - not only is "it was justified" now the standard answer to almost every question in my office, but that was also the moment I became hooked on this wonderfully unique western-styled crime drama. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins might be the best 1-2 on television. (PS: The second season starts on Wednesday, January 11, 10.45pm on One.)

5) Community (Four)
I'm almost embarrassed to say that I was still unsure about Community after just four episodes; in fact, I thought about pretending I'd always loved it, but then I remembered blogging about it ... dammit. But at this point, 22 episodes into the first season, I can tell you that I love Community. I love Abed making a checklist of seminal college experiences, I love Troy naming his pet monkey "Annie's Boobs", I love Britta dressing as a watering can for a dance recital, I love Jeff throwing a tantrum because he doesn't look cool in shorts - I love all of it.

4) Downton Abbey (Prime)
My thoughts about Downton Abbey are pretty well documented (here, here, here and here) - while the second series didn't quite live up to the first in terms of story, it was an extremely well-made show with an amazing cast. Plus, Dame Maggie Smith was an inspired choice to play the Dowager Countess, stealing every scene she was in. Entertaining, engrossing and good-looking: what more could you want in a show?

3) 7 Days (TV3)
The locally made panel show was even better in 2011, funny on a more consistent basis with a core group of panellists who are now experts on the format - a combination of time and experience has turned 7 Days into a well-oiled machine that now runs at full capacity.

2) The Walking Dead (TV2)
Based off the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, the show has high production values, a great cast led by Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal, and an interesting premise. Six episodes wasn't enough; fortunately the entire second series is coming to TV2 in the new year. It can't come soon enough.

1) Game of Thrones (SoHo)
From the gorgeous theme song by Ramin Djawadi at the start of the first episode to the incredible moment at the end of next Monday's finale, the medieval fantasy thriller based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire novel series was easily the most anticipated show of 2011. Unlike most shows, it delivered on the hype - and then some. I'm giddy with excitement for the second series, coming in April.

What are your favourite shows from the past 12 months? What do you think of my list - agree or disagree? Post your thoughts below ...

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