Tube Talk's much-anticipated countdown of the best TV shows of 2011 continues with a real pick 'n' mix bag of shows making the high end of the top 20. Two comedies (one from each side of the Atlantic), a fantasy favourite, a seriously dark ITV drama and a certain modern-day Western are today's five golden nuggets.
> Tube Talk's Top 25 shows of 2011 (25-21)
20. Modern Family
Modern Family might have caused ire earlier this year when it dominated the Emmy comedy nominations, but we shouldn't let that cloud the fact that it's a genuinely funny show. The impressive thing about Modern Family is that it has remained consistently amusing - quite a feat when you're churning out 24 episodes a season. Even in the poorest episodes (and we say "poorest" relatively), there will be things to make you chuckle.
It's hard to pinpoint just what it is that makes Modern Family so brilliant, though. Is it the fabulous ensemble cast - every one brilliantly funny (though special mention to hilarious Emmy-winner Ty Burrell - the brilliantly uncool dad)? Is it the wacky situations the family finds themselves in? Is it the mockumentary style, allowing for brilliant awkward pauses, eye-rolling and confessions? Is it because we recognise our own familial traits and don't want to admit it? It's so hard to say, and to be honest, we don't want to analyse too much - Modern Family is just damn funny and we don't want to ruin the magic. (PS Phil? Fix that darn step.) [CW]
19. Friday Night Dinner
We're just going to come right out and say it - we love Friday Night Dinner. On the surface, it doesn't seem like there's much to it - a family meets every Friday for a meal together. But we soon discovered that this was something a bit more special than that, and the more we got to know the Goodmans - and their little habits and foibles - the more we fell for them - hard-done-by mum Jackie, exasperated dad Martin (MARTIN!) and, of course, the two kids, Adam and Jonny.
This was a comedy that might have been billed as "gentle humour", but could genuinely provoke some belly laughs (the boys' pranks, for example). No-one was really playing against type - both Mark Heap and Simon Bird are known for playing socially awkward guys, and that's basically what they did here - but when they're so good at it you don't mind. Friday Night Dinner was really a show that built up, using repetition to wonderful effect ("lovely bit of squirrel", "females", "s**t on it!" and more). Nothing really happens, as such, but somehow Robert Popper's brilliant writing kept you giggling. You could even say that it's this generation's answer to The Royle Family. Bring on series two! [CW]
While some shows burn brightly but briefly, others take a little while to hit their stride. Merlin is definitely in the latter category, but the show's recent fourth series has without doubt been its strongest. Much as we love cult legend Anthony Head, killing off his tyrannical Uther has finally allowed this fantasy drama to grow.
Merlin (Colin Morgan) may still be hiding his magic from an oblivious Arthur (Bradley James), but there've been enough changes this year - Arthur taking the throne, the addition of the Knights - to avoid stagnation. And Morgana (Katie McGrath) is far more fun as a sultry villain than she was as a well-mannered lady-about-court. [MJ]
17. Appropriate Adult
Dominic West understandably won most of the plaudits for his scarily lifelike turn as Fred West in Appropriate Adult. One of the UK's most well-known and written-about serial killers, it was a role that the Wire star embodied with such incredible accuracy that it was often unnerving viewing. However, it was Emily Watson - as the worn away and harangued title character Janet Leach - and Monica Dolan - a truly terrifying turn as Fred's wife Rose - who really burned brightest in this incredible ITV two-parter.
The subject matter made it an easy target for tabloid furore, but writer Neil McKay and director Julian Jarrold were bold in their retelling of the aftermath of one of the UK's most shocking crimes. An unflinching examination of pure evil that remained sensitive to the victims, without ever shirking away from the true horrors of the Wests. [AF]
Season two was when Justified really hit its stride, benefitting massively from a season-long arc that pitted Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens against the Bennett clan. Don't get us wrong, the first season was still fine television, but this year had a wonderful group of fleshed-out, villainous characters to complement Olyphant's charm and badassery.
It feels much more personal - Raylan and the Bennetts go way back. There is genuine bad blood between them that can't be ignored, and Margo Martindale in particular is phenomenal as Mags, the matriarch of the family whose wish it is to avoid conflict. Elsewhere, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) remains fascinating to watch as he gradually returns to his criminal ways, while child actress Kaitlyn Dever boasts such maturity as 14-year-old Loretta McCready that she can act toe-to-toe with the likes of Olyphant and Martindale. [BL]
What were your favourite shows from 2011? Share your picks below!