2012: a year that has given us rejuvenated favorites, slumping veteran series and a slew of sure-to-be-canned shows from the fall 2012 schedule. More than ever before, the fall's selection of new fare has been lackluster, to say the least. For every Go On and Ben and Kate, my rookie favorites, there has been Partners, The Mob Doctor, 666 Park Avenue, The Neighbors, Last Resort, Emily Owens M.D., Guys With Kids, Animal Practice... I could literally go on and on.
Thankfully this year was less about the new and more about the old as many of my favorite returning shows saw their quality improve drastically. Equally as impressive, if bittersweet, was the number of long-running series that met their ends: Gossip Girl, Weeds, Chuck, House, Desperate Housewives, CSI: Miami, Damages, The Killing (followed by an un-cancellation) and One Tree Hill. Fringe and 30 Rock have also announced their ends for early 2013.
Enough of all that. Let's take a look back at my personal favorite shows, moments and everything in between as it pertains to 2012 in television.
Most Improved Rookie Comedy: New Girl
In its earliest days, New Girl boasted a stellar performance from star Zooey Deschanel, seemingly drowning in a mediocre setting with three male roommates as they navigate their twenty-something lives in a small apartment. Zooey was goofball perfection, but her male cohorts only displayed the vaguest sense of comedy opposite her. It wasn't until the first season progressed that sparks of genius formed from two of her male co-stars: Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield. Johnson was an obvious to step it up, but most surprising has been Greenfield's hilarious transformation as Schmidt, in a role nominated for both a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe. Co-stars Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone are still ho-hum secondary players, but sometimes a good show needs only one star to shine. New Girl has three. In its second season, the laughs have grown as well to suit the standouts. Modern Family remains unchallenged for Best Comedy at next year's Emmys, but New Girl is putting up a hell of a fight.
Charlie Sheen Award for Best Breakdown: Angus T. Jones
Last year I noted how glorious Charlie Sheen's breakdown was behind the scenes at Two and a Half Men. I didn't expect to be able to hand out a second award this year, but alas in November, Angus T. Jones posted the video mocked 'round the world. In it, Jones talks about finding God and subsequently distancing himself from the "filthy" sitcom that made him a teenage millionaire. Nothing against finding God and religion, but shouldn't being thankful for what got you to such a lavish life be top priority, rather than bashing your past and present? Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes have a monopoly on troubled child stars in their 20s, but Jones is giving them a run for his money at just 19.
Most Improved Veteran Comedy: Modern Family
At the start of the season, I gave my thoughts on why Modern Family had won its third Emmy for Best Comedy. Making excuses is hardly a good thing, but I had felt I needed to show why it was just as deserving this year as it was the past two seasons. This year, excuses are no longer necessary. Not only are they back on track, they're arguably better than ever. Everyone is clicking and despite a few potentially damaging developments (Gloria's pregnant! Haley got kicked out of college!), Modern Family is as strong as ever. It's rare for a rookie hit to come back after a sophomore slump, but Modern Family is doing it with grand style.
Most Satisfying End: Gossip Girl
My guiltiest of guilty pleasures came to an end in December: The CW's Gossip Girl. For six seasons, I've endured Chair, Dair, Serenate, Darena, Lufus, Ivus, Jate, Juck, and a slew of other relationship ups and downs on the Upper East Side. The finale's revelation as to who Gossip Girl is was kind of fun, as were the numerous cameo appearances from past favorite characters, as well as a hilarious appearance from the voice of Gossip Girl herself, Kristen Bell. It's certainly not going to stand the test of time in television, but it was a fun way to spend six years with the creme de la creme in New York. XOXO, Gossip Girl.
Most Improved Overall: The Walking Dead
Leave it to showrunner Glen Mazzara (The Shield) to leave the hit zombie series at the end of this season, because he is undoubtedly the reason The Walking Dead has enjoyed such an immense growth in quality during its third season. Killing off major characters has become an art form, and keeping the pace on the line of breakneck is proving to do the trick for the massive AMC hit, clocking in at 10 million viewers on average for just the original 10pm broadcasts alone. It even can boast being the top-rated series in the 18-49 demos, above anything on network television. And despite Mazzara's exit, hopefully Dead is Walking the right path. Finally.
Most Shockingly Great New Show: Go On
In my review for Go On, I admitted to liking the Matthew Perry comedy, but not loving it. It felt like they were shoving too many silly side characters into the show, making it decidedly uneven in the funny. Miraculously, the oddball cast of grieving supporting players are the heart and soul of this show that has often crossed the line into dramatic territory. Dealing with death in such a light-hearted way while still being able to dance the line of genuine heartfelt emotion is tricky, but Go On is pulling it off. Matthew Perry is still a slightly-older Chandler Bing, but it's Chandler if Monica had died and he was learning to cope. My one complaint remaining is the workplace stuff: it remains distracting, especially really-miscast John Cho. He's able for the part, but far from perfect.
Most Frustrating New Show: Nashville
I loved the pilot. I love the two Globe-nominated stars. I love the music. I love the potential. But I might hate everything else too much to love the show. There's something so damned frustrating about Nashville. I can't put my finger on the cause. There's the god-awful political storylines, a couple of poorly written side characters and the general snoozy atmosphere. It's not working. It's broken. Nashville seemed like a runaway favorite before the season started, but I can't be alone as ratings are far-from-stellar. What can be done? I don't know. There are too many big changes to be made, that will only damage things further. If I had to guess, it's beyond fixing. Which is tragic considering the two leads. But Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere are only being wasted thus far.
Breakout Star of the Year: Dakota Johnson, Ben & Kate
To ignore Dakota Johnson's breakout turn on Ben & Kate would be as criminal as its ratings, but I have to mention her, for fear that by this time next year, I will have forgotten Ben & Kate ever existed. The premise sounds awful, and it doesn't always work, but Ben & Kate follows two siblings looking out for each other. Ben (Nat Faxon) moves back into town to help out sister Kate (Johnson) and her daughter. Problem is, he's a teenager in a grown man's body. Yeah, it's that cliched, but for some reason, I've fallen in love with the show, quietly. And the heart and soul of the show is Dakota Johnson. She's so utterly charming and adorable, it's a shame she'll have a hard time topping this character in the future, but I can only hope she finds the right project for her talents. For now, I can look forward to what little time I have left of Ben & Kate.
MVP of the Year: The Women of Happy Endings
Comedy of the Year: Happy Endings
Limiting this to one person is difficult. Happy Endings is six-strong, not one weak link in the bunch. I've grown to love what they've done with Dave. He's Ross 2.0. And no one will deny the awesomeness of Damon Wayans Jr. and Adam Pally. But the standouts in 2012 are the funny females of Happy Endings. Casey Wilson was the original MVP, playing Penny as a love-seeking woman-child, spouting bizarre sayings and wringing laughs out of almost nothing (remember, that first season was mediocre at best), and she's still hilarious. But Season 2 saw the evolution of Eliza Coupe as Jane Kerkovich. She's the love child of Monica Gellar and Claire Dunphy, cranked to the max. And if that weren't enough, Elisha Cuthbert has finally come out of her shell, especially this season, as Jane's sister Alex. Initially, she and Dave were given the Ross and Rachel roles, but they were stuck playing the boring straight characters to everyone else's goofballs. Highlight of the series for Alex might be the revelation that she's addicted to unwrapping gifts. Thanks to the women (and men) of Happy Endings, the series is also my pick for Comedy of the Year.
There you have it, my look back at the year in television. Unfortunately, time was not on my side. I have yet to see the latest seasons of Homeland, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and a slew of others, which explains why they aren't here. It's also why I don't have a top 10 for the year, as it doesn't seem right to not include those shows.
With the Golden Globes fast approaching, I plan on doing my predictions for the TV side, as well as mention some of the most prominent snubs of the year.
Until then, stay tuned and happy new year!