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Jan 1, 13 at 2:03pm ^Best & Worst TV of 2012
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Evolution is an important part of TV. We'll always like to see the familiar laugh tracks and dramatic beats, but nothing blows our minds like something completely new and unexpected. Even three years in, Louie offers this on a week-by-week basis. Some of the half-hour entries of this comedy/drama stand alone like very short films. Then Louie rewards his viewers by including surprise continuity. Louie's darkest moments maybe keep it an acquired taste as far as comedies go, but its best moments are transcendent. Capping the season with an arc where Louie pursued a job as David Letterman's successor, creator/writer/director/star Louis C.K. raised the bar to an incredible new height. Season four, scheduled for early 2014, can't come soon enough.
Heading into the late 60s, I'm of the opinion that Mad Men is as strong as ever. There were several series classic episodes this year, allowing moments for the whole ensemble to shine ("Signal 30," "The Other Woman" "Tea Leaves") and one directorial standout ("Far Away Places"). The silent cool of Don Draper has never been more fascinating, with a season-ending question that asks viewers to examine the limits of happiness.
Does the secret to a good season lie in a certain number of episodes? Or particular magic in the writers room? Or a network, or an excellent team of animators and voice actors? Whatever the key is, Archer has it, delivering its strongest season yet. Archer went everywhere I wanted it to go this season (and more). Keeping with its theme of ambiguously retro cool, Archer went to a pirate island, the top of a train, a talking car, and a space station. As far as nurturing creative, original freedom goes, FX is outshining everyone else in the game.
Game of Thrones
This season had a lot to live up to following an incredible 2011 for all things Game of Thrones. Much like the novel series' second volume, it's all about the build up to a certain battle, which was instantly received as one of the best episodes of the year. Though the world already feels impossibly heavy with its huge cast of characters, the producers and cast are pulling it off, with special thanks to the performances of Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey and Jack Gleeson.
For a show that was barely on in 2012, this little comedy certainly made it count, with outgoing producer Dan Harmon pulling out all the stops for a would-be finale. The final stretch of the third (and not final) season included an 8-bit videogame adventure, a law & order spoof, a clip show of unseen events, and plenty more surprises. While it's not the most perfect or even most hilarious comedy on TV, Community reaches for everything, and when it succeeds it's excellent.
The Good Wife
Perpetually under the radar for the crowds that don't gravitate toward CBS legal shows, this little show has been steadily winning for a good three years now. One of its best tricks is getting guest stars to return periodically, giving the feel of an enormous world and countless continuous arcs. TGW is also one of the only shows to regularly include stories about technology (this fall's premiere centered around the lead family's eldest son taping a harassing cop). Though sometimes touching on soap and ridiculousness, The Good Wife is one of the more interesting shows I watch year round.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
There's not much else to say about Always Sunny season eight other than it was really good. An unusually short ten episodes, all of them ranging from good to great. The season started with self-awareness of its re-using earlier stories, and somehow had room for a zombie-esque episode and an mmorpg adventure. True to the principles of the sitcom, old characters and storylines made appearances, but Always Sunny is definitely bucking the trend of later season decline.
With some killer episodes in the early months of 2012, this young comedy is hitting a pretty good stride in its second year on the air. Rapid-fire jokes and a charismatic cast are to credit, weaving through sometimes similar sitcom beats and ascending them with hilariousness. It's been funny enough that I've dropped other 2010s-era-Friends type comedies out of pure satisfaction.
Also good: Parks and Recreation, Breaking Bad, New Girl, Battleground, Awake
The New Normal
To its credit, I actually made it through the entire pilot. There was no show that turned me away so quickly this year, whether it was the racist-old-lady jokes ("when they opened that Chipotle here, I was the first of my friends to go") or the shrill gay stereotypes. There are some talented people somewhere amidst this enterprise, but none of it is showing through in the show.
The idea of a Marilyn Monroe musical (centered-drama) was something NBC threw countless millions at this past spring. With a solid pilot, boasting superbowl viewers and decent reviews, it had plenty on its side. As the weeks went on there were just as many slip-ups in the writing as there were in the characters' production.
I really wanted this one to succeed because the concept of all power going out is such an intriguing premise. It's turned into more of family-based drama (with one really bad teen actress) and not enough weekly traction on the mythology to hold my interest. Ratings are strong and it's taken a long hiatus, so it may yet grow into its shoes, though at this point much of my faith is dead.
Best at Self-Reinvention: Tie - The Walking Dead/Dexter
Last year, both of these shows were on my worst list with seasons that spun wheels and drove me fuming away from the screen. I checked in for both of their premieres this fall, and was surprised to see what appeared to be a creative turnaround. The Walking Dead was finally the show we knew it could always be, the grimness of the prison setting cutting through a lot of the bullshit that took place on the farm last year. New characters and the introduction of the show's main antagonist worked heavily in its favor, making for eight episodes that were grisly, dark, and exciting, even despite Lori and Andrea. Dexter's path was different. The premiere started with what looked like a mad escape dash to the airport, and ended with a reveal that put the endgame in place. While the whole season drew out the central character's gradual fall more than I would have liked, it included some of the best guest actors ever on the show in Ray Stevenson's compelling mobster Isaak and Yvonne Strahovski's deadly love interest Hannah.
Best Newcomer: Veep
More than a few comedies got off the ground this year, but I think Veep did more in eight episodes than most comedies manage. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is back to TV in a big way as the clumsy but cunning American vice president, leading herself and a small staff through an endless line of screwups. Perhaps comedies are just more fun when they air on HBO.
Worst at Being Inoffensive/Neutral: Girls
Chances are if you don't have a strong opinion on this, you know three people who do. Girls was hated/loved by TV critics, fans, feminists, ladies, dudes and your parents. The show centers around four women in their young 20s in New York, with a comedy/drama feel distinctly like supporting producer Judd Apatow's other credits. HBO announced that it's the most watched program on subscriber streaming service HBO GO to date, and is sure to make just as many waves with season two.
Most Attention-Seeking: Homeland
If you've sort of sat out of this whole Homeland thing, not sure whether to engage or what to make of it all, you've practically been left in the dust. As much credit as Breaking Bad gets for being adrenaline-heavy, that show at least has normal pacing. This season blew through the concept of the spoiler alert, bringing counterterrorism twist after twist until the very last second. Homeland took some story advancements that have to be seen to be believed. Years from now we may re-watch the classic season one and pretend it all ended there, but for now it's fascinating to be along for the ride.
The didn't-get-around-to list: Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family
Same as last year, except different sort of. Have at it, folks.
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Jan 1, 13 at 2:43pm ^re: Best & Worst TV of 2012
Louie Louie Louie Loahhhh
Jan 1, 13 at 4:10pm ^re: Best & Worst TV of 2012
I've been meaning for awhile to watch Community. I hear nothing but good things about it.
Jan 1, 13 at 4:41pm ^re: Best & Worst TV of 2012
You should check it out. Community definitely doesn't start off very strong, but it finds its stride around the Halloween episode and completely knocks it out of the park with the paintball episode near the end of the first season.
As for my favourites of 2012, I'm going with Homeland, Community, Happy Endings and Go On (I'm a big fan of CK but I'm way behind on Louie). Archer, Young Justice, Green Lantern and Legend of Korra top my list for animated shows.
I don't have any picks for worst of 2012, because when I dislike a show, I tend to just drop it and forget about it. But if we're counting reality shows,...
Great reminder of why I barely watch TUF unless there's a coach I like. This show is a great magnet for generation douche.
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Jan 2, 13 at 7:37am ^re: Best & Worst TV of 2012
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