Taken on average, if the television of 2012 were a huge buffet, odds are health inspectors would have at least considered shutting it down for questionable, ill-prepared fare. Or viewers would have moved on, beyond its preponderance of bland creations, for tastier entertainment options.
Yet, amid the grid-filling pap and glut of reality weirdness, five-star delights did emerge to confirm that we are, indeed, living in a golden age of television drama. As well, smart comedy and the occasional irreverent talk-show host did remind us that intelligence is not yet extinct in the medium.
Without further ado, here’s a recap of the good, the real, the bad, and the just plain wrong.
• Breaking Bad – Like a lit fuse sizzling through our brains, this crackerjack drama about a high-school chemistry teacher with cancer who becomes a drug lord to pay the bills kept upping its A game each and every episode all season.
• Game of Thrones – As it juggles a bratty boy-king, a cunning dwarf and the bloody claimants to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros – along with comely lasses and the supernatural – its mammoth viewership unites both nerds and anti-nerds. Outstanding!
• Boardwalk Empire – Just when we thought the Atlantic City bootlegger Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) was going to get lead implants from the hair-trigger Sicilian Gyp Rosetti, he prevailed with a bravura finale and fresh focus on family.
• The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson – As the heir apparent to David Letterman, this wild-eyed Scottish talk jockey is reinventing the format (with his hilarious robo-skeleton co-host Geoff) as he works the camera like a dental pick on our funnybones.
• Honourable mentions – The Walking Dead (best zombie apocalypse ever); The Colbert Report (he’s sharper than his eagle’s talons); Modern Family (a nifty treasure trove of laughs on life, love and family); and New Girl (Seinfeld’s heir apparent is Zooey Deschanel).
• The Amazing Race – What a fun, exciting way for us to get to know and appreciate all the cultures on our planet in a format that keeps our minds racing along with the contestants.
• The Voice – Watch out American Idol and The X Factor! On this musical talent show, the judges – Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera – really do forge heartwarming bonds with their wannabes.
• Honourable mentions – American Pickers (vintage Americana at its finest); Design DNA (an amazing look at why we love the objects in our life); Mythbusters (stellar science debunks urban legends); Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (stunning cosmic science narrated by that majestic voice).
• Two and a Half Men – We knew Charlie Sheen, sir, and you, Ashton Kutcher, are no Charlie Sheen. (But at least “half man” Angus T Jones’s declaration that this show is “filth” was good for a ratings bump.)
• The Neighbours – Clueless aliens living next door? (What do you make of that, ALF?)
• Whitney – Forcing laughs is plenty painful. Not every comic deserves a sitcom; the days of Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr and Tim Allen have come and gone.
• Married to Jonas – Jonas who?
the just plain wrong
• Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – Nothing declares moral vacuity like trotting a 6-year-old tiara-clad child from beauty pageant to pageant suggestively dressed like a -Vegas showgirl.
• Storage Wars – Now there’s a big lawsuit happening Stateside; it claims the producers “rig” the show and “salt” valuable items into storage lockers before they’re bid on by folks hoping to make a buck on the contents. Shocking news? Hardly.
• Hillbilly Handfishin’ – When city slickers pay to dive into backwoods creeks with country bumpkins – then stick their arms into mud holes as “bait” for whatever bites from within – the end of civilisation is nigh.
• Keeping Up with the Kardashians – No offence to Kim or clan intended, but will someone, anyone, anywhere, for the love of Jiminy Cricket, please remind us just why they’re famous?