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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

Best TV Shows of 2011

Louie

1. “Louie”
FX Network

The second season of comedian Louis C.K.’s auteur project doesn’t just feel like one of the best TV seasons of 2011: It feels like one of the best of all time.

Week in and week out, “Louie” crossed some new line (“So, we're like porn for God? He watches us and he probably masturbates.”)  or tackled some new genre (the meta, almost Lynchian opening to “Oh Louie/Tickets”). That the funniest show on television is also the most crushingly depressing and visually stunning is a testament to C.K.’s fluidity as a performer and a director. His unabashed love for New York, his daughters and the art of comedy come through just as strongly as his downtrodden misanthropy, and this fictionalized version of himself might be TV’s best character.

That’s fitting, since he’s the focal point of its best show.
 — Brad Sanders

2. “Breaking Bad”

AMC

By far the ballsiest show of 2011, “Breaking Bad” pushed the envelope of conventional storytelling in its fourth season with fried chicken drug lords, bloody Mexican cartel picnics and gorgeous cinematography each week. More importantly, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) demands we ask ourselves, “How much can I despise you and still come back for more?” After the last shot of the finale, the answer is “More than we could have imagined.”
— Jonathan Streetman

3. “Community”

NBC

No season of television has ever before committed to its gimmick episodes the way “Community”’s second season did, and accordingly, no season has ever done such episodes so well. Building on the first season’s mafia and paintball action flick-themed installments, this season found the study group tackling such scenarios as space travel, zombie attacks, deathbed documentaries, claymation, elections and even more paintball. The result is a season that is both knee-slappingly hilarious and emotionally provoking.
— Max McCombs

4. “Parks and Recreation”

NBC
Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) militant obsession with the Pawnee Parks Department is both hilarious and endearing. She and her somewhat less enthusiastic colleagues offer a bizarre blend of comedy that works. This season, Pawnee’s local government was joined by the crazy friendly, health-obsessed Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) who is “literally” one of the best comedic characters on television. If only every city government had a parks department like Pawnee’s.
— Jayne Flax

5. “Justified”

FX

Were it not for another indelible season of “Breaking Bad,” “Justified” would have surely been the year’s finest drama with “Mad Men” sidelined. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens ascended the ranks of TV’s best lead characters, while the Kentucky hills proved a perfectly anarchic backdrop for storytelling. Having Emmy winner Margo Martindale and Walton Goggins heading a tremendous supporting cast certainly didn’t hurt either.
— Adam Lukach

6. “Modern Family”

ABC

The often ridiculous, always lovable characters of “Modern Family” echo the idiosyncrasies of our own functionally dysfunctional kin. The sitcom-turned-mock-doc format makes familiar situations hilariously real. Mom rallying the neighbors against the drivers speeding through the neighborhood? Check. Dad’s stubborn but failed attempts at being a handyman? Check. “Modern Family” always hits just close enough to home to make us feel like we’re laughing with them. We’re in on the joke because we’ve been there, too.
— JF

7. “Doctor Who”

BBC

Family-friendly shows rarely elicit a wider variety of emotions than this one. Pure bliss and humor can turn to heart-wrenching despair in seconds, and the new villains known as “the Silence” are now permanent fixtures in nightmares for any fan. Season six managed to surpass season five in quality as Matt Smith portrays a doctor unlike any before him, and the alternating fun and dark plot lines benefit his acting greatly.
— Mikel Kjell

8. “Bored to Death”
HBO
Nursing a baby on Zach Galifianakis’ whiskey-soaked nipple, hanging from a 37-story clock to escape police, opening an organic restaurant in an attempt to stay young — HBO’s “Bored to Death” characters employ their usual antics from the get-go. Whereas other sitcoms could make them cheap, “Bored” brings an intelligent, earned aspect to the main characters’ running themes and actions: They need to be needed, and after three bright seasons, need them we do.
— Bailey Loosemore

9. “Downton Abbey”

BBC

This series follows the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of the Crawley family and its English estate. Historical plotlines, such as the sinking of the Titanic, mix with the domestic stories to add depth to Downton and its colorful characters.
— Bridget Ameche

10. “Game of Thrones”

HBO

Does the immense popularity of “Game of Thrones” testify more to the HBO brand or the show’s greatness? Compelling arguments exist, but there’s no doubt HBO money makes for great perks. The adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels looks marvelous, both well-acted and well-equipped. The plot thickens unfortunately slowly, but for a show that sometimes requires diagrams to follow along, that can’t be rushed.
— AL

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