Top 10 TV: 'Friday Night Light's' the top show in a year of zombies, TV families and cliffhangers
2011 in TV • Marked by the end of a football family, this year we've watched a father continue to break bad, while a good wife wins the courtroom genre.
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1. "Friday Night Lights" (NBC/DirecTV) • For five seasons, "Friday Night Lights" was both the simplest and most complex show on TV. It felt like real life, and real life is complicated. Sure, it was about football and family, but it treated both with nuance, intelligence and heart. And the on-screen relationship between husband and wife Eric (Kyle Chandler) and Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) will go down as one of the most relatable in TV history. "FNL" could have been at the top of any best-of-TV list since 2006, and it was absolutely the best show of 2011. The superb series finale felt like saying goodbye to good friends..

2. "Breaking Bad" (AMC) • This dangerous drama took us along with a good man (Bryan Cranston) whose best intentions have led him to a place so dark he could endanger the life of a child to protect himself and his family.

3. "The Good Wife" (CBS) •This show just keeps getting better. The mix of fascinating legal drama and even more fascinating personal drama is superb.

4. "The Walking Dead" (AMC) • While some complain that Season 2 is too talky, this show really isn't about zombies eating brains. It's a drama about people under incredible stress — and the shattering emotional toll it takes.

5. (tie): "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS) and "Modern Family" (ABC) • The former is the best multicamera comedy on TV; the latter is the best filmed comedy. What matters most is they're both laugh-out-loud funny.

6. "Downton Abbey" (PBS) • This four-part miniseries was not an adaptation of a great novel — it just felt like one. The period tale of a family struggling to remain noble in the days leading up to World War I was charming and engrossing.

7. "Game of Thrones" (HBO) • This faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin's novel created a world filled with a huge cast of characters, complicated politics, sex, violence and some major surprises. It was an amazing ride.

8. "Torchwood: Miracle Day" (Starz) • This 10-part series was loaded with cliffhangers and stunning twists from beginning to end. It was about as much fun as you can have watching TV.

9. "Rescue Me" (FX) • This darkly hilarious series signed off on a hopeful note — which was a bit of a shocker. But Denis Leary's seven-year, 93-episode examination of a New York firefighter whose life was shattered by 9/11 stands as a masterpiece.

10. "Revenge" (ABC) • OK, this one is a guilty pleasure. But for the first time since the heyday of "Dallas" and "Dynasty," we have a glitzy prime-time soap about the fabulously rich that's great fun to watch.

By the way, if a show didn't make the list, don't consider that a slam. There were dozens of other shows I considered. Limiting this list to 10 — well, I cheated and made it 11 — was a painful process.

spierce@sltrib.com