We’re nearing the end of December here meaning it’s time for everyone to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome in the new year. 2012 was a big year for the site as it reached nearly 30,000 total views and my article on HBO’s now defunct series Luck was used as a required reading at University of Oregon. Sadly, work and personal things interfered with the blog in the later half of the year, but I figured I’d try and make up for things with the second annual Remotely Interesting Retrospective. This time I’ll be breaking down my favorite TV series into three categories: First Tier, Second Tier, and Third Tier. Any of the five shows in the First Tier could easily be number one given the episode. The Second Tier consists of my five “second best” series of the year and the Third Tier is to highlight five additional shows that were particularly outstanding and deserve some extra recognition. And don’t worry, all the write ups will remain spoiler free, dealing with only broad strokes rather than fine details, so go ahead and read without fear.
(Best shows of the year)
Breaking Bad: It seems a little unfair to be evaluating this series since it aired half a season rather than a full run, but it speaks volumes toward the series quality that in eight short episodes it can be called one of the best shows on TV. When I think back on the year in television, “Dead Freight” immediately comes to my mind as the strongest hour of TV I’ve seen all year. I have never been more invested or enthralled then during the Great Heisenberg Train Robbery. By the time the final moment comes around, I was in shock. The tension is so twisted so tightly that I had completely missed what is perhaps when looking back, fairly obvious, yet nonetheless masterfully set up. Not to get deep into spoiler territory, but these chunk of episodes includes another instant hall of fame death scene, including what may be the best line of 2012
Highlight Episode: “Dead Freight” aka the Great Heisenberg Train Robbery discussed above.
Gravity Falls: This has got to be the biggest, and best, surprise of 2012 TV. Don’t let the fact that this half hour animated comedy airs on Disney Channel fool you; it’s one of the best comedies on television. In fact, I’m willing to call it the best new show of the year. It’s essentially what you would get if you threw two scoops of The Simpsons, one scoop of The X-Files, and a dash of Twin Peaks all into a blender. Creator Alex Hirsch has a clear vision in his head of what this show is, and it’s readily apparent from the first episode. In addition to being wildly funny, the show balances heart and a sincerity that’s rarely found on TV. Episodes include supernatural mysteries and creatures such as gnomes, minotaurs, and sea monsters, but they’re all window dressing for the metaphors about growing up and being a kid. Gravity Falls also includes one of the best brother sister relationships on TV, as it’s always clear that even if Mabel and Dipper argue and disagree at times, they truly love each other and want what’s best for each other.
Highlight Episode: “Double Dipper”, which plays to and subverts all your expectations of clone stories. It’s a perfect half hour of form, structure, humor, emotion, and just TV in general.
Louie: Continuity was never anything you had to worry about with Louie before, but season three dipped its toes in that storytelling pool quite often. The Late Night three parter on Louie this season is hands down my favorite arc of the year. It’s a brilliant and moving story about a man with a chance to finally change his life for the better. The end scene is one of the best the show’s ever done and works as perfect thesis statement for the series as Louie yells that he did it in joy, while simultaneously giving the middle in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Highlight Episode: “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2”, in which Louie goes on the most exhilarating and terrifying date of his life.
Mad Men: I know I wanted to avoid picking a number one show, but if I was absolutely forced to give it, it’d probably be Mad Men. A lot has been written on this show over the years, but it continues to be more than worthy for all its praise. While season five is not as good as four was, it’s still an amazing season. It was highly experimental for the show with dream sequences (my least favorite device in all of TV), LSD hallucinations, and more. I remain steadfast in my belief that Mad Men remains the best drama currently airing on television.
Highlight Episode: “At the Codfish Ball”, in which Mad Men makes a strong case for a Rodger Sterling and Sally Draper Paper Moon like spin-off series.
Parks and Recreation: As good as a comedy can get. This is hands down my favorite show on TV. There is no other show that makes me laugh or smile more. While 2011 remains the show’s highlight year, the episodes we received in 2012 where not far off. Paul Rudd was fantastic in his guest appearance and the whole last part of the Leslie runs for city council story arc is outstanding. Season five has been less story driven than the previous, but has not skimmed on the laughs. There is no show I praise more than Parks and Recreation. If I’m ever in the slightest bad mood, the Pawnee Parks department always cheers me up.
Highlight Episode: “Win, Lose, or Draw”, which contains the series, and potentially the year’s, best scene when Leslie enters the booth to vote for herself. Amy Pohler has never been more powerful, making the moment feel not only like the culmination of four seasons of television, but of a human being’s entire life. And of course it’s wonderfully interrupted by Paul Rudd and his inability to work the machine.