Jess's 2012 Year in Review

In years past, I’ve used this post to highlight the shows least likely to stack up on my DVR. This year, I decided to take notes as the year progressed, so come December I’d be all ready to report back on my favorites. The resulting “journal” provided an interesting picture of the “ups and downs” in my television affections over the course of the year.

The Constants

Some past favorites remained consistently entertaining this year, and my anticipation and affection for these shows never waned. Breaking Bad and Parks and Recreation remain particular favorites. These shows may seem like polar opposites, but both have such wonderful mastery of their characters and such fantastic acting that they are entirely emotionally involving, and that’s why I love them.

Game of Thrones and Cougar Town also remained consistent favorites for me this year. Not every story thread on Game of Thrones worked like gangbusters, but I did really enjoy Tyrion’s tenure in King’s Landing, Arya’s adventures at Harrenhal, and the introduction of Brienne. On Cougar Town, I loved Jules and Grayson navigating their way through the changes and compromises that building a life together will entail, and the bittersweet reaction their union elicited from Bobby.

Suburgatory. Like Parks and Recreation and Cougar Town, Suburgatory features those essential ingredients I can’t seem to resist in a comedy: a layer of over-the-top craziness masking true heart and character complexity. This show doesn’t always work, but I’ve been particularly impressed with Dallas’s post-divorce adjustment period, Tessa’s journey towards meeting her mother, and George’s struggle to balance his desire to support his daughter with his understandable resentment towards her mother, culminating in this year’s wonderful Thanksgiving episode.

Alphas. This show had a really outstanding second season, which kicked the story into overdrive and took the characters to some truly devastating emotional places. Given where they left things, I sincerely hope they get another season to at least wrap the story. But I’m not overly optimistic. Alas.

Intriguing Newcomers

Girls. I’m not really sure if I like this show. I wasn’t overly impressed with the pilot, but I kept watching. And kept watching. And kept watching. It’s an interesting case. I don’t like any of the main characters, but I do understand why they are the way they are, and for some reason I find them fascinating and enjoy following their adventures. I especially appreciate Lena Dunham’s willingness to put herself out there, physically and emotionally, to play someone so selfish and unlikable. Even as I’m horrified or disturbed by Hannah, I still find myself drawn in by her.

Bunheads. I wasn’t too sure about this show at first. Initially, I found its Gilmore Girls traits more grating than endearing, but Sutton Foster is an undeniably appealing lead, and as the show grew over its first ten episodes, I warmed to it considerably. Bunheads is far from perfect, and occasionally quite irritating, but I’ve become strangely invested in all the characters (even the teenagers!) and found its mid-season finale equal parts hilarious and moving. I’m looking forward to its return next month!

Mixed Emotions

Justified. After catching up with this series late last year/early this year, I was really excited to dive into Season 3. Unfortunately, while the latest season certainly entertained, it largely seemed lacking in the depth and emotional complexity of Season 2. However, they brought it all home with a killer season finale, which left me haunted and eagerly anticipating what comes next for Raylan, especially as he works through his considerable daddy issues.

Fringe. Following last year’s massive Fringe Binge to catch up with this series, the back half of Fringe’s Season 4 left me somewhat ambivalent. I looked forward to the show each week, and generally enjoyed the episodes as individual entities, but had trouble grasping the larger narrative trajectory. I’m not sure the season ever came together for me completely, but I did really love ‘Letters of Transit’ and have been fairly captivated (and heartbroken) this fall by the show’s return to that future. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series comes together in the end.

Lost Girl. Lost Girl took me on a real roller coaster ride this year. I was mildly entertained by it at first, then suddenly found myself very invested in it. By the end of the first season, Lost Girl was one of the shows I most looked forward to every week. But, somewhere along the way in S2, the show slipped the track for me. The writers lost their grip on the season arc, the characters largely turned into flat plot devices, and the show became a chore to watch. By the end of S2, I was as “out of love” with the show as I had been “in love” with it at the end of S1. I still care about the core characters enough to want to see how S3 unfolds, but Lost Girl is now on a very short leash with me (my love of the Bo and Kenzi partnership, notwithstanding).

Falling Skies. Season 2 started out really strong with several episodes that enthralled and unexpectedly reduced me to a teary mess, but Falling Skies kind of went off the rails for me toward the end of the season. All the great character work from the beginning of the season seemed to go out the window, and the return to “the characters will now do dumb stuff to advance the plot” mode left me feeling rather less enchanted with the series by the time the season finale aired. I’m sticking with it into Season 3, but I’m not nearly as excited about it anymore.

Supernatural. ‘Mixed Emotions’ is actually an upgrade for this show, because it spent a big chunk of the year on my ‘I Wish I Knew How to Quit You’ list. I really disliked the back half of Season 7, and came dangerously close to just walking away. But I didn’t quite know how to let go of the Brothers Winchester after all the years I’ve invested in them, so I bitterly hung in there. And, fortunately, things have improved. I don’t love the show the way I once did, but it isn’t making me angry or bitter anymore. Season 8 has had a few missteps (Sam’s soft-focus, summer vacation flashbacks have been particularly torturous), but I once again find myself looking forward to Supernatural most weeks.

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

Warehouse 13. I was so looking forward to the return of this show, but the arc quickly went awry for me, and by the end of its half-season run Warehouse 13 was making me intensely angry on a fairly regular basis. They somewhat redeemed themselves with a late reveal that explained a number of the issues that had been bugging me, but even that wasn’t enough to assuage the sting of the writers completely undermining the impact of one of the single most powerful moments of the series. If I wasn’t so attached to the characters, especially Claudia, I’d be done. But as things stand, I’m grudgingly sticking with the show, and wondering when I’ll finally reach the point where I can make a clean break.

Sons of Anarchy. Actually, I’ve almost managed to quit this one. I stopped watching after Episode 5, but kept up with the online reviews throughout the season. I’ve often wrestled with why I continued to watch Sons of Anarchy when nearly all the characters are incredibly unlikable and doing absolutely horrible things. I guess I had hope that some of the characters would rise above, and I was invested in their struggles. But this season finally broke me, eliminating some of the characters I cared about, and taking those remaining to such dark places I just couldn’t go on their journey anymore.

Best of ‘New to Me’

Band of Brothers --- Simply outstanding.

The Middleman --- Hugely entertaining! The episode titles alone are worth the price of admission (‘The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation,’ anyone?), and that’s before you get to the ridiculously non-profane profanity! I was profoundly sad the series only had twelve episodes, but so glad I watched them.

Homeland --- Season 1 was incredibly gripping and disturbing, with truly great performances from Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, and Morena Baccarin. I’m looking forward to catching up with S2 on DVD next year, despite all the mixed critical buzz out there in the blogosphere.

The Walking Dead --- My most recent obsession. (Thank you, Netflix, for making it so easy to binge-watch a series.) I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to take the relentlessly depressing trajectory of the narrative, but I’ve been engrossed in the journey thus far --- especially the very visceral and heartrending start to Season 3!

Interesting Omission: Eureka – After being on my favorites list for the last several years, the final run of Eureka didn’t make the cut. Not once did it turn up on my “what I’m looking forward to or really enjoying this month” list. You never want to lose beloved shows when they are riding high, but there really is something to be said for going out on top rather than staying a bit too long at the party. (A lesson I should probably learn when writing these posts. Sorry, folks!)

Image credit: SpoilerTV

10 comments:

celticmarc said...

Awesome review Jess ! Wow, quite a Monday morning on this site !!! NEVER a dull moment here, no matter if on reviews, articles AND/OR comments (hope I don't drive anyone crazy with my French).

Suburgatory : I watched snippets and then decided not only to buy the first season DVD set but also marathon it : I am MADLY in love with it now. Nothing with a bit of sarcastic surrealism to make me happy.

Breaking Bad : oh, I know this is a Gem, But it was "too much" for me after the first episodes. Eventually, I will replunge into it.

G of T : oh my, another epic one.

Alphas : another one that eventually I'll have to check...

Dexter (just finished yesterday) : I've commented enough these past weeks, but let me repeat differently : one of its strongest (and yes, epic !) seasons. And just give Miss Carpenter half a dozen of Emmies.

Warehouse 13 : totally sharing your state of mind about this one. My love for these characters is too strong to just walk away. I'm a Libra, very faithful...

Eureka : its potential almost ruined by a rushed ending. Heart breaking.

Glad you enjoyed The Middleman : another cult (??) gem.

----

Glee : (last May) yay they won ! Ok, let's move on ! Mixed feelings about the 4th season : really necessary ??? But since I love the music so much....

Michal Dvorak said...

Yay, more love for the Middleman! Such a cute little show. The budget for the special effects seems almost non-existant, but the obvious love of the creators for all the sci-fi/supernatural source material, as well as the enthusiasm of everyone involved, makes it into a little gem anyway.

In case you didn't know this, there were supposed to be 13 episodes in the first season; ABC canceled it when only 12 had been shot. But the season finale, The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse (another excellent title), was later published in the form of a comic book. It wraps up the season pretty well and I'm disappointed we didn't get to see it on the screen. Oh well.

Matthew L said...

I too say yeah for the love of The Middleman. Loved this show when it was on. Have the DVD set as well as the graphic novel that you're talking about Michael that wrapped up the TV series. Also got the original comics that the show was based on, so my Middleman universe is complete, just like I did for Firefly (Firefly DVD set, Serenity movie, comics). :D

Roman said...

I'm glad somebody feels the same way about Sons of Anarchy. I'm five seasons into the show, so I'm not going to quit, but it will never be at the heights it was with season 2.

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks for the comments, all! Glad to know I'm not alone in my new Middleman love, or my SOA weariness.

I did actually know about the unproduced 13th Middleman episode. I watched the cast's table read of the episode from Comic Con a few years back (you can find it on You Tube). It was fun to know how things would have wrapped, and I was glad to get a bit more closure on the series, but it simultaneously made me so sad that we didn't get a finished product. Matt Keeslar was sublime, and Mark Sheppard was "sheer elegance." :)

celticmarc said...

Jess


Matt Keeslar was a brilliant nutcase in Dollhouse : strongly recommend to see the episode he was starring in. Spooky !

Mark Greig said...

Yay for the all The Middleman love. I've adored that show since it first aired. Definitely one of the all time great one season wonders.

celticmarc said...

Mark

If I were British, I'd say that The Middleman is bloody brilliant !

ChrisB said...

I enjoyed reading this, Jess. I love how varied what you watch really is.

Just have to ask, though. Which category does Ben and Kate fall into?

:-)

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks, Chris. When I looked over my viewing slate, I was rather pleased with my diversity. It's comforting to know I balance out all the violent, dark stuff with some heartwarming laughs.

Ben and Kate falls in the 'Gonna Enjoy it While it Lasts' category, because that show is so cancelled. But it is goofy fun and makes me laugh, so I will watch it as long as it's on. :)