The 10 Most Underrated TV Performances of 2011

When you think back on the year’s standout small-screen performances, no doubt you’ll think of Madeleine Stowe’s turn as a hot, hot piece of ice on Revenge. You’ll recall the Jim Parsons/Mayim Bialik tag team on The Big Bang Theory. You’ll hail the cast of Modern Family (possibly, in particular, in the warp-speed Christmas episode).

But since the holidays are a time for reflection, why not take TVLine’s lead and consider a few performances that you might have overlooked the first time around? Flip through our slideshow below, then second our suggestions in comments or offer up fresh kudos of your own!

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Comments (141)

  • Pssh, Evan Peters is OVERrated.

    Comment by John – December 26, 2011 11:24 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love the inclusions of Dan Byrd and Jon Bernthal.

    Comment by Justin – December 26, 2011 11:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m not sure I’d call Allie Grant a “relative newbie”. She learned how to hold her own working with Elizabeth Perkins on Weeds for several seasons. It’s great to watch her keep blossoming but her ability to stand toe-to-toe with heavyweights was known to many of us for a few years now.

    Comment by Cheryl – December 26, 2011 12:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love to see the love for Gabriel Mann, Nolan has quickly become my favorite character on Revenge!

    Also was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Evan Peters on American Horror Story. Even though Tate was a complete psychopath, EP somehow made him sympathetic, and his relationship with Violet is the only relationship on the show (which was a scattered mess at times) that I felt invested in. I didn’t see how they could end up together in the end, and yet I was enthralled by them.

    Finally, good to see a shout out for Britta from Community! Love every single cast member on that show, and while Donald Glover’s Troy is my fave, Britta has emerged as one kooky lady! An absolute blast!

    Comment by Jenn C – December 26, 2011 12:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This list is woefully incomplete. My vote is for Sandra Oh in Greys Anatomy. This show has some incredible performers that are always overlooked during award season. Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson among them. But Sandra Oh is a freaking master. She can go from hot to cold at the drop of a hat and her dramatic scenes are spell binding. Just look at everything she ‘said’ without a word when she found out it was Henry that had just died after she operated on him. And I’m not a big Meredith fan but Ellen Pompeo makes me cry like no one else. Greys may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the fantastic performances should not be overlooked, IMO.

    Comment by Babygate – December 26, 2011 12:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree with you about Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh being overlooked during award season. I think Grey’s is just off their radar anymore but these two ladies just get better every year and they make the show for me.

      Comment by Laurie – December 30, 2011 09:05 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Morgan Saylor from Homeland has done amazing as Brody’s daughter Dana. In my mind at least.

    Comment by Nick – December 26, 2011 01:03 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I agree with you about Shane and Tate (American Horror Story and Walking Dead are the only shows on your list I’ve watched) but it would have been nice to see the guys from Supernatural (Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Jim Beaver) here as well. They are perpetually overlooked and underrated; I’m always disappointed they don’t get the recognition they deserve.

    Comment by kelios – December 26, 2011 01:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Everyone on Parks and Recreation! The whole show is underrated, as are the performances. Particularly the dudes that play Ron Swanson, Andy Dwyer and Tom Haverford

    Comment by Jennifer – December 26, 2011 01:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I don’t watch any of the shows you highlight, so my own choices are: Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams on Suits, Robert Carlyle [Rumpel/Gold] on Once Upon A Time, and the entire cast of Psych for the “Last Night Gus” episode. Funniest episode in all 5 seasons.

    Comment by Stormy – December 26, 2011 01:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Evan Peters is this year’s discovery for me. Where’s he been all my life? He’s unbelievably talented.

    Comment by J – December 26, 2011 02:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Totally agree!!

    Comment by Cindy – December 26, 2011 02:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Two things:
    1) John Noble from Fringe should be on this list.
    2) In ten years, Evan Peters will make a kick-ass Joker.

    Comment by Robert Ariadne – December 26, 2011 05:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • agree with 2 so much!

      Comment by florence – December 27, 2011 09:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think both Matt Bomer and Tom DeKay deserve to be mentioned. This whole season so far on White Collar has been full of beautifully nuanced performances by these two actors. There isn’t a better bromantic pair anywhere!

    Comment by Rainey – December 26, 2011 05:31 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Both of these guys are really good but, to me,the most underrated would be Mozzie. He’s so funny and quirky and just owns that character, much like he did Stanford on Sex and the City.

      Comment by Bad Breaker – December 26, 2011 07:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Yes, Neil Flynn!

    Comment by Zoe – December 26, 2011 05:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So glad to see Neil Flynn get a nod. I love his character on The Middle, and love him as an actor.

    Comment by blingedup.susan – December 26, 2011 06:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great list. My picks would be Joshua Jackson and John Noble on Fringe.Great performances by both actors and they share amazing chemistry.I love both Peter and Walter and miss their bond that is the glue of their little quirky family with Olivia. The entire cast of BBC’s Primeval. I’m not into creatures but the cast as created likeable and memorable characters and mystery that deserves more seasons. The same goes for Syfy’s Warehouse 13 and Eureka. Also Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow on Once upon a Time. Makes me says Lily Collins who, Kristen Stewart who

    Comment by Kelly – December 26, 2011 06:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are both exceptional on Homeland but Mandy Patinkin’s Saul is supporting actor giving great calm, introspection and strength to a terrific story.

    Comment by Bad Breaker – December 26, 2011 07:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hey, ppl u gotta giv props to Melinda Clarke as Amanda on Nikita c’mon the way she plays that character is just pure genius especially in the show’s first season.

    Xander Berkeley too as Percy give him praise too.

    Comment by Lillianna Morales – December 26, 2011 09:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Jim Beaver. Brilliance. Consistently. Ignored. Consistently.

    Also I agree above with the person who said Matt Bomer and Tim Dekay!

    Comment by raelee514 – December 26, 2011 10:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Elisha Cuthbert is by far the worst part of Happy Endings, but lets face it, Happy Endings is amazing, so being the worst part of such a great show isn’t that bad.
    And agreed with the inclusion of Dan Byrd. His exaperation really highlights the halarity. Love him!

    Comment by Mandy – December 26, 2011 10:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Gillian Jacobs and Elisha Cuthbert are my two least favorites of their respective ensemble comedy shows. I think both characters are downright annoying with their over the top stupidity lately.

    Eva Longoria is great on DH.

    Personally I think Ian Gomez is more underrated on Cougar Town than Dan Byrd. Then again, everyone on Cougar Town is pretty underrated!

    Comment by Mark – December 26, 2011 11:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • decent list but missing out on quite a few people… for example from himym theres jason segel and cobie smulders! marshalls dads death episode and the one following were amazing… and criminally overlooked.. so was cobies recent baby crisis eps… then we have john noble josh jackson and anna torv on fringe.. how have they along with the show not got much recognition till now i have no clue! n lastly the cast of parks n recreation… no credit at all to nick offerman as ron f****ng swanson!

    Comment by vivek – December 27, 2011 03:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • All ten are excellent and inspired picks. Cuthbert has really stepped up her comedic game in season 2. Evan Peters had great moments in AHS and Gabriel Mann is a chameleon – dude is older than the hills (by Hollywood standards) but looks in his mid 20s!

    Comment by C – December 27, 2011 04:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The entire cast of Treme. Especially Kahndi Alexander, and Wendall Pierce.

    Comment by Tahoe Mike – December 27, 2011 04:56 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • So true! Great show.

      Comment by Carol – December 27, 2011 09:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • the fact that Anna Torv is not on the list is beyong me.
    is she even so underrated that after awards her performance is ignore is the most underrated tv performances list?
    it’s a shame

    Comment by Mel – December 27, 2011 07:05 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • oh please, you are delusional, if you think anna can act.

      she is awful!!

      Comment by ice queen – December 28, 2011 06:13 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rot in he//, you bitter beast.

    Comment by Jonsoto – December 27, 2011 07:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I agree with what’s been said about Gillan Jacobs, I don’t know why everyone likes Alison Brie so much. She’s amazing as Britta even though they’re making her character less funny than in S1.
    And Evan Peters, damn, he’s amazing. But it’s kind of weird, the character raped and knocked up his girlfriend’s mother right before taking his girlfriend virginity. Also, killed about 20 people but Evans’ acting still makes me like the character.
    Jon Bernthal’s character is kind of the bad guy in the group, he’s not my favourite character but he’s better than some others.

    Comment by Sarah – December 27, 2011 07:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • KaDee Strickland-Private Practice
    Retta-Parks & Recreation
    Sara Ramirez-Grey’s Anatomy
    Glad that Elisha Cuthbert and Eva Longoria were on here.

    Comment by Dave – December 27, 2011 08:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The entire cast of ‘Friday Night Lights’ should be on this list. In fact that the producers, writers and Berg paved such a brilliant path for the show’s story(s) to be wrapped, plus the actors executed their performances wonderfully, the entire show should get their own list to extoll their awesomeness.

    PS John Noble, Anna Torv, and Joshua Jackson of ‘Fringe’ should be on this list, too.

    Comment by Evelyn – December 27, 2011 08:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m sure I’ll get completely flame-warred for saying so, but I’d argue that Evan Peters’ performance was on par with Jessica Lange’s. Her performance was just showier. Considering his relative lack of experience (compared with Lange’s, anyway), that’s extremely impressive.

    Comment by aleksa – December 27, 2011 09:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • absolutely agree.

      Comment by ellen – December 27, 2011 09:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My vote goes to MAX ADLER (Dave Karofsky) on Glee! He did a great job on the few episodes he appeared! I hope to see more of him on 2012!

    Comment by Debora – December 27, 2011 11:52 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • what about anna torv in fringe???? she deserves like a million nominations to the emmy’s and john noble? he is awesome!!!!!!!

    Comment by cinthy – December 27, 2011 12:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Michael Pitt on Boardwalk Empire! I can’t believe neither the Golden Globes nor the SAGs gave him a nomination, did they not see the last 2 episodes of the season?!

    Comment by MJ – December 27, 2011 01:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Have to agree about Gillian Jacobs. Any of the Community cast is deserving and Annie is still my favorite female character but Gillian has been killing it as Britta this year. Didn’t really love Britta at the beginning but she has grown on me overtime.

    Comment by K – December 27, 2011 01:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • How about Maisy Williams? The amazing little actress behind Arya Stark?

    Comment by Smilinangel – December 27, 2011 01:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Agree with Dan Byrd. I’m not sure if I would categorize Fringe and their cast as underrated just because critics are always praising it (and rightfully so), so I’m going to go with another actress that has to play multiple roles: Nina Dobrev. Even though Dobrev plays Elena, Katherine and Katerina, I can always tell which character she’s playing before she ever speaks. I think she’s really grasped each character’s subtleties in movements and actions this year. I can say that for John Noble, but I’m not exactly sure if I can tell which Olivia Anna Torv’s playing if each were just standing next to one another.

    Comment by em – December 27, 2011 03:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’d say the lead in A GIFTED MAN and HUGH LAURIE.

    Comment by Grace – December 27, 2011 06:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Jim Caviezel is quietly stunning on Person of Interest. Mandy Patinkin is just plain great on Homeland. Alan Cumming is terrific on The Good Wife.

    Can’t get enough of these compelling actors.

    Comment by Carol – December 27, 2011 09:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Evan Peters is an incredibly gifted actor, the way he walked that thin line between sociopath and misunderstood heartfelt boy really messed with my moral compass, I knew he was the personification of evil but still couldn’t help feeling affectionate towards Tate.
    And I’m so happy to see Britta on the list! She is my favorite character and I thought I was the only one who was a more then little pissed with all the “Annie is the new leading lady” business, I really don’t find Annie that appealing… or Allison Brie for that matter. #savecommunity #sixseasonsandamovie

    Comment by Ana Muller – December 27, 2011 09:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • q?..shane west? nikita is THE most underrated show

    Comment by gaby – December 28, 2011 06:16 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

    Comment by Grace – December 30, 2011 08:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Good pick with Gillian Jacobs. Britta has really grown on me this season. I have gone from finding her to be very bristley to having quite an affection for the girl, and my facebook profile now reflects own similarities to Britta. For example, About Me just says Anarchist cat owner. It’s really all you need to know and says everything. I freaking love Britta.

    Comment by Amber – January 3, 2012 10:14 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ha, you know, when “Community” first started, I wasn’t sure about Britta, either, she kinda put me off. But I think my feelings mainly were the result of the fact that I was jealous that she got to make out with/get hit on by Joel McHale/Jeff.

    Now, all this time later, I love her. I can relate to her in some respects. I love all the characters on “Community”, I can’t imagine this show without any of them. The chemistry between everybody is just the perfect mix of sweet and funny-when I find myself with a big smile on my face and a warm feeling after they do something for each other, or to help each other, you know the show’s done something right. So kudos for a mention of Britta, the goofball that she is.

    Comment by Angela – January 23, 2012 10:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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