Here’s my second top ten of 2012 - TV shows! Or rather, shows, as TV is not necessary anymore as you will see.
Remember to check out my first top ten of 2012 - comic books!
First of all a disclaimer: I’m a little slow at taking in new shows, so there are a few that I still haven’t watched enough of to include them in a top ten. I especially want to single out Louie and Breaking Bad. I’m still going through both of them and even though I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far it would not be fair to include them in this top ten as I haven’t even watched their 2012 offerings yet.
Second disclaimer: I tried to include mostly shows that aired exclusively in 2012, but a couple of seasons that started in 2011 and ended in 2012 still slipped in.
Honorable mentions (ranked 11 to 20): Husbands, Boardwalk Empire, Glee, Young Justice, 30 Rock, Ultimate Spider-Man, The Mindy Project, New Girl, The Office and The Walking Dead.
10. Submissions Only - with the web being so relevant to all visual arts the token webseries is almost inevitable. I almost went with the delightful Husbands, which is a close number 11, but my love for the theater made it impossible for me not to choose my latest discovery. Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger’s abrasive anti-Smash is a treat for theater geeks and offers many lighthearted, sweet, yet still tongue-in-cheek laughs for general audiences as well. With a budget that would not be enough to cover Uma Thurman’s smoothies this little show that could manages to be better acted, written and more realistic than its fancy cousin.
9. Homeland - the award-winning drama from Showtime is at its second season, and to be honest it would have ranked in my top 3 if not for the last handful of episodes which were oddly written and a major let-down for me. Still, the first half of the season is magnificent television and even when the writing is not at its best Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are still sensational.
8. Archer - this is the madcap entry that just needs to be here for its sheer insanity. This hilariously deadpan clash of pop-art, James Bond and Parker & Stone humor manages to be the funniest thing on TV season after season. Archer and his kinky gang went to space this season. What’s not to love.
7. Girls - the true revelation of the season, Lena Dunham’s Girls is a wonderful mix of hipster humor, melancholy and an abrasive look at a self-involved generation that the writer-actress-director doesn’t deny as her own, with a good dose of self-parody.
6. American Horror Story: Asylum - this season’s premise of American Horror Story is basically the most insane thing on TV since David Lynch killed Laura Palmer. It’s trippy and kitsch - it has everything from aliens to kinky nuns, from Anne Frank to freaking Santa Claus, and it works, it works so well on so many levels. The campy fun is always there, the slight scary factor is nice, the Dario Argento-inspired settings are deliciously decadent eyecandy, but the real surprise? The acting is so good, so intense and so real that the themes of sexual repression and misogyny are actually quite striking and moving. Lange gives the performance of the year, perhaps of her entire career.
5. Downton Abbey - season three of the acclaimed British drama saw many changes, including the passing of beloved characters, and the unexpected development of some characters the audience loved to hate. The show is moving forward, into the modern world of the 1920’s, and it’s doing that in the smartest way possible: showing us that change is possible, but not everyone will be able to recover from it. It’s poignant and real, despite some soapy choices (that I still find quite charming to be honest).
4. Game of Thrones - the second season of this highly successful fantasy series proved that the show can survive and thrive without the moral compass that was Eddard Stark. His presence is always felt, but the shift towards other characters was wise and well done. The Lannisters shone, Daeny is becoming stronger and stronger, and the whole season felt like exciting building up to something majestic and epic. If the prelude was this good I can’t wait to see how the main event plays out.
3. Parks and Recreation - Leslie Knope is moving into a new territory, she’s getting married, and while that was not necessary to her journey, how can you deny that the couple is totally adorable? Plus Leslie meets Joe Biden, Ron is dating Xena, Chris is terribly depressed, April and Ben try to take a road trip, Andy likes to play princess…should I go on? This is classic TV comedy gold that will be remembered alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Cheers.
2. Mad Men - much like Downton Abbey, Mad Men also had a season in which change is coming and it could mean the doom of certain characters completely rooted in their safe little world. Megan came in like a 1970’s-chic cyclone to shake things up, Don seems more unmovable than ever, meanwhile Roger tries LSD, Pete wants to feel young(er) and Peggy is unstoppable and will soon morph into a ruthless businesswoman. The time of sweet little Betty welcoming her husband in their beautiful suburban home is long gone. The impending doom was palpable throughout the season, and offered the most compelling drama of the year, perfectly capturing all the different shades of human behaviour in the face of change.
1. Sherlock - there’s nothing on TV that is smarter, more emotionally compelling and exciting than Sherlock. The amount of detail that goes into the writing is outstanding, and I’m not talking about the intricacies of the cases. What Moffat does with his characters is exquisitely intricate and clever. The episode with Irene Adler will forever remain one of the most genuinely complex TV depictions of sexuality I’ve ever seen, as the writing dissects the three main characters with the same lucidity that Sherlock himself would use to frame a criminal. The utter emotional loneliness and self-imposed cerebral isolation of Sherlock is so wonderfully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch’s poised, yet shadowy, slightly disconnected acting, which finds such perfect opposites in the earthiness of Freeman’s Watson and the frantic, erratic, mentally disordinate and playfully deadly world of Andrew Scott’s Moriarty.