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Prepping for the Emmys: the best 2010-11 dramas

Although “Lost” is over and no new episodes of “Breaking Bad” aired, this year still brought us plenty of sharp dramas that are more than worthy for an Emmy. Here are my selections for the ten best dramas of the year.

Boardwalk Empire: After a fairly slow start, “Boardwalk Empire” finally took off in its second half and lived up to its title of the season’s most hyped new show. This brilliantly executed period drama from Terence Winter of “The Sopranos” and Producer Martin Scorsese is lead by a star-studded ensemble, most notably Steve Buscemi’s fascinating lead of Nucky Thompson. Some Emmy analysts have described “Boardwalk Empire” as a shiny new toy. But unlike some toys that become boring after a day, “Boardwalk Empire” is one that will leave you coming back wanting more.

Camelot: It’s unfortunate that “Camelot” had to come out at the same time as “Game of Thrones” and suffer the inevitable comparison. In my eyes though, this is truly one of the most underappreciated shows currently on TV that will hopefully score some Emmy nominations outside of the technical categories. A strong cast of character actors, particular Eva Green’s Morgan and Joseph Fiennes’ Merlin, carried this enormously entertaining period drama, which is perhaps the best serious interpretation of the King Arthur legend. Granted, the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Leontes might have felt a bit too much like a Soap Opera at times, but like a really well produced Soap Opera. It’s hard to stop watching once the show has sucked you in.

Dexter: I was surprised to learn that many fans were disappointed with season five of “Dexter.” This season might not have had an opponent as interesting as John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer or the Ice Truck Killer. Season five was more about Dexter experiencing grief for the first time and the surprising friendship that helps him cope with the death of his wife. Julia Stiles gives the best performance of her career as Lumen, a rape victim that Dexter takes on as his apprentice and, in due course, becomes the only woman that has ever understood him. The relationship that arrives between Dexter and Lumen is profound, meaningful, and strangely romantic. This season of “Dexter” might have been a slight change of pace, but it was a captivating change of pace nonetheless.

Game of Thrones: Horse decapitation, barbarians that wear eyeliner, incest, Peter Dinklage playing a dwarf, and a naked chick covered with baby dragons. This show has the whole package. Lets just hope that in season two somebody finally stabs Joffrey through the head, but for now I’ll settle for seeing Viserys receiving his overdue “golden crown.”

The Good Wife: Smartly written, powerfully acted, and endlessly entertaining, “The Good Wife” persists to reign as the best legal drama currently on television. Julianna Marguilies dominates the small screen in her career-defining performance as Alicia Florrick, a lawyer who sticks it out with her State’s Attorney husband but is really drawn to her boss, Will Gardner. The series scene-stealers continue to be Archie Panjabi’s dangerously sexy Kalinda and Alan Cumming in an expanded role as Eli Gold.

The Killing: This remake of the Danish television series wasn’t as fast-paced as I had hopped. However, it still proved to be one of the best dramas of the year with echoes of movies like “Mystic River” and, to an extent, “Silence of the Lambs.” Mireille Enos and Billy Campbell share a partnership along the lines of Agent Mulder and Scully as two detectives attempting to solve the mystery of who murdered Rosie Larsen. The standout of the show is Michelle Forbes, who has done great as a character actress for years on “True Blood” and “Battlestar Galactica.” Here she’s nothing short of mesmerizing as Rosie’s grief-stricken mother. My only concern regarding “The Killing” is how long the creators can keep the show going without revealing Rosie’s killer.

Mad Men: It might be repetitive to see “Mad Men” win the Best Drama Series award for the forth year in a row. But the show truly deserves nothing less than televisions highest honor for its best season yet. The episode of “The Suitcase” easily holds the title of the year’s single best hour of television with Jon Ham and Elizabeth Moss delivering Best Actor and Best Actress caliber performances. This season of “Mad Men” was fresh, stimulating, surprisingly funny, and even ended with a left field twist. The best word to describe the season is pure art.

Shameless: One of the most pleasant surprises of the year, “Shameless” was a darkly comical drama about how families work and how they don’t. William H. Macy is perfect as Frank Gallagher, a drunken father of six who makes any of the characters from “My Name is Earl” and “Roseanne” seem classy. Also great is Emmy Rossum as Fiona, Frank’s oldest daughter who is left with no choice but to keep her monumentally dysfunctional family together. “Shameless” is mean-spirited at times, edgy, full of bad taste, and, despite everything, still manages to have a heart.

True Blood: Season three of “True Blood” had its tedious moments, and I could have done without that head-turning sex scene between Bill and Lorena. Nevertheless, this was still a highly humorous and sexy season of the vampire “dramedy” that further exemplified how much those “Twilight” books and movies suck. The MVP of this season was Denis O’Hare’s hilariously over-the-top Russell Edgington, the most entertaining vampire antagonist since Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Here’s hoping that O’Hare can pull off a surprise nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The Walking Dead: From vampires to zombies, the first season of “The Walking Dead” might have only lasted a mere six episodes. But those six episodes left more of an impression on me than any of the five “Resident Evil” movies. “Days Gone Bye” especially stands out as one of the most ingeniously crafted pilot episodes of the year.

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