Best & Worst TV of 2011

Deborah Grunfeld | WHO Magazine

1. Downton Abbey – Seven
Appraised only by its pre-World War 1 Upstairs Downstairs plot, the British series would seem little more than a soap in costume. So take our word for it: Downton was the holy trinity of drama, perfectly written, beautifully acted and magnificently staged. And moreish, regardless of your social standing or gender.

2. Go Back to Where You Came From – SBS
Turning the hot-button issue of immigration into a reality show was an interesting gamble that could have gone horribly wrong. Instead, it got the country talking about the controversial topic in a less uniformed way. Cheers to altruistic reality TV.

3. Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo – ABC
Asher Keddie’s attentive portrayal of Ita Buttrose on the rise highlighted Buttrose’s wit, wisdom and determination but was most enjoyable when revealing her susceptible heart.

4. The Celebrity Apprentice Australia – Nine
Like the Amazing Race Australia (a close runner-up for this slot), Apprentice’s cast was so bang-on, you didn’t want any of the larger-than-life personalities to be booted. In fact, Warwick Capper was such a treat that even though fired first, he was temporarily reinstated, resulting in one of the best exchanges of a delightfully catty series. Model Didier Cohen to the 1980s icon: “You’re a has-been.” Capper’s retort: “Yeah, but you’re a never-been.”

5. The Slap – ABC
Compelling viewing, exquisitely done, this despite being completely squirmy to watch – every character was so unlikeable!

6. Game of Thrones – Showcase
Another superb series high on the discomfort scale. But like all the best fairytales, the darkness (zombies, beheadings and incest) just made the heroes shine brighter.

7. Hawaii Five-O – Ten
Thank you, Alex O’Loughlin, for your endearing caricature of brooding stud. Thank you, Scott Caan, for your snappy way with one-liners. And thank you, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, for the high-IQ eye candy. Add the genius revival of that super-cool theme – what’s not to love?

8. Rove LA – Fox8
Celebrities once more got a vehicle to plus their wares on Australian TV. And we got viewing gold as the three-stars-on-one-couch format proved inspired. Instead of the awkward intereviewer-celeb-one-on-one chat, the unusually relaxed talent would bounce off each other, even taking charge of the show to sterling effect – yes, that’s you, Justin Timberlake.

9. At Home With Julia – ABC
It takes chutzpah to ir a satire on the personal life of a sitting prime minister. It takes talent to do a satire that works. Julia had both, in spades.

10. Ringer – Ten
So Sarah Michelle Gellar is not Meryl Streep. But she is still Buffy The Vampire Slayer cute and her lack of acting prowess was not enough to distract from what a truly clever and tricky show this is.

And the worst…

1. Charlie’s Angels – Nine
How to do a remake right: Hawaii Five-O. How to do it wrong, wrong, wrong: Charlie’s Angels. Pretty girls kicking butt isn’t enough to carry atrocious scripts and ho hum plots. And so Angels was sent back to heaven.

2. House – Ten
The diagnosis for what ails this once great series? Not enough doctor in the House and too much emphasis on silly personal problems. It flatlined with the turgid musical episode.

3. Live From Planet Earth – Nine
Ben Elton is funny, and Planet Earth should have been the new Rove. But its awful spoof interviewer and poor sketches nixed his charm.

4. The Joy of Sets – Nine
We’ll let co-host Ed Kavalee sum it up: “The no. 1 question I’ve been asked while doing this is ‘What is that shit? When is Thank God You’re Here coming back?”

5. Angry Boys – ABC
In itself, not the worst show ever, but it makes the list for disappointing great expectations. So not Summer Heights High.