I was planning on saving this list to last to allow me to finish watching Homeland before the year’s end, but this hasn’t worked out as planned. Given how much I’m enjoying Season 1, expect that it would make the cut here, but for now these were the 10 shows I enjoyed the most in 2012. (Minor Spoilers ahead, though I’ve tried to avoid specifics where I can)
10) Fairly Legal – Season 2
In prep for writing this article I was gutted to find out that The USA Network has cancelled this lovable legal drama. Sarah Shahi is a likeable lead as Kate Reed, always attempting to do the ‘right’ thing, even if it means disappointing her ex husband and assistant district attorney Justin Patrick (played by Michael Trucco aka Sam from BSG). It’s an easy show to enjoy, never crossing the line into serious legal drama, and never going to full out comedy. I expected to be seeing Fairly Legal again next year, but sadly it joins some of my other favourites in the forgotten history of TV.
9) Game of Thrones – Season 2
I had put off watching Game of Thrones despite hearing brilliant things about it, thinking that what is essentially Lord of The Rings the TV Show wouldn’t be for me. Throughout Season 1 I didn’t really get what the fuss was about, in fact it wasn’t until the dramatic closing episodes that I genuinely enjoyed the show. Season 2 was better in just about every respect. The fight scenes were abundant, the final battle episode being the closest thing to LOTR’s Helms Deep I’ve seen on television, while the seedier aspects of these characters was ramped up too. There’s plenty to love on Game Of Thrones, most definitely the most expensive looking show on TV.
8) Community – Season 3
There’s lots of ‘new’ entries on my list this year, I was busy playing catch up with a lot of classics.Community is one of these, I ended up watching all 3 seasons in a matter of days. I fell in love with the cast and constant references to pop culture. The format allows it to never feels like its repeating itself. The episodes that aired in 2012 may not have been the best of the bunch, few match classic episodes like Remedial Chaos Theory or the Season 2 Paintball double parter A Fistful of Paintballs, but they were still pretty great. Highlights included Civil War documentary parody Pillows and Blankets and the episode which saw all the characters find themselves inside an 8-bit style videogame.
7) The Walking Dead – Season 2/Season 3
It finds itself lower on my list than last year, but The Walking Dead in 2012 was a thousand times better than it was in 2011. The second half of Season 2 saw Shane fly so far off the rails he met his match with Rick one last time, whilst the Prison setting for Season 3 has taken the series even darker than ever before. Considering we still have half a season to go, so much has happened already. The death of some major characters, in addition to The Governor slowly becoming the best villain the show has seen made 2012 a landmark year for The Walking Dead. Oh and there were actually some Zombies involved this time too, a lot of Zombies.
6) Modern Family – Season 3/Season 4
Modern Family found itself at number 1 last year and despite the drop this year my opinion of the comedy show is still very high. Now 4 seasons in, the show is yet to lose steam like so many comedies do by this point. These are characters that I’ve spent the last 3 years with and 2012 saw some big changes in the Dunphy/Mitchell households. Probably the most emotional the show has been, seeing Cam and Mitch’s new baby adoption fall through was a sad end to Season 3. The moment of the year for me though was in Schooled, which saw Hayley leaving home for college. I did shed a few tears at the moment when she phoned her parents after finding it hard to settle in, Phil and Claire breaking my heart with their own tears as they drove home, the Phil’sosophy summing up all the reasons why I fell in love with this Modern Family in the first place.
5) American Horror Story: Asylum
The newest addition to my list, I literally watched this last week, American Horror Story takes a unique approach to its seasons. Each year sees a completely new story, with most of the cast remaining but in new roles. This should allow for a more rounded television experience, though as the disappointing finale to season 1 showed this may not always be the case. Asylum was an even slower burn, the scares were more horror than the tension seen in Murder House, but a few episodes in everything blew up into a frenzy of madness, mutilation and murder. Jessica Lange as Sister Jude is even better than she was last year, the centrepiece of one of the best ensemble casts in TV. With 4 episodes still to come in January things there’s still plenty that can happen, but so far Asylum has been one hell of a ride.
4) Happy Endings – Season 2/ Season 3
I went into watching Happy Endings for the first time with no preconceptions of what the show was. I had heard good things and gave it a try on a whim. 3 days and 2 seasons later I had a new favourite comedy show. It’s not ‘technically’ as brilliant as Modern Family, but the blend of everything I loved from Will & Grace and the reason Friends works so well makes for the show that keeps me laughing longer and harder than anything else. Penny, Max, Alex, Jane, Brad and Dave have become my new friends, every single one of them essential to the overall dynamic. 2012 has been a brilliant year too, standout episodes including one where all the characters share sex dreams about Dave, which was followed by one where the Kerkovitch sisters hatch an elaborate cover up when Alex realises she actually has. Boys II Menorah was another personal favourite, the title alone summing up the humour that I enjoy perfectly. Some of my fondest 2012 TV memories were with Happy Endings.
3) Breaking Bad – Season 5
There have only been 3 shows on this list that I watched before 2012, and Breaking Bad is by far the best that I hadn’t. Going through the first 4 seasons of ‘The Best Show On TV’ in such a short period of time was exhausting, it’s just a bit dramatic. One of the things I loved watching this way was how seamless everything is, there’s literally seconds between each season, gaps in time never being longer than a week or two. It means that the last 5 years of TV have taken place in a matter of months which gives every plot turn this driving force forward. Season 5 has taken Walter and Jesse to the darkest depths of their morality, Walter in particular going even further past the line he crossed in the Season 4 finale. The supporting characters have excelled in 2012, Anna Gunn in particular amazing me with her mostly silent depiction of Skylar this year. If Breaking Bad is a show about doing just that, we are edging closer and closer to the day when ‘breaking’ doesn’t even describe how far Walt has gone. With the final 8 episodes in 2013, if they can retain the standard seen this year, I will have no qualms in calling Breaking Bad the best TV show I have ever had the privilege of watching.
2) Dexter – Season 7
The fact I have placed Dexter above Breaking Bad in this list makes me so happy, as going into Season 7 I thought it was an impossible task. It has been my favourite show since I first saw it and despite enjoying Season 5 and 6, they felt like they were helped greatly by coming off the back of the incredible Trinity Killer in Season 4. That was 3 years ago now though, so the show had to evolve again or in Season 7’s case go back even further in time to kick off a 2 year conclusion for our Serial Killer. The emphasis for Dex this year wasn’t on killing, but conversation. We’ve only ever seen Dexter this candid about his ‘extra curricular activities’ when faced with a body on his table, never face to face with the people closest to him. These scenes of dialogue were held together by the best performances we’ve seen from Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter yet. For a huge fan of the show, the scene where the blood slides are discovered and the conversation that followed was a monumental moment, I’ve been waiting 7 seasons for the inevitable events seen here. Dexter was back to his best in 2012, setting everything up for an incredible final season.
1) Mad Men – Season 5
I said before that Breaking Bad was my favourite ‘new’ show of the year, but Mad Men is definitely a close second. It find itself on top of my 2012 list for putting together its strongest season yet, with episode after episode of daring, provocative and thrilling television. There’s an air of class to everything that the Mad Men creators do, no matter how seedy or comedic it may be. They are the experts at creating a time and a place, setting the mood right perfectly to allow these now familiar characters unravel in front of you. Season 5 had too many incredible moments to name, Megan’s rendition of ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’ in the opening showing that this season was set to be the most unexpected yet. It’s the acting performances that made Mad Men for me this year though, Jared Harris’ tragic portrayal of Lane Pryce being especially gut wrenching. The moment and performance that sticks out for me though is the trio of Hamm, Moss and Hendricks in The Other Woman, by far my favourite episode of TV in 2012. It’s an episode that affected me like I could never have imagined, tugging on my feelings about sexism, acceptance and independence especially with it’s bait and switch twist. Don’s slogan of ‘Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own.’ captures the essence of what Mad Men is set out to achieve. You are meant to feel saddened by the way to get ahead in the world of advertising, the show knows this, its glimpses towards a brighter future, especially prevalent in Peggy leaving traces in each of the characters and your own thoughts. In 2012 there was nothing quite like Mad Men, but I have a feeling there never will be.