NGN’s Best of 2012: TV

First of all, I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, friends, and all of the happiest things in life.

After Christmas, we enter one of my favorite times of the year: Year-In-Review time! I have always been a sucker for a good countdown show about the year that was or a well-thought-out list of the year’s best in almost any category. So, naturally, I’m going to use my little corner of the Internet to share my thoughts on the Best of 2012 in the media.

This post will be devoted to all things TV (look for a movies/literature/music post sometime before the ball drops tonight night). I’m happy to have the beautiful and talented Heather also sharing her thoughts on some of the highlights of this year from the world of television.

Without further ado, let me present my Best of 2012: TV Edition.

Favorite Comedy: Parks and Recreation
With consistently strong storytelling, humor that is both intelligent and slapstick, and actors operating at the top of their games, Parks and Rec was not only my favorite comedy of 2012; it was my favorite television show this year. From the wonderfully satirical campaign storylines through Leslie’s uplifting election to city council and engagement to Ben, this show has proved time and again that a comedy can be both heartfelt and hilarious. I found myself in tears from both laughter and genuine emotion nearly every week, and that is exactly how I like to watch television.

Runner-Up: New Girl

Favorite Drama: Once Upon a Time
I discovered this show during a New Year’s Day marathon, and that started a year-long love affair that has only grown stronger with time. This show has it all: incredibly well-developed characters, mind-blowing plot twists, great actors, and a truly unique and engaging story that is becoming richer and more complex with each episode. Nowhere else on television have I seen the variety of female characters introduced on Once Upon a Time, and those characters are at the center of some of the most interesting relationships I’ve come to root for in any form of media this year. Parents and children (both biological and adopted), husbands and wives, best friends, and even grandparents and grandchildren—this is a show about family and love in all of its beauty and all of its tragedy. It wears its heart shamelessly on its sleeve, and that unabashed optimism is the reason it’s touched my heart like nothing else on TV this year.

Runner-Up: Castle

Now, here are some thoughts on the new offerings to the TV world in 2012, courtesy of Heather:

Favorite New Sitcom: Go On
I did not expect to love this show as much as I do. It’s funny and heartwarming at the same time, and it’s only getting better as everyone settles in to their roles and becomes more comfortable with each other. I like that, for the most part, Ryan has embraced his membership in the group. This show wouldn’t work nearly as well if he’d kept up his initial levels of cynicism because it’s when the whole group is together and they are having fun that this show is at its best.

Favorite New Drama: Chicago Fire
Despite the complaints about this show, I have fallen in love with it. I think the fires and other calls that the department gets sent out on are interesting, though not particularly noteworthy on their own. What really makes this show work are the characters. This show has done a really good job of making me feel attached to these characters and their relationships with each other, both platonic and romantic. It’s not the most original show airing this season, but in my opinion, it’s one of the best for those who are interested in a character-driven story.

No year-in-review write-up would be complete without a look at the performances that made this year in television so great, and here are my selections:

Male Dramatic Performance: Nathan Fillion (Castle)
Fillion has always been able to show off his abundant charm as Richard Castle, but in 2012 we were all reminded of what a brilliant dramatic actor he is as well. In both the Season 4 finale (“Always”) and Season 5 premiere (“After the Storm”), Fillion showcased the combination of depth and restraint that makes him so compelling in dramatic moments. His profession of love to Beckett in “Always” was such a standout moment for him as an actor because it was played with such honest emotion, the unshed tears in his eyes more affecting than any lines he spoke could ever be.

Male Comedic Performance: Max Greenfield (New Girl)
It takes one heck of an actor to make a character so self-centered so lovable at the same time, but that’s what Greenfield has been able to do each week with Schmidt, the most charismatic and most obnoxious of the three male roommates on New Girl. Schmidt may drive you crazy as a viewer, but there’s no denying that he can also tug at your heartstrings with a well-placed moment of genuine humanity, usually involving Cece. Greenfield makes me laugh and feel more deeply than anyone else in the surprisingly talented cast of this show.

Female Dramatic Performance: Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time)
Once Upon a Time could only be as strong as its Snow White, so it’s lucky they found such a rock-solid actress to anchor their show. Goodwin is true joy to watch each week—effortlessly combining all of Snow White’s facets into one of the most fully-developed women on television. She’s a warrior, a mother, a leader, a lover, and a friend—and Goodwin blends all of these roles into one inspiring portrait of an ass-kicking princess who is nothing like her Disney counterpart (thank God). It’s more than just her strength that appeals to me, though. Goodwin is able to bring a depth of emotion to all of her scenes that has the ability to stop you in your tracks as a viewer. And her pitch-perfect chemistry with both Josh Dallas as her husband and Jennifer Morrison as her daughter have created some truly transcendent moments of dramatic television this year.

Female Comedic Performance: Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Honest question: Can anybody name an actress in a comedy who is better than Amy Poehler is right now? I really don’t think it’s possible to find a better actress in a better role. 2012 was the Year of the Knope, and Poehler owned every second of it. In moments both big (her speeches in “The Debate” and “Win, Lose, or Draw”) and small (her facial expressions during Ben’s proposal in “Halloween Surprise”), Poehler brought a quiet kind of strength and beauty to Leslie this year without ever having her lose the passion and over-the-top antics that maker her who she is. Poehler has created a truly classic character in Leslie Knope, and I’m proud to say I am a fan of both her acting and the character she plays so wonderfully each week.

Let’s wrap up this list with some miscellaneous favorites, shall we?

Favorite TV Couple: Ben and Leslie (Parks and Recreation)
Together, there is nothing this couple can’t do. They’ve conquered local elections, Washington campaigns, and even Ben’s parents. These two are the perfect definition of a partnership. They support one another; they jump into the great unknown together, hand in hand. It’s incredibly inspiring to see a relationship in the media where a woman doesn’t have to give up her dreams in order to marry the man she loves; to see a man who loves a passionate, quirky, strong-willed woman for those qualities rather than despite them. Ben and Leslie’s relationship is best summed up in one quote: “I love you, and I like you.” I don’t know about you, but that’s all I hope to find in my life: someone to love and to like.

Runner-Up: Castle and Beckett (Castle)

Favorite TV Moment: Castle and Beckett finally get together (Castle)
After four long years of waiting, Beckett finally chose happiness for herself in the form of Castle. It’s not just the highly-anticipated love scene itself that makes this my favorite moment of TV in 2012 (although it could win on sheer hotness alone); it’s the fact that this choice is also a huge moment of character development for Beckett. Sometimes I just like to watch this and remind myself that it actually happened.

Runner-Up: Leslie wins the city council election (Parks and Recreation)

Favorite Dramatic Episode (Heather): Parenthood 4.11 “What to My Wondering Eyes”
Parenthood has been amazing this season, and the midseason finale was no exception. The A-plot with Kristina had me in tears for most of the episode. While Monica Potter has gotten a lot of well-deserved praise for her acting this season, Peter Krause showed in this episode that he is equally as worthy of praise. As is typical for the show, while they are breaking your heart in one plotline, they are filling you with hope and happiness in another. Zeke and his grandchildren perfectly demonstrated the magic of Christmas when they ran into Santa at the hospital. To see Victor re-embrace the wonder and awe that comes with being a kid was a beautiful moment of character growth.

Favorite Dramatic Episode (Katie): Castle 4.23 “Always”
This episode changed the entire makeup of Castle in a way that felt believable and right for both the show and the characters. It took Kate Beckett from being a woman consumed by vengeance and grief to a woman ready to choose her own path, and it did so in a way that felt true to her character while still moving her forward. It gave each character significant moments of change, and it ended with a romantic scene that felt earned, raw, and surprisingly emotional. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have never been better both together and separately as actors than they were in this hour of television.

Favorite Comedic Episode (Heather): Parks and Recreation 4×22 “Win, Lose, or Draw”
This episode encapsulated everything that Parks and Rec is about. First, it’s about good people succeeding and making a difference. It’s undeniable that Leslie is a good person who wants what is best for Pawnee. The people of Pawnee recognized that, which is why she won the election. She was rewarded for her passion and dedication. Second, it’s about friendship. Leslie’s friends helped her because they care about her and, in doing so, they saved her campaign. They all came together to make her win possible. Finally, it’s about the importance of partnership in love. Part of being a partner is supporting the other person while they do what is best for them and believing that you can get through any challenges that you face together. Ben supported Leslie throughout the campaign and I was really proud to see Leslie do the same thing for Ben with his new opportunity.

Favorite Comedic Episode (Katie): Parks and Recreation 4.20 “The Debate”
This episode was funny, heartwarming, and inspiring; it’s all that I love about Parks and Rec and what makes it such a unique show. The debate itself was a hilarious satire of the ridiculous questions and non-answers presented in real political debates. And additional humor was provided by Chris Pratt’s incredible reenactments of Roadhouse and Babe. But my favorite moment in this episode will always be Leslie’s closing statement, in which she exemplifies why she belongs on city council and why Leslie as a character belongs in the pantheon of great TV heroes.

What were your favorite TV shows, performances, and moments this year? And what are you looking forward to seeing on your screens in 2013?

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5 thoughts on “NGN’s Best of 2012: TV

  1. I completely agree with everything you said about Parks and Rec and Amy Poehler’s performance. It’s made me so happy to see Parks on so many year-end lists because it truly is the best comedy on television.

  2. I have so many tv shows I want to watch but I think Parks and Rec is at the top of my list, so hopefully once I’m back in a school routine I will be able to start watching it! I’ll probably set myself at least one day per week to watch a couple episodes and then flail at you afterwards, assuming I like it 🙂

    Once Upon a Time has definitely stolen my heart and I totally agree with what you said about it here, and I can’t wait for the new episode Sunday! (And your recap of it ;))

    I’m pretty sure Nathan Fillion has only gotten better as Castle has gone on, and I think he really hit his stride at the end of Season 4. Both he and Stana have done fantastically this season and I can’t wait to see what the whole cast and crew have planned for us. Also I totally agree with you Katie in Castle’s “Always” being at least one of my favorite dramatic episodes of 2012, it was one the cast and crew HAD to get right and they did it fantastically.

    • I am waiting with bated breath for you to start Parks and Rec! It holds such a special place in my heart, and I’m so excited to share it with you. It’s a show that truly deserves a wider audience than it gets, so it makes me happy that you’re going to become part of the small but awesome group of fans that it has (I’m already assuming you’re going to become a fan ;)).

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