Yes, I am well aware what year it is, and rest assured a best of 2012 piece will go up very shortly. But in addition to everything that I’ve watched this year, I also watched several series that would keep me abreast of some brilliant series last year which for one reason or another, I didn’t get a chance to see. So, in the interest of total fairness, I’ve decided to edit my 2011 list.
Here is the new version:
10. Glee (Fox)
Even the most avid followers have to admit that this show is far more erratic than it was last year, and it only qualifies as a comedy on the barest minimum. That said, this show has featured some powerful storylines, particularly the ones involving Kurt’s new relationship, and Santana’s inner struggles. And when this show fires on all cylinders — as it was when it aired the production of West Side Story— there is nothing like it on TV.
9. Damages (DirectTv)
Forced to make some major edits when it shifted from FX, this legal drama came back leaner and more explosive than it has been. Dylan Baker demonstrated he was the most versatile actor in TV, as he played the most dangerous villain TV had last season. And even if the end results were a little more smoothed over than we usually get with this show, the duel between Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons took on more collateral damage. Can’t wait for the fifth and final round.
8. Justified (FX)
Another show I failed to get into last year, this season is running like a Swiss Watch. Timothy Olyphant and Walon Goggins are two of TV’s greatest actors and watching them try to go two completely different paths— ultimately failing— was fascinating. But when the show turned to the Bennett family, led by the unforgettable Mags (Margo Martindale deserved that Emmy) as a matriarch who can offer applejack brandy with one hand and cripple one of her sons with the other, this show became electric. It’s hard to imagine how it can top itself this coming season, but I can’t wait to find out.
7. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Why on earth did I ignore this comedy its first two seasons? This shows gets right what The Office never managed to pull off — a hysterical funny workplace comedy, combined with some of the most madcap humor I’ve seen this side of 30 Rock. And watching Leslie’s dreams for public office clash against her search for true love was hysterical and moving — something that 30 Rock never quite pulled off.
6. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
This comedy has gone from sporadically amusing to the most brilliant sitcom Chuck Lorre has ever created. And the key to this has been the expansion of the cast from a geeky all-boys club to some of the most funny women in primetime, led by the incredible Mayim Bialik as Amy, the only woman in the entire world who seems capable of being Sheldon’s equal, the only one capable of handling the massive neurosis that make Jim Parsons the most deserving Emmy winner on TV. You no longer need a doctorate to find this show hysterical.
5. Fringe (Fox)
After exploring two alternate universe I didn’t think that this series could get better or more invigorating. Welcome to the yellow universe, where somehow Peter Bishop doesn’t fit in. This is a worth successor to Lost, and it’s fitting that it occupies The X-Files old time slot, but unlike those two shows, this one answers the questions it poses. Right now, my greatest fear is that the executives will cancel this brilliant show before it gets a chance to do so. In the meantime, just soak in the brilliant performances of Anna Torv and John Noble, who keep finding to layers to their alternate versions of their selves.
4. Parenthood (NBC)
I don’t care if nobody watches it or if the award gods have decided it is unworthy. This is one of the best combination of family comedy, drama and romance I’ve ever seen. Watching the Bravermans deal with Aspergers, unexpected pregnancies, perilous relationships and the difficulties of adopting make for the most wholesome entertainment since Gilmore Girls. On a side note, Jason Ritter is far betting suited to family dramas than aimless comedies or would be sci-fi. Make him a regular, Jason Katims.
3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
This is my official mea culpa on all the years that I basically refused to give this series any dramatic weight, despite all the award nominations and critical raves. This show has been a towering triumph for Vince Gilligan, and Season 4 was by far the most accomplished of an extraordinary show. Watching Bryan Cranston plum new depths as Walter White, we watched as he effectively became the master drug lord that his brother in law seems to think he is. And the supporting cast, from the withering innocence of Aaron Paul to the ultimate cavalier attitude towards all death— even his own— that the exceptional Giancarlo Esposito took as Gus Fring featured some of the outstanding acting in TV history. I have no idea how it will end, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be pretty. And I don’t just mean the season finale.
2. The Good Wife (CBS)
About the only complaint I have about this show is that every other week it is preempted by football, thus cutting into its ratings, and prevented millions of viewers from seeing one of the best casts in TV history reinvigorate the legal drama, the political drama and the workplace drama. Not even the fact that I think Alicia would be better off with Peter than Will does anything to change how entertaining the interrelationships, the new cases they get, and the way the characters interact with each other have reinvented what a network drama is capable of.
1. Homeland (Showtime)
The fact that this series came from the people who gave us 24 gave this series potential. However, Howard Gordon has learned that greatest of tricks— subtlety— and showing things in shades of grey that the previous series often overlooked. It also features Claire Danes going to place that her work on My So-Called Life could never have prepared you for, and Mandy Patinkin demonstrating why he is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever seen. Even the finale demonstrates how much the producers have grown — they didn’t go for the explosive ending, they’re more interested in playing the long game. And this is a series that I’m more than willing to go the distance with. This show has Emmys in its future.