Reasons We Loved Watching TV in 2012
by IMDb Editors created 28 Nov 2012 | last updated - 03 Dec 2013
Although one of the biggest stories to emerge from fall 2012 was an overall decline in ratings, we were still able to come up with a number of reasons that we loved watching TV in 2012. In fact, we decided that we couldn't limit our choices to just 10 shows -- and we still left a few great selections out. It's important to note that this is not our idea of a definitive Best of the Best list, although many of the series listed here also occupy slots on many Best of 2012 TV lists. Rather, this is a list of shows that we not only loved watching in 2012, but loved encouraging other people to watch. With that, here are a few reasons why we loved TV this year, in no particular order.
Find even more lists and features in the 2012 Year in Review section.
Find even more lists and features in the 2012 Year in Review section.
“ The appearance of the sword-wielding Michonne may have been the source of most of the excitement leading up to the premiere of "The Walking Dead" third season opener, but as of the show's midseason hiatus, the fact is that we don't know much about her. Instead, as 2012 draws to a close, the character that makes our hearts swell three sizes larger is, much to our surprise, Daryl. With Shane gone, Daryl stepped up to become Rick's right-hand man -- first, reluctantly, then out of a sense of obligation and connection to the group. The moment we saw him grinning over the newborn Judith, cuddling the baby and dubbing her "Lil Asskicker," our allegiance to the character became complete.
Now Rick has made it clear that the group needs Daryl to survive -- and many fans don't even want to conceive of a version of "The Walking Dead" without him. (Although, based the midseason finale's harrowing last scene, his untimely exit is a real possibility.)
As a bonus, season three also transformed our opinion of Carl, who made a 180 degree turn from The Most Annoying Child in the Apocalypse to a valuable protector. Conversely, right now we'd have no problem with somebody bathing Andrea in steak sauce and tossing her over Woodbury's wall. ”
Photo by Paul Schiraldi - © Paul Schiraldi Photography 1325 Bradford Avenue Bronx, New YOrk 10461 1 800 969 2336 firstname.lastname@example.org www.paulschiraldi.com
“ A central character in the first season of "Game of Thrones" learned the hard way that the reward for honor and able performance of one's duties is often betrayal and death. In watching his downfall, viewers got their first bitter taste of how harsh the world of Westeros can be.
Further illumination of "Game of Thrones" brutality was afforded throughout season two, building up to the climactic battle for King's Landing. The Game of Thrones: Blackwater (#2.9) episode was a stunning feat of editing and the result of tight, precise direction by Neil Marshall, but the best volleys and explosions weren't in the battle scenes or within the green flames that turned the water beyond the city into an inferno. Rather, it was in the searing barbs delivered behind the castle walls by a sequestered and very drunk Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), delivering harsh truths to her abused ward/hostage Sansa (Sophie Turner) between hearty sips of Arbor Gold. Meanwhile, when her brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, giving us one of television's best performances) rises to the challenge and orchestrates a victory, his reward is...well, a step above the thanks that the previous Hand of the King received. Tyrion's realization of this unjust fate is miserable and inspires a newfound feeling of tenderness towards the dwarf. At it dawns on him just how vulnerable he is, Tyrion is as humbled as he is humiliated. Even those who haven't read the books know that this new development won't serve him well in season three.
Have you marked your calendars for March 31, 2013? The new season's premiere date is a lot closer than you think... and yet, feels so far away. ”
“ After one of his first attempts to sell drugs "Breaking Bad" main character Walter White (Bryan Cranston) does some quick, frantic math to figure out how much money it will take for him to be assured that his children and his wife will be OK without him. It seemed, given the payday of his first deal, like a reasonable amount. Given the violence that accompanied those initial forays into the meth trade, it also made sense to set an end date to his life as a cook.
Of course, in that moment he did not foresee the various setbacks that he and his partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) would endure before his goal was met. Or, for that matter, he did not know that a lot of people would die because of him. Indeed, the Walter White viewers know now has forgotten about those modest goals set way back when, focusing instead on empire building -- even if it means losing everyone close to him.
Trace the evolution of Walter White to this photo, in which his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) shows him the pile of money that meth and murder has built for him -- money she confesses to have stopped counting after a point -- while asking her emotionally distant husband the question of how much is enough. It was a sobering moment of clarity -- and, as we see in the final frame of the midseason finale, one that may have come a bit too late. Summer of 2013 seems like a long time to wait, but we can't watch to see how it all ends for the high school teacher-turned-drug kingpin. It's a safe bet, though, that his last break won't be clean. ”
“ Earlier in "Sons of Anarchy", there was the idea -- a dream, really -- that SAMCRO's heir apparent Jax would realize his late father's original, peaceful dream for the motorcycle club he co-founded. Jax's father envisioned the Sons less as an outlaw biker gang than a band of brothers living outside of system, relying on each other and no one else. But in this case, the unrealized lofty ideals of the father became twisted and corroded in the son, and while Jax claims to keep dreaming of a better life for his children and Tara (Maggie Siff) the woman he loves, his actions to take the throne have left him chest deep in a swamp of blood and dirty deals.
"Sons of Anarchy" has long been one of the most underappreciated dramas on television, largely due to its unflinching presentations of corruption and violence, and the show's the heroic representation of the outlaw biker lifestyle.
But anyone in their right mind who follows "Sons of Anarchy" would not want to be Jax or Gemma or any of the other characters. They are fascinating to watch, though. In 2012 writers and creator Kurt Sutter solidified the drama's frequent comparisons to Hamlet by bringing the long-brewing central tragedy to the fore: the old king, Clay (Ron Perlman), is deposed; his queen, Gemma (Katey Sagal), has abandoned him but is not quite ready to cede her power as the club matriarch.
Whether Jax has the strategic skills or the wisdom to successfully separate from SAMCRO remains to be seen. As things currently stand, he's more tangled in the club's thorny dealings than ever, and when Tara moved to set the family's purported plan to leave SAMCRO's darkness and take the kids with her to a safe new life, Gemma cruelly thwarted that plan.
Even those who aren't fascinated by "Sons of Anarchy's" literary influences can't help but marvel at this season's incredible parade of guest stars, from Ashley Tisdale's turn as a hooker to a jaw-dropping surprise cameo by Walton Goggins, playing a transgender call-girl with ample and eerily realistic cleavage named Venus Van Dam. At some point, "Sons of Anarchy's" ride will come to an end. But as it stands, we're delighted to hang on through every breakneck twist and turn. ”
“ Who doesn't love a good rubbernecking session? That's what "Homeland" viewers have in the show's conflicted congressman/secret terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) and his obsessive, destructive relationship with damaged CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). In the wide and well-populated realm of ill-matched television characters, Carrie and Brody present a new level of dysfunction to the viewer: Danes and Lewis emanate an amazing electricity when they're together, and their love scenes are filled with yearning, even solace. But while there are Brody-Carrie 'shippers out there (we won't question, everybody has to believe in something) this is not a love affair that is destined to end well. In fact, it might actually be contrived as a means to an end for Brody -- although, to be fair, he did kill someone to save her life.
Developments like this make us want to see this bad romance play out. Ah, "Homeland" -- you may have tested our loyalty this season, but thanks to these two, we're not breaking up with you any time soon. ”
“ A few years ago one might have thought it highly unlikely that Sherlock Holmes would not only experience a sharp resurgence in popularity, but become emblematic of the idea that smart is the new sexy. Now, we have not just one incarnation of literature's most famous detective but two, with Jonny Lee Miller taking on the role in CBS's "Elementary" and Benedict Cumberbatch making young ladies swoon as an impossibly analytical, emotionally unavailable yet somehow undeniably seductive Holmes in BBC's "Sherlock".
In the contest of superiority between the two shows, however...well, there is no contest. Yes, "Sherlock" consists of six episodes in total, including the three that aired in 2012.
But in the course of its short run, the show modernized and transformed some of Holmes and Watson's most familiar classic cases into contemporary studies about the nature of obsession and mania, our reliance on technology and the danger of its convenience, and the pitfalls of fame and exposure.
While Cumberbatch gets a great deal of ink devoted to him in conversations about "Sherlock", Martin Freeman's performance provides a warm, grounding contrast to his co-star's cool prickliness. But where the show really crackles is in its modern re-sculpting of Moriarty (Andrew Scott) as an explosive, genius psychopath who can be everywhere and no place in particular at once. It is (was?) a brilliant presentation of Holmes's legendary adversary. Maybe we'll see more of him. Or... maybe we actually haven't even met Moriarty yet.
Yes, the season two finale and its shocking but uncertain climax is the reason viewers are clamoring for new episodes. But the intellectually-stimulating tango between Sherlock and Irene Adler, re-imagined in modern times as a high-priced dominatrix (Lara Pulver) gave us one of the smartest, sexiest, and most entertaining scenes on television this year.
Adler makes it her mission to best Sherlock, a man who collects the data to build his cases by utilizing his superhuman ability to notice small details. When they meet, she foils him at once -- by removing his ability to gather any information on her at first glance. Thus the dance begins.
Our turn with him, meanwhile, is still coming up. A date for "Sherlock's" return has not been set, and in fact, production has been delayed. ”
“ Considering that the hard-to-forget "Mad Men" episode Mad Men: The Other Woman (#5.11) aired about two and a half months before women's rights became a political tetherball in the U.S. elections, its tale of two women struggling to gain power in a male-dominated workplace seems like a hauntingly prescient reminder of how far women have come in a few decades. Those who have followed "Mad Men" probably saw one turn of events coming for miles: Peggy, once Don Draper's faithful protege and patient whipping-girl, finally got fed-up with having her talent sidelined and her ideas co-opted by her male peers. Leaning into her backbone, the once-mousy character decided that Sterling, Draper, Cooper and Pryce could no longer afford her ideas... and walked out the door.
Meanwhile, in an artfully edited sequence, we saw the regal, fearsome Joan increase her stake within the company, gaining actual decision making power. All she had to do was give away her personal power for one night -- and sadly, all of her male partners knew she did it. Peggy and Joan's decisions will affect each of them in remarkably different ways for the rest of the series, no doubt. Thankfully the successful execution of this episode and the others in "Mad Men's" recent season makes us hungry to see how things play out. ”
“ In a year that women probably won't be heralding as a high watermark for the politics of gender, let us not forget that it also marked the rise of a remarkable new creative voice in Lena Dunham creator and star of HBO's "Girls". Yes, the show suffered some very early and ferocious backlash from those who were not ready to embrace a central protagonist who brazenly veered between self-absorption and self-loathing, questioning her confidence and often writhing with the angst that comes with the package of being young, unestablished and broke in one of the most expensive and fabulous cities in the world. Where other TV series with characters like these might have left viewers overwhelmed with annoyance, however, Dunham's portrayal of Hannah, as well as the performances of the supporting ensemble, was impressively nuanced and often had us laughing with her at the absurdity of her life choices. She is not afraid to make Hannah unlikable at times, just as she's fearless about writing her other characters into terrible choices driven by unapologetic selfishness. These details are what made "Girls" feels honest, a new and yet familiar flavor after more than a decade of being served a candy buffet of "Sex and the City" influenced-froth. Yes, that was fun, and when it was good, it was great. But these days, a view of reality -- even as it is played out by the entitled children of the well-off -- feels a lot more satisfying. ”
“ How tough is it to make it big? Is it worth the fight? Louis C.K. answers these questions in a three-episode arc on his FX series "Louie" that managed to mix artistic commentary, a statement of life philosophy and a crash course in showbiz education into a plot that included perfectly utilized guest cameos from Garry Marshall, Chris Rock, Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld. In this triptych, Louie gets the biggest shot of his life: an entertainment bigwig tells him that he's being considered to replace one of late night TV's titans. But the offer isn't sugarcoated. He is quite firmly informed that he is getting the shot because he's cheaper and easier to replace, so if he fails it won't be a big deal to the executive, although it will shatter him. But if he succeeds, they'll both be geniuses.
This sends Louie into an existential crisis, and on a journey. Is he willing to risk flying too high? Is sacrificing time spent with his kids, his craft, his comfortable and relatively anonymous life as he knows it, worth the fame and relative longterm financial security that comes with scoring the gig of a lifetime?
The resulting episodes illustrate how the quest to win Hollywood fame is teeming with strange requirements, lies and deep betrayal. Some sequences played like one of David Lynch's fever dreams --one effective mind-trick involves three different actors playing the same role during one delightfully odd scene -- and in case the viewer didn't get that reference, C.K. featured Lynch himself in a pivotal role, a television personality groomer of sorts named Jack Dall.
In the end, C.K. demonstrates that in life, sometimes attaining the stated goal is not the same thing as winning. But in one of the show's best moments, Dall leaves us with a revealing assessment of the entertainment industry in the form of his Three Rules of Show Business.
"Number One: Look 'em in the eye, and speak from the heart. Number Two: You gotta go away to come back. And Number Three: If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie. You got that? Good luck." ”
“ One great episode is all it takes for a veteran TV series to convert a non-believer -- one solidly constructed, brilliantly executed episode that illuminates everything that makes it extraordinary. Every ardent TV viewer has such a chapter in his or her back pocket, ready to share with anyone who questions whether the show they adore is worth watching.
In the realm of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Libertus (#2.5) is that hour. Action heavy, filthy, oozing with slo-mo CG-animated blood spurts and gore, fairly explicit soft-core sex, and nudity, this chapter of "Spartacus" has everything that makes the non-believer roll his eyes at the slightest implication that this show might actually be good.
Dedicated fans also enjoy the drama's sharp and poetic dialogue, multi-layered political machinations and scheming, and of course, those brutally acrobatic fight sequences.
Libertus brings "Spartacus: Vengeance," and its prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena", together at last, in one gruesome nail-biter of a gladiator bout, one fans likely figured was coming since the prequel's end: a face-off between Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) and Gannicus (Dustin Clare).
The two characters have an agonizing back story, but each earned our sympathy along the way. Which made the stakes of this episode's central battle so much higher. In order for one beloved character emerge as the victor, any fan that is emotionally tied to this franchise would lose.
A newcomer might not understand all of the subplots at play here, but that's the point -- you will want to see more episodes in order to understand all of the implications of what happened. And isn't that what a great slice of television should do? ”
“ In spite of the liberal application of the word "optimism" in our recent election cycle, it seemed to be in shockingly short supply among regular people. But what is TV for, if not lovely escapism?
Enter "Parks and Recreation" and Knope 2012, Leslie Knope's campaign for a seat on city council. Leslie's campaign, which dominated the second half of the fourth season, led viewers through a wide spectrum of emotions, heavily ladling on the show's sweet absurdity and easy laughs through each development. Though nearly defeated by idiot candy company scion Bobby Newport (marvelously played by Paul Rudd), Leslie's unsinkable idealism, even through a tense recount, was a welcome contrast to the sniping and mud-slinging at play in the real election. We'd vote for Knope any day. ”
“ We're not sure how it happened. But at some point in 2012 people who probably would not have found Portland on a map a couple of years ago were suddenly head-over-heels in love with the city. Or, we should say, the absurdist idea of Portland, Ore., as presented through the "Portlandia" prism. It's a place where feminist bookstores so militant that they defy you to make a purchase can exist, where hipsters can embrace the values and practices of the 1890s (one of the funniest rehashes of the show's first original songs) and where, as we saw in one hilarious episode, people can force a stranger who happens to be named Ronald Moore (but who isn't the Ronald D. Moore) to write more (creatively bankrupt, poorly plotted) episodes of "Battlestar Galactica". Fortunately, "Portlandia" fans won't have to resort to such desperation. The third season kicks off on January 4, 2013 on IFC. ”
“ At this point you may be wondering why "Smash" has been included on a Year End List -- "Smash," that NBC show that critics acclaimed to the heavens before its premiere, only to viciously turn on it a few episodes later. "Smash," the drama that represents not just unrealized greatness, but is an example of what happens when producers take a great idea and an extraordinarily talented cast and subsume it in a tarpit of mediocre writing and ridiculous storylines.
"Smash", friends, is TV's Hate-Watching mascot. Its presence here serves to remind you that this is not a typical "Best Of" list. However, it is a big reason that people watched TV this year, in that it provided viewers the opportunity to experience the catharsis of hating on something. Thus, the rise of Hate-Watching.
Hate-Watching is the conscious act of faithfully viewing and electronically heckling a show that was born with all the signs of promise and ambition fail ever more ambitiously week after week. In spite of what the term implies, it is actually something of a compliment to the series being Hate-Watched, because only programs that display a sizable amount of artistic merit, creative spark and signs of intelligence are worth Hate-Watching. In essence, it is the acknowledgment that the show in question is actually a great show buried under the stifling hides of clumsy execution and terrible plot-mapping.
Hate-Watching is not the same as the loveless marriage contract some viewers have with their favorite shows; that implies that said show had enough of a track record of being reliably entertaining for a significant amount of time for the viewer to agree to ride out any creative slumps and see how its story concludes. Loveless TV marriages are reserved for shows like "Battlestar Galactica", "Lost", and "Gossip Girl".
It also differs from the idea of a guilty pleasure, which are shows that most people agree have little to no redeeming value other than allowing one to turn off one's brain activity for a little while. (See: "The Bachelor", or the Joey Greco-era of "Cheaters".)
While one could argue that Hate-Watching pre-dates 2012, never before has it enjoyed such prominence. This is in large part due to the activity's support in social media and blogs, and due to the debut of two highly Hate-Watchable shows: the aforementioned "Smash" and HBO's "The Newsroom", which was simultaneously thought-provoking and drowning in Aaron Sorkin's singular brand of bombastic sermonizing.
Other popular targets for Hate-Watching are "The Killing", "Californication", and any Ryan Murphy series that is not "American Horror Story". ”
“ Runners Up: Although this list was longer than ten entries, I had to stop somewhere. That said, let's not close out 2012 without praising the one-two punch of Martha Plimpton and Michael J. Fox, who teamed up to ruffle Alicia's feathers on "The Good Wife". We also continue to love just about everything about "Community", particularly its ode to Dick Wolf. "The Big Bang Theory" remains one of our favorite shows to watch week after week, and we still find "Justified" to be one of the most fascinating, consistently well-written and acted series on television.
We're also still huge fans of "Archer", "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "Happy Endings" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23". We are still great fans of "Fringe", and will be sorry to see it go.
As for new series, "Revolution", "Arrow", "Nashville" and "Go On" all have our attention. Last but not least, we're still watching "Revenge"... although here's hoping the action in Hamptons picks up a little in 2013. ”