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

  • Comments: ↓ 39 user comments
  • Publish Date: December 13, 2011

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 (39)

  • Alienware  

    Will other critics be added when other list will be released?

    Anyway this is mine:

    1 - Breaking Bad
    2 - Justified
    3 - Treme
    4 - Archer
    5 - Friday Night Lights
    6 - Homeland
    7 - Game of Thrones
    8 - The Good Wife
    9 - Community
    10 - Louie

  • Alienware  

    The answer to my question is written in the first line of the article.
    I'm an idiot.

  • MarcDoyle  

    The Homeland finale was really damned good. It just re-affirms for me that we are still sitting firmly in the golden age of television. At least on the increasing number of outlets willing to be bold and take chances. The film industry is risking being left behind - there doesn't seem to be that expectation that we'll be consistently blown away by what we see at the movies like we used to be. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of very good films being made (and my difficulty in trying to whittle down my film Best Of list to just 10 is a testament to the fact), but they're not the major releases on which so much paper is being stacked. On the other hand, there is so much REALLY good TV on right now, including much of what's listed above by the professional critics: Breaking Bad, Louie, Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, Boardwalk Empire, Luther, The Hours, Game Of Thrones, Justified, Friday Night Lights, Happy Endings, It's Always Sunny in Philly, Burn Notice (Yes, Burn Notice!), In Plain Sight.... I could easily go on, but you get the picture. It's no wonder that marginally fewer people are willing to spend 10 - 15 bucks at a crowded theater when that free product on their TV screens has been so consistently good over the last 10 years or so. I mean, The Wire, Sopranos, The Shield, Man Men, The L-Word, I'll stop. I'll just say that one most consistently well-received gifts that you can give this time of year is a season of one of these incredible shows on DVD to someone who may have missed out. Everyone thought that piracy, the internet, social media, etc. were going to water down the product we see on TV... Hardly. I'd love to see more of it on the networks (so that I wouldn't have to EXPLAIN to so many people what the hell Breaking Bad is, for one...) - but hey, that's for another day's rant/rave. Back to where I started - the Homeland finale (made by Showtime - owned by the parent company of this website) was damned good tonight. But so was the finale of Boardwalk Empire (made by HBO - owned by the competitor of the parent company of this website

  • MrPie  

    I don t get the fuss about 'breaking bad'.. : it is not realistic and so predictable!
    'Boardwalk empire' is first class material as is 'mildred pierce', 'curb', 'downtown abbey'..

  • dlistblogger  

    1. Breaking Bad
    2. Homeland
    3. Archer
    4. Parks and Recreation
    5. Episodes
    6. American Horror Story
    7. Bob's Burgers
    8. Modern Family
    9. Justified
    10. Awkward.

  • Alienware  

    The NY Times lose their mind with the absence of Breaking Bad in their lists?

  • dmj  

    You're absolutely right Alienware. The NY Times must have lost their minds. How is Breaking Bad not even on there.

  • loafof  

    The NY Times reviewer pretty much made a fool of himself by saying the action on Breaking Bad feels like filler. Breaking Bad has the most weighted and un-gratuitous violence on TV, perhaps ever. NOTHING happens for no reason and NOTHING goes without consequences and without being called back upon. It's one thing to not like the show (for its bleakness, from discomforted by its constant change, for its multi-genre, or for its audacity), but to mis-read it like that is just laughable.

  • Shortfuse  

    I respect Breaking Bad, but I can only take so much absolute despair. It's almost as bad as watching the evening news or the 700 club. I've never understood the appeal of Louie. It's fine, certainly better than much of the dreck available on major networks, but it relies completely on the charm of Louis CK. If I may be so bold, his charm wears thin pretty damn fast. Although I did love the episode with him and Dane Cook.

  • andsoitgoes  

    Gah!!! Happy Endings?!? Seriously? No. I don't believe it. I honestly don't. It's one of the LEAST funny shows I've ever, ever, ever, EVER seen. It tries so hard, and falls so flat. I couldn't believe when it got renewed. And I tried, lord knows I needed another comedy, but it was so meh, I cannot believe anyone liked it. Stale acting, actors, stories, relationships. Frick, I'll take the mostly horrible Whitney over HE, and that's not saying much.

What Our Users Are Talking About

  1. /feature/2014-primetime-emmy-nominees Image
    2014 Emmy Nominations
    July 10, 2014 - 2 comments
    1. pescetarian : The game is on... This is the year of the thrones. Read »
    2. gustav71 : Well, can we say that critics metascore about those terrible nominations is a 25? Read »
  2. /feature/best-albums-of-2014-so-far Image
    The Best Albums of 2014 So Far
    July 3, 2014 - 5 comments
    1. Italian10 : I THINK THAT " ULTRAVIOLENCE CD " BY POP SUPERSTAR LANA DEL REY SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE " TOP 25 CD LIST ". IT... Read »
    2. RickFlairbombed : Yes OfficeYeezy, alt/indie is actually the best music ever. Look at the worst reviewed albums, all pop radio music.... Read »
    3. OfficeYeezy : So is Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock just like the best music ever or are the people reviewing these albums just... Read »
    4. Duke_Challenger : 1) Snowmine - Dialects 2) St. Vincent - St. Vincent 3) Highasakite - Silent Treatment Read »
  3. /feature/july-2014-movie-preview Image
    Movie Preview: 10 Films to See in July
    July 1, 2014 - 2 comments
    1. RoraEst : I hate to see the all releasing date calendar, when some/many of them already leaked on the internet. Read »
  4. /feature/best-ios-games-june-2014 Image
    10 Best iPhone/iPad Games for June 2014
    June 30, 2014 - 1 comment
    1. NathanJ : Hey guys! I just released this small casual game and it's gaining some traction. I was wondering if you guys could... Read »
  5. /feature/movie-trailers-and-news-for-week-ending-february-21-2014 Image
    Film Friday: This Week's Movie News and New Trailers
    February 21, 2014 - 2 comments
    1. donmoy : see more about Haley Joel Osment at http://duckhits.com/9254/8-former-child-stars-stuck-with-their-kid-faces Read »
  6. /feature/most-anticipated-videogames-2014 Image
    The Most Anticipated Video Games of 2014
    January 13, 2014 - 20 comments
    1. addyboy : Far Cry 4 !! ? Read »