Without further ado, a list of my favorite TV shows in 2012:
1. Parks & Recreation, NBC. With "Community" little more than a cult favorite and "30 Rock" and "The Office" riding into the sunset, the Pawnee P&R crew are now the torchbearers of NBC's comedy block, if not comedy on network television. Continuing its evolution from political satire in miniature to understated yet zany workplace comedy to hybrid of both, "Parks" is a program that continues to surprise and delight, bolstered by the tightest ensemble in TV, clever writing, and big dollop of heart. Memorable Episodes: "Operation Ann," "The Debate," "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington"
2. Girls, HBO. It was not obvious at first what Lena Dunham was doing. The first two episodes played out like a young female version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," crossed with a self-serving indie flick. Episode three, however was when Dunham's vision blossomed (at least, from my POV) and her agenda fully realized. This is an unflinching look at immature, entitled, privileged white girls coming to terms with the realities they've created for themselves. "Girls" is empathic, poignant, and squeamish all at the same time. Memorable Episodes: "All Adventurous Women Do," "Welcome to Bushwick (a/k/a The Crackcident)," "She Did"
3. Mad Men, AMC. And than there was color. Saturated hues of red, orange, green, and blue said more about SDCP's emotional undercurrents than any performance could. This past season generated maybe the greatest winning streak of the show's run, a string five or six episodes that rank among the series' best. While not as strong overall as Season 4 --blame the anti-climatic season finale, blame too much Megan, whatever-- few dramas are as consistently compelling. Memorable Episodes: "Signal 30," "Far Away Places," "The Other Woman"
4. Community, NBC. The fourth season is still in limbo, but even before that agonizingly long hiatus 12 marvelous episodes aired in this calendar year. The long-term potential is limited, and the post-Dan Harmon era has yet to be scrutinized by fans and critics alike, but I'd rather accentuate the positive. Few things on TV can compare to that aggressively weird, frequently brilliant third season. Memorable Episodes: "Pillows and Blankets," "Virtual Systems Analysis," "Basic Lupine Urology"
5. Bob's Burgers, Fox. With much nonchalance, a very unlikely young cartoon has become the tentpole of the rapidly aging "Animation Domination" lineup. "Oddball delight" does not do justice to a show that blends its unusual viewpoint with affability, quirky laughs, and emotional heft. The mere thought of the show just makes me smile. Memorable Episodes: "The Belchies," "Burgerboss," "Ear-sy Rider"
Honorable Mention: 30 Rock, NBC ("Leap Day," "Murphy Brown Lied to Us," "Mazel Tov, Dummies!")
Worst Show of 2012: Animal Practice, NBC. The show with the monkey vet and Justin Kirk as an unlikable horndog. Not much to elaborate upon here.
In Memoriam (and I hope I didn't forget anybody): Mike Enriquez, Etta James, Joe Paterno, Don Cornelius, Mike Wallace, Whitney Houston, Moose Skowron, Dick Clark, George Lindsay, Tom Davis, Gore Vidal, Judith Crist, Marvin Hamlisch, Helen Gurley Brown, Richard Dawson, Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes, Tony Scott, Phyllis Diller, Jerry Nelson, Neil Armstrong, Hal David, Michael Clarke Duncan, Andy Williams, Andy Griffith, Steve Sabol, Alex Karras, Sen. Arlen Specter, Sylvia Kristel, Sen. George McGovern, Elliott Carter, Sen. Warren Rudman, Art "Mr. Food" Ginsburg, Hector Camacho, Zig Ziglar, Dave Brubeck, Larry Hagman, Ravi Shankar, Sen. Daniel Inouye, Jack Klugman, Charles Durning, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Fontella Bass, and Nick Wieme.