What to Look Forward to From TV in 2011
Television in 2010 proved to be quite a rollercoaster, with highs ('Walking Dead,' the 'Lost' finale, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear) and lows (the late night war, a weak fall season) alike. It was the year 'Glee' blew up into a phenomenon, Betty White took over pop culture and The Situation became a household name.
So what's in store for TV fans in 2011? Here are 10 things we're looking forward to this coming year ...
1. 'Game of Thrones.' Is it us or has it taken approximately 400 years for this adaptation of George R.R. Martin's famous fantasy saga to make it to the small screen? Maybe it only feels like HBO's been working on this show for 400 years. Thank goodness we only have about four months to wait before the saga of knights, battles, kings and palace intrigues finally arrives. If the TV show is anywhere near as good as the book of the same name, 'Game of Thrones' is going to knock us sideways. Fingers crossed! - Mo Ryan
2. The 'Oprah' finale. Everybody gets a ... goodbye hug? After 25 years of conducting tearful interviews, sporting various hairdos and giving away her favorite things, Oprah bids farewell to her syndicated daytime talk show. No doubt O will go out in style, though how she could possibly do more than give away cars and trips to Australia, we have no idea. Then again, maybe Winfrey will choose to have a more emotional, personal finale episode. Either way, it'll be a can't-miss cultural event. - Kelly Woo
3. NBC's Three-Hour Comedy Block (Most of It). The return of 'Parks and Recreation' could stand on its own as part of this list, but the fact that it's helping to launch NBC's new three-hour Thursday night comedy block on Jan. 20 makes it even better. That way, we don't have to lose any of the regulars ('30 Rock,' 'Community' and 'The Office) and we get a taste of the new show 'Perfect Couples.' Now, we could do without 'Outsourced,' but at least it's slotted for the 10:30PM tail end. - KW
4. Simon Cowell's snark on 'The X Factor.' Steven Tyler and J. Lo who? Sure, 'American Idol' upped the star power on its judges panel after Cowell departed last season, but can they match his withering wit or his cutting criticisms? We think not. Simon will bring his signature sarcasm to his new show this September and with 'Idol' on a downward trajectory, can 'The X Factor' reign supreme as the new king of reality TV? We think yes. - KW
5. 'The Chicago Code.' This show tops a lot of "best" lists for me: Best New Drama, Best Cast and, most impressively, Best Use of Shawn Ryan Since 'The Shield' (sorry fans of 'Terriers,' 'Lie to Me' and 'The Unit' -- but trust me). This gritty, action-packed take on cops-and-robbers stars Jason Clarke as a veteran Chicago cop, Matt Lauria as his green new partner, Jennifer Beals as the boss lady and Delroy Lindo as the local politician they're all convinced is corrupt. The backdrop of Chicago -- with its history of mob activity and gorgeous skyline -- only adds to an already compelling story. - Maggie Furlong
6. Kate Winslet in 'Mildred Pierce' miniseries. The Oscar winner is one of our favorite actresses, so of course we're excited to see her on the small screen this spring as a single mom during the Great Depression. The roll call for this five-part miniseries is staggering: director Todd Haynes ('Far From Heaven'), Evan Rachel Wood as Mildred's daughter, Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo, Hope Davis and Mare Winningham. That Oscar trophy might get a new companion named Emmy on the mantle this year.
7. A full season of 'The Walking Dead.' AMC had a great year, thanks to award-winning shows like 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad,' as well as the great-but-sadly-canceled 'Rubicon.' But no show got viewers as excited (or grossed out) as zombie drama 'The Walking Dead,' which earned record ratings for the cable network. But due to AMC's haste to get the series out by Halloween, the first season was just six episodes. And as good as that little taste of zombie was, we want more (brains) and can't wait for a full 13-episode season 2. - KW
8. Whatever Maura Tierney does next. Give Maura a few months to lick her wounds following the premature cancellation of 'The Whole Truth,' but after that she needs to be back on TV ASAP. The 'ER' veteran is a master actor, she either deserves a show of her own, or to join the cast of an established hit. She can play comedy and drama equally as flawlessly. Perhaps 'The Office' has found its new boss, or a new female foil for Alicia Florrick on 'The Good Wife' ... - Chris Harnick
9. The 'Glee' Super Bowl episode. The Fox hit's second season has focused more on big-name guest stars and a single bullying storyline than its talented ensemble. Althought we already know the big February installment will feature an attention-grabbing cameo by Katie Couric and a cover of 'Thriller,' this is the perfect opportunity for creator Ryan Murphy to dig deep into his stacked roster of performers and showcase what lies at the heart of 'Glee' -- a group of underdogs with a whole lot of talent, spunk and, well, heart. - Jean Bentley
10. The next 'Dancing With the Stars' trainwreck. Bristol Palin and Kate Gosselin have set quite a high bar. Who can top them in terms of scandal? Perennial trainwreck Lindsay Lohan is an obvious choice, but she has denied reports of joining the show. Could Disney darling Demi Lovato turn to 'DWTS' for some image rehab after her current stay in treatment? Mel Gibson, an obvious choice, would be huge for the show. If Randy Quaid ever returns from Canada he'd sure bring all kinds of drama. Either way, after Gosselin and Palin, DWTS' will need to step up its game to keep the flame of scandal burning. - CH
What are you looking forward to on television in 2011?