Did you know that there are only so many dramas someone can watch before he or she becomes worse than a cat lady? I mean, you’re essentially taking over the more trying emotional moments of some other person’s life. That’s cat lady territory if you do that sort of thing in bunches.
Welp, we do that sort of thing in bunches, so we figured we might as well tell you which show best delivers other people’s problems. Bring on the frizzy hair and the Tidy Cat—here’s our list of the Top 10 dramas of 2011.—Ed.
(The five best dramas of 2011 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of next week.)
10 – Boardwalk Empire
It was the year of Jimmy Darmody. No amount of grimy American carnage, Jazz Age sexcapades, Ku Klux Klan attacks, and life-paralyzing diseases could hold a candle to the shocking, offensive twists of Jimmy’s storyline on HBO’s Prohibition spectacle. This season, it went there.
As fans covered their bleeding eyes, the shameful origin of Jimmy’s brooding finally revealed itself in the form of a perverse relationship—one we always kind of suspected—he had with his mother, cunningly played by Gretchen Mol. And kudos to Mol’s villain in Gillian—as one of the most twisted, repulsive female miscreants ever on television, she further disturbed the already disturbing Prohibition Era Greek tragedy.
Boardwalk also proved true to its core: That in this bootlegging and bacchanalian world, business will always be King. And for the showrunners, compelling storytelling is King. So if that meant that criminal kingpin Nucky Thompson had to kill Jimmy, his former protege, latest enemy and surrogate son, for the sake of the story, so be it. Some will argue that Jimmy was destined to die, yet having the best character kill the second best character, for real(!), was still the shock heard around the world. Few shows have the balls to pull that off.
It’s not easy to love Boardwalk Empire. This season made us violently angry (saying goodbye to Michael Pitt wasn’t easy), intoxicated, and (at times) disgusted. Sometimes, that’s just the way love goes.—Sheila Dichoso
9. Doctor Who
Three words: Bowties are cool. For me, series 6 elevated Doctor Who from a feel good children’s sci-fi show to one that is as rich and rewarding for grown-ups as my other genre favorite, Fringe. Just like Walter on Fringe, our Doctor has finally realized that his actions have grave consequences, and for his traveling companions, a body count. Minimizing the presence of classic, but somewhat overused Who villains like the Daleks and Cybermen, lead writer Steven Moffat introduced us to new enemies that are more terrifying and thought provoking in both design and influence. But even in its most serious moments, Doctor Who still knows how to have a little fun in the universe. From companion for a day baby Alfie (or as he prefers, Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All) in “Closing Time,” to the human TARDIS in Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife,” to River Song in every episode she appears, Series 6 had some of my favorite Doctor Who moments. Amy and Rory, you will be missed.—Andrea Marker
8 – The Good Wife
It began as this slightly schitcky, pulled-from-the-headlines type of drama about a too-faithful wife to a miscreant politician. It was in this pack of shows about a decent person getting comeuppance on a cheating spouse.
Man oh man has this show grown.
The Good Wife now has all of the complicated, wheel-turning moments of a good Law & Order episode. It has drawn in the language of a somewhat better version of yourself. (It’s a West Wing episode with pauses to take a breath.) They’ve even been drinking scotch in a modern, moderate sort of way on this show recently, and that makes us feel better after years of Mad Men’s bad influence.
Julianna Margulies is other-worldly great. Josh Charles is finally getting a chance to show his mettle. That last episode had a needlessly traditional twist. It pulled us out of their brilliant little world a little bit. And that’s too bad, because it’s becoming the best little workplace world on TV.—Ben Collins
7 – Game of Thrones
One of the most enthralling, complex, and unique series to come out of HBO in the past few years, Game of Thrones has undoubtedly earned its place amongst the top dramas of 2011. There were many moving pieces contributing to the ultimate success of the show (suffice it to say, if even one piece of the machinery lagged, the entire endeavor could have easily crumbled into chaos – or worse, inconspicuousness). For starters, the novel upon which the series was based (a series of epic fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin), was not only a best-seller, but it was nominated for several awards (including the Locus Award, the Nebula Award, and the World Fantasy Award) – providing a fantastic blue-print upon which a small screen translation could be smoothly developed upon). Secondly, the more-than-impressive assembly of accomplished British screen and stage actors such as Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Iain Glen, Sean Bean, and last but not least Peter Dinklage (how could we forget his polarizing screen-time as the brash-talking, successful children’s author with whom Will Farrell naively mistakes as one of Santa’s elves). And thirdly, the ingenious and enticing fashion in which least a dozen major and minor plot-lines are synergistically interwoven into a cohesive and rhythmically-appealing consummation (it’s a different challenge pacing for TV than pacing for a book – TV doesn’t have the luxury of losing its already ADD and information-overwhelmed audience with confusing non-linear plot twists that can easily be re-traced through re-reading previous chapters). Not to mention the impressive set design, costuming, special effects, and the fact that there was a major marketing opportunity for a juicy sci-fi show to enter the marketplace once Battlestar Galactica went off the air… it was the synchronicity of all of these factors combined that set the stage for the electrifying entrance that Game of Thrones deservedly procured – garnering a border-lined obsessive and extremely loyal audience base (and rightly so). It’s safe to say that we are eagerly counting the minutes until the second season hits HBO in the Spring, 2012.—Brooke Citron
6 – The Walking Dead
I’ve read a lot of talk this year about how the second season of The Walking Dead is far inferior to the first because “nothing is happening,” but I couldn’t disagree more. While there has been less zombie-on-human action, the show has become an intense character study of what humanity means in the absence of civilization. While the other titles on this list have dealt with traditional dramatic elements of love, betrayal and football, Walking Dead has made its cast resort to its most base, animalistic instincts.
In normal situations, there would be no question that you’d look for a little girl if she went missing. Yep, usually a country vet would open his home to help the family of a boy who’s been shot. And of course people shouldn’t normally keep zombie pens in the backyard. But the dire straits in which the characters find themselves constantly force them to weigh whether surviving or doing the right thing is more important. With our own uncertain political and economic state of world affairs, this show remains the perfect allegory for our times. And zombies? Well, they’re just the undead frosting on the cake. –Martin Moakler