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The Top 10 Breakout TV Characters of 2011

December 29th, 2011 by Hulu

We have a dog on this list. He’s next to a guy who goes to clubs in the middle of the West Side Highway. And neither of them are very far away from a guy who is literally obsessed with breakfast foods.

It’s our Top 10 Breakout TV Characters of 2011. These are ten characters that took the next step from good to great—or appeared for the first time—over the last calendar year. So, don’t worry, those three characters will probably never see each other in real life—thank God—but they did make for a great year of TV.—Ed.

10 – Jess, New Girl

There’s this tacit understanding with everyone I’ve met that when we talk about “New Girl,” the conversation will start with this sentence: “She’s cute, but is she too cute?”

And the answer, of course, is yes. If your roommate sang bad ’80s songs around you all day, you’d probably find a really meaningful monument to jump off as soon as possible. But is the cuteness part of her character? See, that’s debatable. Her inherent cutesiness—adorkability, if you want to use the catchphrase—might actually serve as a reasonable deflection. The other characters on the show are some of the best on a TV comedy right now and that’s because she supplies a great set-up. And, man, sometimes she’s just straight up, sincerely cute, and that breaks the whole argument.

But the fact that we had to type a paragraph the size of most Twilight novels up there proves this: Jess is one of the most fascinating characters on TV right now. And, above all, she’s one of the best parts about one of the funniest new shows on TV.

Throw around as many SAT words as you want. She belongs on this list.—Ben Collins

9 – Ruxin, The League

In The League’s hilarious ensemble cast, it should be hard to pick a true breakout star, but 2011 was easily the Year of Ruxin.  The sleazy attorney (Nick Kroll) has been comedy gold this year.  What other character on The League has not just one tagline, but two? (“Everyone calls me Ruxin” and “Forever Unclean!”)

It’s always great when you can get to know a character’s quirks and hangups. Since Season 1, the combination of Ruxin’s fastidious cleanliness and brazen lack of morals have been a delight to watch, but this year he took it up a few notches. Ruxin stole the show early in Season 3 – cringing in horror as he watched his newly-bought championship ring getting deeply involved in a homemade porno.  Later, he pretends to be religious to get his baby into a Jewish preschool. Since his wife forbids him to look at any kind of pornography, Ruxin carries a semi-nude photo of her everywhere. And shows it to people.  To cheat in a League fitness contest, he wears a pedometer on his wrist. You can guess how he wins.  He gets high on painkillers and abandons his own strict hygienic purity standards during a game of beer pong, drinking a beer with a ping pong ball that has been on the men’s room floor.  In the magnificent Thanksgiving episode, Jeff Goldblum guest starred as Ruxin’s effete father, perfectly mimicking all of Ruxin’s trademark sneers and eye-rolls. Ruxin joins a religious cult to get fantasy football tips, and his filth-laden trash-talking e-mails get him in hot water at work. You love to see him win, you love to see him lose.—Nathan Alexander

8 – Louise, Bob’s Burgers

I’m not sure what it says about our culture that most of the breakout characters on animated shows exhibit psychopathic tendencies, but I’ve come to accept that these little tykes get all the best jokes.  Just think about it—do you watch Family Guy for Meg’s weekly humiliation, or to see matricidal Stewie plot to take over the world?  South Park favorite Cartman already has quite the body count (I’d suggest passing on his chili con carne) and Bart Simpson has certainly had his moments with weaponry.  So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Fox newcomer Bob’s Burgers isn’t immune to this trend.  But, at least this time around, we’re not stuck with another bad boy.

We finally got a bad girl.

Louise, a 9 year old with a Machiavellian sense of humor, is Bob’s youngest and most cunning child.  She’s also the reason I tune in every week.  With her pink bunny ears, Louise certainly looks innocent enough, but behind her wide smile lurks a girl who fantasizes about eating lobster as her last meal on death row, tells people her dad’s burgers are made of human flesh, and can’t wait to play in a morgue.  Kristen Schaal’s outstanding voice work brings Louise to life in such a vividly funny way that I half expect Kristen to don pink bunny ears on her Daily Show appearances.—Andrea Marker

7 – Erin Hannon, The Office

When Pam and Jim got hitched on “The Office” in 2009, it was high time for the show to bring in some fresh blood. Enter Erin (Ellie Kemper), the bubbly, naïve redhead who filled in for Pam behind the Dunder-Mifflin reception desk. Not only did she take calls (to hilarious effect), but she immediately fit in with the staff, bonding with Kelly , following Dwight’s inane orders, and awkwardly flirting with Andy. Thanks to “Bridesmaids,” Ellie Kemper hit it big this year, of course, but we think 2011 has also been Erin’s year on the “The Office.” Case in point: the Christmas episode, where the usually sober receptionist gets more than a little unhinged upon meeting Andy’s new girlfriend. —Rebecca Harper

6 – Wilfred, Wilfred

Look, there’s nothing funnier on this planet than a dog acting mostly like a human. It’s a certifiable truth, backed up mostly by that viral video where that talking dog gets genuinely upset when his owner screws him over on a bag of treats.

It’s even better when a dog that knows how to talk (and is able to dole out relationship advice to people in the suburbs) still latches onto what dogs generally tend to like. It’s why Brian on “Family Guy” has worked all these years.

But Wilfred? Wilfred just takes it to a whole new level.

The whole show is about Wilfred (Jason Gann), a dog who can only be seen as a human by Elijah Wood’s chronically depressed character Ryan. It’s one of the best shows of the year, and some of the funniest moments on TV in 2011 came from Wilfred just acting like a dog and not even telling jokes.

I mean, here’s a man in a dog costume wearing a cone of shame and acting genuinely upset. This is the America I want to live in.—Ben Collins

5 – Stefon, Saturday Night Live

I’d love to party with Stefon. SNL’s city correspondent/club kid keeps us ordinary, salt of the earth folk informed with New York City’s hottest clubs, like Slice, Slash, or Uuuunce, that feature everything: Schizos, pugs, kite enthusiasts, puppets doing karate, a Teddy Ruxpin wearing mascara, and even a Russian man with a prepaid cellphone.

But, seriously, Bill Hader’s Stefon is ridiculous in the best possible way. His nervous energy, predilection for Ed Hardy and flirtatious banter with Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers is hilarious and super endearing. However, Hader’s constant breaking is the reason why Stefon is so priceless. When he bashfully covers his mouth in shock of the zany club descriptions that blurt out of his mouth, we all know it’s Hader, who’s usually a pro at keeping in character, practically on the verge of losing it.

So even when Meyers begs Stefon for “family-friendly,” or at the very least, “non-psychotic” suggestions, NYC’s premiere city guide will continue to excitedly go on about a “hot new spot called Heeeeeeeeeey.” But, like Meyers, we always welcome him back on the show. His passion for bizarre clubs is infectious.—Sheila Dichoso

4 – Max Black, 2 Broke Girls

TV’s had its share of bad girls —Elisa Dushku’s Faith on Buffy, Blair on Gossip Girl, and Amanda Woodward on “Melrose” — but it’s rare that they get to headline a show. Enter Kat Dennings on “2 Broke Girls.” As Brooklyn waitress Max Black, she’s edgy, impatient, and sarcastic, and the perfect foil for her poor-little-rich-girl roommate, Caroline (Beth Behrs). —Rebecca Harper

3 – Dean Craig Pelton – Community
The Dean’s extravagant outfits and the inter-deanal sexual tension between him and Dean Spreck from City College have always given us a laugh. But ever since The Dean watched his beloved Greendale Community College get ravaged by a paintball war for the second time, he seems to have been suffering a descent into madness, out-Chang-ing even Student Chang. Oh, would that this hoodie were a time hoodie to take us to simpler times, but we are liking this darker Dean who is clearly overwhelmed by the rigors of community academia. Between making Jeff Winger engage in blackmail karaoke and falling into a “Heart of Darkness”-style K-hole shooting a recruitment video for the school, we’re eager to see the depths to which the self-described “Craig-ular Joe” will plunge. E pluribus anus, indeed.–Martin Moakler

2 – Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation has become arguably the flagship of the NBC Thursday night lineup ever since its additions of funny men Adam Scott and Rob Lowe in Season 3. But one character became new and improved when he had to take a mild airtime backseat: Ron Swanson.

In 2011, Ron Swanson has become a household name. Of course, this bacon loving, knife wielding, mustache wearing, man’s man has always been a staple of Parks & Rec, but with a couple more guys on the crew, Ron has been able to rise above the rest and become known to the outside world as the face of the show. His Pyramid of Greatness has become an internet staple, and his obsession with brunettes and breakfast foods has become another reason to watch. Or in his own words: “You had me at meat tornado.”—Gabe Pasillas

1 – Max Blum – Happy Endings

Max Blum is a lot of things. He’s a slob. He’s an aspiring limo driver. He’s a fan of day drinking while watching football. He’s a little out of shape. He’s always up for a prank. He’s hilarious.

Max is also not a lot of things. He is not a dandy. He is not a pining eunuch. He is not an accessory for some straight girl. He is not obsessed with show tunes or Top Model or Madonna.

He is just “one of the guys”—who happens to be one of the gays. That’s slightly revolutionary for TV. And, yes, while it’s a little stupid that this is slightly revolutionary for TV, it’s still important that he’s also one of the funniest guys in the middle of the best new ensemble cast since Friends or M*A*S*H* or Destiny’s Child.

Look, the cultural significance is abundant here. But he’s at the top because the show has reached can’t-miss status in its second season. It’s a laugh-a-second, 30 minute joke free-for-all for the ADD generation. And Max is their anchor. So he’s our top breakout character of 2011.– Martin Moakler

Last comment: Nov 30th 2015 19 Comments

The Best Drama of 2011: Friday Night Lights

December 23rd, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

This concludes our week-long countdown of the Top 10 Comedies of 2011. Selections 10-2 can be viewed here. The best TV Drama Series of 2011 is…

1 – Friday Night Lights

Look, we almost cried.

There was a filmic gauze over this show that made everything seem warmer and bigger. It made your life seem like it could be just as important—if you only moved to Texas and walked around with a heavy cinematic filter over your eyes.

What was it, after all, that set you apart from them? Your kid’s school is probably dealing with budget cuts, but Dillon football’s existence seemed more important. You’re probably in a relationship of some sort, or are fresh out of one, or are about to be in one. But Tami and Coach Taylor’s relationship seemed to have more weight about how couples move about the world than your own.

So the final season of “Friday Night Lights” was our nearly unanimous choice for the Best Drama of 2011.

Maybe there are more artful shows out there. We’ll take a beating for tossing “Boardwalk Empire” and Other Shows of Extended Silence toward the back of this list and giving this show its one last awards life. We’d understand that.

But we were groveling and trying not to cry at work at the end of this thing, and we’re talking about a high school football coach. It was accomplished with all of the gravitas of those shows with much more network support, much better timeslots, and much more historically divisive and important plotlines.

I say that, by the way—historically important—but I don’t know if I mean it. Nothing really seemed more historically important, at the time, than finding out if Philadelphia would welcome Eric Taylor at season’s end.

This show made every little, domestic, minute, small-town, unimportant thing you did in your own life seem bigger. It drilled down to your emotional middle with cinematic scope.

Life became slightly larger and weightier after watching it. We’re not happy that things will get smaller again now that it’s gone. But we can toss it a last bit of thanks for being one of the best shows TV has ever had.

Last comment: Nov 28th 2015 16 Comments

The Best Comedy of 2011: Community

December 23rd, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

This concludes our week-long countdown of the Top 10 Comedies of 2011. Selections 10-2 can be viewed here. The best TV Comedy Series of 2011 is…

1 – Community

I’m sure there’s a man in a suit somewhere comparing “Community” to “Arrested Development” right this second, but he’s only doing it to explain why this show won’t last. He’s saying TV viewers don’t have the patience for it, that it shouldn’t take three seasons to make one Beetlejuice reference, that the whole show is one inside joke stacked on top of another until viewership collapses, like someone trying to play Jenga in a moving car.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this man sucks. I’m here to tell you that this man is probably wearing an awful tie. And I’m here to tell you that this man is wrong.

“Community” is the best thing we’ve got. Not as TV watchers. As people.

Yep, show creator Dan Harmon’s little TV masterpiece that could has a lot of jokes that take a re-watch to fully understand. It is brilliant. But this, if anything, has done nothing but stigmatize the show. All of these smarts have made this show smell funny to most people.

Okay. I should admit something. I was most people.

I’m a late-comer to “Community.” I jumped in at the start of Season 3. I stumbled in and everyone was already a little drunk on the show. I thought I’d hate my time here.

But Jeff and Britta and Troy and Abed? They’re transcendently charming. Everybody’s dynamic. You want to be in there with them, rapping worse than them, helping them ruin their stuff to varying degrees of severity, and you want to generally be around Annie.

It’s like “Friends,” but you’re not going to hate yourself in ten years for feeling this way.

They’re intensely diverse, by the way, but you’d never think this or say it out loud. Britta is white. Shirley is black. Pierce is a scumbag. The Dean is a revelation.

They are, in fact, just a bunch of attractive, caffeinated people with no self-censoring abilities, and they’re tied together at a well-dressed, classically insecure pole in the middle named Jeff Winger.

Jeff’s sheen seems crazy and corporate and unreal. Only when it all falls apart—and he becomes obsessive about foosball—does he ever really seem like us.

Nothing says 2011 like watching that facade of leather jacket-wearing cool fall down around you, only to reemerge a little bit cooler by being completely weird and broken and interesting. “Drive” did that at the movies. The economy’s kind of going through that process as we speak.

No one has been doing it better on TV than “Community.” And it’s the best comedy we’ve watched in 2011 because of it.

It’s the only show that speaks to now.

Oh, and the show goes to weird places and doesn’t leave you behind. Harmon’s Remedial Chaos Theory episode would only be done on a traditional sitcom—let’s say “Mike & Molly”—if Molly’s morning batch of brownies was accidentally laced with some of Mike’s previous detective work.

Instead of using excuses for trippy episodes, Harmon just goes there. He does it artfully and everybody’s in on it. Fans don’t run away. It just makes them want to live inside his beard.

Oh, and these fans. We should task “Community” fans with finding a second planet for people to live on, or maybe finding a way to turn Skittles wrappers into fuel for sedans. No one mobilizes faster than these people.

When you get a chance, listen to news stories about the Iowa Caucus. Volunteers are talking about finding ways to bus Des Moines’ finest grandfathers in vans to get them to vote for a candidate. They, too, are calling this “mobilizing.”

This is like dropping a bowl of Fancy Feast in front of your two cats on Monday, then unleashing a military helicopter full of kitties onto a shore lined with beached tuna on Tuesday. You can call both activities “feeding the cats,” but that would be a real disservice to what you did on Tuesday.

Mobilizing, to “Community” fans, is like ten of those kitty helicopters.

When there were faint rumors of “Community” getting canceled, fans made sure NBC knew the following: You can take “Community” away, but there won’t be Twitter anymore. That will no longer be a thing. Even rumors of the show’s cancellation stressed out Twitter’s servers.

NBC acted quickly. They said they simply left the show off their midseason schedule and it awaits a spring return.

It better. We can’t let the guy with the awful tie win again.

It’s 2011, anyway. This year practically lived by the motto, “The man in the suit is gonna hear about it.” And if there’s some sort of rally to keep Alison Brie on my TV, then I’m going to need some directions.

The Top 10 Comedies of 2011

10 – South Park
9 – Beavis and Butt-head
8 – New Girl
7 – Happy Endings
6 – The League
5 – Up All Night
4 – Modern Family
3 – Louie
2 – Parks and Recreation
1 – Community

Last comment: Nov 23rd 2015 72 Comments

Top 10 Comedies of 2011: 2 – Parks And Recreation

December 22nd, 2011 by James Goux

We’re counting down the Top 10 Comedies of 2011. Each pick will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage every day of this week. Selections 10-2 can be viewed here.

2 – Parks and Recreation

I recently heard it theorized that sitcoms take writers about three seasons to really get a good handle on their characters and tone and that they usually become truly great after the first two. Well, in 2011, this theory has found a poster boy: the entire cast of “Parks and Recreation.”

Last season saw the excising of one character whose arc seemed to be complete and the addition of two characters that completely enhanced the dynamic of the show—Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). Not only did they allow for more drama and more interesting relationships but these guys respectively represent one of the best straight men on television and one of the most funny and genuinely joyful characters I’ve ever seen.

And that was just last season.

Writers took all year to fully engrain those characters into the show and develop the way the dynamic has changed, but now the show is really able to dig into the good stuff. In season four, this show has become all about character. We’ve had three whole seasons to fall in love with Leslie Knope and all of her comrades. In fact, Leslie—with her persistence, caring, and unabashed hope—has become an inspiration all her own. Seeing her have the opportunity to live out her dreams and pursue a candidacy for government office fulfills an arc set up on the show as early as its first episode. But I think what’s truly special about this season in particular is seeing those around her realize just how special she is, too.

Ben’s gift of a Knope 2012 button and his understanding at every turn of Leslie’s goals and their relationship together was a truly emotional moment. And that’s followed by the entire “Parks and Recreation” office pledging their support, a perfectly timed moment of sentimentality, which has really become a specialty of the show in the last few years.

Leslie and Ron Swanson’s relationship has become the best platonic relationship since Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, primarily because of the subtle and sparse ways they show admiration for each other. Background characters like Andy Dwyer and April have been carefully developed into lovable aspects of the ensemble as well, and even the least featured of the cast such as Donna and Jerry have had their opportunities to shine. What really makes this show work is not any one joke or comedic style, but the way they’ve made us care for these people. These are truly admirable characters we can root for and get attached to.

And let’s not forget: Ron Swanson is awesome enough to make the show all on his own.

Last comment: Jan 8th 2012 10 Comments

Top 10 Dramas of 2011: 2 – Breaking Bad

December 22nd, 2011 by Gabe Pasillas

We’re counting down the Top 10 Dramas of 2011. Each pick will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage every day of this week. Selections 10-3 can be viewed here.

2 – Breaking Bad

My journey with the greatness that is “Breaking Bad” didn’t begin until about two months ago. I know, I know. I’m an idiot, but it’s not like I didn’t try.

For years I have been badgered about just how good this show was, and how I needed to watch it. I was told by friends, family, and even random people at various bars in random cities. It was just one of those shows that I never got around to seeing.

Finally, after getting over my subconscious confusion of Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle” being a baker of meth, I gave it a shot in the VOD world—and boy was I in for a wild ride. Immediately, I was hooked. It really was that good, if not better.

I made it to the most current season, partially out of breath, but definitely wanting more. The world of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman became a world I was in the middle of (no pun intended). Every plot twist, and every action by each character was inspired by an action of another. Plotlines were ending and beginning all the same, and it all made sense. Rarely do you see that in a hard hitting drama nowadays. Although fantastical in nature, the matchup of Walter White and Gus “Los Pollos Hermanos” Fring became the realest and heaviest of heavyweight battles. Their continued distrust, codependence on the once-tweaker Jesse, and lust for power snowballed into a giant tumbleweed of mayhem, thrusting the life Walter had always tried to hide into the forefront of reality.

Needless to say this fourth season of “Breaking Bad” pulled no punches and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, leading up to what I would call one of the best season finales of all time. Also needless to say, I am now one of those characters who tells every friend, family member, and random person at a bar (and on a blog) to watch the show ASAP.

With awards snubs for the show (ahem, Golden Globes, cough cough) actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, along with an outstanding supporting cast, writers, directors and crew deserve some major recognition for making this show what it has become today. One can only hope the final season (set to air sometime in mid 2012 on AMC) gives the show the sendoff it deserves.