I did one of these back in 2010, didn’t do one in 2011 (didn’t feel like I had watched enough, as I recall, or I didn’t really like a whole lot…bygones) and now I’m back to do one in 2012. Part of this is because as part of my freelance gig at TV.com I was asked to submit a top five shows of the year, so the notion of picking shows was in my head, and I thought I’d highlight some shows beyond those top five.
This list, you’ll note, says favorite. It does not say best. Because it’s lunacy to say that one show is really better than the other, and because I haven’t seen everything that aired on TV this year. Did you? No? You didn’t? Then how can you know something the best? It can be the best you watched, but then you’d be comparing something like Bunheads to Adventure Time to The Killing to The Big Bang Theory to Homeland and I think you’re just being silly.
So, after the jump, you’ll get my choices for my favorite (or interesting or memorable) TV shows of 2012 (and one not from 2012), including a link to the “top five” I did for TV.com. Where possible, I’ve linked the show’s titles to a piece of writing I’ve done about it.
After the TV.com listing, everything is listed in alphabetical order.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine: That linked post will speak for itself, but sort of like with Korra, it was a show that just made me think and delight in working through its ideas (Fujiko Mine is the more complex show to be sure, but I just liked Korra more). Top it off with it writing and directing from women (not at all common in anime), and you’ve got a pretty pivotal show for 2012. (You can watch the entire series on Hulu depending on your location. Funimation is also streaming it.)
Archer: If 30 Rock made me think and laugh, then Archer just made my sides hurt. A lot. “The Limited” and “Lo Scandalo” were highlights.
Bunheads: It’s a messy, messy show, but I still couldn’t wait to tune in every week for it. Perhaps it was the patter, maybe it was quick emotional sucker punches, but it was also a show about change and how hard that is, and it was something that I was pleased to have on TV this year.
The best of the rest
Adventure Time: I know a lot of folks into this show, and it seems to be the “it” show of American animation scene. I don’t really love it, but it’s just so damn inventive that you can’t help but be wowed by it, both in terms of plotting and its animation. At the same time, when the show wants to hit a big emotional moment (“I Remember You”), it totally can and does.
Bob’s Burgers: This is probably the show that just figured itself out by 2012. Admittedly, the show’s production schedule is all gone to hell, but it certainly feels like the show that was uneven at best in 2011 is just now fantastically consistent and wonderful. The stuff this fall, especially, has been very good.
Breaking Bad: This half of the season has some great moments (Skyler, Mike, Lydia), but it feels very much like the half-completed story it is. It was always good, but I wasn’t always on my toes the entire time.
Chihayafuru: I could try and explain this show’s premise — a group of high schoolers play karuta and there are romantic elements — but it sort of takes away from the unabashed happiness I felt while watching it. Because that’s what this show was in 2012, it was my happiness show. (You can watch the first season on Crunchyroll (depending on where you live, I suppose) to get ready for season 2 in January.)
The Colbert Report and The Daily Show: The whole Super PAC thing. And the Mitt Romney attack ad.
Community: The 2012 half of season 3 was definitely the stronger half, particularly with episodes like “Basic Lupine Urology” and “Digital Estate Planning” (for sheer audacity), but I also really liked its smaller episodes like “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” for emphasizing characters over the show’s normal in-joke meta-ness. When is it coming back again…?
The Good Wife: Not the Kalinda/Nick stuff from fall 2012 because that was awful awful awful awful, but everything else has been very good, and continues to be one of the best dramas on American television.
Gravity Falls: What Andy Daglas says in the TV.com article? I co-sign.
Justified: The season wasn’t as good as last year’s (a season I’d rank above 2011′s Breaking Bad without even second-guessing myself), but I found the season’s emphasis on fathers made it a lovely coda, of sorts, to season 2′s emphasis on mothers.
The Killing: No, it still wasn’t very good, but the season 2 course corrections were solid, the scope of the investigation tighter, and Mireille Enos continued to be insanely watchable week after week.
The Middle: Sue. Heck. I don’t know what else you need to me to tell you. Oh, and Weird Ashley.
Raising Hope: While it has come to rely revising Jimmy’s sense of his own history a little too much for episodes, the show continues to deliver great laughs, and watching Plimpton and Dillahunt is like watching a Master’s class in scene stealing.
Technically out of contention for 2012 BUT…
Cheers: Sure, it didn’t air in 2012, but I watched all of it this year through Netflix Watch Instantly, so I’m counting it among the great things I watched this year.
Awake: I stopped watching after four (maybe five?) episodes! I think something else was on, and I just never got back around to it. Nick told me there was a penguin! Dammit, Past-Noel.
Doctor Who: Matt Smith is still great, but the show is just sort of boring now. I think that “The Power of Three” was the only episode I legitimately liked.
Downton Abbey: I can do mess (see Bunheads up top there), but this was just a bit too messy for me, with too many dead-ends and short-shrifted stories. At least the Christmas special was pretty good.
Louie: Never really grabbed me in the early going of its first season. Perhaps some day in the future.
Mad Men: Didn’t watch it this year. Decided I was done after season 4. Based on Nick’s reviews, I sort of wish I had stuck with it (but not enough to really think about going back to it)
Parks and Recreation: I still don’t have a heart, but I really don’t want it to be cancelled because it’ll make so many people I know very sad.
Suburgatory: Only one other show is more frustrating to me than this one. When it’s good, it’s so good. But other times it just feels sort like it’s misfiring. I want more consistency!
The Vampire Diaries: It’s gotten murky and wheel-spinny, is purposefully antagonizing ‘shippers (okay, that’s a plus-minus in my book), and is not as twisty or compelling as it once was. Karen summed it up nicely over at Monsters.
Young Justice: It stirred up very frustrated emotions throughout the year, and that’s something to remember.
“That HBO or Showtime or Starz show I love/is so good!”: I don’t have premium cable.
Photo: cloudzilla/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License