The Best Television Shows of 2011

by PopMatters Staff

10 January 2012


15 - 11

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How I Met Your Mother

Cast: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan


Review [3.Oct.2005]


How I Met Your Mother

In 2011, How I Met Your Mother did what many of the sitcom’s most vocal critics have been clamoring for, they pushed protagonist Ted Mosby’s (Josh Radnor) cloying quest for love to the side in order to focus on the most interesting aspect of the of the series, the supporting cast. Beyond employing some of the most intricate narrative structures since Arrested Development, HIMYM presents the friends, now in their thirties, dealing with the hard facts of aging. Perpetual bachelor Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) considers his future and reconnects with his long lost father (John Lithgow); Lily (Alison Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) move forward with their plans to start a family; Canadian reporter Robin (Cobie Smulders) examines her own life in new ways; and as a whole the group deals with sudden, traumatic loss. The show gained an emotional weight it lacked, adding depth and substance to the laughs. Brent McKnight


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Modern Family

Cast: Ed O’Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet



Modern Family

Modern Family’s success, both critical and commercial, can directly be attributed to its varied and often outlandish cast of charactersrelating to each other in everyday moments. It’s a series about family and all that that entails, and its best moments come from the interactions between the sometimes unexpected pairings. Familiar, uneasy, antagonistic, and poignant, the Pritchett and Dunphy clans highlight the humor in the everyday lives of a large, close-knit family. With breakout characters such as Cam (Eric Stonestreet), Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and Phil (Ty Burrell) constantly stealing scenes, Modern Family almost always delivers on the laughs, but even when it doesn’t the series still manages to resonate in smaller, more thoughtful ways. J.M. Suarez


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Friday Night Lights

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Gaius Charles, Zach Gilford, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Taylor Kitsch


Review [8.Oct.2007]
Review [18.Apr.2007]
Review [10.Oct.2006]


Friday Night Lights

What’s left to be said about one of the greatest television programs ever made? If you haven’t watched it after being implored for five years by critics to watch Peter Berg’s high school football/family drama, then I doubt there’s anything I can say here to change your mind. Instead, let’s continue as a “Fans Only” tribute to Coach, Coach’s Wife, Riggins, Saracen, Lance, and the rest of the exceptional cast that helped make these past five seasons some of the best ever aired. Sure, there were times during season two when I wanted to scream “What are you doing, son?!” at the show’s writing team. For the most part, though, Coach’s crew flowed flawlessly from title to title. Fans can harbor a bit of bitterness for seasons lost due to poor ratings, but even with a shortened lifespan everyone involved in Friday Night Lights can be proud in knowing they never jumped the shark. After all, clear eyes and full hearts can’t lose. Ben Travers


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30 Rock

Cast: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander


Review [16.Jan.2008]


30 Rock

Thanks to scheduling issues, fans saw but a mere six and a half hours of 30 Rock in 2011, but the show made its airtime count, sprinting through the back half of its fifth season with typical energy. After five years on the air, Tina Fey can’t help but move her characters along developmentally—Alec Baldwin’s Jack with a marriage and baby; Jane Krakowski’s Jenna with a loving partner, and Fey’s Liz Lemon with her ongoing attempts to find stability in her life—but never sedates them. Instead, the show has made excellent use of recurring guest stars like Elizabeth Banks and Will Forte to broaden the show’s scope of relationships without skimping on the craziness. The ensemble could become overcrowded; instead, we watch talented actors passing the ball around and around. Jesse Hassenger


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Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole




It used to be that the best way to summarize J.J. Abrams’ Fringe was to describe it, perhaps too simply, as a sci-fi Trojan War. The show’s recent episodes, however, have made the overall through-line of the narrative all the more clear. If the story was set into motion by an act of madness induced by love, causing a massive catastrophe, this was the year we learned that only through acts of sanity caused by love can plug the holes in creation. John Noble continued his Emmy-worthy performance as the tormented Walter Bishop, and Anna Torv found new ways to shine exploring the multiversal possibilities of Olivia Dunham. Few shows take the same kind of chances as Fringe, and thus, few are as good. Kevin Brettauer

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