2010-11 TV Scorecard: The Best and Worst Shows and Networks

  • Publish Date: May 3, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 12 user comments

Building an empire

ImageHe certainly won over the critics

As it did the year before with Treme, pay cable juggernaut HBO had the best-reviewed new program in the 2010-11 season: the Martin Scorsese-produced Boardwalk Empire 88. The Prohibition-era drama was created by Sopranos writer Terence Winter, and is the highest-scoring first-year series since 2005.

Boardwalk Empire wasn't the only great show launched this season; five first-year programs met or exceeded a Metascore of 81 (which we generally use as a minimum cutoff for "great" reviews), compared to just three such programs in 2009-10. But those great shows were all on cable; broadcast television's best-reviewed new show (Fox's The Chicago Code) earned only a 75, as we will see in a moment.

For the second consecutive year, thanks in part to The Chicago Code, Fox received the most acclaim for its new shows out of the five broadcast networks, which combined to launch 43 new series in 2010-11, five more than the season before and nine more than in 2008-09. The five networks averaged a Metascore of 56.0 for those first-year programs, an improvement over last year's 54.8. And though Fox was the only network with an average Metascore in a range indicating good reviews, the networks combined to launch 16 positively reviewed shows in 2010-11, up from just 11 the season before.

However, these "good" shows still didn't make a huge impression, and there was no major critical success for the broadcast networks this season on the level of last year's Modern Family. In fact, this season's 16 new shows with positive reviews (i.e., with a Metascore of 61 or higher) averaged a score of just 66.0; last season's 11 well-reviewed new shows averaged a more impressive 71.6. So while there was more to like in 2010-11, there was little to love, at least on broadcast television.

We'll look more closely at individual shows and networks in a moment; first, here is how the new shows launched by the five broadcast networks compared in 2010-11.

Broadcast Network Quality Comparison (New Shows Only), 2010-11 Season
Network 2010-11 New Shows % Good Average Metascore Score Change vs.
2009-10 Season
Score Rank in
2011 / 10 / 09
Fox positivepositivepositivepositivepositivemixedmixedmixed 63% 63.0 ↑4.2 1st 1st 4th
ABC positivepositivepositivemixedmixedmixedmixedmixedmixednegative 30% 56.0 ↓0.8 2nd 2nd 2nd
CBS positivepositivepositivepositivemixedmixedmixednegativenegative 44% 55.0 ↓0.5 3rd 3rd 1st
CW positivemixedmixed 33% 54.0 ↑5.7 4th 5th 3rd
NBC positivepositivepositivemixedmixedmixedmixedmixedmixedmixedmixednegativenegative 23% 51.0 ↓1.3 5th 4th 5th

Averages and rankings do not include summer shows. Each dot represents a new show with positive (positive), mixed (mixed), or negative (negative) reviews from critics. A few reality shows (negative) did not have enough reviews for us to calculate a Metascore.

The 2010-11 season's best and worst new shows

Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead were the only two overlaps on the critic and user high score lists, but all five selections on each list share one thing in common: they are all cable shows. Our users' second-favorite show of the year, Terriers, did indeed draw a cult following during its first-year FX run, and counted a number of critics as fans. That wasn't enough to save the low-rated dramedy from cancellation, however. There's no danger of that happening to user favorite Game of Thrones, though; the show has already been renewed for a second season.

Best Reviews from Top TV Critics
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image Image Image Image Image
Boardwalk Empire HBO The Killing
BBC America
The Walking Dead
Law & Order: UK
BBC America
30 critics: 88 29 critics: 84 11 critics: 82 25 critics: 82 7 critics: 81
Best Reviews from Metacritic.com Users
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image Image Image Image Image
Game of Thrones
The Walking Dead
Boardwalk Empire HBO The Borgias
130 users: 9.0 73 users: 8.6 293 users: 8.5 157 users: 8.4 16 users: 8.2

Only one scripted series made our users' worst list: NBC's short-lived Outlaw, which also rated very poorly with TV critics. Note that many minor cable shows (especially in the reality genre) don't receive enough reviews for us to calculate a Metascore, so it's not especially surprising to see that the three lowest-scoring programs aired on broadcast television. Interestingly, of those three, the very lowest-scoring new show of the year -- the William Shatner sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, based on the popular Twitter feed -- is the only one that hasn't (yet) been canceled.

Worst Reviews from Top TV Critics
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image Image Image Image Image
$#*! My Dad Says CBS Outlaw
The Paul Reiser Show
The Hasselhoffs
The Real Housewives of Miami
26 critics: 28 23 critics: 36 22 critics: 38 9 critics: 39 7 critics: 41
Worst Reviews from Metacritic.com Users
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image Image Image Image Image
Sarah Palin's Alaska
The Real Housewives of Miami
17 users: 1.2 8 users: 1.3 7 users: 1.9 9 users: 2.8 14 users: 3.4

American television series with seven or more reviews and debuting between August 2010 and April 2011 were eligible for the above lists. Shows are scored and ranked based on reviews published at the time of the original first season debut; returning series are excluded from these lists. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, shows are ranked prior to rounding. User scores represent an average of scores assigned by Metacritic.com site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores as of April 29, 2011.

The season's best new network and cable shows

By a fraction of a point, the Shawn Ryan-produced police drama The Chicago Code earned the best reviews of any new broadcast show this season, edging out fellow Fox newcomer Raising Hope. However, in the 2009-10 season, three new network series scored higher than those shows' 75, and seven of the top ten programs scored 70 or above, compared to just four this season.

Best Reviewed New Network Television Series, 2010-11 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Netflix Metascore Users
1 The Chicago Code (Fox) Drama +Queue 75 6.5
2 Raising Hope (Fox) Comedy +Queue 75 7.6
3 Lone Star (Fox) Drama   73 7.3
4 Blue Bloods (CBS) Drama +Queue 70 7.7
5 The Event (NBC) Drama/Action +Queue 67 6.2
6 Nikita (CW) Drama/Action +Queue 66 6.9
7 Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) Drama/Action +Queue 65 7.0
8 The Defenders (CBS) Drama +Queue 65 7.4
9 No Ordinary Family (ABC) Drama/Action +Queue 65 6.3
10 Better With You (ABC) Comedy +Queue 64 6.5

The news was better for cable shows this year, with five shows scoring 81 or higher (better than last year's total of two) and another two just missing out, at 79. Not all of these shows were hits, however; both of the FX programs on the list were canceled at the conclusion of their seasons, and the reality show Teach: Tony Danza (certainly not a program we were expecting to see here) was rushed off the air after bombing in the ratings.

Best Reviewed New Cable Television Series, 2010-11 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Netflix Metascore Users
1 Boardwalk Empire (HBO) Drama +Queue 88 8.4
2 The Killing (AMC) Drama +Queue 84 8.1
3 Luther (BBC America) Drama +Queue 82 7.9
4 The Walking Dead (AMC) Drama/Sci-Fi +Queue 82 8.5
5 Law & Order: UK (BBC America) Drama +Queue 81 7.0
6 Game of Thrones (HBO) Fantasy/Action +Queue 79 9.0
7 Lights Out (FX) Drama +Queue 79 8.1
8 Terriers (FX) Drama/Comedy +Queue 75 8.6
9 Episodes (Showtime) Comedy +Queue 73 6.9
10 Teach: Tony Danza (A&E) Reality 72 n/a

Though HBO continues to dominate in the movies and specials department, it was PBS that scored biggest with a pair of miniseries imported from the UK: the Masterpiece Classic drama Downton Abbey, and Sherlock, a modern-day take on Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Each one is getting a sequel.

Best Reviewed Movies, Miniseries, or Specials, 2010-11 Season
  Title (Network) Type Netflix Metascore Users
1 Downton Abbey (PBS) Miniseries +Queue 92 8.6
2 Sherlock (PBS) Miniseries +Queue 85 9.1
3 Wartorn: 1861-2010 (HBO) Movie +Queue 82 n/a
4 Circus (PBS) Miniseries +Queue 81 4.5
5 Thurgood (HBO) Special 78 n/a
6 Great Migrations (Nat Geo) Miniseries +Queue 77 n/a
7 Baseball: The Tenth Inning (PBS) Miniseries +Queue 76 8.8
8 Public Speaking (HBO) Movie +Queue 75 7.8
9 Wishful Drinking (HBO) Special 75 n/a
10 Cinema Verite (HBO) Movie 74 n/a

Network performance

On the next page, we examine the performance of each broadcast network in greater detail.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (12)

  • Ben  

    Best New Shows 2010-2011
    1. Game of Thrones
    2. The Killing
    3. Boardwalk Empire
    4. The Walking Dead
    5. The Event

    I enjoyed the Event, but stop watching after it was axed. The Event was good 7-7.5 rating. Game of Thrones, Killing, Walking Dead, and Boardwalk Empire could all be Epic shows. They each have the potential to get in the discussion with Deadwood and early seasons of Lost. To early to tell if they can reach The Wire or even touch the greatest piece of film work ever The Sopranos. Hard to say but I think The Killing and Game of Thrones have the best shot.

  • Feedback  

    I loved this article. And I have to agree with the people above me that Episodes is comedic brilliance. I hope it gets nominated for many an Emmy this year and am impatiently awaiting its second season. However, my favorite new show of the year has to be Boardwalk Empire. I'm a sucker for period pieces though and damn, that show is the greatest period piece on TV since Mad Men. The Walking Dead is great, but 6 episodes was not enough for me to make a solid opinion. It seemed more like a miniseries to me. I'll have a better opinion by its second season. For now, Episodes and Boardwalk Empire are the kings of the season. Haven't seen The Killing yet though. I'll get around to that next week.

  • Madame Mimi  

    I agree with most of the cancellations, but a few very good shows weren't mentioned perhaps because they air on cable. As someone mentioned above Episodes is brilliant in both the English and the American way. It's as if someone realised the world will never see Matt LeBlanc as anything but Joey and has thus brilliantly (there's that word again) scripted a show around it. Still this might be the first time in a very long time that there seems to be so much good stuff on TV that there aren't enough hours in the day. Let's keep it up TV execs. TV should always be a watchers market.

  • BHM1304  

    "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" was the best mini-series on television this year, hands down. It gave us a wonderful set up to the first series and Dustin Clare got a perfect introduction as "Gannicus" and did not disappoint filling Andy Whitfield's, who is still missed terribly, shoes as champion of the House of Batiatus. John Hannah and Lucy Lawless were fantastic as usual. One of the best parts was the tragic love triangle of Clare's "Gannicus" , Peter Mensah's "Oenomaus", and Marisa Ramirez's "Mellita". All three gave this tragic story a new look, these three characters all loved one another and none acted on base impulse and they were all characters the audience rooted for and the performances were wonderful giving the tragic ending so much more weight. No offense to "The Walking Dead" but that spot belongs to "Shameless" on the writing and acting alone. There were no performances in "Walking Dead" as memorable or as good as Emmy Rossum's or William H. Macy's in "Shameless". "The Borgia's" belongs on that list as well as Jeremy Iron's is going to win an Emmy for his "Rodrigo Borgia". And, could Holliday Grainger have been more perfectly cast as "Lucrezia Borgia"? She should be in the running for an Emmy nom as well.

  • will  

    How did Sparticus: Blood and Sand not make the list?

  • Chuck  

    Technically weren't Sherlock and Downton Abbey both series. Both were picked up for a second season.

  • Amir  

    Episodes (Showtime) is comedic brilliance.

  • Amir  

    I haven't seen Boardwalk Empire yet, but The Killing (AMC) is the best new show of the season. Rubicon (AMC) was politically incorrect and deserved to get cancelled. I hope Outsourced (NBC) does get cancelled too. I may have inadvertently contributed to the ratings woes of Lights Out (FX) and The Chicago Code (Fox) because I ran out of time to watch these shows, but found both of them enjoyable. Sad about Terriers (FX); San Diego is my favorite city! I found Upstairs, Downstairs (PBS) far more entertaining than Downton Abbey (PBS).

  • luisl  

    Rubicon was also pretty good, but was cancelled.

  • jay  

    perfect couples was hilarious.....why cancelled?????

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