It’s pretty easy to suffer fatigue from reading all of these year-end best of television articles that you see all over the Internet in the last few days and weeks of the year. It’s fatiguing because every single list seems to have the same 10 shows just in a slightly different order. You have your AMC dramas of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” You have your premium cable stuff like “Homeland,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones.” You also have your smart, artsy comedies like “Louie” and “Girls.” Now, go ahead and check back at all of those best of 2012 TV lists … every show I mentioned was listed, right? Well, here’s the problem … 1) it just gets boring seeing all of the same series on every list 2) not many viewers actually watch or have the chance to watch many of those shows. Thus, my list is going in a different direction. Not because the shows I have listed are better necessarily, although many of them likely are, but because they are great shows that just don’t get their proper due.
10. “Late Show with David Letterman” (CBS)
David Letterman celebrated his 30th year on television in 2012 and he’s still as good as ever. An election year is always going to be a little bit better for Letterman’s late night CBS talk show than non-election years with his biting sarcasm and cutting humor and 2012 proved that to be the case. Critics everywhere praise Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their political humor, and rightfully so, but Letterman is just as good, if not even better when it comes to political humor, it’s just not the sole focus of his show. Letterman was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors this year for his lifetime contributions to American culture. Hopefully Letterman will continue contributing to American culture for many more years to come.
9. “Once Upon a Time” (ABC)
“Once Upon a Time” was one of the most creative and interesting new TV series in years when it debuted for ABC. The fairytale drama features some of the most deliciously villainous performances on TV with Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold and Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen/Regina, as well as some interesting new takes on classic fairytales, one of my personal favorites being the realization that Dr. Whale is, in fact, Dr. Frankenstein. Unfortunately, season two has hit some snags in its first half with too many added characters and characters being split between the two worlds. Hopefully the show will right the ship soon.
8. “30 Rock” (NBC)
Many shows tail off greatly in their final seasons. We’re witnessing that this season with NBC’s “The Office” and somewhat to a lesser extent with CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother.” However, NBC’s “30 Rock” is still at the top of its game more than halfway into its final season. Much of that probably has to do with the incredible Tina Fey and the show she’s built for seven seasons. Fey’s Liz Lemon is still at the very top among TV’s funniest and best characters and remains just as wacky and as absurd as ever. Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski are also still performing at extremely high levels. “30 Rock” may have more laughs per minute than any sitcom I’ve ever seen and continues to be as irreverent and gleefully absurdist right to the very last minute.
7. “New Girl” (Fox)
“New Girl” is probably the best sitcom on television right no featuring the “young people trying to make it in the world” theme that was revolutionized in the ‘90s by “Friends” and is popular today with “Happy Endings,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Community” all following similar themes. “New Girl” features four late-twentysomethings living together in a rundown Los Angeles apartment, each one being uniquely quirky and hilarious. Zooey Deschenal’s adorkable Jess Day and Max Greenfield’s extremely douchey Schmidt are among the biggest fan-favorites on the show, but my favorite character is Jake Johnson’s Nick Miller, who is essentially a pessimistic, grumpy old man in a young man’s body. The chemistry among the “New Girl” cast might be the best of any sitcom currently on television, which is not bad considering the show is only halfway through its second season.
6. “Doctor Who” (BBC America)
“Doctor Who” only aired six new episodes in 2012 (including this week’s Christmas special), but they left enough of a mark on me (and turned me into a fan of the series I had previously never seen) to make this list of the 10 best TV shows of the year. “Doctor Who” is basically British royalty, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013. The highlight of the science fiction series is Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor, a Time Lord who time travels through the universe essentially playing super hero. Despite being on what ultimately is a cult show, Smith is one of the most talented actors currently on television and can bring any and every emotion perfectly to The Doctor, oftentimes in the span of one scene. There are few, if any, characters on television as interesting, well-acted and well-written as The Doctor.
5. “Raising Hope” (Fox)
“Raising Hope” has been the top sitcom on television in 2012. The Chance family simply provides the most laugh out loud moments of any comedy currently on television. Currently in its third season, “My Name is Earl” creator Greg Garcia has created another great and quirky show featuring the trashy side of life that might actually be better than his previous work. The funniest performance on “Raising Hope” is that of Garret Dillahunt as Burt Chance, the patriarch of the family. Comedy veteran Cloris Leachman, as Maw Maw, also brings forth many of the show’s laughs. The talented Martha Plimpton, Lucas Neff and Shannon Woodward round out the hilarious cast.
4. “Castle” (ABC)
There always seems to be the “Moonlighting” curse hovering around TV shows that have the “will-they-or-won’t-they” theme going on with two of their characters. The writers of the show have to wonder if things will begin to go downhill when that threshold is broken and the characters eventually wind up together. At the very end of the fourth season of “Castle” fan-favorites Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Det. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) finally hooked up and the show hasn’t been any worse for the wear, in fact, it might have even gotten better. Castle and Beckett are without a doubt the best couple currently on television and the chemistry between the two actors hasn’t change one iota and the storylines may have gained from their couplehood, especially early on in season five when the two were desperately trying to keep their relationship secret. This incredibly fun show continues to be one of the best, and most original, crime procedurals on television. “Castle” has spit in the face of the “Moonlighting” curse and is all the better for it.
3. “The Newsroom” (HBO)
Aaron Sorkin simply makes better television that almost anybody else. His newest project HBO’s “The Newsroom” is much like his past series, the critically-acclaimed “The West Wing” and the short-lived, but excellent “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” in that it follows a group of people at an interesting workplace. “The Newsroom” is essentially Sorkin telling past real life news events in the way he would’ve liked for them to be told. It’s a unique and interesting way to go about making a TV series, but one that has drawn criticism from some. I, however, don’t think there’s a better way of making a series like this. “The Newsroom” features some of the best performances from 2012 on TV, especially Jeff Daniels as news anchor Will McAvoy and Sam Waterston as crotchety news division president Charlie Skinner. In typical Sorkin style “The Newsroom” features some of the best, smartest and wittiest dialogue on television making for fun viewings.
2. “Person of Interest” (CBS)
“Person of Interest” is the most creative and interesting crime drama that I’ve ever seen and that all likely has to do with creator J.J. Abrams. It’s not your typical crime procedural as it’s more character driven, more creatively written and not as predictable as most others on TV. The thing that really sets “Person of Interest” out from the rest of the crime drama gang is the great chemistry between its two leads Jim Caviezel as John Reese and Michael Emerson as Harold Finch. Reese and Finch have basically become the best and most unique crime fighting duo on television and the show is able to infuse some nice humor in their work relationship/budding friendship that flows effortlessly with the great drama and action. Caviezel’s Reese is the biggest badass on network television.
1. “Parenthood” (NBC)
“Parenthood” is hands down the most realistic drama on television and that goes a long way into also making it the best drama on television. The series follows the Braverman family through the trials and tribulations of life and the show’s most recent season, it’s fourth, might be its best. The best storyline this season has involved Kristina Braverman’s (Monica Potter) struggle with breast cancer and the effects of it on her family. The love triangle storyline between Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham) and her fiancé Mark Cyr (Jason Ritter) and her boss Hank Rizzoli (Ray Romano) has been a close second. “Parenthood” evokes more emotions out of viewers than probably any other show on TV.