Earlier this month, we shared here some of the Cartermatt.com readers’ picks for some of their favorite TV shows and characters from 2012; and now, we are doing the same exact thing courtesy of our own choices, culminating in the grand announcement of what we feel has earned the title of 2012 Show of the Year.
What’s our pick? Read on to find out at the very end. We try to do our best to explain the selection criteria within every criteria, and regardless of whether you agree with our picks or not, we want to hear some of your thoughts below.
Best Late-Night Escape – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (NBC). If there is a show that really defines what modern-day late-night TV is, this is it. Fallon will probably never admit to being the sharpest interviewer or the funniest comic on TV, but this almost works to his benefit, since he is forced to not just rest on his laurels night after night and create a series of carbon-copy shows.
We thrive with late-night TV on the feeling that you never quite know what is going to happen, which is precisely we are so happy that Fallon has found a way to take some of this “Saturday Night Live” energy and bring it over here. One night, you have Lindsay Lohan throwing hair product at a guy while Fallon sings in falsetto; the next, you have Jimmy and Justin Timberlake giving everyone the history of rap.
Best Underrated Show – “Royal Pains” (USA). Back when “Royal Pains” first hit the airwaves, we thought of it as a breezy but forgettable show; but somewhere along the lines in season 4, this group in the Hamptons managed to really turn it around. The show has a leading man in Hank Lawson who is flawed in a way that few other leading men are on TV these days (mostly in that his fear of commitment sabotages his nice-doctor persona), and the introduction of Ben Shenkman as Dr. Jeremiah Sacani has really brought so much more humor into a series that previously felt like something similar week after week.
We could really give this award to all of USA in general this year for allowing many of their shows to become more serialized, but regardless of whether or not it get any acclaim from critics, “Royal Pains” in 2012 became that show that we just looked forward to watching week in and week out.
Most Disappointing Show – “Jersey Shore” (MTV). We know what you are thinking: how can you be disappointed in a trainwreck? The answer here is pretty simple: when your trainwreck fails to live up to its own trashy reputation. “Jersey Shore” went from being a controversial (but often unintentionally hilarious) look into the lives of normal New Jersey party-goers to being almost a parody of itself, where millionaires pretended as though they were just like everyone else and didn’t have fans and camera crews watching their every move. Seasons 2 and 3 were in many ways the series’ peak, and it all went downhill from there.
To make matters worse, most of the “Jersey Shore” season 6 cast was too mature to really deliver an effective show. Snooki had moved on being engaged and pregnant, all of the women were in relationships, and Mike “The Situation” was moving away from his previous life popping pills and drinking. These are all positive life changes, but they contradict much of the show’s actual premise.
Breakout Star – Jase Robertson, “Duck Dynasty” (A&E) – There are not many years when we would say that the breakout star of the year is someone who is on a reality show, but the massive ratings of the “Duck Dynasty” finale (which included a 3.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic) prove that this is a show that just cannot be ignored. This is the show that many of your friends love, but critics for whatever reason choose to turn their noses up at simply because there’s no script behind it.
We pick this award based on who came out of nowhere and made us into instant fans, and Jase did that in 2012 even more than his crazy and equally-lovable uncle Si. He is the rare example of a reality star (a guy with a giant beard who lives in Louisiana and makes duck calls) who is not only uproariously funny and supremely entertaining, but never seems to be just playing it for the cameras or to sell himself out for nightclub appearances. What you see from Jase (who has to date been very private when the cameras are not rolling) is really what you get.
Best New Show – “Arrow” (The CW). This was not always an easy time for new shows in 2012, as there are many more flops out there than hits. Even some critically-acclaimed series (“Nashville,” “Ben and Kate”) are struggling in the ratings, and Fox in particular has done a terrible job with not one new show this year looking thus far worthy of getting a return ticket to the 2013-14 season.
It’s almost ironic that the strongest new show of the fall season, both in terms of quality and even in some ways its commercial value, is on the kid brother of CBS and longtime TV whipping boy in The CW. “Arrow” will probably never win any awards from critics, but what it does it does wonderfully: adapt a beloved DC Comics property with heart so that it feels familiar, but also establish an identity to stand on its own to feet. It also may be the best thing network TV has done with superheroes since the early days of “Smallville.”
Best Reality Star – Dan Gheesling, “Big Brother 14” (CBS) – When you commit a whole summer to a show like many people do with “Big Brother,” you hope and pray that someone like Dan turns up. Even early on in his season, when he was playing as a coach and only had one player left in the game in Danielle, we had a feeling that he was still somehow going to find a way to stick around for the entire game … and he did.
Somehow, Dan managed to play the ultimate comeback story brilliantly, even to the point where he was likable despite stabbing nearly every player in the house in the back (and even when he was in a dominant alliance). For fans of reality TV strategy, this was like Christmas coming every morning. It’s not necessarily that Ian Terry was a bad winner, but we still hold on to the belief that Dan should’ve won for how he decimated and deceived just about everyone in the game … and also hosted his own funeral for himself in the house, and still managed to get people to keep him.
Best Comedic Actor – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO). There are some great candidates across the board here that it is really hard to go wrong with one of about fifteen or so shows on the air. But what makes Louis-Dreyfus the winner here is simple: she took a character who was really quite awful in Selina Meyer, and made us actually want to watch this Vice-President go about her business. The only issue “Veep” had during its first season was that it ran just eight episodes, and the same size is so much smaller to see what the former “Seinfeld” star could do. But just for the pregnancy rumor episode alone (quite possibly the funniest half-hour of 2012), she is deserving of this honor.
Best Dramatic Actor – Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” (HBO). Here’s some food for thought. Dinklage won the Golden Globe and the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor when it comes to season 1 of the fantasy epic. He was nominated for the Emmy this year and did not win, and he was snubbed altogether by the Globes … despite being even better in season 2. Tyrion Lannister is hero of “Game of Thrones” to us above anyone else: he’s not always a man who acts morally, but he acts from his heart. In a world where corruption runs rampant and most people act for money or power, it makes for captivating television to just watch someone who plays for the love of the game … and Dinklage shines in every single second of it.
Worst Show of the Year – “Work It” (ABC). It would have been a little bit more interesting to put a show on here like “The Neighbors” or “Two and a Half Men” that could have generated some more discussion, but there’s no way of getting around just how terrible this cross-dressing sitcom really was, and how no one will ever touch “Work It’s” ineptitude like no one will ever be able to touch the first moon landing for great moments in space history. For whatever reason, ABC greenlit a show about men who dressed as women to get jobs in the workplace; and somehow, it only got more sexist and unfunny from there.
There was not a single moment within the show’s two episodes that was actually worth laughing at; and yes, the show only lasted two episodes because it was so horrible that the network, obviously feeling ashamed of themselves, retreated into a corner and cried themselves to sleep. Considering that ABC greenlit “The Neighbors” this fall, they must still be slightly hungover from all the drinking they did to feel better after this dud.
The 2012 Show of the Year
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
What a year of TV this has been. You could make worthy arguments for a number of shows that did not make it onto our list this year, whether it be “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” “Mad Men,” the vastly-improved “Walking Dead,” comedies “New Girl” and “Community,” or the British import “Downton Abbey.” However, when our team sat down to talk about this title earlier this week, we did so hoping to answer one question: what one show not only accomplished every single thing it set out to do this year, but managed to make us laugh, cry, be surprised, and be in awe of over the course of its season? No show better checked all of the boxes than HBO’s fantasy epic based on the George R.R. Martin novels. The fact that the show managed to do so much with a beloved story, one that is already cherished and picked over carefully by a devoted audience for accuracy, is even more impressive.
There are so many things to praise about the achievement that is “Game of Thrones” that it is hard to know where to start: from the stunning visuals to the impeccable set design to costume and makeup work, no stone is left unturned. It sends you straight into the Seven Kingdoms, and the performances from Dinklage, the extremely under-appreciated Lena Headey, and the rest of the cast make you believe that this land of dragons could be real. It often goes unnoticed how difficult it is to make child actors often work as believable characters within the larger story of a show (even “Homeland” struggles with this at times with Brody’s vacant son), but this issue is so transparent here you never really notice that there are even children on screen.
The only tragedy that exists for “Game of Thrones” (save for some of the killings) is that for whatever reason, awards shows appear to already be developing a tendency that one or two awards cycles are enough for a show that is pigeonholed as “genre.” It was snubbed at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards for a season that was as a whole better than the first, and none of its actors save for Dinklage have ever received their due with an individual nomination. We don’t know how much this recognition here will help the show in the big picture, but our hope is that sooner or later voters open their eyes and realize that there is more that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are crafting here beyond just a visual spectacle. There is also a masterpiece of a program that moves, frightens, and makes you think of the importance of power and what happens when you lose it.
Photos: USA, A&E, HBO