Jacob’s 2012 TV Top Ten: Part 2
Lists like this are always difficult to create, and, at best, reflect my feelings on a variety of shows at a specific point in time. They are always imperfect for numerous reasons, but the most difficult to overcome is the abundance of consideration-worthy shows. Like all fans of TV, I struggle with there being too many shows out there to watch everything, so I am only able to honestly contemplate and pick shows that I have seen a decent sampling of for a list like this. At the bottom of this post you will find the list of all shows that I considered while narrowing down the list. This list represents the shows I have watched this year. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have italicized the names of shows that I am not up-to-date on.
5. Louie (FX)
Although not as outstanding as season two as a whole, Louie’s third season gave us some exceptional moments that still have me reflecting on them. This year we were given a Louie much lighter on stand-up, bits and more willing to expand the format that he held on to during the first two seasons. With multi-episode arcs Louis CK showed that he is just as able to conceive a three minute skit as he is a story spanning nearly an hour. It is hard not to love a show that is as capable handling a scene where Louie and guest-star Robin Williams mourn the death of a friend, as it is of a scene where a young boy named Never talks Louie into letting him eat raw meat (and includes the disgusting gastro-intestinal consequences). Not to mention the fact that those two stories occurred in the same episode. The recent-ish announcement that Louis CK requested an extended hiatus for the series from FX gives me great hope for the show’s future. Since the show is such a brainchild of Louie’s it seems like a good omen that he has the foresight to take a step away in order to recharge, and give himself time to birth new ideas. Since the show can be anything he wants it to be it is that much more important for him to have a plethora of available musings to chase down the rabbit-hole that having a cable series affords him.
4. Girls (HBO)
Coming in at number four on my list is the series most likely to make people think I have lost my mind. Girls, the brainchild of 26 year-old writer, director, and actor Lena Dunham, has been one of the most divisive shows in recent memory. Before the series was able to air even an episode the critical consensus on Dunham and her show had swayed from genius to hack and back again several times. As a fan of Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture, I thought that I was going to be a shoe-in to love this show out of the gate, but that was not entirely correct. Although I grew to enjoy, and in the end highly respect, the series, the beginning was shakier than I had originally anticipated. Girls is not your standard comedy. In fact, it has a lot in common with another “comedy” by a writer, director, and actor triple threat: Louie by Louis CK. The tone and insular nature of Girls takes some time to get used to, but once you do it is an extremely interesting show to watch. As many similarities as Girls and Louie share, this is a series with a unique and interesting voice.
3. Parenthood (NBC)
Although I have enjoyed Parenthood over the past several years, it was not until this year that the series became so prominent in my mind. As with the best seasons of showrunner Jason Katims’ other series, Friday Night Lights, this year on Parenthood we get deeply personal stories grounded by characters that we have grown to know and love over the show’s run. This year the catalyst for some of this great storytelling was the decision to give Monica Potter’s character, Kristina, breast cancer, and skew the plots to focus on her and how the Braverman clan as a whole revolves around her in her time of need. Not only has this concept focused much of the show’s plot this year, it has also given several of the actors a chance to deal with some extremely difficult character work. It is easy for mediocre shows to turn storylines like this into bad melodrama, but for this season of Parenthood that has not been a concern worth considering. Clip reels of Monica Potter and Peter Krause this season are not only award worthy, but will remind many fans of tears shed watching Parenthood in 2012.
2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
With Breaking Bad, AMC has solidified their place with the second best series of the year. While I hold to the theory that the unorthodox eight episode half-season order left the writers with a few pacing issues, the show (even if slightly weaker than previous seasons) is almost incapable of anything other than greatness. After the major power shift at the end of the previous season, this year saw a new status quo for the series that continued to evolve as Walt, Jesse, and Mike formed an unlikely and unwanted business relationship. Highlights of the year included a fantastic episode revolving around the setup, execution, and unintended consequences of a train robbery as well as another death of a prominent character.
1. Mad Men (AMC)
AMC is also responsible for the series in my number one spot, Mad Men. For years Mad Men has continued to perform at a level that many shows are unable to reach. The diversity of the show’s genius, coupled with its ability to maintain that level of quality constantly, fascinates me. This season saw a previously minor character come into the spotlight, a prominent death, one of the show’s most beautiful actresses wearing a fat-suit, the death (and possible rebirth) of Don Draper the Ad Man, and many other important shifts in the paradigm of the series. While these changes in tone and plot occurred, the ensemble (many of the best dramatic actors in TV) continued to up their game. The depth of character, tightness of the scripts, and skill of the actors continue to make this a must-watch series for serious TV fans.
Alphas, Animal Practice, Archer, Arrow, Awake, Awkward, Ben & Kate, Boardwalk Empire, Bob’s Burgers, Breaking Bad, Bunheads, Community, Cougar Town, Dexter, Doctor Who, Elementary, Fringe, Game of Thrones, Girls, Go On, Happy Endings, Homeland, How I Met Your Mother, Justified, Key & Peele, Last Resort, Louie, Luck, Mad Men, Modern Family, Nashville, New Girl, Nikita, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, Raising Hope, Real Time with Bill Maher, Revolution, Shameless, Sons of Anarchy, Spartacus, Suburgatory, Suits, Supernatural, Survivor, The Big Bang Theory, The Daily Show, The Good Wife, The League, The Mindy Project, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Treme, Veep, Wilfred.