In 2011, Television once again proved why it’s the definitive medium for long-form epic storytelling as premium cable channels continued their reign over both network television AND film. A few new shows became huge critical darlings (and rightfully so) while some recent favorites continue to build on their initial success. And of all my lists for 2011, television was by far the hardest to whittle down to eight.
(Of note, I’m actually still getting caught up in the worlds of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy and were not able to view their 2011 efforts live so don’t view their absences on this list as an indictment of their quality. I fully expect to be caught up on both by this time next year.)
In a strong year for television, a debut series about terrorism on the home front was the most intelligent, compelling hour of drama. Bolstered by outstanding acting performances by Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin, Homeland was possibly one of the best-reviewed series on television this year and was well worth the buzz. Oftentimes I would describe the show to non-viewers as “24, but not preposterous.” It was the best way to describe the suspenseful, twisting, terrorism-themed show while emphasizing that it’s a very concentrated, serious story. (Without all of 24’s layered insanity.) And where most television shows would’ve gone down the heroic path, Homeland turned heroism on its head and explored the gray area between good and bad to utmost perfection.