Best of 2012: ‘The New Normal,’ ‘Arrow,’ and ‘Duck Dynasty’ top new shows

If we were to be honest and compare new programming in 2012 versus that of the year before, it’s easy to say that 2011 is the victor. After all, this is the year that brought us “Homeland,” “Game of Thrones,” “New Girl,” and a number of other shows that we can see being on the air for quite a while. This year, we’ve had a little bit more of an enigmatic group without a new drama series that could contend with some of the current beasts in the Emmy category. There has been a little more luck with comedies, as well as a hilarious reality show that consistently does not get the credit it deserves.

Our criteria here is a little bit different than the Emmys, as is the case for all of our entries in the Best of 2012 Series: the nominated shows here all premiered within the past year, and it does not matter whether or not they are in the process of airing their first or second seasons. Be sure to vote in the poll below, and we will announce the winners during the grand unveiling on Friday, December 21 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

“Arrow” (The CW) – We thought that a new superhero show on The CW could be cool, but who knew it would be every bit as excellent as “Smallville” was? Even though it is not a 100% faithful adaptation of the Green Arrow universe, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg has done an excellent job working to bring the characters to life in a universe that still captures the attitude and the rich storytelling of Oliver Queen’s world. It’s one of the few primetime shows that genuinely feels like a summer movie every week.

“Duck Dynasty” (A&E) – It’s silly, it’s ridiculous, and season 2 thus far has been a little heavy on the Si. With all this being said, though, the world of Duck Commander this year has proven to be a better sitcom than just about every multi-camera show out there in the past year … and it’s done so without a script. The Robertson clan are just entertaining, and they bring some of that self-proclaimed redneck charm to TV while still coming across as respectful, nice people who are not out to exploit themselves or their family to make a quick buck. Take note, TLC: this is how to make a great family-themed reality show.

“Elementary” (CBS) – Mostly, Jonny Lee Miller is giving this Sherlock Holmes mystery a spot on the list. The cases are occasionally a little run-of-the-mill and the other characters (minus Lucy Liu’s Watson) fail to measure up, but this Sherlock is so captivating and witty that it makes you feel genuinely thrilled to have a mystery of this variety on Thursday nights.

“Girls” (HBO) – We will have a separate article on December 28 announcing our picks in all of these categories, and we can already tell you that “Girls” will not be winning, as it is a show that is not our personal cup of tea. However, you still have to include here based out of respect for Lena Dunham’s writing, the acclaim it has picked up in the past year, and the fact that it has already amassed such an enormous fanbase.

“The New Normal” (NBC) – This is what we love to see from a show: one that reverses expectations over the course of its first ten episodes. We felt upon their premieres that “Go On,” the companion to “The New Normal” on Tuesday nights, was the far better show for the first two weeks; however, watching David, Bryan, and some of the other characters develop over time has been a thing of beauty. It’s not as heavy-handed as it used to be, and now what we have is a show that is funny, rich with personality, and also 100% genuine. It’s just a shame that most viewers were not able to see the Halloween episode due to preemptions, since it was one of the show’s best.

“The Newsroom” (HBO) – As with “Girls,” this is another polarizing show … but in this case, Aaron Sorkin’s drama is our cup of tea. It’s a thoroughly-engaging look at what happens behind the scenes on a fictional cable news show, and we appreciate that it is one of the few premium cable shows out there that still carries with it some sort of idealism. Will McAvoy is not on a road of destruction, and nor is he a philanderer or a killer. He is just a man trying to balance out his values with his responsibilities.

“Scandal” (ABC) – Who knew that Shonda Rhimes would create her finest soap nearly ten years after the launch of “Grey’s Anatomy”? Even if you have to throw plausibility out the window at times, The show does a perfect job of accomplishing what it sets out to do: provide compelling drama with great performances (especially Kerry Washington) that you will want to talk about with your friends after it ends.

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