The continuation, again a reminder that I'm only allowing two actors per show.
10) Sean Bean, Game Of Thrones
I think many people write Bean off, perhaps because they looked at his IMDB page and went whoa, but he came through for this series big time, and while I had reservations about his performance at the start he became my favourite thing about it by the end.
8) Walton Goggins, Justified
Goggins finally got an Emmy nomination this year, something long overdue after his consistently excellent work on The Shield. Regardless, he was a powerhouse in season 2 and while his storyline sort of wandered all over the place and was often disconnected to the main narrative, Goggins made it compelling by sheer will power.
7) Louie CK, Louie
Louie CK often goes on about how terrible his acting is, and for a while there, even in the first season of this show, I would have agreed. But I think by making his show functionally a Drama with occasional comedic elements this year, he rose to that mandate, and was excellent throughout.
6) Toni Collette, United States of Tara
This show sort of died a quiet death, but Collette did her best work on the show this year, not just playing the barrage of usual characters, but this year adding a male teenage serial killer to the mix. Instead of going to Drama school, just watch Collette's performance on this show. It'll cover everything.
5) Claire Danes, Homeland
Danes probably alternates 50/50 between good performances and bad, but I don't think there would be much against the statement that this is the best she's ever been. Just a great first year of this show.
4) Bryan Cranston Breaking Bad
It was devastating to have to choose between Cranston and Aaron Paul for this spot, but I made the stupid two actors per show rule and that's my problem. But I think Cranston's work this year was exceptional, most notably in the episode 'Crawl Space', and you can't pass over that shit. I feel like hell.
3) Danny Pudi, Community
Before y'all go about saying that this role is one note, Pudi is often asked to play so many different sides to Abed that it's a much harder role to pull off than it would first appear. And then there was the whole Cougar Town monologue, which is just too superlative for words.
2) Margo Martindale, Justified
Justified's first season was more good than brilliant, a couple of stand out episodes aside. But in many ways I think it was the addition of Martindale that really made everything click into place this season, and her performance sort of ironed over all the problems inherent in this show and just made it brilliant TV.
1) Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
But I could only give it to Esposito. A performance of such precision and craft, that Esposito underplaying everything for a year paid back in spades in this fourth year, where Gus Fring was expanded into a larger than life character, the development of which was certainly my favourite thing about the year 2011 on TV. Just fucking epic.