Top 10 TV Shows of 2012
For the past few years, I have made it a point to rank my favorite shows of the year. As a TV podcaster, I feel it is important to give my opinions about what I've enjoyed in a longer format than I could do a podcast episode. In years past, I have created multiple lists (new shows, comedies, dramas, reality/variety) but that always made so much more work for me so I decided to mesh all the genres into one list this time. Many other TV bloggers make these kinds of lists and other kinds of rankings of favorite episodes, couples, etcetera. My list is always very different from these popular sites because I don't watch 3/4 of the shows they do. Without further ado, here is my list. Feel free to agree or disagree. I welcome your comments as always.
1) Parenthood – This show has long been a favorite of mine. I love the chemistry of the family members and how the storylines intermingle. The show runner is Jason Katims, who also created another favorite show – Friday Night Lights – and he does a fantastic job. For many years it has flown under of the radar and was in danger of cancelation practically every season (much like FNL until the DirectTV/NBC deal was made). Even though there was a strong core audience for the show, it wasn't being seen by as many people as it could have been. Listeners of this podcast know what a huge fan of am of this show and I cannot say enough great things about it.
Parenthood is now in its 4th season and has really hit its stride. This season has been particularly strong due to the fantastic writing for the character of Kristina, played by the incredible Monica Potter. Kristina was never a very root-able character before this season. She was a mother with a very awesome husband (eldest son of the Braverman clan) and three kids, one of which was diagnosed with Asperger's disease in the first season. This season she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her storyline has made me weep and broken my heart almost every week. We have seen her play out being diagnosed (through a heartbreaking non-verbal scene sharing that with her husband), sharing the news with the family, starting her chemo, being physically ill from the treatments and in the last episode of 2012 being on the brink of death. She recorded a heartbreaking video for her kids which her husband Adam watched while she lay in dire straights in the hospital. Just thinking about that episode and the great span of emotions that were played out makes me emotional again. In my opinion, Monica Potter deserves every award that is out there, but unfortunately Parenthood hardly ever garnishes any nominations and never has won anything even though it is amazing.
2) Parks and Recreation – This show is my current favorite comedy. It has a fantastic ensemble led by the amazing Amy Poehler and the writing is incredibly smart and funny. Last season Poehler's big storyline was her running for city councilperson and that storyline allowed us to see the development and flourishing of her relationship with her boyfriend Ben, played by the fantastic Adam Scott (whom I fell in love with on Party Down). At the end of the season, Ben was offered an amazing job in Washington, D.C. so as season 5 began we saw them trying to maintain a long distance relationship. When his job ended, Ben came to realize how important Leslie was in his life and he proposed in the most touching scene I have ever seen on this show. They are an amazing couple and I can't wait to see more as their relationship continue to develop. At the parks department, there is an eclectic collection of people who work together and who also have a deep friendship and love for each other which makes for very enjoyable scenes and interactions. It is a great show that is very underrated and it brings me a lot of joy each week.
3) Happy Endings – Speaking of comedies that bring me joy, this is another one that I look forward to every week. It is filmed and set in Chicago (yeah!) and has a fantastic cast and writing. This was a mid-season show last year and it flew under the radar. The interesting part about it is that the premise of the show (two friends break up at the altar and the other friends have to decide which side they fall on) was very brief. After the first few episodes, it became clear that that storyline was vital to the relationships of the friends, but it wasn't a focus. It morphed into a show about a group of friends who live life together. Amongst the group of 20-somethings, there is a married couple and the others are trying to figure out their lives and relationships. They love each other and have great comedic timing and spark. It is a delight to watch and has only gotten better as the show has progressed.
4) Sherlock – I have become a HUGE fan of British TV shows over the years, and most of them have been suggested to me by my Twitter followers. I did not watch Sherlock when it first aired, but I discovered it much later when it appeared on Netflix streaming and kept hearing about it from many people. I adored the first series and then had to wait the dreadfully long time for the second series. It finally aired in 2012 and I was once again taken away by the brillance. Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are so fantastic as Watson and Holmes and because of this show, they have found even bigger success in film (well deserved!). It is the smartest take on Sherlock Holmes I have ever seen and although I have liked other versions, nothing can compare to how great this one is written and executed. Both series are available on Netflix streaming, so if you haven't seen this yet please do.
5) Downton Abbey – Speaking of brilliant British series, I discovered the amazingness of this series last summer. It was dreadfully hot in Wisconsin and I spent many days holed up in my air conditioned room watching Netflix. After I watched many, many cheesy romantic comedies available, I decided to finally dive into this show that I heard so many people talk about. I was immediately swept away in the beauty and artfulness of this show. The setting was stunning, the writing was sharp and the cast was incredible. Lots of history is included as the characters live in the time period that the show takes place. The family is of royal blood, but they are not snobby or full of themselves. They show respect for their servants (calling them Mr. or Mrs.) and they are never rude to any of them. Throughout the first two series, we see the development of the relationship between Mary and Matthew which culminated in a beautiful engagement scene in the Christmas episode of series 2. Series 3 is about to debut in the U.S. this weekend. Word has just broken that the actor who plays Matthew is leaving show, which saddens me, but I know they can execute his exit well. I'm very excited to see new episodes very soon.
6) Once Upon a Time – Listeners to this podcast know that I am a huge fan of OUAT and are probably wondering why the show is so low on a top 10 list. I still love the show and look forward to it every week, but like many critics of the show I can see many areas that have not been as good this season. I have enjoyed the stories they have told and I listen to three podcasts about the show (clearly I'm a fan), but it has suffered in season 2. I have every confidence that the writers can get it back to its season 1 stature, especially with what was set up in the Fall finale. I'm excited to see where the stories go and I know it can only get better.
7) The Walking Dead – This is my first year putting this on my list because I saw it for the first time last summer. I got cable TV and internet in May, so that was the first time I was able to see some of the amazing shows that are offered on those stations when they aired. Over the July 4th weekend, AMC offered a marathon of all of the season 1 and 2 episodes, so I jumped on this chance to get caught up. All the critics out there seemed to adore it and many of my friends did also, so I took a chance. Many months before that I had seen the pilot on Netflix streaming and I wasn't sure what to think. It seemed too gory and not at all like a show I would like, but despite my hesitations I still gave it a chance. I'm very glad I did because I quickly became hooked. I soon discovered that it was not just a show about zombies (which I have never been a fan of) but about the survivors and the human condition. I'm still squeamish about most of the zombie kills, but I'm still very intrigued by the show. I was able to watch season 3 when it aired and the first half of the season was even better than the first two seasons. They killed off a few core characters, but that has only made the stakes higher and more heartfelt. I haven't agreed with all the choices they've made with the characters, but overall I am very pleased with what has happened. It has also been fun to watch The Talking Dead talk show after the show to get a fan's perspective on what was just seen in the episode. It has just been reported that although the show has been renewed for another season, the current showrunner will be leaving the show. This is always a cause for concern, but I hope it works out for the best.
8) New Girl – This is another show that has an amazing ensemble. It's enjoyable to see the characters develop as they've matured especially the character of Schmidt played by the amazing talent Max Greenfield (whom I first fell in love with on Ugly Betty and then later on Veronica Mars). He has grown the most of the characters because he started off as a playboy and later in the season developed a relationship with Jess' best friend CeCe and this season finally realized that he is in love with her. Unfortunately, he tried to tell her when he was drunk and she rejected him because he wasn't the kind of man her parents would approve of (I hope she comes to her senses). I am thrilled every time Greenfield earns an award nomination, but unfortunately he's always up against Modern Family stars so he never has a chance of winning. Another great dynamic in the group is the relationship between Jess and Nick. They have grown closer and closer as the show has progressed and although they have admitted to each other that there is something between them, they have never done more than flirt with each other. I really hope something develops with them. The odd man out is Winston, who has never had a good storyline and it seems like the writers don't know what to do with the character. I hope they figure it out because he has potential. Overall it's a very enjoyable show and ensemble and although I haven't approved of every storyline they have done, I still look forward to show each week.
9) Arrow – The new shows this year that have been decent have been few and far between, but this one has been solid from the pilot. I've always been a huge fan of superhero stories despite the fact that I don't read the comics, and I didn't know much about Green Arrow. Fortunately that was okay because they did a great job in establishing Oliver Queen's backstory and throughout the subsequent episodes they have developed even more of the blank spots in that history. He spent five years on an island, so they certainly have a lot more to fill in as they go on and we have only seen 9 episodes so far. I enjoy the dynamic between the characters especially Oliver and his sister Thea (played by Willa Holland who I recently discovered in my first viewing of The O.C.), his ex Laurel (played by Katie Cassidy who was previously on Gossip Girl) and his mother (played by Susanna Thompson from Once & Again and Kings). The main actor Stephen Amell has been in other work, but this was the first time I had seen him on TV. He's shirtless a lot, and he has great abs (if that matters to you in deciding to watch). It has been very enjoyable to watch so far and I look forward to many more adventures ahead (since it was picked up for a full season early on).
10) Cougar Town – This is another great ensemble show that I have been a fan of since it started (are you noticing a trend?). Unfortunately, ABC never had much respect for it and because of that it greatly suffered in poor ratings and success. It's a great show fronted by Courtney Cox (from Friends) and, like Happy Endings, quickly changed gears from its original premise (about a 40ish woman re-entering the dating world). Showrunner Bill Lawrence (creator of Scrubs) quickly morphed it into a show about the “cul-de-sac crew” a group of friends who drink A LOT of wine and live together in a Florida neighborhood. Christa Miller (Lawrence's real life wife) is hilarious as Jules' best friend and her husband is played by the awesome Ian Gomez. Throw in the hilarious Busy Phillips (who played Audrey on later seasons of Dawson's Creek) as their hilarious friend Laurie, Jules' college-aged son Travis (played by Dan Byrd previously on Heroes) and her ex-husband Bobby (played by Brian Van Holt) and you have the makings of a great cast. Lawrence also realized what an amazing chemistry Cox had with Josh Hopkins (who plays Grayson) and put them together as couple. Over the seasons, we saw Grayson grow up as a character and they became a root-able couple. When it looked like ABC would be canceling it at the end of last season, they decided to throw a very non-traditional but amazing wedding for the couple and then it received a reprieve when TBS picked it up for another season. I am very excited to see the new season play out (which starts next Tuesday) because I have grown to love these characters.
Of course, I watch way more than 10 shows at a time and there were many other shows that are worth mentioning as being very solid in 2012. I'm not mentioning any of my summer shows, but many of them were pretty great last summer (and/or Fall).
The Big Bang Theory
How I Met Your Mother
Hart of Dixie
Again, it's only my opinion. I welcome yours..