3. Game Of Thrones

Network: HBO
Stars: Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Mark Addy, Lena Headey, Kit Harrington, Harry Lloyd, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Aidan Gillen, Iain Glen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Games Of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss couldn’t have made it any harder on themselves. On one end, the duo willingly decided to adapt beloved fantasy author George R. R. Martin’s massive, dense, and obsessed-over Song Of Fire And Ice series of novels, an assignment that all but promised Martin’s passionate throngs of readers would have their swords ready for angry reactions. Honoring the characters and loyalists’ demands aside, Benioff and Weiss also had to make something work on TV that has never been done before, at least not brilliantly: They had to conceive a mythical, eye-popping fantasy world that looks like a Hollywood production and doesn’t intimidate those who don’t know Gandolf from Gidget.

To say that Benioff and Weiss pulled it off would be as big of an understatement as Emilia “Daeneyrs” Clarke looks pretty good topless. Packed with fascinating characters, great performances, and hardcore violence, Game Of Thrones worked on all levels, so much so that Martin’s biggest supporters weren’t able to even slightly quibble. For 10 engrossing and frequently shocking (R.I.P. Ned Stark) episodes, HBO’s best new show of 2011 pushed the TV medium into places of fantastical magnitude never before seen. And here’s the crazy part: It’s just getting started.