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Best TV of 2012

Best TV of 2012

19. Veep

Viewers had high expectations for this comedy from the mind of Armando Iannucci, creator of The Thick of It, and set in the dysfunctional offices of the Vice President of the United States and, happily, Veep delivered. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was fantastic as the VP, Selina Meyer, bringing out different elements in Iannucci’s comedy than we’re used to and it was wonderful to see Tony Hale and Matt Walsh back in prominent comedic roles on TV. The biggest surprises, however, were the entertaining duo of Anna Chlumsky and Reid Scott, along with Timothy Simons as the ever-obnoxious Jonah. (K.K.)


18. Boardwalk Empire

TV’s most lavish enterprise may have had its most consistently entertaining outing yet, boasting a swaggering, scenery-devouring performance from Bobby Cannavale as Sicilian devil Gyp Rosetti, a man who does nt take kindly to insults. From its lush cinematography, to its sterling supporting cast (including, this time around, veterans like James Cromwell and Stephen Root), to its accessible. evenly paced storytelling, Boardwalk is one of the most assured, even-keeled dramatic series around, rarely making a grave misstep or trotting out a clearly subpar outing. Bonus points for any scene involving Michael Shannon’s Van Alden, whose almost completely-unconnected antics this season could easily be re-edited into a darkly comic farce worthy of the Coens. (S.H.)


16. (tie) Luck

2012’s biggest television punchline also happened to be one of its best shows. Even before it aired, HBO’s horse-racing drama Luck seemed destined for either legend or disaster, combining as it did two famously tempestuous creative minds in Michael Mann and David Milch (not to mention the show’s unfailingly opinionated star, Dustin Hoffman, making his series-television debut). Instead, it turned out to be just as idiosyncratic as Milch’s other recent series, unafraid to coat its dialogue in thick brogues and dense racing lingo. Yet the show quickly built up a reserve of great characters, memorable dialogue, and stellar acting, not to mention a set of truly stunning horse-racing sequences. Alas, the rest is history. Hopefully Milch, Mann and company can reconvene for a more equine-friendly series in the future. (S.H.)

16. (tie) The Good Wife

Despite getting saddled with a sadly Poochie-esque supporting character/plotline, The Good Wife‘s fourth season has been just as solid as ever, once again proving that “procedural” shouln’t be a dirty word. Boasting by far the best roster of recurring guest stars on television (seriously, there are way too many to list here), Robert and Michelle King’s sprawling legal drama manages to fold in political intrigue, biting humor, and family upheaval on a weekly basis, generally without losing a step. (S.H.)


15. The Walking Dead

AMC’s The Walking Dead continues to solidify its place as the season’s best-performing series in the key adults 18-49 demographic, but more importantly, season three gave audiences a chance to invest more deeply in its group of survivors. The Walking Dead has always used the zombie apocalypse as a way to express ideas about human nature, but never as succesfully as in the most recent episodes. Picking up with the same energy where it left off in the Season 2 finale, The Walking Dead has finally hit its stride. And we’ve got two new characters to love: Michonne (Danai Gurira), famous for decapitating multiple zombies with one slash of her samurai sword, and Tyrese a popular figure from the original source material, played by Chad Coleman of The Wire fame. (R.C.)


14. American Horror Story: Asylum

An improvement on Season One (now referred to as Murder House) in every conceivable way, Asylum manages to harness all of the qualities that rankled some in its first season in service of a truly demented and surprisingly engaging new story. The period setting is a much better fit for Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s pet thematic concerns, and the writing is much more consistent, balancing the show’s schizo devotion to folding in every possible horror reference point with honest-to-goodness character work. It’s also a more fitting vehicle for hammier-than-thou performances from the returning Jessica Lange, delightfully devious newcomer Lily Rabe, and Ian McShane, whose late-season arc has given him his juiciest role since Deadwood. (S.H.)

13. Community

Apparently, a new Nielsen feature will track the popularity of TV shows based on Twitter mentions. Surely, if Nielsen winds up taking the findings seriously, Community will go from being TV’s perennially beloved sitcom underdog to being an all-consuming cultural juggernaut. But that wouldn’t suit the show’s beyond-rabid fanbase, for whom Community is a self-perpetuating delivery device for goofy metatextual humor, elaborate concept episodes, and occasional stabs at pathos. With embattled showrunner/creator an Harmon having been deposed, it’ll be interesting to see whether Community will retain its je-ne-sais-quoi for what may turn out to be its final season. (S.H.)

12. Homeland

No show captured the zeitgeist in 2012 quite like Homeland, as its second season raised the stakes (both personal and political) and provided Claire Danes, Many Patinkin, and especially Damien Lewis with ample opportunities to strut their stuff. Since the show’s first season was widely praised for its crackerjack pacing, this is not a show that’s allowed to rest on its laurels for long, often reframing its central relationships and conflicts every few episodes. While the season’s bloody endgame is still a matter of debate, it’s clear that any show that can give us hours as devastating and brilliantly performed as “Q&A” won’t be far from the critical hivemind in years to come. (S.H.)

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