Once the first few episodes had passed and the viewer had time to get used to this alternative, quasi-medieval world of Westeros, Game of Thrones continually proved to be the most exciting show on television. Adapted from the novels of George R.R. Martin, the show recounted the initial power struggle between the Houses of Stark, Lannister and Targaryan, but with some shocking and heart-stopping moments, the debut season proved only to be the prologue of a far more expansive tale. If the standard of these first ten episodes is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat when the show returns in April.Homeland (US, Showtime)If Homeland had been nothing more than an opportunity to see Damian Lewis playing a US Marine for the first time since Band of Brothers, then its existence would have been completely justified, but it became much more than that. Acting as antidote to a particular brand of spy drama, Homeland was much more Tinker Tailor than 007 and found its greatness in gathering intelligence and cerebral intricacies rather than explosions and jump-cuts. Both Lewis and Claire Danes jumped off the screen as a former POW under investigation and the bi-polar CIA agent tracking him, giving a human edge to the War on Terror and showing off their crackling chemistry at every opportunity.The Hour (UK, BBC)In a year without Mad Men, there was a great, period drama-sized hole Otwo wasn’t allowing Downton Abbey to fill. Luckily, The Hour was on hand to make everything ok. However, despite their aesthetic similarities, The Hour was a different kind of beast as it largely focused on a love triangle between three television journalists at the BBC during the Suez Crisis, while also allowing for some Cold War tensions and governmental incredulity to power the drama. If there were some missteps with the espionage subplot, The Hour was at its best when allowing its three leads (Ben Whishaw, Romala Garai and Dominic West) space to revel in their awkward tensions and unresolved feelings.Louie (US, FX)Comedian Louis CK struck an unorthodox deal with the American cable network, FX. He requested a minimum budget and salary for himself to make Louie and insisted that the network would leave him alone with no notes and complete creative freedom. Louie’s second season proved FX were geniuses in agreeing to such an arrangement as the show continued to blur the lines between fiction and reality in search of universal truths and took a befitting turn towards the dramatic in the process. The world of Louie is purely that of CK’s thinking, one of great darkness, but also one with a silver lining and each trip into the man’s psyche was one to treasure.This is England ’88 (UK, Channel 4)’88 was far more introspective and stoic than its predecessors as focus drifted from suburban teenage life to the personal struggle of Vicky McClure’s Lol. With Lol facing the ghosts of her past, she became more isolated from the rest of the cast, and McClure was called on to carry the dramatic weight of these three episodes, excelling in every regard. Such darkness made the one scene between McClure and Stephen Graham (when Lol went to visit reformed skinhead, Combo, in prison) all the more satisfying and heart-wrenching. TiE’88 ultimately became a triumph for the acting talent on show rather than of the writing talents of Shane Meadows, but it lost none of its lustre.Tremé (US, HBO)How do you follow The Wire? The simple answer is: you cannot, but David Simon has done pretty well with Tremé, a show without precedent. Where The Wire was a realistic interpretation of the modern cop drama, Tremé really defies the logic of television. It has a threadbare plot and too many characters, yet works like a docu-drama. It is a study of post-Katrina New Orleans, where the characters are trying to rebuild their lives and the show is little more than that. The rewards come in getting to know the people and culture of New Orleans rather than from dramatic pay-off, but it is a joy to watch their progress and revel in the little victories that come along the way.