Holy motors we’ve arrived at the top! After five grueling days of deconstructing the best and worst that the 2012 television season had to offer, TVAngie and cinephilactic are ready to announce the winners (and losers). Will your choices make the cut?
#3: Smash S1
#2: Glee S4
#1: Bachelor Pad S3
All right. I’m kinda embarrassed to even admit that I’ve watched Bachelor Pad. And not just the past season, either – I’ve watched every previous season. The concept: a bunch of Bachelor and Bachelorette rejects hide out in the mansion and essentially party it out for a season, voting out a guy and girl each week. The final four (or final two couples) then have to convince all the evictees to vote for them in order to win $250,000. If that wasn’t enough, the winning couple participates in a Prisoner’s Dilemma to decide if the prize money will be shared between them, kept by one party, or dispersed evenly between all the evictees.
It’s kind of like Survivor, The Bachelor, Big Brother and Jersey Shore all rolled up into one show. I’ll admit it – it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to see a bunch of attractive people make fools of themselves by exhibiting drunken debauchery all while trying to win a quarter of a million dollars.
The Bachelor franchise has never been the most virtuous of reality/dating shows, but in recent years it’s definitely trended toward exploitation. All this crap about contestants being on the show “for the right reasons” is hilarious, because really, how can anyone honestly expect to find love everlasting in just a few short weeks with a camera crew hanging around? At least those who sign up to be on Bachelor Pad admit they’re just in it for the money and exposure (well, some maintain that they’re still “looking for true love”, but what they really mean is “cheap and easy hookups”).
But this last season was my tipping point. It just became entirely too transparent in its manipulation. This primarily due to what happened to contestant Rachel Trueheart (yup, Trueheart!), who ended up getting massively screwed when her partner, Nick, opted for the selfish option of the Prisoner’s Dilemma (i.e. taking all the money). Not only that, but moments before we learned that Rachel’s budding relationship in the house with break dancer (yup, break dancer) Michael, wasn’t true love at all and he already was in the arms of another come reunion show time.
Between Rachel’s utter shock that Nick would screw her over and essentially being dumped and/or played by Michael, it was clearly a rouse to get the audience to feel sympathy for her. I had the opposite reaction, particularly because Nick’s not-so-convincing change in countenance to being “we’re partners all the way!” to “I’m taking all the money bitch!” was just completely over the top.
The cameras followed him backstage as he got into a limo, while Rachel followed, ranting and raving. Both were still miked and it was all clearly staged. Breaking out the hand-held camera aesthetic and everything! In fact, it was bordering on Jerry Springer territory.
I don’t know what upset me more: that the show thought its audience was stupid enough to buy it or how dumb I felt for even watching it in the first place. It’s clear we’re meant to be absolutely disgusted by Nick’s decision not to share, but really, isn’t that what these kinds of reality shows are all about? Delivering the “most shocking ending in Bachelor Pad history”? I totally bought into the marketing of it all.
The ending made me realize that my role as an audience member contributed to the deplorable behaviour being exhibited. I don’t want to get on a moral high horse here, but personally, I felt implicated for being a part of the machine that fueled this show.
And for that, Bachelor Pad takes the top spot on my worst list.
# of episodes watched: 8
Returns: Likely summer 2013 on ABC.
The New Normal: I admire the premise of this series, but ultimately all the straight characters are extremely annoying. Returns: January 8 on NBC
The River (ABC): Despite some good actors, this “horror” series fails to deliver on the scary as well as the dramatic. The series ended on a cliffhanger and I don’t give a lick about what happens after.
#5: New Girl S2
#4: Awkward. S2
#2: Revolution S1
#1: Smash S1
Revolution or Smash? These were my options as I deliberated on my options for worst show of the year. Obviously at this point you know which one I went for, but you don’t know why.
Smash is a terrible show. It’s probably not the worst show of the year (that’s likely something like Anger Management or Animal Practice, etc). But in terms of the shows I watched in 2012, Smash was the worst. Let me count the ways:
- The show somehow takes Debra Messing, a fabulously talented and attractive actress and turn her into a harpy, adulterous shrew who wraps herself in unflattering scarves and enough drapery to cover floor to ceiling windows
- Katharine McPhee has a great singing voice, but she is a terrible actress (she and Tracy Spiridakos from Revolution should be studied as models on who not to put at the center of your major network television show). Not that the writers give McPhee much to work with, but she does have a tendency to make the worst choices from the options she has (witness her awkwardly uncomfortable seduction of Jack Davenport in all of Smash‘s fantasy sequences)
- Megan Hilty is the real star of the show and she deserves much, much better. From the way Ivy gets jerked around by Derek (Davenport) to the pill overdose that closes S1, it’s as though the writers actively seek to punish her. And for what? Being a better singer? A better actress? A blonde?
- Speaking of punishment, Smash contains a cacophony of terrible supporting players who seem designed to punish viewers. These include cheating a-hole Dev (Raza Jaffrey), cheating a-hole Michael Swift (Will Chase), insufferable teen Leo (worst young actor of all time, Emory Cohen) and PA from hell Ellis (Jaime Cepero), the character we all hated (not “loved to hate” as the show’s producers were clearly hoping for). All of these terrible characters contributed to the creation of a new TV-watching term: “hate-watching”, coined specifically for viewers watching Smash
- A central plotline revolves around making smoothies and a major guest star (Uma Thurman) is disposed of due to a peanut allergy from said smoothie. This was an actual three to four episode arc. Like, seriously, folks, WTF
- The music, though often enjoyable, panders to the Glee crowd. This means that we’re made to listen to poorly autotuned Top 40 songs instead of allowing these Broadway vets strut their stuff
- As TVAngie said in her post on Smash (her #3 Worst), NBC is clearly afraid of allowing the show to embrace its theatre roots. Instead of focusing on the backstage antics of mounting Bombshell, we’re forced to undergo baby adoption drama, Iowa visits, multiple adulterous storylines, shady bar owners, and Dev’s political follies. Yeah, because those are super interesting
It’s all so disappointingly “ugh”. Aside from the pilot and the finale (which still have their share of failures), the series proves a colossal misfire. It should be intriguing to see what they do now that they’ve fired half the cast and stacked the second season with tons of fancy guest stars.
But for now, Smash is the most disappointing show of 2012: creatively unsatisfying, poorly acted, filled with terrible characters and random, arbitrary show numbers (a song in a bowling alley? Why not?!). It’s the worst show of the year, so much so that I can’t do anything but throw my hands up in the air and scream “I’m in TECH.”
# of episodes watched: 15
Returns: February 5, 2013 on NBC
Caveat: This show could have easily be the television version of Showgirls (deliciously campy and outrageous)…if only it weren’t so painful to watch
Dallas S1: Silly, poorly paced and featuring a host of young actors who pale in comparison to the legendary actors of the original. With the recent passing of Larry Hagman (RIP), the show has already lost its greatest asset. Returns: January 28, 2013 on TNT
Doctor Who S7 (Pt 1): Shallow storytelling, more focus on special effects than characters and one of the stupidest send-offs for beloved companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) all add up to an extremely disappointing first half to the latest S7. At least we have spunky Jenna-Louise Coleman to look forward to. Returns: April 2013 on BBC America
True Blood S5: A promising investigation of the politics of the vampire world quickly devolves into religious hocus-pocus as the show delivers some of the worst female characterizations (and weaves) of any 2012 show. Returns: Summer 2013 on HBO
#3: Breaking Bad S5
The Walking Dead once again makes my best list, only this year it climbs to the very top of the list. I can honestly say it’s the one and only show that I need to watch live. DVRing this sucker simply won’t do because I find myself filled to the brim with excitement each week (and I desperately don’t want to be hit by any spoilers).
I was apprehensive when showrunner Frank Darabont very publicly left the show at the midpoint of last season. Taking his place, new showrunner Glen Mazarra was quite vocal about injecting some serious action and zombie-killing to quell the gripes about ‘all the talking’ in the first half of S2. This was exemplified in the debate over Randall’s (Michael Zegen) fate, and built up through to the death/re-death of Shane (Jon Berthal). Even with plenty of zombie action in the finale (‘Beside the Dying Fire‘ ended the season with a literal heard of zombies overtaking the farm) there was still the sense that rationales and debates were still prevalent.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I believe I was one of the only viewers who actually enjoyed all that exposition (I’m not a fan of gore). I therefore applaud Mazarra for managing to silence the critics by incorporating more death and violence, while still maintaining the elements that make the show intriguing for those who don’t care for “all zombie-killing, all the time”. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: The Walking Dead is so much more than a show about zombies. It’s about exploring what we’re capable of when faced with survival. The show excels at making something as absurd as a zombie apocalypse vividly realistic. And that’s primarily due to the efforts of actor Andrew Lincoln, who is truly superb as the show’s star, Rick.
Most notably, this season’s episode “The Killer Within” completely wrecked me. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt so strongly about an episode of television, literally wringing my hands and finding myself short of breath in anticipation of what was to come next. It was truly heartbreaking to see SPOILER ALERT Rick breakdown after the death of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). His subsequent imagined phone call with her is devastating in the best possible way. Considering how much I despised Lori, to find myself so profoundly affected by her death is a testament to the show’s genius. END SPOILERS Additionally, with the introduction of new characters such as The Governor (David Morrissey) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the town of Woodbury, The Walking Dead has set up plenty of interesting possibilities for the season(s) ahead.
It was recently announced that The Walking Dead will return for a fourth season, but Mazzara will, sadly, be leaving his post as showrunner. Again I find myself filled with apprehension of what’s to come, having genuinely appreciated his tenure thus far. I can’t say whether or not The Walking Dead will continue to hold the number one slot without Mazzara at the helm, but in 2012 it was the best thing on television, hands down.
Sherlock Series 2: It’s no big surprise that the BBC reboot of Sherlock Holmes is much more satisfying than the tepid procedural CBS version (which doesn’t aspire to be the same thing). While series two wasn’t quite as successful as the original, the introduction of Holmes’ (Benedict Cumberbatch) romantic foil, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) is a marvelous success, as is the continued interplay between Holmes and Watson (Martin Freeman) and his arch-nemesis, Moriarity (Andrew Scott). Returns: Whenever Cumberbatch and Freeman clear up their schedule…possibly not until 2014
#3: The Good Wife S4
I caught up very late in the game with Breaking Bad. As a result I had the pleasure of marathoning nearly three seasons worth of episodes in a short period of time. In a lot of ways, the show is the television equivalent of its own famed blue meth: completely addictive and horribly bad for your mental outlook.
What’s interesting is how the show has evolved over its run. What began as a relatively simple show about a man seeking to provide for his family before he dies has turned into a dark morality tale about a man who thinks he’s king sh*t. The Walter White (Bryan Cranston) we met in S1 is long gone, replaced by the biggest narcissist I’ve ever seen on television. Gone are the days of doing evil deeds for honourable reasons – Walter White now only does things to suit his own wants and needs.
As TVAngie outlined on Wednesday when she discussed Breaking Bad, the show has an amazing visual sense (it’s one of the most gorgeous shows on television and its direction and writing are razor sharp). What’s really impacted me in the first part of this final season is Walter’s changed relationship with his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn). Whether you like or dislike her, there’s no doubting that Skyler is now the most sympathetic character on the series: emotionally abused to the point of breaking by her husband. It’s been heartbreaking watching her struggle to mentally keep up with and tolerate her husband as he descends further and further into darkness. In the season’s single most powerful scenes, Skyler first escapes her husband’s pompous bragging by plunging into the pool and then, later that night, she tells him a shocking truth – that she’s waiting for his cancer to return so that he dies.
In a year filled to the brim with fantastic shows – ones that make me think that the small screen is far more enjoyable than the big – Breaking Bad in a mere eight episodes proved to be the highlight. It has the shocking twists of The Walking Dead, the remarkable performances of Homeland and the dramatic interpersonal conflicts of Mad Men and Game Of Thrones. It’s the best show on 2012 and I can’t wait to see what befalls Walter White next (and fall he will).
Returns: Summer 2013 on AMC
Watch from: Season 1 (Start at the beginning and work your way through)
Homeland S2: Last season’s Best TV show is one of this year’s most polarizing. The first half of the second season is absolutely brilliant, while the latter half of the season is a frustrating mess. At its peak (2×04 ‘New Car Smell’ & ‘2×05 ‘Q&A’) Homeland remains one of the best shows on TV. Returns: Fall 2013 on Showtime
The Walking Dead S3: Although I wasn’t always a huge fan of S2, the latest season is the definition of appointment TV. Like TVAngie, I can’t wait to see the latest episodes of this incredibly well-paced, increasingly well-acted drama, especially now that the real villains are the humans. Returns: Feb 10, 2013 on AMC
So that’s our top five Best and Worst shows of 2012. Did our lists match up with yours or do you have other shows you think we missed? Where do you think TV will take us in 2013? And if you could name a single episode as the best of 2012, what would it be? Hit the comments below and let us know!
And look for cinephilactic’s ‘Best Of The Rest’ list (populated by shows that weren’t quite top 5, but deserve a shout-out nonetheless). It debuts tomorrow morning at 9am EST.