MEDIA: The Year In Television, 2012
■ by Dan Melnick
2012 was a year of antiheroes and villains; single mothers and scientists. While there is no shortage of dark, morally ambiguous worlds to choose from, there are also the twinkling lights of literal fairy tales and family-friendly shenanigans to save viewers from an otherwise ominous netherworld. If anything, 2012 has provided a wide spectrum to choose from. Perhaps the trend then, is in its diversity. Cable television has never been better. Many shows now offer film-like quality with the longevity and luxury to delve deeper into their characters than any movie ever could, to create a truly immersive experience for the viewer.
If nothing else, the following list below is a perfect example of this. Each show is unique in its own right and there’s no emergent pattern to find, except darn good programming.
◗ ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC)
Taking a page out of Lost’s playbook, OUAT pairs flashback stories with a current one, but unlike Lost, these fairy tale flashbacks actually advance a plot, and a plot that makes sense at that.
◗ SOUTH PARK (CC)
It’s easy to dismiss the show as silly, but 16 seasons later and delving into topics from recurrent Apple “User Agreements” to the train wreck that is Honey Boo Boo, South Park’s social commentary is just as poignant as ever.
◗ THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)
Its one of the most watched shows on television, so can millions of viewers be wrong? Discussions of astrophysics may fly over most of our heads, but heart of the show is simple enough that anyone can understand.
◗ ARCHER (FX)
This show doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s not only a cartoon, but it’s a cartoon with lousy animation. Sound like anything else you know? But the humor is sharp, the comebacks are witty, and the dialogue is impeccable.
◗ BEN AND KATE (FOX)
Dakota Johnson is perfectly cast as Kate, a believable, quirky single mom who’s the grounding rod for the lightning storm of side characters around her. Johnson’s sense of realism makes everything else funnier.
◗ BREAKING BAD (AMC)
For most shows a season is essentially meaningless, just a bunch of episodes, but BB grows. Each season is another perfectly crafted arc, continuing the story of a conflicted chemistry teacher and transforming him into a ruthless villain.
◗ MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
Like a house of cards, Modern Family stands on the shoulders of the entire cast. It wouldn’t be the comic powerhouse that it is without the delicate interplay between each of their unique voices and styles. Put them all in a white room with nothing to do and even that would be entertaining.
◗ SONS OF ANARCHY (FX)
The Sopranos on motorcycles. Each episode is shocking, the characters are engaging, and underneath it all, there’s still a moral code keeping it all together. Everyone’s favorite bad boys have never been better.
Sons Of Anarchy
◗ THE WALKING DEAD (AMC)
Zombies and an apocalyptic Earth are just the backdrop to tell true tales of humanity at its best and at its worse. Now that they’ve left Hershel’s farm, each episode gets better and better as the actual zombies for which the show is named, become the least of their problems.
◗ GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
Proof that strong characters are the most important aspect of a show. At a glance, it may appear to be a show about swords and sorcery, but that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. GoT is rife with intrigue, turmoil, courage, and fear delivered by an amazing cast and can hold an audience’s attention like nothing else on television.
The Ryder, January 2013