Day three of the Best Of lists is upon us, bringing about our thoughts on the best and worst of what TV brought us this past year. Some shows returned stronger than ever, others stumbled slightly, all the while new shows fought the ratings to deserve respectable seasons. Through it all, the one thing that remained clear was that sitting in front of your TV screen was an acceptable excuse for spending a night in.
Show(s) Of The Year: The Daily Show and Colbert Report – If ANYTHING is true about Comedy Central’s two political comedy shows, election years brings out the absolute best in both shows. The Daily Show‘s cast and writers really showed the absurdity of all the conventions, while Colbert‘s “Countdown To Acceptance” to the inevitable Mitt Romney nomination was a serious delight, as Colbert looked to any other option – including himself – to stop this from happening. And then election night came along, and although they both knew who won before the shows ended, the two had some of the best political satire I’ve heard in the past four years. Let’s hope for another strong four from both of them – even without Wyatt Cynac as one of the trusted (and my favorite) talking heads.
Favorite Season: Community Season 3 – As I “patiently” wait for Season 4 to start next year, I can always go back and watch in amazement at the evolution of the seven study partners as they continue to grow at Greendale Community College. There was no paintball this year, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get more awesomeness from the group. From the Dreamatorium, to the Glee Club, to Law And Order, the study group had some of it’s best adventures throughout their latest season. Though it is a little bit cartoony, it doesn’t hinder from the funny… regardless of what Chevy Chase thinks.
Favorite Line From The Season: Troy Barnes, injected with Truth Serum – “I…saw Abed’s name in the hospital school files, I love butt stuff, I hate spiders, I stole a pen from the bank, I cried during About A Boy…the soundtrack, I don’t wash my hands before a surgery, I can see why women find Clive Owen attractive to the point why I might as well be attracted to him, I use comparisons to Hitler on the Internet at the drop of the hat, I know nothing about wine, I’m more turned on by women in pajamas than lingerie – I just want to know that they’re comfortable……I didn’t get Inception…..I DIDN’T GET INCEPTION!!!”
Favorite Character: Schmidt from New Girl – Although I connect more to the curmudgeon Nick Miller on Fox’s hit comedy New Girl, I enjoy watching everyone’s favorite douchebag, Schmidt. Whether it be his ridiculous antics which lands his wallet into the “Douchebag Jar,” or breaking his penis when trying to make his love interest Cece jealous, his off the wall (“PARKOUR”) actions and dialogue make him an almost irresistible comedic force. Add actor Max Greenfield’s talents with his suite-mates Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris and you’ve got the makings of a fantastic comedic ensemble.
Worst Cliffhanger (Which Means Best Cliffhanger): Breaking Bad “On The Toilet” – [*SPOILER*] Everything was fine. The children were back, Walter White had quit, and the family life looked backed to normal. Then Hank had to go to the bathroom, and all of the walls that Walter had built around him and his enterprise are now gone. What’s worse is that we all have to wait another year to know what happens next. DAMN YOU, AMC!!!
Best New Show: Ben and Kate – Following New Girl‘s premiere last year, FOX had a lot of expectations to live up to in the comedy department. Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project is pretty good, but I’d say the best accompaniment to New Girl would have to be Ben and Kate with its highly original characters and familial dynamic that includes a brother (Nat Faxon) who has yet to grow up and a sister (Dakota Johnson) who was forced to when she became a teen mom, though she never really grew out of her awkward phase. The supporting cast doesn’t really need more than each sibling’s best friends: Ben’s best friend Tommy (Echo Kellum) has a soul mate type relationship with Ben and continues to pine openly after Kate even though she is no longer in her hotter fat phase, all the while Kate’s best friend BJ (Lucy Punch) constantly says whatever she feels like; more often than not inappropriate, always entertaining.
Honorable mention: The Legend of Korra for bringing back the feel of Nickelodeon’s inspired, original show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Time has passed and new issues have arisen (a lot of benders vs. normal people animosity in this time period), but it is still the same “magical” world that Aang fought to save years ago.
Best New Show (That Isn’t Really A New Show): American Horror Story: Asylum – This season isn’t over yet, but this show deserves mentioning for how they handled the seemingly impossible task of following up the first season that ended with a firm conclusion for The Murder House. The “second” season brings us a new location of an insane asylum in which all “crazy” claims might have actual truths to them as we deal with alien abductions, a Nazi war criminal, Anne Frank, monsters in the woods, demonic possession, a serial killer, and my favorite episode yet centered on the Angel of Death. Should be interesting to see how this story concludes; your guess is as good as mine.
Biggest New Show Surprise: 666 Park Avenue – Even with my love of the genre (seriously, just look at the list I’ve compiled), even I wasn’t really that excited for this show. Heck, the only reason I watched the premiere was because I didn’t have anything else to watch. With a story surrounding a couple unaware of the horrors within the building they took up residence in recently, it actually had an interesting story that kept me coming back to see what else would peel itself from the walls to haunt the occupants, sometimes in response to their own failings within the deals they’ve made with the devil. Unfortunately not everyone must have felt the same way I did because it was cancelled at around the half season mark.
Worst New Show: Beauty and the Beast – I will always have a spot in my heart for Lana Lang (actress Kristin Kreuk), and the crime solving side of Beauty and the Beast convinced me to tune in for the first few weeks, but eventually I couldn’t stop gagging on the antagonistic romance forcing itself between the two leads.
Most Questionable Follow Up Season To A Best New Show: Teen WolfSeason 2 – Where the heck did that kanima come from? This lizard creature had an interesting mythology and led to a lot of speculation about who and what it was, but in the end it added just as much unanswered confusion as it did intrigue. Maybe sticking to one mythological creature would have been wiser. Plus the love story between Scott and Allison was severely lacking this year in comparison to season 1. Bring my guilty pleasure back to its former glory!
Best Season Finale: The Vampire Diaries 3.22 “The Departed” – Talk about a dramatic finale. [Spoilers] As Elena finally makes her choice between Damon and Stefan, Damon spends the moments following her decision watching his best friend die (and knowing that Elena’s words about knowing Stefan first were in fact a lie, but he’d wiped the memory from her mind). Alaric may have been a psychotic vampire hunter in the end as the true man was lost deep inside, but it was still sad to see him go since we had just gotten him back from death shortly before. Not only that, but his death also signals the realization to Damon and Jeremy that Elena has also died. Her moments drowning were hard enough to watch, especially with the inter-cut flashbacks of when she was under this bridge the night her parents died, but before we got too deep into our tears she comes back to life as a vampire. Twilight should have taken notes (yes I do know that Bella’s turn was written first).
Best Season Finale Cliffhanger: Game of Thrones 2.10 “Valar Morghulis” – [Spoilers] Definitely looks like it’s time to change the tense from past to present in “Winter is coming,” because a poo ton of White Walkers are bringing it with them!
Worst Season Finale Cliffhanger: True Blood 5.12 “Save Yourself” – [Spoilers] As True Blood continues to reach for more material as it branches out further and further from the books, the one thing that I am sad to say is that it’s starting to show its age. Within the hate crime and religious storylines of this past season, the character who has taken the biggest dive off a cliff is Bill, who has completely lost himself to this new belief system that he has put himself at the top of. I was actually happy to see him melt into a pool of blood (even if it was poorly done), but then he rose back from the puddle and I was sad. I never thought I would see myself write this, but I was actually more glad to see Tara come back from the grave than to see Bill rise again.
Worst (And I Mean Worst) (Mid)season Finale Cliffhanger: Revolution 1.10 “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – [Spoilers] A lot of shows don’t necessarily view the episode before the winter break as a midseason finale so much as the opportunity for a Christmas episode, but some shows live by the go big or go home at this split. Take The Walking Dead‘s midseason finale of season 2 in which [extra spoiler warning since this is for a different show] they finally find Sophia zombified in the barn after spending the previous episodes of the season trying to find her. Talk about a doozy. And then there is episode 10 of the premiere season of Revolution, in which the characters we’ve been following stare down a helicopter’s mounted turret as it begins to spin. Then it goes to black. WHAT!? That’s not a finale! That’s a “we now interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast” type break. Boo, I say, to that. BOO!
I don’t watch every show like I watch every movie, but there has been some pretty solid television to watch this past year. Downton Abbey regained its strength after a strained second season with possibly its best season yet with Season 3 (coming to PBS in January). Parenthood continues to be the most under appreciated hour on television and is really going for it with its currently airing season. 30 Rock is sprinting towards its finale with some of its best episodes in years and making it look easy. The League continues to be one of the dirtiest, and best, comedies on television. New Girl has found its footing and is only getting stronger in Season 2. The Walking Dead has never been better than it has this year and I am intrigued to see where this third season goes next year. And finally, Bunheads was a fun and easy distraction among a lot of heavier material out there.
But enough with all the honorable mentions, lets get to the best shows of the year. Below I have pulled out the best episode of each season to highlight the greatness of the series, so without further ado…
Best Episodes of Television This Year:
Breaking Bad: “Dead Freight” – Possibly the best heist ever put on television (right up there with the coup of Sterling Cooper), this train robbery was an amazing set piece for any medium and had tension, thrills and laughs that had you cheering; until that final shot of the episode that changes everything.
Community: “Digital Estate Planning” – This homage to video games throws our heroes into an 8-Bit world and has a ball playing with all the conventions video games have to offer. Hilarious, creative and beautifully animated, but the thing I will take away from all this is Jeff’s Mega Man jump.
Game of Thrones: “Blackwater” – GOT showed its epicness potential with the attempted siege on King’s Landing, and Tyrion Lannister shows his true cunning as he successfully defends the city with both brains and brawn. The action was great and it showed the show can stay with one story and be just as compelling.
Girls: “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident” – Lena Dunham’s fantastic comedy went from good to great with this episode. Opening the world of Girls well beyond our core four ladies while expanding the characters to depths that will only grow, this show helped cement Girls as one of my favorite shows of the year.
Louie: “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” – Louie’s third season didn’t stack up against the previous two as a whole, but this was easily the best episode of his show to date, and probably the best episode of television this year. The episode is only made more beautiful by the tragic return of Liz in the season finale.
Mad Men: “The Other Woman” – From Joan’s sacrifice for the company to Peggy’s final straw, this episode had two of the best moments from the season along with a wonderful final grace note for Lane before his downfall. A real showcase for two of the best actresses on television.
Parks & Recreation: “The Debate” – Amy Poehler wrote and directed this episode and it is understandable as the episode was a wonderful display of the full potential of Parks & Rec and Leslie Knope. Hilarious, heartfelt and emotional, the episode also gets some amazing work out of Paul Rudd as the dimwitted Bobby Newport.
Sherlock: “The Reichenbach Fall” – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reach the apex for the show so far with the Series 2 finale, and you will find yourself never more grateful for the 90 minute format after watching Moriarty take Sherlock to the brink. Can’t wait to see how they explain the cliffhanger next year.
See something missing from our list, or disagree with some of our choices? Be sure to share what you thought of 2012’s TV seasons in the comment section below!