Just like every other blogger on the Internet, I can’t resist making year-end lists. This one is the first of many and is about my favourite television shows of 2012. Some of them were funny. Some were suspenseful. And others were just plain weird. But all of them were awesome, in one way or another. The list is after the jump.
A couple of caveats: firstly, I don’t watch everything on TV, which means that a lot of critically-acclaimed dramas (e.g. Mad Men, The Good Wife) have passed me by. I’m sure they’re great, but I can’t put something I don’t watch on my own top 10 list. Secondly, as opposed to last year, when I did a top 5 list, I decided to expand to a top 10 list with honourable mentions this year. I wanted to show some appreciation for shows that I rarely write about, so I opted for a longer list.
Alright, let’s get on with it, shall we?
I almost left Homeland off the list in favour of another show, having been extremely disappointed with how the last 3 episodes of the show’s second season unfolded. But it’s all too easy to forget that before Abu Nazir turned into a villain out of a shitty horror movie, Homeland’s second season was just as gripping and nuanced as its first. Instead of taking a deeper look at the show’s bipolar heroine, Carrie Mathison, it turned its focus towards Nicholas Brody, a broken shell of a man being pulled apart by conflicted loyalties. Damian Lewis rose to the challenge of shouldering even more of the show. With fantastic episodes like “The Smile” and “Q & A,” he demonstrated that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Chuck left us in 2012, not on a shallow, fan-service-y note, but by showing us what it was about all along: the soul. For five seasons, the titular character tried to hold onto his soul in a dangerous world of deceit and moral relativity, while his significant other tried to regain the soul she had lost. In the end, Chuck showed us that while experiences and memories might be transient, the indelible marks that we leave on each others’ souls are not.
The second season of this fifteen-minute comedy didn’t quite live up to the first, but it still gave us great gags like Swedish pedicab racing, Alison Brie as Sam’s insane ex-girlfriend, and NTSF:AK:CANOE::. Not every show needs to be a deep, emotional character study. Sometimes silliness is all we need.
Swearing is funny. It always has been. But there’s an art to entertaining cursing, and the cast of Veep has mastered it. Fronted by the supremely talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus, this incredibly profane comedy didn’t shy away from portraying Washington D.C. as being full of venal, cynical assholes. Plus, the cast was superb. Reid Scott and Timothy Simons generated an absurd number of laughs, and Anna Chlumsky was fantastic as the woman trying to hold everything together. The show even found a way to get me to like Tony Hale! Now that’s an accomplishment.
6. The Soup
2012 was a great year for The Soup, as it introduced us to Killer Karaoke, made fun of Amanda Bynes, and said goodbye to Greg Kelly. We’ll miss ya, Greg!
5. Ben and Kate
I think I’ve already written all I wanted to write about Ben and Kate here, so let me just say this: Nat Faxon and Lucy Punch are comedy gods.
4. Happy Endings
Some time last year, Happy Endings became the most reliably funny show on television, spitting out gags faster than an Olympic sprinter. But with its strong, well-drawn characters, it’s not just a rapid-fire joke machine. It’s also got a big, goofy heart. Happy Endings has made us care about its wonderfully wacky cast of characters, from the bizarrely airheaded Alex to the slobby, slothful Max. Heck, this fall, in its third season, the show even managed to figure out its most problematic character, Dave. Here’s to more adventures with this kooky band of Chicagoans!
3. New Girl
I never had high hopes for New Girl. When it first premiered, I thought it would be one of those mildly-amusing-but-more-warmhearted-than-anything kind of comedies, like Up All Night. And to be fair, for a while it was. But when the second half of its first season started in 2012, New Girl found its voice. It shifted more of its focus to its secondary characters, and recalibrated Zooey Deschanel’s character to be mildly quirky rather than drowning in tweeness. Max Greenfield played the show’s breakout character, the lovably douchey Schmidt, to perfection. But late in the first season, Jake Johnson’s Nick Miller became absolutely hilarious too. Now there’s no telling where the show’s biggest laugh will come from next. What’s all the more impressive is than in becoming funnier and weirder, the show hasn’t lost an ounce of its heart. If anything, it’s gotten even better at servicing its characters and at making its emotional moments ring true. New Girl, I salute you.
In its first season, Alphas was a show that I wanted to love more than I did. It had elements that hinted at greatness, but they never came together organically. But in season 2, Alphas became the show I had always wanted it to be. I had feared that the show was heading for X-Men rip-off territory with the revelation of Alphas to the public, but instead it turned into one of the most fascinating studies of both character and ethics on television. In setting up a compelling villain in Stanton Parrish, the stakes became personal for everyone on Dr. Rosen’s team. Thus, the characters’ personal missions aligned perfectly with the plot, and despite juggling dozens of story threads, everything came together in the end. The show’s ratings were bad enough that they probably warrant cancellation for the series, but if Alphas isn’t returning for a third season, then its haunting final scene, with Gary standing alone in a sea of bodies, will go down as one of the most memorable TV moments of the past few years.
1. Cougar Town
Is this really a surprise? Cougar Town topped my list last year, and here it is again. What can I say? I’m in love with the Cul-de-Sac Crew and their wacky antics. In 2012, they threw hurricane parties, opened up bakeries, messed around with green screen, and played an assload of Penny Can. In a few short weeks, they’ll be back on my TV screen (now on TBS), ready to bring the laughs. And I’ll be sitting there, glass full of grape juice in my hand. (Hey, I’m a teetotaler, okay? But don’t tell the Crew.)
Honourable mentions: 30 Rock; Alcatraz; Bent; The Colbert Report; The Daily Show; Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23; Parks and Recreation
So that’s my list of my favourite television shows of 2012. Feel free to tell me how awful my list is in the comments below.
P.S. I went to see a live taping of The Colbert Report this year. I’m pretty sure Stephen Colbert is going to kill me for not putting his show on the actual list. Oh well.