'Tis the season for end-of-year lists, right before the blog goes on holiday for a couple of weeks. I gave you my selection of terrible shows yesterday, meaning today is the day for my list of favourites, my Best Of 2012.
Like yesterday, there is one key wrinkle: rather than just list 10 fantastic shows, I've made this more of a "when I think back, what shows will I remember as being the best in 2012" list. Are there other great shows on television? Sure. But these are the 10 shows that I'll think of first when I look back at this year.
Before we get to it, a few Honourable Mentions:the hardest omissions included Boardwalk Empire (SoHo), which is enjoying a strong season; Downton Abbey (Prime) was back to its best; the fifth season of Mad Men (SoHo) was a welcome return for the show; Lena Dunham's Girls (SoHo) was the biggest surprise of all the shows I watched this year; and Fringe (TV2) confirmed its status as the premier sci-fi show on TV.
Okay, let's do this - my Top Ten Best Television Shows of 2012, in reverse order ...
10: Dexter, Season 7 (SoHo)
It cracked this list because: The best stretch of Season 6 aired in January (you know, the bit when Deb walked in and saw her brother kill a guy), and Season 7 has been a comeback year for the ages - even if I do agree with some that the show should have reached this point in the story much sooner than Season 7.
The best part is: My girlfriend is enjoying Dexter so much that she picked up some of Deb's swearwords. My personal favourite: "jesusf**k". Is there a more imaginative cusser on television than Deb Morgan? I say no.
Reason to look forward to next year: We've still got a handful of Season 7 episodes left, and Season 8 is the final season, meaning the writers have nothing to lose. Look for all hell to break loose around this time next year.
9: Jono and Ben at 10, Season 1 (TV3)
It cracked this list because: Don't worry, I'm as surprised as you are. Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce rose, like a pair of phoenix from the ashes of their former shows, to prove it takes two, baby. Rod Stewart and Tina Turner would be proud. Jono and Ben At 10 was a little derivative but, dammit, it didn't matter - it was funny, it had two stars who were really up for anything, and it was consistently entertaining. You can't ask for much more on a Friday night.
The best part is: They dragged Guy Williams along for the ride. The year's breakout star? Maybe.
Reason to look forward to next year: More of the same! Seriously, with a season under their belt and the support of the network assured, the writers and stars of #JABAT can focus on getting even better.
8: Parks and Recreation, Seasons 3 & 4 (Four)
It cracked this list because: I've often referred to Parks & Rec as the most cleverly written comedy on television - it combines all-out slapstick comedy with witty dialogue, and can turn into an uplifting, sickly-sweet, feel-good drama in a matter of seconds. Parks also has an absolutely loaded cast, led by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.
The best part is: The wisdom and quotability of Ron Swanson: "I don't want to paint with a broad brush here, but every single contractor in the world is a miserable, incompetent thief," for example.
Reason to look forward to next year: New episodes! Season 5 will be airing on Four as part of their new season of shows, and we can expect a notable difference given Leslie's newfound status as city councillor.
7: Hounds, Season 1 (TV3)
It cracked this list because: The Down Low Concept took their show to an unfamiliar setting, loaded the cast with unfamiliar (but talented) faces, and stocked the script with some of the cleverest dialogue you'll find in any comedy, let alone a locally produced one. Naturally, it got cancelled after one season because of low ratings. Damn it all.
The best part is:We don't have to keep talking about Melody Rules as the pinnacle of local scripted comedy.
Reason to look forward to next year: None. It won't be back. Hounds got cancelled after six episodes, despite generally being considered one of the greatest scripted comedies this country has ever produced.
6: The Almighty Johnsons, Season 3 (TV3)
It cracked this list because: Aotearoa's best drama skews into fantasy - and that's exactly what makes it so great: it's like nothing else this country is making right now. Heck, it's like nothing else this country has ever made. James Griffin and his team of writers and production staff consistently deliver a unique, locally made television experience.
The best part is: It's airing on the SyFy channel in both the UK and Canada, where it has picked up a loyal fan base, and it has been picked up by SyFy USA for an American remake.
Reason to look forward to next year: The show was nearly cancelled this year, and the word is that Season 3 will look (and feel) different from the first two. I'm holding off judgment until I see it, but I'm not feeling too optimistic.
5: The Walking Dead, Seasons 2 & 3 (TV2)
It cracked this list because: Okay, sure, Season 2 of The Walking Dead (which aired in February) dragged for long periods in the middle, but there were some great episodes. Despite that, the show deserves this spot purely for the fantastic Season 3, the first half of which is now airing on TV2. The Walking Dead is at its creative peak right now, as good as it has ever been, thanks to strong stories and a fantastic performance from Andrew Lincoln.
The best part is: The three characters we complained about most in Season 2 - Dale, Shane and Lori - are all dead now.
Reason to look forward to next year: The Governor has been pretty civil so far. Surely that can't continue, right? The second half of Season 3 should be packed with horrifying moments. Bring it on!
4: Homeland, Seasons 1 & 2 (TV3)
It cracked this list because: The spy thriller is must-see TV, purely for the performances of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis - but the second half of Season 2 cost it a higher place on this list, despite the fact that Season 1, and the first half of Season 2, thrust it into the upper echelon of television drama.
The best part is: Mandy Patinkin, who steals nearly every scene he appears in, with the bonus that he provides ample opportunity for Princess Bride quotes. "Carrie, you keep using this word 'love'. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Reason to look forward to next year: Though the second season went off the rails a bit, the finale has effectively hit reset on the current storylines. The show could improve, people! THE SHOW COULD IMPROVE!
3: Louie, Season 2 (Comedy Central)
It cracked this list because: Louis CK is the best stand-up comedian in the world, and he is the unrestrained mind behind the best comedy on television. But more than just a show, this is a look at the world through the eyes of CK. It doesn't always work (or make sense), but when it does ... wow. Fortunately, Season 2 worked 99.9 percent of the time.
The best part is: He took a duck on a trip to Afghanistan! If you missed the double-episode where Louie does a USO tour, you should find it and watch it right now. Simply sublime television.
Reason to look forward to next year: For downloaders: none. Louie is on hiatus, returning in 2014. For the rest of us, we can expect plenty more shenanigans in the more sombre third season, if Comedy Central gives it a run.
2: Game of Thrones, Season 2 (SoHo)
It cracked this list because: George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has translated better to the small screen than anyone could have envisioned, and even as the cast keeps going, and it became apparent that Season 2 was setting things up for the third, Thrones proved that television is the new home of quality cinematic drama.
The best part is: I'm still using the theme song as my ringtone - and I still get excited every time I hear it.
Reason to look forward to next year: Show-runner David Benioff claimed that the third season is "the season [co-show-runner DB Weiss] and I have been anticipating from the beginning," before explaining that there is a major scene coming which inspired them to pursue making the show in the first place. I can't wait.
1: Breaking Bad, Season 3 & 4 (Four)
It cracked this list because: Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are the premier leading duo on television and, thanks to the writing of Vince Gilligan and Co, they're working with some of the best storytelling in recent years. Seasons 3 and 4 aired on Four this year, meaning we got 26 episodes of pure genius and a faceoff for the ages in that finale.
The best part is: The cast is loaded behind Cranston and Paul: Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk ... there are no weak links.
Reason to look forward to next year: Unless you're in the habit of downloading, none - in all likelihood, the show will not be back on Four (or on TV3, for that matter). If you are a downloader, there is lots of reason to be excited. And with only eight episodes to go in Season 5, plenty of reason to think that they could be the best eight episodes of the show to date.
What were your favourite shows in 2012? And do you agree with my list?