Today marks the first in a week-long series of the best and worst of 2011, starting with the best new shows of the season. This is my list and my rankings, so feel free to add your own. The rest of the week will have the 10 best performances, 10 worst shows, 10 best comedies and 10 best dramas.
10. STRIKE BACK, Cinemax: It's hard to imagine that Cinemax, of all networks, would produce anything original and good, but this series -- based on (and kind of a sequel to) an original British series -- about two soldiers working for a British government spy agency was a lot of fun. Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton played the two soldiers, sent into all kinds of dangerous situations while trying to track down a terrorist. Sort of like "24," but with two Jack Bauers and no ticking clock.
9. LIGHTS OUT, FX: This was a great drama that never found enough viewers, which is unfortunate, because it had an Emmy-worthy performance from Holt McAllanly as a former heavyweight champ called out of retirement when his finances go awry. I'm not really sure how the writers would have continued the story, but I'm grateful at least for a full season of the show.
8. THE HOUR, BBC America: One of the most acclaimed dramas of the season, it centered on a fictional news program in Britain during the height of the Suez Crisis in 1956. Dominic West was terrific as pretty boy news anchor in over his head, as were Romola Garai as a woman producer in a male-dominated industry, and Ben Whishaw as a young, crusading journalist who gets mixed up with spies. Tensions mounted each week and the characters found themselves facing serious moral dilemmas. The good news is that there is a second series commissioned for next year.
7. SUITS, USA: My favorite of the new shows USA came out with this year. It stars Gabriel Macht as the top lawyer in Manhattan and Patrick J. Adams as a con man who gets a job with Macht's firm, posing as a Harvard law grad. Macht and Adams had good chemistry as the mentor and student, with a good supporting cast helping out.
6. ONCE UPON A TIME, ABC: One of two fairy tale-based series (along with NBC's "Grimm,") "Once" mines traditional stories we all grew up with and gives us a new interpretation of the stories of Snow White, the Evil Witch, Pinocchio, etc -- all of whom now trapped in our world, living mundane lives with no memory of who they were. "Once" might have flopped if the writers and actors didn't take the material to heart; but they have, and the show is the top-rated network drama on Sundays.
5. NEW GIRL, Fox: Jess is the character Zooey Deschanel was born to play, and you can't help but fall in love with her dorkiness (giving rise to the term "Adorkable"). As a single girl living with three guys, Jess is clearly the most hot, least cool girl ever to be rooming with, and it's fun to see what misadventure her good-natured attitude will get her into next.
4. THE VOICE, NBC: Usually, I don't put reality shows into these top 10 lists, but "The Voice" was a bona fide hit for NBC and rewrote the "American Idol" popularity contest format by finding really good singers and having the four celebrity judges (Cee Lo, Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton) work with them to find a singer worthy of winning. The eventual winner, Javier Colon, has one of the most amazing male voices you'll ever hear.
3. FALLING SKIES, TNT: Unfortunately, this series will always be overshadowed by the similarly-themed "Walking Dead," but "Skies" has been a fine addition to genre TV in its own right, with Noah Wyle leading humanity's survivors against alien invaders. Some criticized the choice of Wyle as the cerebral action hero, but I thought it was inspired, since he brings an everyman feel to the role. The effects are first-rate, and the story carries a lot of tension to it. I can't wait for Season 2.
1. (tie) GAME OF THRONES, HBO: Probably the most talked about series this year, "Game" truly redefined what epic means for a TV show, with its huge cast of characters and multiple plots. Based on the popular novels of George R.R. Martin, "Game" had a high level of anticipation among the fanboys and fangirls, and surpassed them all. Plus, few characters are more awesome than Peter Dinklage's Emmy-winning turn as Tyrrion.
1. (tie) HOMELAND, Showtime: The performances on this show were practically an acting clinic, and the tension was nail-biting as viewers waited to find out if war hero Brody (an astonishingly good Damian Lewis) would set off a bomb that would kill the vice president and many important other government officials. The scene where CIA agent Carey Mathieson (Claire Danes) questions Brody in a cabin in the woods after they've had a tryst there is one of my favorite of the season.
What are your favorites among the new shows?
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: With the holiday season still active, very little is new tonight except for "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.), followed by the season finale of "Rizzoli & Isles" at 10 p.m.