Yes, it’s that time of the year again where I pick my top shows of the last 12 months. Many shows – New Girl, The Borgias, Homeland, Nurse Jackie – almost made the list. But in the end there could be only 10… here they are!

REVENGE: There were shows this year with better writing, better directing and better acting. But NOTHING on our screens in 2011 was as ridiculously entertaining as Revenge, the season’s most surprising new hit.

Who would have thought that the primetime soap opera would make a comeback in 2011 and that its story of rich people receiving their comeuppance would seem quite so timely. Revenge has been perfectly played since episode one – hooking us into Emily Thorne’s grand plans to avenge herself on the Grayson family – led by the wonderfully icy matriarch Victoria (Madeline Stowe).

But Revenge has also done a wonderful job of surrounding Emily with a series of equally gripping storylines. There’s grasping social climber Tyler who’s gradually becoming more and more unhinged, bisexual billionaire Nolan who helps fund Emily’s schemes, reformed party boy Daniel who may be the key to Emily’s undoing and the Poison Ivy-like Amanda who’s out to cause a whole heap of trouble. That gripping mid-season teaser has us all eagerly awaiting the New Year. Revenge sure is sweet!

GAME OF THRONES: I never thought I’d like Game Of Thrones – I’m lukewarm on the Lord Of The Rings films and am not a big fan of medieval set movies or series. But darn it if Game Of Thrones didn’t hook me in. Sure it took a couple of episodes to get going and I still struggle to remember half of the cast’s names – but I’m now totally hooked on the HBO series and can’t wait for Season 2 to unfold next summer.

Best of all Game Of Thrones doesn’t shortchange its female characters, like many macho medieval series do. In Thrones it’s the women who are the true power players and really control how the game is played. I loved seeing the Dragon Queen Daenerys emerging from the flames at the end of Season 1, tomboy Arya going into hiding as a boy, and the show’s most hissable villain, Cersei Lannister, whose three children are the result of an incestuous affair with her brother! Game Of Thrones is the very definition of the word ‘epic’ and we’re only just getting started…

DOWNTON ABBEY: American audiences are still awaiting Season 2 in the New Year (more on that soon) – but having seen the show’s second run I can confirm that you definitely won’t be disappointed by the comings and goings at the war torn Abbey.

Downton is a mix of classy period drama and modern day soap opera – with multiple storylines and characters all interacting around the day-to-day life of the famed Abbey. Season 2 added a darker edge with war dominating much of the series – with plenty of death, disease and despair.

But I also loved the surprising touches in Season 2 too – the gradual blurring of the lines between the classes, small displays of humanity on the part of the villainous Thomas and O’Brien and the way that the war affects members of the household in different ways. All this plus the glorious Countess Dowager (Maggie Smith) firing off caustic put downs as only she can. Wonderful stuff!

FACE OFF: Time for some reality in my Top 10 and I’m going with Face Off, Syfy’s fantastically well-produced make up competition series. Sure, Face Off is nothing more than a spin on the old Project Runway format – but while Runway has grown threadbare over the years, Face Off felt fresh and fascinating.

For starters the competing artists were legitimately talented. They were also well cast (Face Off featured a romantic relationship between contestants and a great villain). But for me the key to a great reality show are the twists and turns – and this is where Face Off really excelled.

Creating a zombie sounds easy. But when the zombie has to dance in a choreographed routine – and not fall apart – that’s kind of tricky. Or how about when the artists had to transform themselves and then go undercover and fool their family and friends! Or switching the genders of an engaged couple for when they walk down the aisle. The host, the judges, the pacing – everything worked on Face Off. This is what REAL reality looks like. Take note Tru TV and E!


MODERN FAMILY: There’s not much I can say about Modern Family that hasn’t been said already. Now well into its third season, Family is as funny, clever and sweet as ever, mixing everything from slapstick and pratfalls to wordplays and observational comedy. Even a ‘weaker’ week packs in more laughs than the entire CBS Monday nightline up. Plus there isn’t a single subpar character in the entire cast, with every actor allowed to shine in their different way. Who’s your favorite? Manny, Phil, Alex, Gloria, Cameron… the list goes on and on.

THE WALKING DEAD: Like a lot of people I had mixed feelings on this season of AMC’s zombie epic. Too much talking, not enough zombie action and a whole lot of existential waffle dragged The Walking Dead’s pace to a mere shuffle at times.

But that final episode answered a lot of questions and proved the show’s writers DO have a plan in mind. That counts for a lot in my book – so I’ll definitely be back in the New Year. Just remember – less talking, more walking please!

THE KILLING: Here’s the reverse of The Walking Dead – a series that kept viewers intrigued all season long, but which ‘cheated’ on its ending – causing an internet outcry and a pretty big obstacle for The Killing to overcome in Season 2.

Personally, while I would have liked to have found out the identity of Rosie Larsen’s killer this year, I wasn’t THAT bothered by the way The Killing wrapped its first year – just as long as the real killer is revealed in 2012. What the show DID do was keep me hooked all the way along – tossing out countless red herrings, pulling us into the lives of the fully formed detective duo of Linden and Holder (and you all know how much I hate police shows) and proving why I will never live in Seattle – man that weather is bleak! Cut the show some slack guys and let’s see where the series takes us in 2012.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: More small screen horror and this time it’s FX’s American Horror Story which recently wrapped its highly rated first season by pretty much killing off its entire cast!

I’ll be honest – I’m more a fan of The Walking Dead than Horror Story – but I still love how downright scary the FX series is and the overall craziness of the entire concept. Plus who could resist Jessica Lange as the slightly deranged Constance, further proof that the best roles for actresses these days are on the small screen. And as for those titles… oh boy!

I initially questioned where American Horror Story goes next for Season 2 – and I have to admit I love creator Ryan’s Murphy’s recently announced idea that each season will feature an entirely new cast and story. It’s a brave move but one I think will enable Horror Story to run and run for years. I just wonder if the ‘rubber man’ will be back!

DAMAGES: An old favorite to add to the list – Damages, the Glenn Close legal drama that has now sadly gone to live out its days in the no man’s land that is DirecTV.

Yep, let’s be honest, no one watched this fourth season of Damages, which is a real shame as the show continues to be one of the smartest and most compelling series on television. Rose Byrne capped an incredible year of successes (Insidious, X Men: First Class, Bridesmaids) by returning to the role of Ellen Parsons that first launched her. Glenn Close was as formidable and ferocious as ever as Patty Hewes. And in keeping with the Damages tradition of giving meaty dramatic roles to ‘comedic’ actors, we had John Goodman as the morally compromised head of an overseas security firm. No laughs this time around.

Sure you could see the cost cutting here and there (Afghanistan looked like the back roads of LA) and you do have to question quite how long Ellen would continue to allow Patty into her life – but there’s still room for one more final season next year. FX should never have let the show go.

SUBURGATORY: And finally – here’s my favorite new comedy of the year (sorry, New Girl), the unexpected delight that is Suburgatory.

Part Tim Burton, part Clueless, Suburgatory is utter silliness but with a heart of gold beneath the silicone.  This was a show that came completely out of the blue in the Fall – with little buzz and low expectations on the part of ABC. And yet Suburgatory has become a solid chunk of the network’s Wednesday night line-up and a great lead in for the slightly more sober Modern Family.

I love Dallas and Dalia – the double punch of Cheryl Hines and Carly Chaikin (the comedic find of the year), crazy neighbor Sheila (and her hottie son Ryan) and the father daughter relationship of George and Tessa. Like Modern Family, Suburgatory pulls off the neat trick of being both satirical AND sweet.  And with Alicia Silverstone soon to join the cast as a love interest for George (Jeremy Sisto), the Clueless comparisons are complete.

So that’s my Top 10 of 2011 – but what are your picks? Agree with my choices – or strongly disagree? Fire away…