Allison’s 2012 Year in TV Review Including the Best Shows, Biggest Comebacks, Disappointments and Question Marks and the Year’s Most Divisive Show

     December 29, 2012


The last twelve months have been great for TV, with some decidedly memorable moments.  We’re still firmly entrenched in this Second Golden Age of Television … if you discount 90% of what’s out there (looking at you, reality television!).  There were some great hits, some surprising flops and a few heartening comebacks.  After the jump you’ll find some of my picks for the best, worst, most confusing and also the most underrated of the year (spoiler-free!).  It’s not meant to be exhaustive or definitive, but contains a few memories and considerations from 2012.  And though I do watch an ungodly amount of TV, there’s plenty I’m not caught up on, so let me know what I’ve missed. Hit the jump to check it out.

breaking-bad-say-my-name-paul-cranston-banksBest Overall Series: Breaking Bad (AMC)

Honorable Mention: Mad Men (AMC)

After a year when so many other hyped series dropped the ball, Breaking Bad continued to shine as one of the most consistently excellent shows on TV.  I don’t believe anyone has ever said of it “yeah, last season was better,” which is telling.  The show escalates every year to new heights of drama, style and acting.  As for Mad Men, it had a strange year but a bold one — it took risks, and they mostly paid off (except for Matthew Weiner‘s obsession with Jessica Paré).

Best New Comedy: Veep (HBO)

Honorable Mention: Don’t Trust the B– in Apt 23 (ABC)

I’m going to go ahead and assume the Cheese Stands Alone on this one, but Veep‘s subtly-portrayed truths and perception wrapped up in fantastic acting and terribly cringe-worthy moments made it one of the best of the year.  And if you’re rolling your eyes at The B–, then it’s because you’re not watching it.  It is home to some of the best comedy writing out there, elevated by a surprisingly hilarious James Van Der Beek (who knew Crying Dawson had it in him?)

Biggest Returning Disappointment: True Blood (HBO)

Honorable Mention: Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

One word for True Blood: Billith.  To be fair, this season of True Blood wasn’t as bad as the one prior, but that bar wasn’t set particularly high.  This year looked at first like it was headed back to campy fun instead of just dirge, but life is full of disappointment.  Boardwalk Empire though was a major head-shaker.  Though the finale (and existence of Richard Harrow) made up for most of its obvious narrative wandering, here’s hoping it sorts itself out a clearer, more engaging path for its next season, because it’s one of the most stylish and best acted dramas on TV.

Biggest New Drama Dud: Revolution (NBC)

Honorable Mention: 666 Park Ave (ABC)

There were plenty of duds this year, and most of them are now cancelled (except for The Neighbors, though that should have its own category of “Dear God what have we done to deserve this?”).  But Revolution seemed particularly promising, and then almost immediately showed why it wasn’t worth watching.  Shame.  And 666 Park Ave?  Again: potential, but poorly executed.  The less said the better.

walking-dead-danai-gurira-6Best Comeback: The Walking Dead (AMC)

Honorable Mention: 30 Rock (NBC), It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

After an exceedingly questionable second season, The Walking Dead returned this year with a bang, restoring viewer faith in it and AMC in general (which was soon wiped away with the departure of showrunner Glen Mazzara).  More quietly, long-running comedies 30 Rock and It’s Always Sunny returned after a few slow seasons with renewed vigor, better jokes, and a fresh sense of self.

Biggest Question Mark: Homeland (Showtime)

Honorable Mention: Game of Thrones (HBO), Sons of Anarchy (FX)

What happened to you, Homeland?  The series’ confusing choices in its second season made some jump ship, but it did set up decent things to come.  … Right? (fingers crossed).  Same with Sons of Anarchy, which seems to like the sound of its own voice even though it no longer has much to say.  That’s not to say there weren’t fantastic moments in both, but both also deserve a strong side-eye.  Game of Thrones is one of the best series on TV without question, but it didn’t quite get the balance of book-to-screen adaptation as right as it did in its inaugural season. Proceed with cautious optimism for all three in 2013.

girls-season-2Most Divisive: Girls (HBO)

Honorable Mention: Newsroom (HBO)

I don’t believe I heard more discourse over any two shows than these in 2012; everyone had an opinion one way or another.  Personally, I felt both series tried too hard, and would have also benefitted from HBO calming down on the hype machine (taking the meant-to-be ridiculous line in Girls “I am the voice of my generation,” and making it serious was the first giant misstep that set people against it. If Hannah is the voice of my generation, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore).  Second seasons will be worth checking out for both, if only to keep up with water-cooler arguments.

Best British Series: Sherlock (BBC/PBS)

Honorable Mention: The Thick of It (ITV/Hulu)

CBS’ Elementary is no match for the BBC’s smart and gorgeously filmed Sherlock, though both have built up rabid fan bases that enjoy fighting with one another over the merits of Cumberbatch versus Miller.  Meanwhile, on a lofty perch of perfection looking down on it all with its acid-tongued snark is The Thick Of It, the forerunner of Veep by the same creative team, and a series with the most stunningly creative cursing since Deadwood.

Most Under-appreciated: Happy Endings (ABC)

Honorable Mention: The Good Wife (CBS), Treme (HBO), Damages (DirecTV)

Give ‘em a chance!  Happy Endings is one of the most consistently funny comedies ever penned, with great performances from its ensemble cast.  The Good Wife is an adroit political drama that is sometimes weighed down by its procedural aspect, but even that part of it is better than most other TV.  Since Damages moved from FX to DirecTV everyone has forgotten about it, but it’s still a surprisingly deep and twisted show.  As for Treme : yes it’s dense and slow and difficult at times, but the payoff is never short of spectacular.

There’s plenty of TV out there I missed in this rundown because there are only so many hours in the day — Justified, Archer, Dexter (which I gave up on 2 seasons ago), Go On, Magic City, Boss, Louie, Wilfred, Ben and Kate and House of Lies are just a few that I’m sure deserve mention and consideration. Let me know in the comments what I need to move up to queue for 2013, and what you loved or hated on TV this year.


  • Kay

    Louie is the best Comedy on TV right now. And arguably the 2nd best show overall after Breaking Bad

  • junierizzle

    I agree. Breaking Bad is by far the best show. I haven’t even seen Homeland and I know Breaking Bad was robbed. It makes The Walking Dead look like Saved by the Bell.

    I disagree about Jessica Pare not working. I think she’s been a fantastic addition to Mad Men.

    • BOB

      Season 1 Homeland > Season 4 Breaking Bad .. You should watch it.

      • ?mark

        what are you smoking and where can I get some ?

      • yogie

        Breaking Bad IMO is one of the greatest shows to ever be on tv. With that being said the first Season of Homeland I would put up against any season of any show ever. That was mighty fine tv, beautiful acting, truly suspenseful drama and wonderful character studies. Season 2 was meh. They made bold choice and it was still good tv but it didn’t hold a candle to their first or any of Breaking Bad’s seasons.

  • Mark

    Some good taste, especially with Don’t Trust the Bitch and Happy Endings

  • Tmo

    Veep is a comedy? It’s not funny at all.

  • J

    DEXTER made a comeback this year, 7 was easily better than seasons 3, 5 and 6. But not as GREAT as 1, 2 and 4 which IMO are masterpieces of television,.

  • TommyGun

    This was a fantastic article and another example of why I read Collider about 7 times a day. You may agree or disagree or vehemently hate what I have to say, but as a huge television buff, I have a lot of thoughts about the shows this year.

    I do agree that both Breaking Bad and Mad Men this year knocked it out of the park. However I am going to have to give the edge to Mad Men. This season, Mad Men had fantastic material for every single character. Where Breaking Bad is more focused on the narrative, Mad Men is more focused on the themes of motherhood, coming-of-age, dependence, independence, suburban angst, etc. To me the writing is a little more subtle yet still explorative.

    As for the most under-appreciated show I have to passionately agree with the fact that Happy Endings is consistently overlooked and ignored. It is the best primetime comedy on a major network right now. The show is just such a joy to watch and half hour each week is definitely not enough. That is the whole point of television anyways – consistent evening entertainment that is fun to watch and provides endless escapism. The ensemble cast works brilliantly and absolutely everyone brings their best. You pair them, triple up, group them, it honestly does not matter because every combination works. The writing is razor sharp and consistently on point, delivering the highest laughs per minute since probably Arrested Development. I do not think I have heard a joke as good as the “no stranger to the three hole punch” or “Mary Tyler Moore Tyler Moore Moore Moore” in a while.

    The best new drama this year has to be Nashville. Revolution had huge potential but set design and casting are not convincing at all. 666 Park Avenue also had potential, especially considering the twisted success of American Horror Story, but it fell into a weekly hour of banality and mediocrity. I was never a fan of country music but Nashville has actually turned that belief around. The show has some truly rich characters and interactions. The music is mesmerizing and that performance of “If I Didn’t Know Better” is a killer. Nashville really proves that Connie Britton knows how to pick winning scripts.


      i agree
      that kinda music is hot right now
      and i love hayden pantenierre too
      she was the only reason i went to see SCREAM 4 in the cinema

  • Andrew from Troy


  • Anthony

    Was really happy with the walking dead this season really surprised me in some moments.
    Archer for me was the funniest show on TV this year, just love gags and the all out Burt Reynolds love.
    The saddest moment for me would have to be the final season of House, Hugh Laurie played the character so wonderfully well and Robert Leonard as Wilson brought tears to my eyes

  • Animesh Agrawal

    what the heck no mention of FRINGE.. possibly the best show on TV
    other shows which i liked US version of shameless atleast its better than veep and girls…

    • matthew

      Thank you! Its been one of the most consistent Sci FI shows, with production values better than some movies, and a stellar cast and characters. This final season has been fantastic and is really going anti Lost in terms of sending the show off on the note it deserves.

    • Fiz

      I’ve really enjoyed Fringe throughout its run, but this season has been pretty poor compared to previous years, IMO.

      • Brent

        “Fringe” isn’t as good this season because the writing team had already outlined the show through at least the sixth season (this is as of when the third season was airing, and I’m not sure how far they got in the end), but had to re-write it to end it with a 13-episode fifth and final season. I think they’ve done a brilliant job this season considering the fact that they had to take at least 44 episodes and condense them into 13. I went into the season knowing they had to do this, and it’s been interesting to see what they’ve done and wonder what they originally intended.

  • salezy

    happy endings really is so underrated and i have to add psych on that list,imo the funniest show in years

  • fitzchiv

    i agree completely, but ‘the thick of it’ is the bbc’s not itv.

  • Eric

    I think this season of Breaking Bad wasn’t as good as previous seasons – but I’m thinking the major reason is breaking the season in half with a year in between. This first half has just been about a newly born monster navel gazing – which would have been perfect as the penultimate phase of this story, except for the year long gap, which forces us to focus on just this small cluster of episodes as an artistic narrative of its own – and it doesn’t quite work.

    Game of Thrones, I think, did nothing wrong or different in its second season – and so the novelty has worn off. It’s still a fun show to watch, but the sex and violence just aren’t that jarring and thrilling anymore, and the political intrigue has kind of grown stale as well. It’s about on par with Walking Dead – lot of fun, mildly intelligent.

    I just watched Girls, without much idea of public opinion – except a vague memory of some people being upset about “over-priviliedge.” I thought it was kind of brilliant.

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  • Push

    You didn’t like Boardwalk Empire that much? Wow, such a shame.
    I have one recommendation for you which would probably fall into “under-appreciated” shows: Luck. Especially if you are a fan of Michael Mann or David Milch. Go watch those 9 episodes because it was the best new tv show of the year, beautifully filmed with characters on the path to greatness. Unfortunately, we won’t ever get to see the full potential of the doomed series come to life.

    Other shows that you probably know are great but haven’t mentioned them: Parks and Rec

    • axis

      luck as amazing, so bad have ended.

  • Bryan

    Community is always one of my favorites and shameless also deserves mentioning.

  • axis

    yeahh big disappointment with Boardwalk Empire, but still consistent.

  • Brent

    A few comedies which haven’t been mentioned yet but were brilliant this year are “American Dad” “Futurama” and, believe it or not, “Red Dwarf”, which rivals “Archer” and “Veep” as the best overall.

    In the drama category, “Breaking Bad” definitely wins the gold medal. However, “Dexter” is a semi-close second, followed by “Fringe”, “Damages” and “Justified”, just to name a few. “Sherlock” and “The Walking Dead” also deserve an honorable mention.

    I love the production values on “Mad Men” and haven’t missed an episode since day one, but I guess it’s just my personal taste that prevents me from adding it to the list. I prefer dramas which are both plot and character driven at once with a heavy lean on the plot, which is almost completely absent in “Mad Men”. Sometimes I have to ask myself why I’m watching a primetime soap opera in the first place. Also, and this is a big one, writing off the protagonist (Peggy) is always a clear warning that the show may soon jump the shark. I hope it doesn’t.

    • Brent

      Also, is “Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome” eligible for this list? It’s a TV show which does not air on TV.

  • tarek

    Breaking Bad is the best tv series to date. period.

    Game of Thrones was a great show with a wonderful universe, stunning sets and props. What disturbed me was this excessive and useless nudity and eroticism spread all over the show. We have almost a naked woman every 3 minutes or so, and a woman getting fu**ed every 10 mn.

  • Robby

    If Sherlock is the best British TV show you guys in Yankee-land are getting I feel genuinely quite sorry for you.

    • Brent

      Would you care to suggest some shows? I’d like to see them. Just name off what you think are the best British shows of 2012.

      • Robby

        Luther, The Shadow Line, The Hour, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Mrs Browns Boys, Hunted, Accused, and this evening we had the 1st episode of Ripper Street which was pretty good too.

    • Brent

      I’ll check out all of those. I really love “Luther”, but I left it off of the list because there haven’t been new episodes since the summer of 2011.

  • sferrin

    Dexter got it back together this season (7). As a Dexter fan, I’ll admit it went off the rails during 5 & 6 (with the exeption of the last ten minutes of the finale, 6 was particularly bad).

  • Justin

    As for Dexter, we get to see a new side of him every season. It seems people didn’t like what they saw of him in 5 or 6. I enjoyed 5 alot. 6 too, minus the whole incest lust bit.

  • smellyfishfingers

    suits…really enjoyed the 2nd season game of thrones was good so was walking dead boardwalk pulled it back but did wander most of the time. Sherlock was great as usual.
    Comedies happy endings is good and consistent but i did really enjoy big bang this season bazinga!

  • Arnyx

    What da fuck ? No mention of my all time favorate show SUPERNATURAL ? That’s bull, , Jeremy Carver did a great comeback people, appreciate it . . I’m ok wid the other names. Breaking Bad deserves it.

  • Varunn Pandya

    PERSON OF INTEREST. One of the best shows on TV also deserves a mention. It’s also officially the ‘Fastest Growing Show’ by Nielsen’s survey.

  • Varunn Pandya

    Also, it is the ‘Fastest Growing Show’ officially by a study conducted by Nielsen.

  • Melacanth

    I am a little dissapointed The League didn’t get a mention, its such a good funny underrated show. Otherwise it was good list.

  • Melacanth

    I am a little dissapointed The League didn\’t get a mention, its such a good funny underrated show. Otherwise it was good list.

  • ukchris

    SUPERNATURAL is the best show on TV.

  • MainFragger

    I am surprised Fringe wasn’t mentioned in the article. Its one of, if not THE best, shows on television.

    I’m also going to route for another unmentioned underdog..”Happily Ever After”…I know a lot of people may be turned off by the “Fairytale” story of it, but its been a really good show, and it always amazes me which mythologies they are willing to mix together. Whether it be Jimminy Cricket, the Dwarves, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, The Mad Hatter, Captain Hook, or Mulan, there is always something interesting going on on this show. And Robert Carlysle is great as Rumplestilskin/Mr. Gold..

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