Top 10 Geektastic TV Shows of 2011 – Plus other “Year in Review” Picks

At the end of each year, it is only human to look back over the last twelve months to see what really stood out-both  good and  bad. As lovers of all things Geek, Underwords is taking a look at the television shows that stood out for us in 2011 as well as those that didn’t. What amazes us most is the sheer number of geek based shows that are being aired on Network and pay television channels. The number is simply astonishing, and it’s clear that Geek TV is slowly infiltrating its way into mainstream entertainment.

We should also be clear that when evaluating the Geek within each show, we’re really just looking at science fiction and fantasy television. While horror often crosses over into both genres, traditionally speaking, is its own genre. So, when we say Geek we’re thinking of science fiction and fantasy even though horror is very near and dear to our hearts and is highlighted several times on these lists.

Top 10 Geektastic TV Shows of 2011:

  1. Doctor Who (BBC America) – How do you beat a Time Lord in a Geek TV contest? Well, you don’t. Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television program around, beginning in 1963 with William Hartnell as the First Doctor. Sure, Doctor Who comes and goes at will–sometimes being gone from television for several years at a time–but one thing you can always count on is that the Doctor will return and be even better than before. Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor carries on a fine tradition of Geekery.
  2. Game of Thrones (HBO) – This series was a long (and well worth it) time coming for those of us who picked up George R.R. Martin’s novel A Game of Thrones when it was first published. This series opened doors to a new kind of storytelling in which grand scale, fantasy epic series were finally welcomed into mainstream television and made sure that every viewer knew that no character was safe.
  3. True Blood (HBO) – Fangtastic! What’s not to like? Great writing. Great acting. Great everything. True Blood is easily the best vampire show on television and deserves every bit of the attention that it has been receiving. With the bits of magic and a wide cast of mythical characters, this show goes beyond a standard kick-ass horror television series is burning with Geek Fantasy Hotness.
  4. Fringe (FOX) – Any list that doesn’t have Fringe on it should be sent straight into the alternate universe. Fringe is top-notch storytelling that is steeped in speculative science fiction. In addition to smart concepts, interesting plots, and very cool effects–they have a terrific cast of actors who easily carry the show. The question is, how long can the series continue to produce such high quality episodes before hitting the slump that some people fear is coming? We hope to see Fringe continue its Geektastic reign for several more seasons. If it should end, please don’t have Walter realize it was all some freaky dream while sitting next to Olivia and Peter inside Harvard’s Memorial Church.
  5. The Nerdist (BBC America)- True. This isn’t a fictional television series. It’s actually a talk show hosted by the very funny Chris Hardwick, and it is fantastic! Any geek worth his salt should be watching The Nerdist on BBC America. Not only is Chris funny, but he makes being a geek cool. Plus, he’s got some of the best guests you’re going to find in the Geekiverse. Even better is his easy-going interview style and fun conversations that he conducts with guests. In a nutshell, The Nerdist is a talk show that features a bunch of awesome geeks sitting around a table talking about really cool geeky things.
  6. Haven (SyFy) – And some police departments think they have problems! Clearly, they have never been to Haven, ME. In its second season, Haven hits its stride. You get a little bit of everything with this series: fantasy, horror, science fiction–plus a mystery that will keep you coming back for more. While some shows might be Geekier, Haven still manages to hold its own in that strange little coastal town in Maine.
  7. Once Upon a Time (ABC) – Fairy Tale Geek Alert! Once Upon a Time has a great premise and it’s not afraid to show it. Some people were wondering what the point was for a modern fairy tale that didn’t really show any change in the story or exhibit any “lessons” learned. We were starting to wonder that too. However, once the show gained its footing halfway through the season, it began making it course a bit clearer–and you can’t be much clearer than the finale. We can’t say more without spoilers, but this series, not the individual episodes that make this fairy tale special. After all, the season finale was not the fairy tale ending we were expecting.
  8. The Guild (Web) – The Guild may not be on “television” per se, but it is one heck of a fantastic web series that really knows how to Geek-out. Felicia Day and the rest of the crew are so much fun to watch and 2011 was especially exciting as the geeks came out from behind their computers. If you haven’t seen the show, you should definitely check it out. We have a feeling that you’re going to love it.
  9. Eureka (SyFy) – How can anyone not Geek-out with Eureka? While some of the plots and gadgets may leave you scratching your head, wondering what the heck they’re talking about, you’re sure to enjoy the crazy antics of Eureka’s very likable characters. Plus, this light-hearted science fiction drama features one of the coolest geeks around in Season 4. No, we’re not talking about Fargo–although he is pretty cool–we’re talking about the awesome Will Wheaton who is featured in multiple shows in our Top 10. We’re going to be sad to see Eureka come to an end in 2012.
  10. Grimm (NBC) – Grimm is a great new show that draws heavily from the Grimm Fairy Tales and borrows just a little from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Then again, who doesn’t borrow from Buffy nowadays? The Geekiness of this new show is solid. However, NBC is not really making it easy for viewers to watch Grimm on a consistent basis, which is going to hurt the ratings. We hope Grimm doesn’t continue to get the Firefly treatment with sporadic airings, unexpected breaks between episodes, and a change of evening during the middle of the season. Grimm is a solid crime drama that embraces creatures from legend and fairy tales in an interesting new way. It’s a great cross-over series for people looking for something new.
  • Terra Nova (FOX) – Geek Honorable Mention.  This is a great family show to watch. The premise of a one-directional crack in time is interesting, and is enough to catch any SF fan’s attention. Each episode has its own complete story, which also works to advance the overarching plot for the season. Good writing paired with an interesting cast of characters from the future (all of whom have been sent into the past) puts this show on solid Geek footing. Sadly, the huge production costs might keep Terra Nova  from returning for a second season in 2012. We say, if it means keeping the show on the air for another season, cut the special effects hocus-pocus and  focus on writing solid stories.
  • Merlin (BBC) – Geek Honorable Mention. Merlin holds onto many of the story elements of the original legend, but the writers have also created a unique story that is very fresh and new. As Arthurian legend lovers, this wasn’t the Merlin we were expecting to find, but we still geek out over it. The new season starts in January and there will be lots of cool new magic tricks for the fantasy geeks among us. Arthur will be coming into his own and will inevitably drag our magical Merlin along with him.

Shows that we wish were nerdier, but still have Geek Shine:

  1. Castle (ABC) – In the words of Walt Whitman: “O Captain! My Captain!” Nathan Fillion is a geek at heart and that is good enough for some good old-fashioned Geek Shine on Castle. Although Fillion will always be Captain Malcolm Reynolds to us, Richard Castle has also found his way into our Geeky hearts. Castle is a great show with great writing and great acting. And, oh!, how the Geek shines through. Castle is a “must love” show for Geeks at heart, if ever there were one!
  2. American Horror Story (FX) – While American Horror Story may easily be one of our favorite shows of 2011, there isn’t a lot of room for the Geek in his spectacular horror/thriller, but it definitely has Geek Shine. That said, in addition to the very dark and surreal story lines, you’ll also find one heck of a cast and some deeply disturbing plots that may be slow-moving at times, but they always carry a punch and a sting that leave you “dying” for more.
  3. Walking Dead (AMC) – We’ve asked a few horror writers why thy think zombies will never die. No one seems to have a good answer. However, we think that the Walking Dead is a prime (time) example of why zombies will never die and will continue to ravage the big and small screens. The first season was fantastic, but the second season didn’t quite maintain the same dramatic intensity. After all, camping out at a farm house will remain interesting for only so long. While this show is horror through and through, there is no denying the Geek Shine that comes with surviving in a world populated by the undead.
  4. Being Human (BBC) (SyFy)- We’re talking vampires and ghosts, featuring far more horror than geekery in Being Human. However, whether you are watching the SyFy remake or the original BBC version, you’ll find some Geek Shine with this very enjoyable drama (which features a few adult themes).
  5. Psych (USA) – There is not a supernatural bone in Psych’s body, but you won’t find a show with more Geek Shine. Shawn Spencer makes being a psychic detective more fun that ever, especially since he’s not even psychic. Psych is a fun ride that is not to be missed.

Shows with Geek Power that are getting tired or not taking off:

  1. Supernatural (CW) – No matter what Supernatural does, it will always be in the Geek Hall of Fame. However, after 5 spectacular seasons, it’s no surprise that the 6th season feels a little tired. Maybe it’s time for the writers to come up with a concept that reaches beyond angels and demons because the Leviathans feel too much like what has already been done on the show. We would really like to see these characters begin to grow beyond the demon hunting brothers we know and love.
  2. Torchwood (BBC) – We almost feel like a traitor for calling this series tired because we want to like it so much more than we do–especially after the last season. However, Torchwood needs more than a miracle to make it feel fresh and new again. By killing off most of the characters that made Torchwood a Geek fan favorite, they lost a huge amount of ground. There is more that can be done with the series, and we hope they do it because Torchwood still has enough Geek Shine to keep it going for quite a while.
  3. Vampire Diaries (CW) – While Vampire Diaries is still entertaining, the repeating story lines are growing a little old. Sure there is always some new danger to keep everyone on red-alert, but it’s always Elena, her life, and/or her humanity that is at stake. Then, of course, there is the age-old love triangle between Damon, Stefan, and Elena (and sometimes Katherine). How many times can these four dance around the relationship circle before we all get too dizzy to continue caring if Damon win’s Elena’s heart or if Stefan will continue to stick it out with her.
  4. Warehouse 13 (SyFy) – We hate adding Warehouse 13 to the list and debated if it should be included or not. Warehouse 13 a great show, but lately some of the episodes have been a bit lackluster with the exception of the recently aired holiday special. Next season looks to have some new changes and twists after the big explosion, which will hopefully lead to changes that will put Warehouse 13 back in the Top 10. We’re looking forward to seeing what they do in 2012 to reinvigorate the show.
  5. Primeval (BBC) – Dinosaurs rampaging in London over and over and over. Yes, there is more to the series than this simplistic description. There is also a crazy woman at the heart of the drama who is bent on destroying the human race and whose influence on the show extends beyond her own death. The best thing about Primeval is the cast, but even they can’t always strengthen the weak scripts that have been coming out of this creature feature drama.
  6. Sanctuary (SyFy) – Oh, the pain! The pain we felt when adding Sanctuary to this list was nearly unbearable, but the current season is really getting painful to watch. Some of the episodes are good, but overall the story line about abnormals coming to the surface of the Earth has been lackluster. Worse, Magnus hasn’t been acting like the smart cookie that we Geeks have known and loved throughout the series. We’d love to see Sanctuary turned around, but now that the abnormals have moved out of Hollow Earth, the show seems to be spiraling into a constant state of war that is tiring.
  7. Secret Circle (CW) – We adore Thomas Dekker. He was a great John Connor in the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and he’s even a very likable male witch in this new Geeky teenage drama. However, the series has been a bit bumpy and is in danger of becoming a second-rate Charmed without the charm. Still, there is Geek Shine around the drama of these high school witches who are trying to find their way in the dangerous world of magic. It just seems strange that the adult witches have no clue about what these kids are up to and haven’t really participated at all in their training. Sure, they don’t want their kids to use magic, but what kid with magical talent isn’t going to use magic? The show has promise, but it doesn’t really seem to be blooming like it should.
  8. SGU Stargate Universe (SyFy) – We will miss you Stargate Universe. The Geek potential in SGU was out of this world, but for whatever reason the show just didn’t catch on with the fans. This wasn’t a fast paced series. Nor did it have quite the same feel as the other Stargate series, but it had a special quality to it that was truly enjoyable. The cast was fantastic and the writing was solid, continuing to build on an interesting series wide plot that was really heating up. With science fiction writer John Scalzi on deck, the show had so much going for it. It’s a great series that managed to pull off a “completed” feel with the season finale. Still, we wish there were more episodes to come.
  9. Falling Skies (TNT) – Aliens invade Earth and humanity is nearly wiped out completely, except for small bands of refugees that are having a difficult time surviving. As much as we wanted to like this show, it never really took off for us. While the acting is good, the story lines feel stretched too thin. Maybe the show will begin to click in its second season, but right now it’s one of the weakest of the Geek shows that premiered this year.
  10. V (ABC) – We’re so sad that the remake of V was so weak. The first season was fairly strong, showing some good potential for season two, but the series simply fell apart this year. It had so much Geek potential that it was a real shame to see it die, especially since the original series was such a success.

New series with great Geek potential in 2011:

  • Lost Girl – A show about a succubus who is just learning that she’s one of the Fae…okay, you have our attention. It’s on our list of shows to check out. Here’s the blurb from SYFY: “Lost Girl is our hot new fantasy-noir series that follows the adventures of Bo, a succubus who feeds on the sexual energy of mortals. She has a body to die for. She’s a supernatural seductress, with killer good looks. After her first sexual encounter turns out to be anything but normal, Bo discovers she is one of the Fae – legendary creatures that pass as humans while secretly feeding off them. Seeking to understand her powers and her past, Bo becomes entangled in a passionate love triangle with shape-shifting Fae homicide detective and a human doctor.”
  • Touch (FOX) – We’re going to have to see how this one turns out, but the premise sounds like a Geek’s cuppa tea. A father’s mute son has a special talent for reading the future by looking at numbers. Its creator is Tim Kring of Heroes fame, and its premise has the ring of a few movies that have been out recently. However, with actors like Kiefer Sutherland and Danny Glover on board, it’s worth watching just to see those two bring this show to life.
  • Reise: Kingdom Falling (SyFy Web) – Who knew this existed? Not us. So, it’s the first thing we’re going to watch in 2012. Here’s the blurb from the SYFY Channel: “ premieres the steampunk digital series Riese: Kingdom Falling, winner of Streamy Awards for Best Cinematography and nominee for Best Sound Design and Art Direction. Riese: Kingdom Falling takes place in Eleysia, a dying kingdom where distrust and anxiety have clouded people’s minds, causing a regression into primitive ways of thinking. Rituals and mythology have resurged, and the darker side of mankind has begun to reveal itself. Riese, a wanderer, travels across the decaying land with her wolf, Fenrir. Marked as a heretic by religious group The Sect and the new Empress, Riese must evade their assassins and discover their true intentions for Eleysia.” Sounds good! Right?
  • Alcatraz (FOX) – This isn’t going to be your everyday prison break show–not with J.J. Abrams’ fingers in the plot. Plus, we get to see a couple of the cast members for LOST return to the small screen, namely Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill. Yay! Details on the show are being kept hush-hush, but here’s a blurb from “Inmates and guards who went missing from the famous prison decades ago mysteriously reappear and start doing weird things.” Sounds Geek to us!
  • Awake (NBC) – There is Geek potential here. A father wakes up in two different realities after he and his family are in a serious accident. In one reality his wife survives and in the other his son survives. The plot has a very “Sliding Doors” feel about it, and we’re looking forward to seeing what NBC does with the series.
  • The Fades (BBC) – The BBC is at it again with another drama that plants itself firmly in the realm of horror/fantasy, but there is potential for Geek Shine. The Fades is about a teenager named Paul who discovers that he has supernatural skills–whatever that means. From the BBC website: “Jack Thorne (the creator of the show) says…”What makes ‘The Fades’ different is that it is a fantasy show rather than a science fiction show. It’s about fairly ordinary people, none of these people act or behave like they’re superheroes.”” We’re game for checking out The Fades on the BBC’s Supernatural Saturdays.

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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9 Responses to Top 10 Geektastic TV Shows of 2011 – Plus other “Year in Review” Picks

  1. David Price says:

    You forgot The Big Bang Theory, the sitcom about Geeks. I love that show.

  2. Totally agree with all your choices! I’m definitely loving Once Upon a Time–FINALLY a villain with a purpose behind her evil, rather than cliche arrogance. And god, I want to know what the secret between her and Snow is!

    And I am 100% with you on Supernatural being long past it’s prime. Personally, I hated the last two seasons (minus Cas) and I’ve pretty much given up on this season. For me, it’s that the writers leached out what I loved most about the show–the banter and lightheartedness between the brothers. Even with hellhounds on his tail, Dean still teased his brother and had a zest for life we haven’t seen since season 4. I miss *that* Dean and Sam.

    Here’s hoping 2012 will be officially hailed as Year of the Geek.


  3. Pingback: Top 5 Shows of 2011 | Super Cool Story Bro

  4. Nancy Holder says:

    Banzinga, Erin!

  5. Pingback: Top 5 Television Shows of 2011 | Super Cool Story Bro

  6. mulero michael says:

    i just love dis paylc

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