2012 brought with it a solid year of television. Several returning shows delivered their best seasons yet, while other new shows proved to be just as exciting.
We here at TVRage have decided to supply you with a list of our favorite shows of 2012. It's a list that's significantly more diverse than most end-of-year lists you'll see, and there should be some surprises in here for you.
Let's get started, shall we?
Sam McPherson's Pick: Louie
What is there to say about Louie that hasn't already been said? It's a series that eschews format, that quite consciously rejects any efforts to pin it down. It is the only series on television that, week to week, promises nothing. The series can veer from heartbreaking tragedy to blissful catharsis, often within a single episode (I'm looking at you, "New Year's Eve"), and in that way, it manages to be more exhilarating (and rewarding) than television's most suspenseful serialized shows.
Much has been made of the fact that Louie is essentially the work of one very creative man, comedian Louis CK. The series is his perspective on the world, made with a piecemeal budget that means his series can survive declining audiences such as those that season 3 experienced. It's a small series intended for a small audience, and that's the only thing it could ever be.
We won't get a fourth season until 2014; CK will spend next year touring his stand-up show and, presumably, relaxing. 2013 will be a bright year for television, but it seems a little dimmer without its best comedy. Thankfully, the same wasn't true of 2012.
Joel Thomas's Pick: The Walking Dead
My favorite show of 2012 was easily AMC's The Walking Dead. The second half of Season 2 premiered in February and brought with it the deaths of two major characters from the original cast, Dale and Shane. Although it was rumored that actor Jeffery DeMunn was unhappy with the departure of showrunner Frank Darabont, Dale's death was sudden and unexpected, kickstarting a trend of turmoil and unpredictability that has become the hallmark of the show in its third season. The shot of the prison at the end of the Season 2 finale in March was a tantalizing cliffhanger for fans of the original comic book series and kept me buzzing until the show returned in October. I had heard and read enough hints about Season 3 that I expected the show to pick up the pace, but I have been blown away by the improvement in the quality of the writing, the acting, and the storylines—and this is coming from someone who actually loved the farm setting in Season 2. The addition of Danai Gurira as fan favorite Michonne and David Morrissey as big baddie The Governor provided the series with two tremendously layered characters brought to life by two very capable actors, and the return of Michael Rooker as Merle has also been a great boon to the show this season, both in terms of his character and his talent.
Much like the second half of Season 2, the first half of Season 3 was highlighted by the deaths of two characters from the original cast. One was not totally unforeseen, as people were joking about T-Dog being killed off when black prisoner Oscar joined the show. The "only one black male character" theory was supported when Oscar was shot during the midseason finale, following the appearance of Tyreese, a major character from the comics who just happens to be African-American. The death of Lori and the way it happened was more of a shock, as her character survived childbirth in the comics and got to see her baby. The effect that her death had on Rick increased the drama and tension this season, while a confrontation with the Governor and his Woodbury settlement has been brewing and finally exploded in the last episode before the show's return next February. All of these elements, including small moments of character development and pulse-pounding zombie-slaying action, have combined to make The Walking Dead the best series currently on television.
Ted Blanchard's Pick: New Girl
My favorite show of 2012 was definitely "New Girl" on Fox. When the show began in 2011, I was drawn to it because of Zooey Deschanel. I probably wouldn't have ever watched it otherwise, since I don't usually watch new sitcoms. However, there's a lot more to the show worth watching. My favorite character is the curmudgeon Nick Miller, played by Jake Johnson. Though Schmidt (Max Greenfield) has been getting a lot of attention, I relate a lot more to Nick, and Johnson's facials alone make him the best supporting star of "New Girl."
My favorite episode of this year and the show's run in general, is "The Landlord." Deschanel's Jess inadvertently lets Remy the landlord know that they have four people living in their apartment, one more than they've disclosed. Jess befriends Remy to show Nick that he's a nice but misunderstood guy, which leads to Remy assuming Nick and Jess want to have a threesome with him. The two stubborn roommates play along with Remy's idea until it gets too real, and Jess backs down.
Although I'm patiently waiting for Jess and Nick to hook up already, I hope writers heed the lessons of "The Office," which really didn't have much purpose once Jim and Pam got together. Until then, the show seems to have plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
Kale Morgan's Pick: Elementary
My favorite show of 2012 was more the year's biggest surprise. I was certain that CBS' "Elementary" would become just another crime procedural on a network well versed in the formula. BBC had already done the Sherlock Holmes reboot after all, and certainly nothing stateside would come close. However, aside from one weak episode, the series has been one I look forward to each week more than anything on air right now -- the mysteries are great, the characterization deliberate and well-paced, and the performances are top-notch.
I turned a corner on it with the fourth (and still best) episode of the season "The Rat Race," in which Holmes and Watson look into a murderous corporate ladder climber. The mystery was layered and well told with all the requisite twists and turns, but what truly put the episode into elite territory were the fantastic performances and deft characterizations. We learn that despite what he may say, Holmes' addiction still chips away at his nerves, not just physically but psychologically as the embarrassment of losing control still weighs on him. Watson and Holmes finally feel like a team, showing some exceptional chemistry between Lucy Liu and Miller. The fact that CBS has given the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot to this freshman series shows the confidence they have in it, and hopefully our readers are sinking their teeth into it as well.
Adam Langton's Pick: Wedding Band
My favorite show of 2012 is the new TBS sitcom 'Wedding Band.' There is something rare about the show--it is a vestige of a dying art form, the sitcom with heart. The best, longest-running sitcoms have always had real love at their core ('I Love Lucy,' 'All in the Family,' 'Cheers,' 'Frasier') and sadly that sort of caring is an endangered species.
In their stead, we are left with the cynical, mean-spirited sitcom: 'How I Met Your Mother' and 'Community' come to mind. I'm not lambasting these shows or saying they aren't funny, but their humor often stems from mocking a character flaw in a guest or supporting star, rather than arising from the situation or the humanity of its characters (ala 'Frasier'). 'Wedding Band' is about four friends who endeavor to keep their rockstar dreams alive despite being in their thirties, playing for weddings and similar events in Seattle on weekends. While each of them have dayjobs, the band is their escape and their chance to be with friends and have these weekly adventures. It doesn't hurt that the writing of the show is so sharp that these weekly adventures are hilarious.
The best part? The sense that the cast of 'Wedding Band' is having a blast and enjoying their work is truly palpable. Having teamed up recently out of character to produce a short film for funnyordie.com, these are comics making each other laugh and really enjoying the process of putting the show together. It's an interesting blended sort of series (including musical performances each week, skirting adult themes without explicitly being about sex) which has been consistently excellent since the first episode. If you get a chance, catch up with 'Wedding Band' or jump in fresh in 2013.
Michael Stevenson's Pick: Breaking Bad
It's not often that a drama is able to not only maintain, but surpass its own high level of quality year after year. I could count on one hand the shows that I thought met that standard. One such program happens to be my favorite show of 2012, Breaking Bad.
The first episode began with a shocker, as we were given a glimpse of a future Walter White. No longer the local meth kingpin, this Walt looked like a beaten down shell of his former self. Who was he on the run from? The cops? A rival drug runner? His own brother-in-law? This scene set the stage right away. Anything could happen. And it definitely did.
Eight episodes were all that Breaking Bad aired in 2012, but those eight were simply amazing television. From shocking character deaths, to absolutely gut-wrenching verbal smackdowns between Walt and Skyler, to a terrifically staged train robbery, all the way to Hank's shocking toilet-bound revelation, the first half of season five had it all.
To all those who have yet to watch Breaking Bad or are behind, you officially have seven months to catch up. Believe me, you're going want to experience the finale live. It's sure to leave you breathless.