2012 was a weird year in television. It had everything from highly anticipated let-downs like The Newsroom to not-so-highly anticipated successes like Married to Jonas (so entertaining, you guys. Don’t judge). While I don’t have too high hopes for many of the new shows of this year (I have hope that The Mindy Project will get better), 2012 has proved wonderful for returning programs such as Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead. Confession: I am ashamed I do not regularly watch any of these shows, except Mad Men. However, many television drama connoisseurs tell me that each is well worth your time, if you are into that sort of thing.
However, I do watch pretty much everything else. My rationale for this is that I don’t have the attention span for most hour-long dramas, whereas the half-hour comedy is the perfect length of time for procrastination. (It’s a really flimsy excuse, I know. I promise I will at least watch Breaking Bad over winter break and maybe Game of Thrones. Expect a column or two about that in January).
But, the following are my top five favorite 2012 television shows (number six is probably Louie in case you were wondering). They each are unlike anything else on air right now or ever, and each demonstrate the power of real characters and original ideas.
1. Mad Men: Season Five, which premiered in March, was the best yet. I think that the show is finally reaching the point of its existence. By that, I mean that I have a feeling that ultimately the show is about showing the tumult of the 1960s. The first four seasons are about the characters, and almost look and feel as though they could take place in the 1950s. But now, with the show set in 1966 and 1967, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement are in full swing and actually affect the characters. Don has a new assistant, Dawn, who is African American, and Peggy realizes that she has hit the glass ceiling at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price. Joan’s episode “The Other Woman” could have been a whole movie just by itself. My grandmother agrees, and she is a very tough lady to please, especially when it comes to television.
2. Girls: “I don’t even want a boyfriend. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me.” That is just one of the most memorable quotes from HBO’s Girls, which premiered in April of this year. Lena Dunham’s brainchild has been described as similar to Sex and the City, but about younger, spoiled, broke, 20-somethings living a not-so-glamorous life in Brooklyn. Girls surprised and delighted me. It’s refreshing and hilarious. Season One was filled with wonderful lines like the one quoted above, and characters who, while you would never want to be compared to any one of them, are still scarily relatable.
3. The League: I do not know the first thing about football, but somehow I still find The League to be tremendously entertaining. It’s about a group of friends’ fantasy football team, but really the football doesn’t matter that much. The cast includes phenomenal comedians like Nick Kroll, as well as Mark Duplass and Paul Scheer. A large part of The League is improvised; this might be the reason why I think it has a much faster pace than most other comedies on TV right now. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, even for those of you not like me who laughs out loud for anything.
4. Veep: Another HBO success of 2012 was Veep, a West Wing-esque (but not really at all) sharp comedy about what it is like to hold the second most powerful position in the country — that of Vice President. The VP, Selina Meyer, is played by the legend, Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and the cast also features Arrested Development’s Tony Hale (Buster). Meyer finds that her job really does not have all that much power. She and her staff have to maneuver themselves through the bureaucratic mess of Washington, D.C., filled with backstabbing politicians and career obsessed interns fighting their way to the top. Dreyfus, in an Emmy award-winning performance, shines (and curses a lot more than one would expect of a Vice President).
5. Parks and Recreation: Once upon a time, NBC Thursdays were a magical night with back-to-back laughs. But, with The Office in shambles, the absence of Community and the slow decline of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation is the one beacon of hope. Every season of this show outshines the last, and the end of Season Four and what we’ve seen so far of Season Five have been nothing short of amazing. Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, the creators of The Office, took their mockumentary style to local government, but instead of Michael Scott, Daniels and Schur invented Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson (played by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, respectively). These characters may be a little eccentric, but they are lovable and unbelievably amusing to watch. I care about Leslie, Ron, Ann, Tom, Ben, even Jerry, and I hope that I get to continue watching them for many years to come.