10. Boardwalk Empire
Since it’s premiered, Boardwalk Empire has gotten it’s fare share of detractors. While still popular among HBO viewers, I’ve heard plenty of conflicting views of the show with people calling it a glossy, finely produced and extensive bore. Thing is, I feel that even these naysayers will be hard pressed to say that when this show is great, it’s rather excellent. Season 3 might just have been their best season yet, with some brutally efficient scenes of gang land violence, more character insight, and more of the period-piece details that made the show so noticeable in the first place. Not every sub-plot worked (Margaret Schroeder is gonna need some time with the writers), but it’s safe to say that Boardwalk Empire has forged it’s own identity rather than continue to be looked on as The Sopranos latter-day shadow.
It fell it bit short of the brilliant second season, but then again I expect most television too. Louis C.K.’s Woody Allen-isms still knocked me dead, and his show continues to be the most sublimely awkward thing on television since Curb Your Enthusiasm. Great guest stars this season, from Robin Williams, David Lynch, and of course Jerry Seinfeld.
Homeland was certainly the best show to debut last year, as it was such a breath of fresh air for the political espionage genre. This sophomore season wasn’t quite as superb (if only because it dipped into 24 territory more often), but it still offered up great acting, a slick sense of tension, and plenty of the surprises and twists that a show like this needs to function on. Capping the season off with yet another game changer, I am once again left flabbergasted with what direction the show will go in next season. Until then…anyone down to marathon the first two with me again sometime soon?
The best new show this year. Lena Dunham seems to have become her “art kid” generation’s overnight sensation, with a show that mixes Judd Apatow-esque humor with an indie film vibe. Often hilarious, but more laudable for how real and raw it is. For what it’s worth, Girls handles the subject of sex better than any other show on television, and yes this is how contemporary 20-somethings tend to fuck.
Alternative comedy’s dead-pan champ had it’s best season to date this year. By making Jon Glaser’s witness protection character even more of a dick this season, the show plays like a gleefully mean-spirited romp about New York and reality television. Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry and Janeane Garofalo are all winners too.
5. Game of Thrones
Call this a cop out, but I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this show is awesome.
4. Mad Men
Another great season from TV’s most lauded drama. While it didn’t quite match the series peak point (Season 4’s episode The Suitcase), it was flowing with great character development that really made you understand the characters better, and it’s hard to now say that this show doesn’t have any likable characters. The inclusion of some surreal dream sequences this season (including a hilarious scene where Roger trips on LSD) could of come off as out-of-place in a series that plays it so realistic, but instead the filmmaker’s kept it at a nice minimalistic stretch that made it seem all the more appropriate. I’m hoping for something really big to happen next season, as it is the penultimate one.
Those who feel network TV is unable to be funny anymore clearly haven’t seen Community, which (not unlike Arrested Development) actually flourishes with it’s channel enforced limitations. Dan Harmon continues to fuck with sitcom cliches and conventions, but he plays it safe enough to keep the executives (kinda) happy. The show has great characters and story arcs to it amidst all the lampoonery, and fanboys and culture critics a like will find much to love in the shows pop-culture refences. With Dan Harmon having left as a showrunner for the series upcoming fourth season, season 3 might possibly be looking at the last great season for this show…but let’s hope not!
2. Breaking Bad
The first half of Breaking Bad’s final season did not disappoint at all, which is saying a lot as this is a show that has earned nothing but the highest of expectations. Walt’s long-awaited transition into kingpin-status was handled very well, with Bryan Cranston delivering yet another sensational performance. Oh, what terrible things he did over the course of these eight episodes! I’ll reserve final judgement until after I’ve seen the finale, but right now this appears to be the perfect setup for ending one of the very best television dramas of all time.
1. Eastbound and Down
I really hope you guys didn’t forget about this one. The third season was more than a return to form for the series after the slightly disappointing second one. It was also an utterly brilliant game changer for the series too. It had the shows hallmarks in spades such as rich dialogue, and hilariously pitch-black humor, but finally we got to see more humanity from Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers. While certainly still an asshole for most of the season, the finale hints that the more affable side of Kenny might be taking priority in the future, as the season ends with him finally doing something right (sorta). It would have been an ideal finale for the series, but surprisingly HBO has apparently ordered a fourth season. I have clearly mixed feelings about this, as why I am interested to see what more the writer’s could do with this fantastic character, I also can’t help but feel that the series had it’s three acts already. Whatever the case, season 3 of Eastbound and Down stands as a suitable trilogy closer, and the most satisfying show on TV for 2012