Our top 11 TV shows that returned in 2011.
#11 Doctor Who
The sixth season may have been its best since returning to TV. It saw the Doctor get shot by an astronaut in the middle of a desert, the arrival of Mark Sheppard and the Silence, a sweet episode written by Neil Gaiman about the Doctor’s relationship with the TARDIS, the brilliant mid-season finale that finally revealed River Song’s true identity, an episode with Hitler, and a time-bending finale. If you’re not watching this brilliant BBC America series, you’re missing out on some truly great sci-fi storytelling.
Louis C.K.’s show is, in many ways, like a work of art. It’s not a comedy in a traditional sense of the word (there are very few jokes outside of his stand-up segments), but it’s a smart, shrewd observation on the human condition, using black-and-white imagery and tragic tableaus to find the absurdity in the tragedy of modern life. Plus, it’s really f***ing funny.
Booth and Brennan finally got together and they got pregnant! Fans around the world squealed with delight over their favorite couple finally becoming an actual couple, and best of all, the show didn’t lose its mojo like so many others have when the unrequited love becomes requited.
2011 was a big year for Chuck with Chuck and Sarah’s wedding, Ellie’s baby, Morgan getting the Intersect and Jeff becoming a clear-headed genius. But the main reason this was the best year for the show so far may be Timothy Dalton as supervillain-with-a-secret-identity Alexei Volkhoff. He was a worthy foe and a hilarious addition to the cast.
#7 The Vampire Diaries
No show keeps fans more on their toes than this one, and 2011 had a lot of new and exciting twists as Original Vampire Klaus entered the picture, Aunt Jenna died, Stefan turned evil, Elena and Damon grew closer, the ghosts of Jeremy’s dead ex-girlfriends returned and there were more deaths than ever.
Each episode continues to be a blistering mix of exciting mystery and great comedic moments, but 2011 also saw some big leaps in the ongoing story of Beckett’s investigation of her mother’s death, complete with the big reveal that Captain Montgomery was involved. His death and Beckett getting shot also provided one of the best cliffhangers of the year.
Season 2 was the season of the Bennett family. Matriarch Mags (Emmy winner Margo Martindale) came into the series as the leader of a small-town crime family and stole the show as her three sons (which included a great performance by Lost’s Jeremy Davies) proved to be a thorn in Raylan’s side.
For proof that Community is still the most wildly inventive show on TV, look no further than the epic paintball finale (with a perfect homage to Westerns), the clip show that wasn’t a clip show or the episode with multiple timelines. Not only are the characters fascinating, but the storytelling devices are more creative than anything else on TV.
#3 Breaking Bad
The fourth season started with a visceral episode that saw just how far Gus would go to keep his business safe and ended with a bang as Walter got the last, deadly laugh. The emphasis on Gus Fring’s character and the truly evil master manipulations of Walter helped make this show as good as it has ever been.
#2 Parks and Recreation
How does Parks and Rec keep getting better? The third and fourth seasons expanded the roles of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, saw Tom leave to start Entertainment 720, and featured the surprise wedding of April and Andy. Aside from adding new depths to a wonderful ensemble of characters, the show managed to stay fresh and funny while finding heartfelt moments that never felt forced or mushy.
#1 Sons of Anarchy
The Emmy voters may not be watching, but those of us who are know that not only was the fourth season of this biker drama its best yet, but it was also the best show of 2011. After getting out of prison, Jax and Clay formulated a plan to get out of the club, but it led to working with a Mexican cartel, murder, injuries, and Clay’s increasingly unstable and deadly behavior. Each and every episode was filled with shocking twists that kept this show fresh and exciting.