I’ve written before about why I don’t believe in the concept of the “best TV show ever” or year-end lists, or rankings in general. Our own best television of 2012 list was compiled through a thorough democratic process, but, as with any best-of list, it’s limited to those fixed 10 slots, so great shows sometimes get crowded out.
Because I watch what many consider to be “too much television,” I have a whole lot of lasting 2012 TV memories. Many of these moments happened on shows that made our list: Megan Draper’s rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” on “Mad Men”; every second of Anna Gunn’s performance in “Fifty-One” on “Breaking Bad”; Louis C.K.’s brief return to “Parks and Recreation”; Matthew and Mary’s duet on “Downton Abbey”; Kristina telling her family about her cancer on “Parenthood”; Ray saying “slim leg” four times in nine seconds on “Girls”; Morgan Saylor’s reading of “We killed someone” on “Homeland.”
But I also want to give a shout-out to the shows that didn’t make our list because, believe me, they too featured many of the year’s defining TV moments and, even though I hate year-end lists, some sort of yearly reflection is expected of us writers. So let’s just call this my anti-year-end list (or not even a list at all … a collection of anecdotes in absolutely no particular order) so I don’t feel like a sellout.
While Daily Arts’s list consists of almost entirely dramas, both new and established comedies left their mark in 2012. “Louie” continued to be the saddest funny show on air, capping off a near-perfect season with “New Year’s Eve,” an emotional masterpiece that convinced me that those calling the show the “Sopranos” of TV comedy are 100-percent right.
In the face of probable cancellation, “Cougar Town” turned in its best season. “Happy Endings” gave us a krumping Elisha Cuthbert and Brad and Max’s best shenanigan yet: a bar mitzvah emcee group called “Boyz II Menorah.” “Community” somehow topped its first fake clip show with a second. “30 Rock” wavered, but it also concocted the most bizarre and hilarious rendering of Leap Day. And when I attempted to make a list of my favorite lines from 2012, about half belonged to the mouth of Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney (“Go jump back up your mother!” and “I’m going to be constructive here, you should kill yourself” are tied for first place).
But most of my TV time is occupied by dramas and, this year, there were many episodes of both cable and network dramas that I admire. Too many, in fact, to list. And this isn’t supposed to be a list anyway, remember? But here are some thoughts on the moments I can’t stop thinking about: Boyd Crowder’s town hall speech on “Justified” made me hope that Walton Goggins one day runs for president. “Revenge” became the show I most look forward to every week. “The Vampire Diaries” put forth a season finale so shocking, I actually fell off of my couch. “Nashville” put Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere on a stage together and made magic happen (the show also made me love Panettiere — another act of sorcery).
As with every year, TV lost some good ones in 2012. The USA soap “Political Animals,” with its powerhouse cast led by Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino, mixed politics and family drama to great effect. Phoebe Tonkin’s Faye, a teen witch on the CW’s “Secret Circle,” was one of my favorite female characters until the series was vanquished.
Remember, this is not a best-of list, but if I were hypothetically forced at gunpoint to choose a top show for 2012, it would be one that did not make the Daily’s list at all. It would be a show that I myself despised during its promotional campaign and after seeing its pilot. After I got sick of my friend nagging me to give “New Girl” — yes, the FOX sitcom that boasts a wide-eyed, ukulele-bearing Zooey Deschanel — a second chance, I tuned back in for what I was certain would be a shitshow.
Instead, I met a show that had figured its characters out. Max Greenfield’s Emmy-nominated performance as Schmidt — who wears kimonos and loses countless dollars to the Douchebag Jar by saying things like “Have you seen my sharkskin laptop sleeve?” and “Damnit, I can’t find my driving moccasins anywhere!” — is a season one highlight, but it’s Jake Johnson’s surly, perpetually uncomfortable Nick Miller who emerges as the hilarious standout in the show’s 2012 run.
“New Girl” wasn’t the only show that proved me wrong in 2012. When Shonda Rhimes’s “Scandal” came to ABC last spring, I was certain it would be a hilarious disaster. The executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy” attempting a political thriller? Come on. As it turns out, the Kerry Washington-led serial about D.C.’s premier “fixer” and public relations wizard Olivia Pope could easily be mistaken for a cable drama. It’s sexy and smart and manages to tie geopolitical issues into its pulpy narrative organically.
I didn’t even get to dozens of shows I wanted to discuss. But hey, having too many great shows is a good problem for a TV lover to have. Just don’t make me sort them into a numbered list, I beg of you.