ScreenAnarchy's Best of 2012: The Best TV Series
In 2012, the ScreenAnarchy family has grown even more global. With a line-up of contributors that stretches right around the planet, we've had the means to see a huge proportion of the new films that have emerged in the past 12 months from some of the world's most far-flung regions - and we want to tell you all about them! Whether they be the ones we love, the ones we hate, or all those that fall somewhere in between, we want to share.
So enjoy ScreenAnarchy's Best TV Series from 2012!
Todd Brown - Founder and editor
Game of Thrones, HBO
Game Of Thrones, no question at all. I've been religiously avoiding the books and any chatter from those who have read them so that I can approach the story as fresh as possible, and I've not been disappointed one iota. Sure, Jon Snow was kind of a dolt this season but everything else was amazing. Great writing, great cast, truly epic in scope. This show is like crack. Honorable mentions to Danger 5 and Hellfjord.
Kwenton Bellette - Contributing Writer
Comedy Bang Bang!, IFC
2012 was not exactly a watershed moment for absurd comedy. Shows that pushed the envelope of what is considered funny by the masses waned or continued with the same shtick and just got old (I am looking at you, Childrens Hospital). Enter Comedy Bang Bang!, hosted by Scott Aukerman of Mr. Show With Bob and Dave fame. It's an inane talk show based on Aukerman's extremely popular and long-running podcast series of the same name, which featured all sorts of comedy luminaries waxing nonsense about god knows what. IFC picked up the show, and like Portlandia, it brought a disheveled dose of much-needed madness to our television screens. Unlike Portlandia, however, it was more hit than miss, with an inspired reinterpretation of the much-loved talk show format. Aukerman's co-host Reggie Watts adds to the hilarity, bringing a heavy deadpan demeanor and instant "music" that never fits any scenario presented.
Joshua Chaplinsky - Contributing Writer
We're all aware of how quality Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad are (even though I've never seen Breaking Bad - shut up, I know), but not enough people are aware of the badassness that is Justified. Samwise the Brave always wanted to see an Olyphant and so do I. Every goddamn week. The first season was solid, if not a little episodic, but with Seasons Two and Three the show really hit its stride. Season Four begins January 8, and I can't wait.
Brian Clark - European Editor
I realize that I'm behind many major critics, writers, comedians and people with Facebook accounts when I say this, but Louie is really the finest comedy series I've ever seen. Most of the time I can't even believe it's on TV. Sure, the way it mixes the comedy, tragedy, absurdity and realism in an always-unpredictable narrative structure is pretty amazing, but what really gets me is the show's compassion. The comedy is crude, vulgar and sometimes ironic, but it also displays a deep underlying sense of empathy for the human condition. Rather than using freaks, weirdos and desperate personalities as the butts of easy jokes, Louis C.K. gently reminds us that we're all a little fucked up and desperate in some way or another. And besides, it's tough out here! Everyone's doing the best they can, even the ones failing miserably. I find myself wanting to thank him in person for understanding after every episode.
Kurt Halfyard - Contributing Writer
With the airing of its third season on FX, I had a chance to play catch up with writer/director/stand-up comedian Louis CK's rather surreal autobiographical fantasy, Louie. The show continues to push the boundaries of series structure, with some 22-minute episodes containing two or even three stories, while stretching other narratives (Louie possibly landing the Late Show after David Letterman retires, or being groomed by David Lynch's old school TV handler) out across multiple shows. Shot with a sharp eye for cinematography and a keen sense of empathy and pathos, it's hard to pigeonhole this show into "just another stand-up with a sitcom." Louie CK wants to keeps his audience on alert at all times and rarely goes for any sort of easy laugh.
Pierce Conran - Contributing Writer
Breaking Bad, AMC
In 2008, Breaking Bad miraculously filled a great void left inside me when The Wire came to an end. The televisual equivalent of a heart attack, the show has prompted me to break into a cold sweat many a time over its incendiary 5-year run. As each new season has come to a close, the stakes have grown ever higher and the stress on my vital organs all the more life-threatening. So much so that I question the sanity of tuning in for what will be the show's final 8-episode run next year. But then again how could I wrestle myself away from Walter White's electrifying descent into moral turpitude?
Featuring some of the greatest writing the TV medium has ever witnessed, Vince Gilligan and his team's deft skill at combining clever narratives, sharp dialogue, original set pieces, breathless tension and - above all else - meaty characters, is enough to make Breaking Bad appointment television. But what really sets the show apart is the cast, Bryan Cranston completely redefined himself as a cancer-stricken chemistry professor who becomes a meth manufacturer, and in recent seasons Aaron Paul has proven himself a formidable co-star.
Frankly, if all TV was like this, I'm not sure we'd need movies any more...
Jason Gorber - Contributing Writer
HBO continues to be the benchmark for all television, often surpassing most of the works I see in theatres. This year was no exception, with both Boardwalk Empire and Treme providing astonishingly great seasons. Simon's paean to New Orleans culture is winding down, but Winter's Jersey Shore opera looks like it's got legs for years to come.
Yet, if I had to pick one for 2012, Treme is the one more deserving of a larger audience, as it's still managing to find poetry on the streets of NOLA in its penultimate season.
Peter Gutiérrez - Contributing Writer
This is a tough one since my two favorite shows, Breaking Bad and Doctor Who, gave us only half-seasons in 2012 - and though I remain a fan of both, neither has yet matched the heights it achieved back in 2011. So what dark horse shot up in the pack? Well, given the love I just professed for a crime saga and a mind-bending British series with a classic pop culture character, it's not hard to guess that for me nothing surpassed the pleasures of Steven Moffat's Sherlock. In the leads, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman continued to exceed all reasonable expectations. What's worth noting, though, is how the show refused to go the easy route by coasting on its appealing actors and name-brand recognition to provide a string of light, quick entertainments with a dash of cerebral pyrotechnics in the manner of, say, House.
Instead, as with its inaugural series, Sherlock S2 approached each of its three installments as if mounting the ultimate feature film version of the Conan Doyle source material. Which means that even its "minor" episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, demonstrated a remarkable commitment to rendering fresh a story that everyone already knows far too well. The other episodes managed a similar trick of being clever, thrilling, menacing, and funny... while adding outsized characters and a sweeping sense of action. As a result, Holmes and Watson, along with Irene Adler and Moriarty, suddenly felt like world-stage superheroes in terms of sheer grandeur, but without suffering through a tired, obvious superhero-ish treatment à la the Guy Ritchie films. In short, the scripts felt powered by these archetypal characters rather than struggling to do them justice. Indeed, if S3 continues in this vein, we may find ourselves arguing whether these are the finest series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations ever produced.
J Hurtado - Contributing Writer
As a symptom of my movie fanaticism, the only full TV series I was able to watch this year was Danger 5, which was presented in its entirety at Fantastic Fest. I'm sure I won't be the only one singing the praises of this little slice of heaven, but I'm glad to add to any chorus of praise. A WWII spy comedy played as an OSS 117 / Bond / Our Man Flint-styled spoof? It's even better than it sounds. With at least a dozen gut-busting laughs per episode, Danger 5 exceeded my expectations handily. And as always, kill Hitler!
James Marsh - Asian Editor
From the creators of Cold Prey, You Said What? and Dead Snow comes the deliciously surreal story of a disgraced and displaced Oslo cop banished to the wintry north of Norway. There he must contend with a freakishly oddball deputy, a creepily horny geriatric landlady and a mysterious sea creature, while he investigates a series of grisly murders. It's a Scandinavian Hot Fuzz by way of Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen, shot through with a delightfully sick and politically incorrect sense of humour. We can only hope and pray the film gets an English-friendly release in the near future as no other comedy series comes close to overshadowing the gates of Hellfjord.
Ben Umstead - East Coast Editor
Outside of the wonderfully absurd yet richly naturalistic Louie, I don't recall seeing a more daring show in 2012 than the third season of Community: the season that will now go down in the show's history as the final season for creator/showrunner Dan Harmon. So yes, while it was a bumpy ride behind the scenes, and even sometimes on screen, Community at least tried, and tried again, and usually brilliantly so. Some of the season-long story arcs were just bizarre enough to work (oddly enough, Chang's rise to power I felt worked in the end), while others were perhaps too half-baked in their bizarreness to really fly high (the over-arching plot involving the Air Conditioning Repair Annex).
At its core, Community has always been an achingly sincere show that never fails to make me feel warm and fuzzy, all while belly laughing, squealing, tittering and guffawing at the misadventures of the Greendale Study group. Case in point: When Britta gives Troy a lock of her hair and he lovingly, longingly lilts, "creeeepy", I was tearing up with laughter at the, yes, creepiness of it, while simultaneously tearing up at the deep special bond these characters share. That is Community through and through. There's just nothing else like it on television. I mean what other network sitcom gets nominated for a Hugo Award, science fiction's highest honor? Fuck the Emmys. That's streeeets ahead.