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Year in Review: Robert Lloyd's top new TV for 2011

December 16, 2011 | 11:25 am

Fred Armisen Carrie Brownstein Portlandia
Thirteen favorite things new to TV in 2011, in 10 entries.

"Enlightened" (HBO): Mike White and Laura Dern’s numinous, luminous comedy on the difficulties of spiritual reform.

"Portlandia" (IFC): Site-specific countercultural sketch show, from an “SNL” stalwart and an alt-rock rock star, examines the attitudes of doing right.

"New Girl" (Fox): Zooey Deschanel stays up on the tightrope her costars keep taut.

"Downton Abbey" (PBS): Julian Fellowes’ post-Edwardian upstairs-downstairs, country-house comedy-drama is a digest of British literary and TV traditions.

"Homeland" (Showtime) / "The Killing" (AMC): Hazy mysteries trap the attention of troubled, talented female investigators (Claire Danes and Mireille Enos, respectively, as good as can be but better).

"Mildred Pierce" (HBO): Todd Haynes’ languorous, detailed adaptation of the James M. Cain novel is lifelike and larger than life.

"The Hour" (BBC America) / "Page Eight" (PBS): Hugely satisfying British thrillers; the first jumps like an Aston Martin, the second purrs like a Rolls.

"Boxing Gym" (PBS): A little symphony in pugilistic percussion from Frederick Wiseman, 81.

"George Harrison: Living in the Material World" (HBO) / "Woody Allen: A Documentary" (PBS): Great big films about artists easy to take for granted.

"Wilfred" (FX): Brainy low humor with a sweet streak as awesome Jason Gann (in a dog suit) leads Elijah Wood hectically toward the light.

A low point: After 45 years, Jerry Lewis is clumsily cashiered as the public face, and telethon host, of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.

For more, here's an essay on TV in 2011.


The year in television essay: Robert Lloyd

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein putting a bird on it in "Portlandia." Credit: Scott Green/IFC.