As 2012 is ending, here are my picks for some of the highlights of the year’s television season:
Most consistently crowd-pleasing drama:
AMC’s “The Walking Dead”: Can’t miss series whether you’re a zombie fan or a fan of outstandingly delivered television production, from the writing to the acting. Each episode this past fall in particular has been edge-of-your-seat viewing.
Best sophomore season series:
Showtime’s “Homeland”: Didn’t know how the excellent first season could be topped, but it was. The romance between Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes) came together in an unexpected and appealing way and added an extra reason to enjoy this taut drama centered on terrorism and the battle against it.
History’s “Hatfields & McCoys”: This ratings record-breaking miniseries featured Emmy-winning performances by Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger as well as an overall solid performance by a cast that included Biil Paxton, Mare Winningham, Powers Boothe, Matt Barr and Lindsay Pulsipher. “Hatfields & McCoys” proved the miniseries is still a viable vehicle for television.
Best new crime procedural with a twist:
CBS’s “Elementary”: Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are a pure delight to watch in this modern take on Sherlock Holmes in New York City. This show is clever, humorous and intriguing.
Best midseason finale:
ABC’s “Nashville”: A surprise move by young country star Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) made this midseason finale of a great new show about the Nashville music world stand out.
Best season finale:
Showtime’s “Homeland”: Jaw-dropping ending to a superb sophomore season that leaves viewers anxiously anticipating next season – just what you want in a finale.
Most romantic night on television:
Thursdays on The CW with “The Vampire Diaries” and “Beauty and the Beast”:
“The Vampire Diaries’” love triangle between Stefan (Paul Wesley), Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Elena (Nina Dobrev) took on a new dimension with the Damon-Elena sire bond angle, and the chemistry between Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Cat (Kristin Kreuk) is really beginning to simmer on “Beauty and the Beast.”
Best sci-fi dramas with heart:
TNT’s “Falling Skies”: Noah Wyle is a big part of what makes this show a winner as he plays Tom Mason, the wise father of three sons and a leader in the resistance against an alien invasion on Earth. Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer for this series, which always demonstrates the importance of family. “Falling Skies” picked up the pace in its second season this past summer and features excellent special effects. Connor Jessup is also a standout as Tom’s middle son, Ben.
Fox’s “Fringe”: This series has as much love for humans and their relationships as it does for science fiction, and it excels at combining both elements into an overall fascinating drama. Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson have been magnificent in their lead roles as Fringe team members Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop, and John Noble has made his character, eccentric scientist Walter Bishop, one of my all-time favorites on television. I’m betting the last three episodes of this show, which ends Jan. 18, will be amazing.
Best action series with brains:
Cinemax’s “Strike Back”: Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester do virtually all of their own stunts in this gritty, intelligent series that spans the globe in the war on terrorism.
Best spy drama:
USA Network’s “Covert Affairs”: Piper Perabo is captivating in her role as CIA operative Annie Walker in this adventurous, exciting drama. Christopher Gorham shines as a former CIA operative who was blinded during a mission with Army Special Forces in Iraq and is now head of tech ops within the Domestic Protection Division – and an ally of Annie’s. And, after this past season’s finale, their relationship looks to be headed in the romantic direction – finally!
Best new comedy series without boundaries:
HBO’s “Girls”: This show created by Lena Dunham centering on four girls in their early 20s in New York City is frank and funny. Dunham and her costars, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke and Zosia Mamet and the predicaments they find themselves in are just compelling to watch.
Best resurgence of a long-running drama:
Showtime’s “Dexter”: As a longtime fan, I was displeased with last season’s finale in which Miami Metro Lt. Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) discovered her brother and co-worker Dexter’s serial-killing ways – and thought she had romantic feelings for her (adopted) brother. But this season the show has redeemed itself with stellar writing and acting performances by Hall and Carpenter – and a disturbing season finale.
Most consistently funny comedy:
ABC’s “Modern Family”: Still can’t watch this show without laughing out loud. All-star relatable ensemble comedy cast and superior comedy writing – need I say more?
Best singing competition series:
NBC’s “The Voice”: Blind auditions continue to make “The Voice” the most appealing singing competition reality series in my book (having Tishomingo resident Blake Shelton and Adam Levine as two of the coaches doesn’t hurt either) and the third season featured phenomenal singers and an amazing live finale show.
Most addictive mystery drama:
ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars”: This show continues to be unchanging in its ability to keep viewers guessing about who’s behind the ever-elusive “A” and the conspiracy to terrorize teen friends Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Emily (Shay Mitchell).
Each episode has been full of twists and turns and the series has constantly kept viewers wondering what’s going to happen next – a fun treat for fans of mysteries with lots of teen drama involved.
Best comedy veteran return to TV:
Matthew Perry in NBC’s “Go On”: Perry excels at what he does best – sarcasm with a touch of sweetness – in this new show that manages to make a grief therapy group and each of its members humorous in a tasteful way.
Best no-nonsense take on the crime procedural:
A&E’s “Longmire”: Australian actor Robert Taylor portrays Walt Longmire, the straightforward sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, based on the Walt Longmire Mystery novels by Craig Johnson, in this new drama.
Taylor plays Longmire in a strong but slightly vulnerable way that is always engaging, and he has plenty of worthy backup in fellow cast members Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff, Cassidy Freeman and Bailey Chase.
Most addictive family drama:
ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth”: Centering on two teen girls who were accidentally switched at birth as newborns in the hospital, “Switched at Birth” continues to be consistently well-written and acted and features story lines relatable to teens and their families.
Lea Thompson, D.W. Moffett, Constance Marie, Katie Leclerc, Vanessa Marano, Lucas Grabeel and Sean Berdy headline the solid cast, with Leclerc as hearing impaired teen Daphne and Marano as her switched at birth associate Bay, and deaf actor Berdy delivering standout performances.
And these highlights are just the tip of the iceberg – there’s lot of good programs out there and there’s something for everyone.
Here’s to 2013 and another stellar year of quality TV!
– Melissa Hayer
Follow me on Twitter: @MelissaHayer