Farewell, 2012. Here’s what I watched, for better or worse. Let’s dig in!
BEST DRAMA: Mad Men
After a lengthy absence, everyone from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was back in full force. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to label Season 5 as the best of this outstanding series (I often go between Seasons 2 and 4 depending on the day), but this was indeed an amazing collection of moments as our characters hurtle closer towards the denouement that will be 1970. From “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Lane and Pete exchanging punches in the conference room, from acid trips to Hare Krishnas, from the prostitution of Joan to the suicide of Lane, each episode had the impact of a Ben Hargrove (or should I say Dave Algonquin) short story.
BEST DATE: Louie and Liz – Louie
Talk about acid trips! This was a Woody Allen filmscape turned inside out and upside down. Rooftops (from which I really wanted Liz to jump), dressing rooms, and can we all just take a moment and revel in the orgasmic splendor that was the detour to Russ & Daughters? It was never going to end well (as later episodes showed, maybe?), but what a night in Manhattan that I never wanted to end.
WORST USE OF A CLIFFHANGER: NCIS
Now I love me the escapades of Gibbs and his team, and I was on the edge of my seat during Season 9’s finale. But when the show returned, a summer’s worth of momentum evaporated in five minutes. Here’s the thing. Everyone knew that all of the actors negotiated new deals, so no one was going the way of Sasha Alexander’s Kate or Lauren Holly’s Jenny. But spread the revelations out a little bit! Bang! Ducky’s fine and Jimmy’s right there with him. Boom! Abby and Gibbs make it out of her lab with just a few bumps and bruises. Blammo! Ziva and Tony are killing time in the elevator, and she’s able to get a cell phone signal and speak to her father in Israel! And that piece of glass in McGee’s side? He’s fine after the commercial break. Don’t get me wrong. Season 10 is going strong with “Phoenix,” “Gone,” and “You Better Watch Out” among the highlights. But this was a waste of suspense on par with the Moldavian Massacre fallout.
BEST CHARACTER: Hannah Horvath – Girls
Played to utter perfection by series creator Lena Dunham, aspiring writer Hannah is without question “a voice of a generation.” Smart and funny but also self-absorbed and lazy, everyone has either been or known a Hannah at some point in their lives. She’s both the cool kid you want to hang with and the needy relative you desperately avoid. I can’t say I approved of every move she made in the show’s spectacular first season (weird as Adam is, she did him wrong by agreeing to move in with Elijah), but I understood that Hannah is driven by both fear and desire (like most of us). She is the most complex and the most compelling character to emerge this year, and I’m longing for January to see what she does next.
BEST EXAMPLE OF “EVERYTHING CONNECTS”: Boardwalk Empire
It’s more than a bit of throwaway dialogue from Lansky to Luciano. Boardwalk Empire faced a monumental task. Would the show work without Michael Pitt’s Jimmy? Admittedly, things got off to a slow start. Despite an awesome final ten minutes that had me longing for the next episode, the show still produced one of the most boring hours of television all year. But in the home stretch, wow! Eddie’s shooting tied into Chalky’s paltry narrative when his almost son-in-law, Samuel, is the only doctor available. Margaret’s quest to bring prenatal rights to AC paves the way for her to abort the late Owen’s child. And the strained relationship between Nucky and Rothstein allows Capone (and, probably, Van Alden) to stake their own claim to the boardwalk. Just great storytelling that fills one with hope and anticipation for Season 4.
WORST STUNT CASTING: Christopher Meloni – True Blood
So I pretty much stayed clear of these vampires and werewolves in the Bayou, but the announcement that Stabler was joining the cast sucked me right in. And I’ll admit, as crazy and overcrowded as Bon Temps is, the show gets to you, and I’ll be watching again next season. Still, Meloni was utterly wasted as vampire Guardian Roman. Why cast him if he’s only there to bide time until Denis O’Hare’s Russell steps to center stage as the most sadistic vamp going? I’m sticking with the show, but what a waste of a tremendous actor.
BEST COUPLE: Leslie and Ben – Parks and Recreation
Despite the conclusion of Leslie’s successful campaign for councilwoman and Ben’s gig in D.C., they found their way back to one another to build a life in Pawnee. Can we just stop and marvel at the proposal in their new house, a moment that Leslie wants to freeze in time to remember for always? I dare say that nothing was more romantic all year. Without question, this couple will defy the sitcom odds. They’re together, they’re happy, and there is no threat of the magic fading. From Leslie’s attempt to join their families with her unity quilt, to their encounters with a hated Eagleton architect, to a gift from Ben to Leslie in the form of VP Joe Biden himself, each and every note was exquisite.
WORST SECOND ACT: Homeland
A bit of a cheat on my part. I still have to watch the last five episodes of Season 2. But there’s a reason the going’s been so slow. After a freshman season showered in deserving accolades that took the characters to the point of no return, this show has backpedaled to the point of absurdity. From post-shock treatment Carrie being sent to Beirut (and conveniently finding Brody’s damning confessional tape) to the afore-mentioned Brody sitting in on video feed of Abu Nazir’s near destruction only to be granted the opportunity to text his former captor of the impending danger, this is one twisted pretzel of a mess. While the performances are still strong (and Carrie interrogating Brody was all kinds of amazing), Homeland seems to have found its voice at the expense of the audience that adored it in the first place.
BEST COMEDY: 30 Rock
Season 6 and the bulk of Season 7 will stand as one of strongest final bows of any sitcom ever. Liz became The Joker and wed as Princess Leia, Jack and Avery said goodbye after he fell for her mom and made a TV movie out of their whole affair, Tracy took steps towards respectability and becoming his own version of Tyler Perry, and Jenna and Paul tried a “sexual walkabout” before making their way to the altar. They slammed The Wiggles, featured Jon Hamm in blackface, and sent Elaine Stritch’s Colleen to her final resting place in hysterical style. I’ll really miss this show, but it’s going out on top.
BEST TRIBUTE: “One Moore Episode” – Portlandia
Yeah. I’ve would’ve risked my job and utility service to continue watching Battlestar. An eager James Callis (“but you need to listen to me!”), a disgusted Edward James Olmos (“I command because I have the discipline to command!”), and a clueless Ron Moore (“flying the freak all over the place” ), set this geek girl’s heart on fire. The Doctor Who shout out was the icing on the cake, but “Be careful. Psychologically. It’s television.”
Bring it on, 2013!