Building an empire
As it did the year before with Treme, pay cable juggernaut HBO had the best-reviewed new program in the 2010-11 season: the Martin Scorsese-produced Boardwalk Empire 88. The Prohibition-era drama was created by Sopranos writer Terence Winter, and is the highest-scoring first-year series since 2005.
Boardwalk Empire wasn't the only great show launched this season; five first-year programs met or exceeded a Metascore of 81 (which we generally use as a minimum cutoff for "great" reviews), compared to just three such programs in 2009-10. But those great shows were all on cable; broadcast television's best-reviewed new show (Fox's The Chicago Code) earned only a 75, as we will see in a moment.
For the second consecutive year, thanks in part to The Chicago Code, Fox received the most acclaim for its new shows out of the five broadcast networks, which combined to launch 43 new series in 2010-11, five more than the season before and nine more than in 2008-09. The five networks averaged a Metascore of 56.0 for those first-year programs, an improvement over last year's 54.8. And though Fox was the only network with an average Metascore in a range indicating good reviews, the networks combined to launch 16 positively reviewed shows in 2010-11, up from just 11 the season before.
However, these "good" shows still didn't make a huge impression, and there was no major critical success for the broadcast networks this season on the level of last year's Modern Family. In fact, this season's 16 new shows with positive reviews (i.e., with a Metascore of 61 or higher) averaged a score of just 66.0; last season's 11 well-reviewed new shows averaged a more impressive 71.6. So while there was more to like in 2010-11, there was little to love, at least on broadcast television.
We'll look more closely at individual shows and networks in a moment; first, here is how the new shows launched by the five broadcast networks compared in 2010-11.
|Network||2010-11 New Shows||% Good||Average Metascore||Score Change vs.
|Score Rank in
2011 / 10 / 09
The 2010-11 season's best and worst new shows
Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead were the only two overlaps on the critic and user high score lists, but all five selections on each list share one thing in common: they are all cable shows. Our users' second-favorite show of the year, Terriers, did indeed draw a cult following during its first-year FX run, and counted a number of critics as fans. That wasn't enough to save the low-rated dramedy from cancellation, however. There's no danger of that happening to user favorite Game of Thrones, though; the show has already been renewed for a second season.
|Boardwalk Empire HBO||The Killing
|The Walking Dead
|Law & Order: UK
|30 critics:||88||29 critics:||84||11 critics:||82||25 critics:||82||7 critics:||81|
|Game of Thrones
|The Walking Dead
|Boardwalk Empire HBO||The Borgias
|130 users:||9.0||73 users:||8.6||293 users:||8.5||157 users:||8.4||16 users:||8.2|
Only one scripted series made our users' worst list: NBC's short-lived Outlaw, which also rated very poorly with TV critics. Note that many minor cable shows (especially in the reality genre) don't receive enough reviews for us to calculate a Metascore, so it's not especially surprising to see that the three lowest-scoring programs aired on broadcast television. Interestingly, of those three, the very lowest-scoring new show of the year -- the William Shatner sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, based on the popular Twitter feed -- is the only one that hasn't (yet) been canceled.
|$#*! My Dad Says CBS||Outlaw
|The Paul Reiser Show
|The Real Housewives of Miami
|26 critics:||28||23 critics:||36||22 critics:||38||9 critics:||39||7 critics:||41|
|Sarah Palin's Alaska
|The Real Housewives of Miami
|17 users:||1.2||8 users:||1.3||7 users:||1.9||9 users:||2.8||14 users:||3.4|
The season's best new network and cable shows
By a fraction of a point, the Shawn Ryan-produced police drama The Chicago Code earned the best reviews of any new broadcast show this season, edging out fellow Fox newcomer Raising Hope. However, in the 2009-10 season, three new network series scored higher than those shows' 75, and seven of the top ten programs scored 70 or above, compared to just four this season.
|1||The Chicago Code (Fox)||Drama||+Queue||75||6.5|
|2||Raising Hope (Fox)||Comedy||+Queue||75||7.6|
|3||Lone Star (Fox)||Drama||73||7.3|
|4||Blue Bloods (CBS)||Drama||+Queue||70||7.7|
|5||The Event (NBC)||Drama/Action||+Queue||67||6.2|
|7||Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)||Drama/Action||+Queue||65||7.0|
|8||The Defenders (CBS)||Drama||+Queue||65||7.4|
|9||No Ordinary Family (ABC)||Drama/Action||+Queue||65||6.3|
|10||Better With You (ABC)||Comedy||+Queue||64||6.5|
The news was better for cable shows this year, with five shows scoring 81 or higher (better than last year's total of two) and another two just missing out, at 79. Not all of these shows were hits, however; both of the FX programs on the list were canceled at the conclusion of their seasons, and the reality show Teach: Tony Danza (certainly not a program we were expecting to see here) was rushed off the air after bombing in the ratings.
|1||Boardwalk Empire (HBO)||Drama||+Queue||88||8.4|
|2||The Killing (AMC)||Drama||+Queue||84||8.1|
|3||Luther (BBC America)||Drama||+Queue||82||7.9|
|4||The Walking Dead (AMC)||Drama/Sci-Fi||+Queue||82||8.5|
|5||Law & Order: UK (BBC America)||Drama||+Queue||81||7.0|
|6||Game of Thrones (HBO)||Fantasy/Action||+Queue||79||9.0|
|7||Lights Out (FX)||Drama||+Queue||79||8.1|
|10||Teach: Tony Danza (A&E)||Reality||72||n/a|
Though HBO continues to dominate in the movies and specials department, it was PBS that scored biggest with a pair of miniseries imported from the UK: the Masterpiece Classic drama Downton Abbey, and Sherlock, a modern-day take on Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Each one is getting a sequel.
|1||Downton Abbey (PBS)||Miniseries||+Queue||92||8.6|
|3||Wartorn: 1861-2010 (HBO)||Movie||+Queue||82||n/a|
|6||Great Migrations (Nat Geo)||Miniseries||+Queue||77||n/a|
|7||Baseball: The Tenth Inning (PBS)||Miniseries||+Queue||76||8.8|
|8||Public Speaking (HBO)||Movie||+Queue||75||7.8|
|9||Wishful Drinking (HBO)||Special||75||n/a|
|10||Cinema Verite (HBO)||Movie||74||n/a|
On the next page, we examine the performance of each broadcast network in greater detail.