2011 Television Critic Top Ten Lists [Updated Jan. 11]

  • Publish Date: December 13, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 38 user comments

Below, we collect every year-end Top Ten list published by major TV critics and publications. This page will be updated throughout December and January whenever new lists are published; be sure to check back frequently.

Critics pick the best TV shows of 2011

Added in last update (Jan. 11): PopMatters

Below is our updated running tally of the TV shows most frequently mentioned by individual critics in their year-end Top Ten lists. Note that if a critic ranks more than the standard 10 shows, we will not include titles ranked 11th or worse. In case of a tie for first or second, each show will receive the full points for that position. Our points system works as follows:

  • 3 points for each 1st place ranking
  • 2 points for each 2nd place ranking
  • 1 point for being ranked 3rd - 10th, or for being included on an unranked list
  TV Show / Network # 1st Place # 2nd Place # Other Points
1 Breaking Bad (AMC) 9 6 20 59
2 Homeland (Showtime) 7 5 23 54
3 Downton Abbey (PBS) 2 5 16 32
4 Parks and Recreation (NBC) 1 6 14 29
5 Game of Thrones (HBO) 1 0 25 28
  Louie (FX) 3 0 19 28
7 Justified (FX) 1 0 21 24
8 Community (NBC) 0 2 15 19
9 The Good Wife (CBS) 0 0 18 18
  Modern Family (ABC) 1 0 15 18
11 Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC) 2 0 11 17
12 Boardwalk Empire (HBO) 0 1 9 11
  The Walking Dead (AMC) 0 0 11 11
14 American Horror Story (FX) 0 0 10 10
  Enlightened (HBO) 0 2 6 10
16 Revenge (ABC) 0 0 9 9
17 Awkward. (MTV) 0 0 5 5
  The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 0 0 5 5
  Happy Endings (ABC) 0 0 5 5
  The Middle (ABC) 0 0 5 5

Individual critic top ten lists

Below are the individual top ten lists used to calculate the standings above. Some critics may list ten shows without ranking them in order; such lists are displayed below, without numbers, in alphabetical order.

Associated Press Frazier Moore View article
  • Boomtown (Planet Green)
  • Boss (Starz)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Enlightened (HBO)
  • The Golden Globes (NBC)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Lights Out (FX)
  • Skins (MTV)
  • Sons of Anarchy (FX)
The Atlantic Richard Lawson View article
  • Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Portlandia (IFC)
  • Revenge (ABC)
  • Top Chef: All Stars (Bravo)
A.V. Club Staff Consensus View article
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. Community (NBC)
  5. Justified (FX)
  6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  7. Homeland (Showtime)
  8. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  9. The Good Wife (CBS)
  10. Enlightened (HBO)
Boston Globe Matthew Gilbert View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. Shameless (Showtime)
  5. (tie) Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  6. (tie) 30 Rock (NBC)
  7. (tie) Community (NBC)
  8. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  9. Louie (FX)
  10. Justified (FX)
  11. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  12. Enlightened (HBO)
Cinema Blend Staff Consensus View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Revenge (ABC)
  4. Portlandia (IFC)
  5. The Chicago Code (Fox)
  6. Community (NBC)
  7. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Starz)
  8. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  9. Louie (FX)
  10. Homeland (Showtime)
Cleveland Plain Dealer Mark Dawidziak View article
  1. Justified (FX)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. (tie) The Middle (ABC)
  4. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. Damages (DirecTV)
  7. Community (NBC)
  8. (tie) American Horror Story (FX)
  9. (tie) True Blood (HBO)
  10. (tie) The Walking Dead (AMC)
  11. Homeland (Showtime)
  12. Rescue Me (FX)
  13. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Collider Adam Chitwood View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Community (NBC)
  5. Louie (FX)
  6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Contra Costa Times Chuck Barney View article
  1. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  5. (tie) The Middle (ABC)
  6. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  7. American Horror Story (FX)
  8. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  9. The Good Wife (CBS)
  10. Justified (FX)
  11. New Girl (Fox)
The Daily Beast Maria Elena Fernandez View article
  • American Horror Story (FX)
  • Awkward. (MTV)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Raising Hope (Fox)
  • Sons of Anarchy (FX)
The Daily Beast Jace Lacob View article
  • Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  • Community (NBC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Parenthood (NBC)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Entertainment Weekly Ken Tucker
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Fringe (Fox)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Louie (FX)
  6. Justified (FX)
  7. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  8. The Good Wife (CBS)
  9. Enlightened (HBO)
  10. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
HitFix Daniel Fienberg View article
  1. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Louie (FX)
  7. Justified (FX)
  8. Homeland (Showtime)
  9. The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
  10. The Hour (BBC America)
HitFix Alan Sepinwall View article
  1. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Justified (FX)
  5. Community (NBC)
  6. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  7. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  8. Homeland (Showtime)
  9. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  10. (tie) Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
  11. (tie) The United States of Tara (Showtime)
Houston Chronicle Therese Odell View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  5. American Horror Story (FX)
  6. Fringe (Fox)
  7. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
  8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  9. Big Love (HBO)
  10. 30 Rock (NBC)
The Huffington Post (formerly AOL TV) Maureen Ryan View article
  • Awkward. (MTV)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Community (NBC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
IMDb Melanie McFarland View article
  • Awkward. (MTV)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Community (NBC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • Revenge (ABC)
Lincoln Journal Star Jeff Korbelik View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  4. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  5. Sons of Anarchy (FX)
  6. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  7. The Good Wife (CBS)
  8. Modern Family (ABC)
  9. Boss (Starz)
  10. Revenge (ABC)
New York Willa Paskin View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. The Good Wife (CBS)
  6. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  7. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  8. Community (NBC)
  9. Justified (FX)
  10. Happy Endings (ABC)
New York Daily News David Hinckley View article
  1. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  4. 2 Broke Girls (CBS)
  5. Justified (FX)
  6. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  7. Awkward. (MTV)
  8. Boss (Starz)
  9. The Good Wife (CBS)
  10. Rizzoli and Isles (TNT)
The New York Times Mike Hale View article
  • Awkward. (MTV)
  • Community (NBC)
  • Freedom Riders (PBS)
  • Fringe (Fox)
  • Frontline (PBS)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Louie (FX)
  • There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane (HBO)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
The New York Times Alessandra Stanley View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. The Hour (BBC America)
  4. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  5. Revenge (ABC)
  6. The Voice (NBC)
  7. Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
  8. Bob Costas interviewing Jerry Sandusky (NBC)
  9. Republican primary debates (various)
  10. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
NPR/Television Worth Watching David Bianculli View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. The Good Wife (CBS)
  4. Modern Family (ABC)
  5. Justified (FX)
  6. Dexter (Showtime)
  7. American Horror Story (FX)
  8. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
  9. Louie (FX)
  10. True Blood (HBO)
Orlando Sentinel Hal Boedeker View article
  • The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • The Killing (AMC)
  • The Middle (ABC)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Once Upon a Time (ABC)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
Paste Josh Jackson View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Community (NBC)
  3. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  5. Homeland (Showtime)
  6. 30 Rock (NBC)
  7. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  8. Louie (FX)
  9. Modern Family (ABC)
  10. Dexter (Showtime)
People Tom Gliatto
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. American Horror Story (FX)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. Louie (FX)
  7. New Girl (Fox)
  8. Revenge (ABC)
  9. American Idol (Fox)
  10. Happy Endings (ABC)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Rob Owen View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. Modern Family (ABC)
  4. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  5. Happy Endings (ABC)
  6. Homeland (Showtime)
  7. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  8. The Good Wife (CBS)
  9. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  10. Southland (TNT)
PopMatters View article
  1. Treme (HBO)
  2. Community (NBC)
  3. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  4. Justified (FX)
  5. Being Human (BBC America)
  6. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  7. Louie (FX)
  8. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  9. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  10. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Salon Matt Zoller Seitz View article
  1. Mildred Pierce (HBO)
  2. Enlightened (HBO)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Community (NBC)
  6. Homeland (Showtime)
  7. Justified (FX)
  8. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  9. American Horror Story (FX)
  10. Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
The Salt Lake Tribune Scott D. Pierce View article
  1. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. The Good Wife (CBS)
  4. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  5. (tie) The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  6. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  7. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  8. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  9. Torchwood: Miracle Day (Starz)
  10. Rescue Me (FX)
  11. Revenge (ABC)
Slant View article
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. Enlightened (HBO)
  5. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  6. Justified (FX)
  7. Bored to Death (HBO)
  8. Portlandia (IFC)
  9. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  10. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Gail Pennington View article
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Parenthood (NBC)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
St. Petersburg Times Eric Deggans View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Justified (FX)
  6. Modern Family (ABC)
  7. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  8. Luther (BBC America)
  9. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  10. The Good Wife (CBS)
Time James Poniewozik View article ...and even more
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. Justified (FX)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Homeland (Showtime)
  7. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
  8. Community (NBC)
  9. The Good Wife (CBS)
  10. Enlightened (HBO)
TV Guide Matt Roush View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. (tie) The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  5. (tie) Community (NBC)
  6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  7. Justified (FX)
  8. (tie) The Middle (ABC)
  9. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  10. Fringe (Fox)
  11. The Good Wife (CBS)
  12. New Girl (Fox)
TV Guide Staff View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  5. Modern Family (ABC)
  6. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
  7. Revenge (ABC)
  8. American Horror Story (FX)
  9. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  10. Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
USA Today Robert Bianco View article
  1. (tie) Homeland (Showtime)
  2. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  3. Justified (FX)
  4. The Good Wife (CBS)
  5. True Blood (HBO)
  6. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  7. Community (NBC)
  8. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  9. The Middle (ABC)
  10. Rescue Me (FX)
Wall Street Journal Dorothy Rabinowitz View article
  • 9/11: The Day That Changed the World (Smithsonian)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals (PBS)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • The Kennedys (Reelz)
  • Lights Out (FX)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Prohibition (PBS)
  • Republican primary debates (various)
  • Revenge (ABC)
Washington Post Hank Stuever View article
  1. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  2. Enlightened (HBO)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Storage Wars (A&E)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  7. American Horror Story (FX)
  8. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  9. Modern Family (ABC)
  10. The Office (NBC)
Yahoo! TV Staff Consensus View article
  • American Horror Story (FX)
  • Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • Shameless (Showtime)

Comments (38)

  • Charleh  

    Breaking Bad is more than deserving of its number one spot. Community should be higher, too.

  • Casper  

    Great list, TheMudDoctors. Not sure if you watch Downton Abbey or not, but you should really check that one out. I love that you listed The Killing because despite its numerous plot holes and annoying red herrings, the rest of the show is clearly of a very high quality.

  • LynchOrwell  

    Yeah, GRubi is right. For Paste, Community was listed in second place, but in the overall list Community has 5 "other" and 0 "second". The 5 point total is correct (3 other and 1 second place), but the breakdown that forms it's total is incorrect.

  • frumpsnake  

    It's a shame Boardwalk Empire isn't ranked higher this year. Would definitely be a #2 behind Breaking Bad for me, narrowly edging out Homeland. With the exception of the opening and closing episodes, Walking Dead was rather average and meandering this year, but I can't simply can't believe Dexter got a mention at all. The last few seasons have been mediocre, but this season has been absolutely terrible.

    And I know it aired way back in January, but it's a shame the remake of Shameless didn't get a nod.

  • GRubi  

    There is a mistake on this list. You list Paste as placing Community in second but in your running tally, Community has no seconds.

  • LynchOrwell  

    Homeland is so brilliant! Glad to see the love for it. Also glad to see some love for Enlightened and the continued critic love for Community. Surprised to see Modern Family so low though 'cause it's still as strong as ever.

  • 06Morrow  

    Loved Breaking Bad so much.
    Looks like it will finally beat Mad Men for the Best Drama Emmy.
    The fact Dexter only appears once, and in tenth, shows how much the shows got worse, which is a shame considering how much i loved it and how good it was a few seasons ago.
    Glad to see new(ish) shows like Walking Dead and Homeland do so well

  • LamontRaymond  

    Breaking Bad and Louie are perfect choices for 1 and 2, but where is the love for Sons of Anarchy? Yes, the finale fell short of expectations, but a great season.

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