End of 2011 Part 2 – Favorite TV I Watched

I watched a lot of television this year. If you’d like to know my thoughts about the first half of the year, that’s right here. Here’s what I thought about what I saw during the second half.

5) Enlightened Season 1 (Created by Mike White and Laura Dern)

I started out more excited over Bored to Death’s return to HBO, but ended the year anticipating what came next in this Laura Dern-led dramedy. Enlightened is a very difficult concept and I completely understand viewers who might be turned off. However, I think staying with the show pays off. The set up is that Amy, a cosmetics company executive, has a totally nervous breakdown in the wake of an affair with her colleague. Amy is the sort of character that is mocked and put into the background of most shows, but here we follow her in the wake of the breakdown. Enlightened succeeds in present a balanced view of the self-help society we live in. Its comedy is subtle and its characters are nuanced, a nice change of pace overall.

4) Workaholics Seasons 1 & 2 (Created by Anders Holm, Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, and Kyle Newacheck)

I brushed this one off as another shitty Comedy Central attempt to appeal to the idiot demographic. Then I heard it mentioned by comedian Jimmy Dore in a favorable light and began to see friends online also praising it. That was enough to pique my curiosity and three days later I was kicking myself that I hadn’t been watching this from the beginning. Workaholics is the post-grad equivalent of Always Sunny or The Whitest Kids U Know with a plot and structure. Its not a work of comedic genius but it is a more enjoyable comedy than 99% of what is on the television these days. Despite what the ads would have you believe, this is a modern day Marx Brothers, three absurdist goofs becoming involved in ludicrous situations. Its surprisingly lacking in sexism as well, a VERY rare element in comedy these days.

3) American Horror Story Season 1 (Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk)

I hate Glee. I didn’t care for Nip/Tuck. So I was shocked that a new series from the men who created both of those was so damn enjoyable. Yes, the season had its moment of ludicrous behavior and some contrived ways to stretch the plot out. There were episodes where nothing of significance happened. But, when I stand back and look at the season as a whole, I see an amazingly ambitious project. The announcement that Season 2 will be a completely new cast, new locale, and new type of horror has me loving it even more. The series is essentially a season long anthology or expanded mini-series. Each season will be one complete and singular horror story. The story possibilities can’t help but make me drool for news on what is waiting for us in the Fall.

2) Boardwalk Empire Season 2 (Created by Terence Winter)

The first season was a slow burn, but season two seemed to aim higher from the start. We appeared to be seeing the rise of Jimmy Darmody and the American mafia, while Nucky Thompson fell from grace. All the while, Irish immigrant Margaret Schroeder had a crisis of the soul. When everything came to its conclusion, I was left stunned. While Game of Thrones feeds the high quality soap operatic side of me, Boardwalk Empire is there for the more ambiguous and literary side of me. The penultimate episode of the season, which focused on flashbacks to Jimmy’s short lived stint at university, was painfully devastating. Coupled with the events of the finale, the season overall is a bleak set up for what will come next.

1) Breaking Bad Season 4 (Created by Vince Gilligan)

Breaking Bad is still the strongest show out there. Its the perfect combination of great writing and solid acting. I had never really joined the Aaron Paul/Jesse fandom till this season, but I found the character to really grow as a complex person. Walt almost seemed to take a backseat for a lot of the episodes this season, which payed off in the final two of the season. The moment that stands out for me is not the season ending reveal, but the moment where Walt lays in the crawlspace, having just learned a devastating detail and laughing insanely as the camera zooms out. That single moment packed more of a dramatic punch than some whole seasons of television.

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