Monday, March 25, 2013

COLUMN: Best of 2012 - TV

I watch a lot of TV. An unhealthy amount. I figure there are two things I could do about it: (1) Immediately change my habits, start getting out of the house, and bettering my life both physically and socially, or (b) justify my countless hours of TV watching with my annual list for the top shows of the year. Guess which one I picked. And while you're guessing, here's my picks for the best TV of 2012:

10. Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family) - Once upon a time, networks thought night-time soaps were just for adults. "Beverly Hills 90210" changed all that, but the problems of Brenda and Dylan seem like "Leave It To Beaver" compared to the four "Pretty Little Liars," who spend every episode being routinely blackmailed and tormented by an unknown evil genius classmate named "A," who must be the greatest criminal mastermind of all time. Ridiculous and over-the-top? You betcha. But addictive as chocolate and a guilty pleasure I don't feel too guilty about.

9. Destination: Truth (Sci-Fi) - Intrepid explorer Josh Gates and his team of supermodels -- I mean, "paranormal experts" -- travel the world in search of ghouls, yetis, and all things that go grrrr in the night. Do they ever find anything? Not so much, other than creepy noises conveniently before every commercial break. But Gates thankfully doesn't take himself too seriously, and watching his team stumble through foreign lands conquering language and social barriers is the real payoff.

8. American Horror Story (F/X) - How could a show THIS unsettling come from the producer of "Glee"? "American Horror Story" follows in the grand tradition of "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" by being creepy without the pointless hack-and-slash. And faced with the dilemma of how to continue the story from Season 1, the producers showed real genius by abandoning everything but the cast and rebooting with an entirely new plot, setting, and characters. Genius stuff, but NOT for the weak of heart.

7. The Voice (NBC) - Dang it, just when I was all set to bury the singing competition genre for once and for all, NBC figured out a way to freshen it up. Let's be honest, no one cares who wins "The Voice." The FUN part is watching the judges. It's their good-natured bickering and genuine love for the contestants that makes "The Voice" destination viewing. That and Melanie Martinez, who is awesome.

6. Fringe (Fox) - The greatest sci-fi show on TV bids farewell this season, and all I can do is thank Fox for giving fans one final go-around of this low-rated but highly-awesome series. What started as a monster-of-the-week procedural has evolved over five seasons into a world of parallel universes, psychic abilities, time travel, aliens, and enough weirdness to out-geek even the nerdiest of viewers.

5. Girls (HBO) - It's hard to judge this show; it's clearly not written for me. Early critics dubbed "Girls" a "Sex and the City" for the next generation. This didn't bode well for me, since I'm pretty sure "Sex and the City" gives me cooties. But in Lena Dunham, "Girls" has perhaps the most gifted writer in all of television, and Dunham's New York City is far removed from the glamour of Carrie Bradshaw. They'd probably hate each other, but Dunham would probably go to dinner with her if it meant a free meal. "Girls" speaks to the jaded post-hipster sect like few others. Lena Dunham, will you marry me? Not kidding.

4. The Vampire Diaries (The CW) - Nothing to see here, folks. Just your usual vampire-girl-vampire love triangle. Oh, what's that, you say? (Spoiler Alert!) Now the GIRL is a vampire, too? I don't care that it's a show written predominantly to give attractive actors the opportunity to "vamp" for the cameras. You just have to believe me that there's a whole lot more to "Vampire Diaries." Like attractive vampire GIRLS, for instance. Oh, and compelling plotlines overseen by the creator of "Dawson's Creek" and the "Scream" franchise.

3. Parks and Recreation (NBC) - When I was in my rebellious teen phase, I didn't hesitate to tell anyone within earshot how evil and bland and boring the Midwest was and how I couldn't wait to leave. These days, the only place I want to be more than here is the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Why? Because it's the home of what might just be the funniest sitcom in history. "Parks and Rec" may be Amy Poehler's show, but its the entire cast that makes it golden -- and watching them rally around Leslie Knope's run for city council last spring was the feel-good storyline of the year.

2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central) - 2300 episodes, 18 Primetime Emmy Awards, and the Daily Show shows NO signs of getting complacent in its old age. In fact, during an election year, we expect MORE of the show, and it delivered in spades. After a non-stop daily barrage of political ads, pleas, and speeches, I needed my nightly dose of the Daily Show to cut through the muck and point out just how laughable our political process really is.

1. Homeland (Showtime) - I've had this document open for an hour on my laptop now, and I haven't been able to write a single word about "Homeland." Know why? Because as I'm writing this, I'm watching the Season 2 finale and my hands are shaking too hard to type. Some critics have claimed that "Homeland" went off the rails a little this season with unrealistic plotlines. If "Homeland" were "real," we'd probably have multiple episodes of watching security agents file paperwork and analyze data. Instead, we have THE best thriller on TV -- even if I wanna take Brody's teenage daughter and lock her up in the Orphanage of Annoying TV Characters. But it takes a great show to make me hate something THAT much, and "Homeland" is about as great as a show can get.

That's it. 2012: It's a wrap. Next week, we return to pressing matters like cats and houses and annoying people and girlfriends and the lack thereof.

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