The Top 20 Shows Of 2012 (#20-11)

2012 was a great year for television. The number of shows worth watching was staggering, something I wasn’t quite fully aware of until my planned top 10 list spiraled out into a top 20 without much effort. When five wildly different programs were in serious contention for #1, you know the last twelve months were memorable. This year had something to satisfy just about everyone, from horror movie buffs, to mystery lovers, to those just looking for an oddball laugh. With so many interests, genres, and tastes being catered to, the phrase, “there’s nothing on,” never seemed so out of fashion.

2012 was another great year for television, but it also might be one of the last ones for a while. When reviewing this list, the obvious pattern that emerges is one of familiarity. With the exception of one program that’s already been cancelled, everything in my top 10 is a returning show, and was no stranger to the lists made in 2010 and 2011. Few of those shows actually improved in 2012, and many of them will likely end within a season or two, so maybe it’s hard not to feel a little apocalyptic about what’s coming after 2012. That’s a concern for next year’s list though; now’s the time for taking a fond look back at the returning champs, surprise hits, and soon-to-be-missed classics, that defined this year.

It was a tight race overall, to the point that fine-tuning the placement became a far bigger ordeal than just picking the shows to include. So, enjoy, and remember: the numbers are subjective. If your #1 was my #15, rest assured, I wouldn’t argue with you. Picking one show over another often came down to minor details, and matters of personal preference. In reality, rankings work better as a formality than an absolute comment on quality. But who doesn’t like numbers?

A quick note on omissions: While it came as something of a surprise to me that (in between finishing a degree, moving cities, and changing jobs) I’d somehow managed to watch more than twenty shows in their entirety this year, that doesn’t change the fact that there simply wasn’t enough time to see everything worthy of awards consideration. While personal favorites like 30 Rock just barely missed the cutoff, a whole host of quality programs never even had a shot at making the list, because I couldn’t in good conscience make a judgment call on something I haven’t watched. Of those omissions, Boardwalk Empire and Treme, (which I’m told were excellent in 2012), would likely have been shoe-ins for some placement. You’ll also hear from fans that Sons of Anarchy had a solid fifth season. And the complete batsh*t daring of American Horror Story makes it worthy of discussion at some level.

As for comedies, it’s hard (but possible) to ignore Emmy-magnet Modern Family, or numerous other lesser seen, but passionately followed programs, like Cougar Town, New Girl, and Happy Endings. And an election year would normally spell automatic placement for the one-two punch of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but to evaluate the 300+ installments that aired, based on a small percentage of those (very funny) episodes actually seen, seemed inadequate. So, if your favorite show doesn’t appear as one of the twenty selected, just swap out the ones I picked, but you hate, or haven’t seen (I’m looking at you, #11-13) with ones you do like, and we’ll call it even. Sound good?

Begin the countdown of the Top 20 shows of 2012 on the next page…

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