Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Top Ten in TV 2012

Good stuff not in my top ten:

Kelsey Grammer on Boss (STARZ), the whole cast of Modern Family (ABC), the increased importance of the women of The Big Bang Theory (CBS), the guys of New Girl (FOX), the improved Boardwalk Empire (HBO), the funny melancholia of Louie (FX), the intense second season of Homeland (SHO), the costly season finale of Dexter (SHO), the dry satire Veep (HBO), the still-good-after-all-these-years Survivor (CBS), the still-occasionally funny The Office (NBC), Larry Hagman's comeback on Dallas (TNT), Christopher Heyerdahl's twin creeps on True Blood (HBO) and Hell on Wheels (AMC), Jay Pharaoh's Obama on Saturday Night Live (NBC), Jon Stewart's bad impressions on The Daily Show (COM), the psychotic mess known as American Horror Story: Asylum (FX), and the suspenseful, debatable actual Presidential Debates.


10. HATFIELDS & McCOYS (HIST) - Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton brought movie-star heft to this mini-series that documents the famous feud.  Enough crazy stuff happens, it could have been a regular series, if Costner wanted to settle on a project for that long.

9. EPISODES (SHO) - Matt LeBlanc has never been better than playing an exaggerated version of himself on this show-within-a-show.  That's right, folks. Matt LeBlanc.

8. JUSTIFIED (FX) - Timothy Olyphant's Raylen Givens is still the coolest marshal on TV. This third season saw the stakes raised when out-of-town mobster Neal McDonough moved in on Raylen's territory.

7. THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) - This show uses guest stars better than any other.  Everyone from the lawyers played by Michael J. Fox and Martha Plimpton and Brian Dennehy to the judges played by David Paymer and Denis O'Hare and Stephen Root gets moments to shine, and the regular cast gets to dig down with their own work. Only downside this season has been Kalinda's out-of-nowhere husband showing up.

6. MAD MEN (AMC) - As this show gets deeper into the 1960's, we see the culture clashes creeping into Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and we saw the tragic end to Pryce.  There's only two seasons to go, and I'd wager by the end, Don will get hired by Peggy.  Just watch.

5. THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) - This was a good show but not a great show until this year.  The writers have learned the lessons of the first two seasons, killing off the more annoying characters, adding some cool ones, ramping up the actions, and demonstrating how humans still make the best villains.

4. COMMUNITY/PARKS & RECREATION (NBC) - Amazing how far Must-See Thursday has fallen on NBC's schedule, not for lack of quality but certainly for lack of viewers.  Community continues to push boundaries on where a sitcom can go, producing instant classics like the video-game episode, the Glee-club as body snatchers, and the annual paintball war.  Parks & Rec meanwhile is doing the mockumentary format better than anything the Office has done since Steve Carell left.

3. DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS) - It started with the sinking of the Titanic. Season 2 took the Crawleys through World War I.  It's been the quintessential period British upstairs-downstairs melodrama, with a great cast down to the last maid.  Maggie Smith's a hoot as the Dowager Countess, but I'm also a big fan of Lord & Lady Crawley (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern), the perfectionist Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), the troubled Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle)... eh, pretty much everyone.

2. GAME OF THRONES (HBO) - Season 1 introduced the epic, and after killing off some of its main characters (shocking those who don't know the books), Season 2 has allowed the survivors new maneuvers and Plan B's.  Peter Dinklage is now in front of the action as the dwarf Tyrion, using his brain to stay ahead in a world where might makes right.

1. BREAKING BAD (AMC) - This show isn't for everyone, but those who've been on the journey know what I'm talking about.  It started with Bryan Cranston as frustrated chemistry Mr. Walter White, trying to make some extra money cooking meth to make sure his family's provided for once he dies from cancer.  But his cancer got better, and Walt's become addicted to his criminal persona Heisenberg.  Last season seemed impossible to top, with Walt ultimately triumphing over Big Bad Gustavo Fring, who has to be one of the best villains in TV history.  But now Walt himself is the Big Bad, and next year's series finale is sure to be devastating.  One thing I appreciate about this show. It does not glorify its violence.  Each act has repercussions for weeks and months, and no one would watch this show and think taking or cooking meth might be a good idea.

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