Bitchin' Channels: The top ten shows of 2011


Here’s my top 10 shows of 2011. You need to watch them, buy the box set, or tell me why I’m wrong.

Sean Bean in  Game Of Thrones .
Sean Bean in Game Of Thrones .

10: Super City, TV3. Madeleine Sami's multiple personalities rampaging through Auckland in a comedy of the uncomfortable.

That's my kind of TV. The good news is that there's already a DVD of the first series and a second is due in 2012.

9: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, TV1. We were invited to snigger perhaps at the deluded young travellers in gigantic wedding dresses who were about to sign up to a life of servitude, so morally it's probably wrong, but it was riveting for at least three episodes.

It also introduced us to the ritual known as 'grabbing'.

8: Entourage, SOHO, TV2. The final season of one of the best ensemble casts ever ensembled.

It seemed like it might be a male version of Sex In The City in the first season but proved to be so much more.

Re-live the best moments of Ari Gold here.

7: 7Days, TV3. Already an institution and the only place on local TV that truly embraces the idea of Political In-correctness.

It also offers some of the most insightful political discourse on the box.

6: How to Look at a Painting, TVNZ7 and TV1. Some jumped-up, pointy headed, know-it-all, droning on about paintings! Is that what you call good TV? Actually, yes it is.

Justin Paton may look like a guy who's about to sell you a heat pump but he knows his art and more importantly he knows how make it interesting to heathens like me. An unexpected pleasure.

5. North, TV1. Marcus Lush proved that there's still some material in the hinterland that hasn't been caught in past drift-netting exercises. The final episode - an A to Z of Auckland - was an absolute delight.

It's also beautifully shot and unlike others who mine the same territory, Lush at least attempts to avoid the clichés and farmers markets.

4. Treme, SOHO. Big shoes to fill when The Wire is part of the whanau but Treme has charm and it has music and it knows how to use both. Wisely the show focuses on the drive of the locals to dig themselves out of the post Katrina hole rather than dwelling on the political issues.

There's also some interesting parallels to post-quake Christchurch to be had though just what Christchurch music would feature in a local version could be an issue. The Feelers perhaps? Season 2 is coming in 2012.

3: The Killing, SOHO. I have the box set of the original Danish show sitting at home but I'm halfway through the excellent American version currently showing on Soho, and there's nought wrong with it.

A slow burning beauty that unravels like an onion and turns the red herring into a delicacy.

2: 24 Hours In A&E, TV1. Jesus, a show that gives 'reality TV' a good name! I didn't see that coming.

Made with utter craftsmanship and integrity, the producers spent 28 days in the busiest A&E in the UK, covered with it all some 70 cameras, some of them fixed and operated by remote control and some-how managed to make it look more like and episode of ER than Casualty.

In these days of 'structured reality' it's lovely to see the power of the truly observational. Here's how they made it.

1: Game of Thrones, SOHO. Winter has come and gone and so has one of the most enjoyable shows of all time.

Up there with the Sopranos, Singing Detective, Twin Peaks etc. I'm sure that by now you will agree or will have been dragged into a conversation about it, best you give in and watch it soon. Season 2 is on its way in 2012.

And sharing the top spot in dead heat: Boardwalk Empire. HBO apparently rang the producers while the first episode of series one was screening and ordered the second series on the spot. It was a good bet.

Ever since it's been raining rave reviews and shitting Emmys. Buscemi is superb as Nucky but it's Michael Shannon's seriously f**ked up Nelson Van Elden that steals the show.

You don't just watch Boardwalk, you luxuriate in it. Like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire is a new benchmark. It's as good as TV gets.

Other shows came and went. I know I missed some great ones completely (Louie, the new seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad) and some I enjoyed for a while but eventually had to break up with, like these:

The Borgias: Jeremy Irons is always immensely watchable but it's almost impossible to watch after being spoiled by the likes of Game of Thrones. Like pork scratchings after crackling.

Underbelly Razor: I'm sure there's a great drinking game to be had involving having to swig every time you spot a kiwi actor (on second thoughts that could be fatal) and some tasty over-the-top performances but it all ends up feeling a bit like a Moccona commercial, only much, much longer.

Downton Abbey: After a promising start to season two, which was reminiscent of Blackadder Goes Forth without the laughs, It wasn't long till I started to hope for horrible things to happen to all of the characters, which is never a good sign.

X Factor: While the selection process is immensely enjoyable, the middle section sagged like the tummy of an old ginger tom, still the staging and production is incredible and Simon Cowell is always watchable. Pricks always are.

True Blood: I'll never give it up completely but as it seems to jump the shark every 10 minutes I'm starting to worry that it's only a matter of time.

Michael Laws vs Ken Mair: I was hoping for a knock out if not a decapitation. However Laws was surprisingly good.

Here's a great story by Jodie Ihaka on Marae Investigates where you get to see Laws subjected to some comeuppance.

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