Another year has passed and it is once again time to pick up a copy of the Christmas TV guide only to get ceremonially disappointed by the unrelenting schedule of cruddy repeats. To save you any undue angst this Festive Season, and to get the DVD stocks in early, we sent our newest member of the team on a bold mission to uncover the best TV shows of 2012. Katelyn Barnes reports:
10. Once Upon A Time
Judge me if you like; the second series of Once Upon A Time is one of the top ten shows of the year because it managed to do something few shows manage to do successfully, that is, break from the plot while remaining true to the characters and spirit of the show. The residents of Storybrooke, Maine are no longer cursed to live ignorant of their own fairy tale identities. They are once again Snow White and Charming, Red Riding Hood, Belle, and the seven dwarves. The majority of them, however, are still trapped in Storybrooke. While there is plenty of adventure, world-jumping, and humor, it is the evolution of characters like Charming and Regina, who were in danger of becoming one-note, into true members of their community, that makes this series one to watch. And, how fun is it to hear Mr. Gold call everyone “Dearie”?
9. Modern Family
I stuck with Modern Family through two lackluster series for one reason: the cast. Despite lukewarm comedy and some cringe-worthy moments during the past two seriess, the skill of the cast made Modern Family a show worth watching. This series, finally, the writing has caught up. Whether tossing Hailey out of college after a week (it’s not like she MEANT to fall on top of that police officer) or having Phil accidently invite Matthew Broderick home for a date, (his wife is totally fine with it!), or pitting Mitch and Cam against pair of lesbian moms, the writing has regained its stride and has made Modern Family, once again, one of the funniest shows on television.
8. The Vampire Diaries
“The Vampire Diaries, really?” you ask. Yes, really. The Vampire Diaries is one of the best teen shows on television today. While the show regularly veers off into Crazy Town at least every five episodes, it always manages to surprise, with ruthless character deaths and constant plot twists. If you are able to watch a show and say, “The main character is dead? Fantastic!” you are watching a risky show. And it is the killing of Elena that makes Series Four of The Vampire Diaries one of the most interesting this year. Elena Gilbert as a vampire isn’t the soft spoken girl we are used to, she isn’t perfect. She isn’t sexy, like Katherine. She isn’t in control, like Caroline. She is a mess, a blood-lusting, rage-filled mess. Elena’s growth throughout this series makes her, finally, the interesting central character this show needs.
Archer is known for its irreverence, acidic wit, and constant stream of pop culture references. If Family Guy mated with Arrested Development, Archer would be the result. However, unlike Family Guy and Arrested Development, which rely on, well, family for their humour, Archer pulls from every aspect of its universe for comedy fodder. Series three takes this even further. The first three episodes find Archer on a tropical island, recovering, with sex and booze, of course, from the death of his fiancé. It isn’t long before he has crashed an airplane, become Pirate King and instituted intermural lacrosse teams among his pirate brethren. Let us not forget the rest of the series what, with the humanoid robots, missions to Mars, and ocelots. Guest stars include: Burt Reynolds, Bryan Cranston, and George Takei. This series of Archer is a geek’s dream.
How do you end a show like Fringe? By freezing the main characters in amber and throwing them twenty-one years into a future run by Observers, of course! Fringe has never shied away from disorienting its viewers by completely undoing any storyline from the past, and while this may have alienated a large section of potential viewers (really, how this show has managed to hang on for five seriess is a mystery. Somewhere, AlternateFox axed this show after ten episodes), it has made for a very daring show; no character is ever safe, no resolution untouchable. This fifth and final series only drives this message home, making it the best.
5. Game of Thrones
Speaking of wolves… Winter is here is in the lands of Westeros! Series two of Game of Thrones has taken some major departures from it the books and it pays off. The strength of characters like Tyrion, Arya, Daenerys, and Jamie, in a world of dragons, grand battles, and constant nudity, give this show a steady balance. Despite some weaknesses, the world of Game of Thrones is nuanced, gritty and real and makes watching each episode of series two an especially rewarding experience.
4. Mad Men
After a long hiatus, Mad Men returned for a fifth series, and didn’t waste a moment before taking audiences on a thrilling, dark, soul searching (shattering?) ride. Don, now married to his secretary, Megan, has lost his footing, and can barely handle the changes happening around him. Peggy is moving up, Pete is moving out (to the suburbs), Roger is tripping on LSD, and Joan is becoming the independent woman we all want her to be. Mad Men has always been best when it throws its characters to the wolves and then, lets them fight their way out. This is why this series is one of the best this year. Some characters fight and emerge, stronger, some fall, and some, Don, it is always Don, are still fighting.
3. Parks and Rec
At the end of last series, I worried the show was spreading itself too thin. Could Leslie really be City Councilor and Deputy Director of the Parks and Rec Department? Could the show really send Ben and April, two of its strongest characters to Washington, D.C.? Could Chris really be that unhinged? I needn’t have worried. Though series five has taken risks other comedies wouldn’t dare attempt (I’m looking at you, The Office), the show still is a show about a group of people who work together, who care about each other and who are hilarious in each and every episode.
This is exactly what a sitcom should be.
Sherlock, oh Sherlock, come back to us! The second series of Sherlock found our titular character up against recognizable and yet, completely surprising adversaries: the whip-welding Irene Adler, who foils Sherlock with her nudity, and James Moriarty, who is at turns campy, brilliant, and utterly insane. While “The Hounds of Baskerville” suffered from an overzealous attempt to remain true to the source material, “A Scandal in Belgravia” and “The Reichenbach Fall” were simply two of the best episodes of any show this year. “The Reichenbach Fall,” especially, with its superb use music against the rising action of Sherlock battling Moriarty, surprised me. And those final moments between Watson and Sherlock? Well, it brought tears to my eyes.
Is it March, yet?
1. Breaking Bad
This show has been on the top of Top Ten lists for years for a reason. It has been constantly, unwaveringly, good. Bryan Cranston has made Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg feel real and hopeless all at once. Although he remains at the top, allowing him the privilege he only dreamed of at the start of the series, Walt’s ultimate goal, to provide for his family, as husband and father, has been decimated. Walter is powerful and yet, powerless. Thank goodness we still have eight more episodes!