As promised, here is the New TV of 2012 post! And on New Year's Eve to boot!
I did a similar post
about new 2011 shows last year, and for those interested in how 2011's surviving shows held up in 2012, have a look here
Before I start, let me say that overall, 2011 was an unusually great year for new TV, and 2012 was not. But 2012 did really well with its old-timers, I must say, and since those fall outside the scope of this list, I thought I'd just take a second to celebrate that several years old shows like Spartacus, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds, Sons of Anarchy, Damages
and even so often uneven Dexter
all had seasons I found superior to their last outings. Well done, TV!
So! Without further ado, the 30 new TV things that
1) aired for the first time in 2012
2) was checked out by me.
30 * The Mindy Project
(Fox) - returning [NOT FINISHED IT]
I can usually find something to like about nearly anything, so it's no surprise that I don't have strong negative feelings about the show on the bottom of this list. In point of fact, I would easily give it another chance if someone whose opinion I trust said it got better as it went. It wasn't bad, it was just not very good. It had one regular character who was consistently funny, and that was about it. Oh well. I saw three episodes, and only episode 2 was even halfway okay. When the third one was weak again, I dropped it. They can't all be winners.
29 * Ben and Kate
(Fox) - returning [NOT FINISHED IT]
Much like The Mindy Project, this just felt bland, and even more so considering its typically sitcom-y premise. I liked the cast generally better on this though, which is the only reason I rank it a spot higher in spite of having seen only two of its episodes. But again, if you watch this and it gets better, I'm not opposed to giving it another shot.
28 * Girls
(HBO) - returning
Oh man, at first I strongly disliked this show. None of the characters were remotely interesting or compelling in any way. I'm fine with characters who aren't likable. I'm fine with characters who aren't interesting. I'm fine with characters who aren't funny. But when all the characters are none of the three, then why am I watching them? My girlfriend was even more put off, and refused to watch another second of it after episode 2.
Considering the insane amounts of critical praise and the fact that it's on HBO, though, I soldiered ahead on my own, and it did get a couple of notches better. Which is to say, a couple of characters started being reasonably interesting or likable. Stupidly almost only the MALE characters (the protagonist's roomate and the corny virgin girl are okay), making the show title really unfortunate, but whatever, I'll take what I can get. So now it's watchable, but that's really all it is. I guess I maybe just don't get Apatow. I found "Freaks & Geeks" decent, but nothing special. "Undeclared" outright sucked, in spite of the Sons of Anarchy-star-to-be doing his best to carry it. And I can't recall an Apatow-movie I've seen that I liked. At some point, I suppose you should throw in the towel.
But damnit all, it's HBO, and it DID stop utterly sucking, so I'm checking out season 2 as well.
27 * Animal Practice
(NBC) - cancelled [NOT FINISHED IT]
Great, great cast. Really underwhelming jokes. That's really it. Not a loss, unfortunately. These guys can and should all get way better jobs elsewhere. I will probably see the three last episodes that were dumped on Hulu after cancellation at some point in January just to satisfy my own anal hatred of loose ends, though.
26 * Green Lantern: The Animated Series
(Cartoon Network) - returning
And so we're into decent-but-nothing-special-land. While I sorely wish it was hand-animated, GL:TAS is quite decent, and if a superhero was ever tailored for CGI I suppose it's this one. Keeping up the DC animation tradition of recent decades with layered characters and plots steeped in moral grey areas, this seems a great show for kids, but for an adult it's a bit borderline too simple and straightforward.
25 * The Hollow Crown
(BBC) - ended
I have a hard time ranking this, so I just put it here at the lower end of what I found watchable but not much more. Clearly, the production value is huge. Clearly, these plays are classics, and clearly, the budget on and scale of this adaptation was huge. Clearly, the acting talent involved is just beyond amazing. But clearly, I don't have the relationship to these plays necessary to fully enjoy this. The lengthy monologues come off as unnecessary, and the banter is often a few touches too hard to follow in the Shakespearean English for the foreign uninitiate like me. I wish it had subtitles. Oh well. Falstaff was amazing, and the latter two films were better than the first, I suppose that sums up what little I can comment on this.
24 * 1600 Penn
(NBC) - pilot, the show proper starting in 2013
On the one hand, I'm really not sold. On the other hand, for a first sitcom outing, this is clearly and easily superior to The Mindy Project, Ben and Kate and Girls. Pros are the central cast of Elfman and Pullman (both of whom I usually like a good bit), as well as the two eldest children characters. Especially the son was charming, as he did a spin on the typical family screw-up pot-head overweight geek by being immensely cosy and likable and not at all a jackass. Wasn't hilarious, but it was amusing, and could grow into something good. Sitcoms typically need a handful of episodes to find their footing, and I'm very easily willing to give this show that unless it completely changes for the worse in the second episode.
23 * Treasure Island
(Sky1) - ended
Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver should be a sight to behold, but he really doesn't get to do as much cool stuff as you'd wish, in spite (or possibly because) of the miniseries trying to make him out as a second protagonist more than a villain. As a whole, this was a good adaptation, whose changes to the original story were by and large clever ones. One major such change was making the ship's owner an utter ass and villain in order to make Hawkins' choice between pirates and honest men a less clear-cut one. That's a good touch. Also, Donald Sutherland pulls off an hysterically over the top captain Flint in his small cameo scenes. But for a book that's been adapted as many times as this one, they really should have brought more to it than they did, and I must say that while this was decent, it should
have been great.
22 * Parade's End
(BBC/HBO) - ended
I struggled a bit with feeling involved and engaged by this miniseries at first, but as it went on, it became easier. The dialogue and acting is great, and the plotting is good too, though I wish it was a tad easier to follow here and there. The foot-dragging start and slightly underwhelming ending hinders it from having made a truly deep impression on me, though.
21 * Revolution
(NBC) - returning
Surprisingly good, this show, and for a network action-adventure it is littered with good guest actors and secondary characters. The arc moves a tad too slow for me, but it is still much, much faster than many other network action-adventures, so I probably shouldn't complain. If you're going to give one of the many postapocalyptic adventure shows of recent years a shot, this is probably the one to go with.
20 * Bent
(NBC) - cancelled
Charming sitcom, and with a very solid cast, but in the end not all that funny. Don't miss is as much as I hoped I would, if that makes any kind of sense.
19 * World Without End
(Showcase) - ended
Considering my slight disappointment at "The Pillars of the Earth", I thought for sure this 120-years-later-sequel series without Ian McShane would be a disaster. Perhaps it was my low expectations, but I really rather enjoyed it. Some good intrigue, some engaging characters, and a nice period framework for the whole thing. Not a warm recommendation or anything, but if village intrigues with a touch of soap and action in Ye Olde England sounds fun for you, you'll probably think this is quite decent entertainment too.
18 * Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome
(Syfy) - failed pilot
This could have grown into something quite good if given the chance, but on its own, the pilot isn't that impressive. Worth watching if you're a fan though. On the plus side, they did a very good job (in my opinion) with making it feel equally like a sequel to "Caprica" as it feels a prequel to "Battlestar Galactica". On the con side, the guy they got to play the young Adama has a very clear, light voice that in no way justifies being given the nickname "Husker"...
17 * Don't Trust the B... in Apartment 23
(ABC) - returning
Very variable show, this. Sometimes it's very good, sometimes it's very underwhelming, and for the most part it's just okay. I like the concept, though, and the title character can be very funny in it when given the right jokes and plotlines. "Oh, I'm sorry I called you for no reason, then." "Are you kidding, you did me a favour, I love being on the phone when I hail a cab!
16 * Tron: Uprising
(Disney XD) - returning
Big surprise, this. Good voice actors (John Glover's even had a stint), nice visuals, decent plots. The animation looks ... odd ... but in a way that sort of works with the supposed digital world. For a kids action cartoon that doesn't lean at all on humour but just plots and action, this is really of a very impressive level.
15 * H+
(online) - returning
This Bryan Singer-produced series is one odd show. Made as a mosaic, every installment usually clocks in somewhere between 2 and 6 minutes in length, and takes place in a 20-year period feauturing several major globally dispersed locatinos and an immense ensamble of regulars who only rarely interact. It centres (splendidly) around an apocalyptic technology failure (or sabotage) that cripples the modern world, with about about half of the episodes being set long before and setting it up, a quarter long after and looking at ripples and further events, and a quarter more or less during this major Event. Some good actors I know from TV show up regularly (Hannah Simone, Alexis Denishof, Sean Gunn, to name a few), but mostly this is a cast of actors I don't really know who impressively manage to stand up to the ones I do. I should also mention that the special effects are gorgeous and would easily fit right in on any major network TV show.
The main con on this show is that it by its very nature is a tad tough to follow without excessive rewatches, and (also a natural result of the structure) that the plot is a tad slow-moving. The main pros are; it's pretty, it's interesting, it's intelligent, it's engaging, it's well-acted and it's really quite exciting once you're plugged in with a basic understanding of what's what and who's who.
14 * Arrow
(CW) - returning
Basically Smallville, but without super powers, and much less unrealistic (note that this in no way means "realistic") and gritty as well. Well balanced between flashbacks to the mysterious origin story on the island and the current time vendetta. For a Mr Handsome Protagonist Guy the main character actor isn't too bad, and there is a lot of nice talent to be found in the supporting cast. I also must admit to like seeing John Barrowman as the token scary back-of-a-limousine villain. Should work well for the actor.
"Arrow" balances standalone plots with ongoing ones very well, and has a veritable parade of comic book character cameos and appearances on top. Sure, they're not always all that faithful, but if you look at the character interpretations as a sort of Christopher Nolan-style realistic take on them, they work a lot better. So... not a show I thought I'd approve of, but so far, I find myself giving a big thumbs up for "Arrow"!
13 * Ultimate Spider-Man
(Disney XD) - returning
I hear a lot of hardcore Spidey-fans hate this show. They dislike the goofy attempts at humour, they hate the meta-aspects, and they probably have other issues with it as well. Well, I really like it. I find the humour (mostly) quite funny, and occasionally outright hilarious. The meta-aspects might not be 100% within the typical Spider-Man formula, but having grown up with the 90s cartoon where his inner monologue was omni-present, having Spidey address the reader directly isn't that jarring for me. And finally, I think they're doing a very good job of the mythology building, and of making him a vibrant part of the broader Marvel universe without drowning him in it. All that said, I do think I would have wished for a more serious approach, ideally one following its brilliant comic book namesake, as the show's main weakness is an inability in making me anxious and invested during its multitudes of action sequences.
If like me, by the way, this would tip the scale for you to check it out, here are some recurring or regular voice talent names involved on this show: Chi McBride, John DiMaggio, Mark Hamill, Clancy Brown and Adrian Pasdar! Add to that J. K. Simmons reprising his mind-bogglingly awesome J. J. Jameson from the Raimi movies, Clark Gregg as his wonderful live action Avengers/Iron Man-character Phil Coulson (now with added silly) and STAN LEE as a suspisciously Stan Lee-looking school janitor, this show's got a better cast than most live action endeavours.
12 * NAV
(TvNorge) - ended
I loved loved loved "Etaten", the short Norwegian comedy from a few years back that was (very) loosely inspired by "The Office". Well, this year they made a sequel series. It's not as good, but it WAS very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it -- except the ending. The ending was a tame, predictable and underwhelming rehash of the beautiful ending of the original series. But otherwise, this was great. I'm gettin' the DVD.
11 * Veep
(HBO) - returning
Nowhere as funny as "The Thick of It", this endeavour at recreating its formula in American politics is still rather charming. A telling running gag for the type of comedy you should expect is how the Vice President upon returning to her office from various more or less pointless outings always asks the secretary if the President called. (He obviously never does). And it's HBO, so I'm hopeful for increased awesome as it goes on. That said, this show needs an angry Scotsman who swears a lot, and it needs it very badly.
10 * Go On
(NBC) - returning
Sentimental but rarely melancholy, fresh but rarely truly original, funny but rarely hilarious, "Go On" is a show of the middle ground between the safe and the daring, but it does its balancing act rather well. It's great to see Matthew Perry back in a part where he can flex his dramatic muscles a bit more, even if its otherwise pretty much the same guy he played on the much more underwhelming "Mr. Sunshine" last year. The cast of characters is rounded out by varying oddballs, predictably some of which are fun, some are hilarious, some are interesting, some are likable, and some are just tiring. From those adjectives, though, you can surmise that I by and large like the cast and, indeed, the show. The show is clearly trying to use the kind of crazy out-of-the-box thinking of brilliant shows like "Parks and Recreation" and "Community" and doing watered down creativity stunts within the borders a safe, normal formula show that will have a broader and more traditional sitcom appeal. Oddly enough, I feel like it's kind of working.
9 * Elementary
(CBS) - returning
For a show that's an obvious attempt at doing the masterful Sherlock
as a weekly US series, this is quite surprisingly fun. I mean, it doesn't hold even the discarded puddle of coagulated wax from a candle to "Sherlock", but if seen on its own merits alone, it's quite good. My main issue with crime-of-the-week-shows is the utter formulaic procedural feel of it, but they've manouvered around that by making the Watson/Holmes-friendship the centre of the story instead of the particular crimes. The show this reminds me most of all of isn't even "Sherlock", it's "House". And if it can steer away from the repetitive plot circles of "House", I don't see any reason why this show would just keep on getting better.
And on the flimsiest of associations, click here for good fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXpyCa9IcEM
8 * House of Lies
(Showtime) - returning
A grittier "Hustle", a raunchier "Suits", and more morally bankrupt than both of them, "House of Lies" is corporate cynicism and wink-at-the-audience humour distilled with just the tiniest pinch of soap to make it all slide down. Not a fantastic show, but a damn, damn good one, and with all the gloss that only Showtime can offer. Also, Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Richard Schiff, Greg Germann and that Jean-Ralphio-fellow from "Parks and Recreation" (Ben Schwartz), I'm just saying.
7 * Awake
(NBC) - cancelled
This show had an excellent premise, a great actor in the main part, a wonderful atmosphere, a gripping storyline, and a predictably uneven execution. Which is to say it was really great for a network drama, and was expected to tank long before it ever premiered. As you can tell from the high ranking, I really enjoyed this show. True, it dragged on a bit in the middle of the season, and cancelled just as it got really interesting and clever, I think I'll miss this rather a lot.
6 * Last Resort
(ABC) - cancelled
Another network show whose premise is such that I can't believe this thig isn't on cable. I guess the creative influence of the heavy cable dramas on general popular culture is starting to show. Anyway, Last Resort. With the best premise I've ever heard for a drama (bar. none.), this show had to disappoint, and of course it did. It is very good, but it is nowhere near as good as it by all rights should be. A renegade submarine crew with a dozen nuclear warheads refuse an order, take over an island, and attempt to uncover a conspiracy back home? Yeah. This show should be a Battlestar Galactica in present day, but unfortunately has ended up feeling a bit more like Stargate: Universe. Furthermore, it doesn't quite suck me in like it by all rights should, even when it is at its best. Oh well. It's still very, very good. And very, very non-renewed. Shawn Ryan? Chicago Code was a disappointment in 2011, and now in 2012 this was a middling performance when considering its brilliant premise. So get back to cable. Terriers might have only lived for one season too, but it shone like a crazy diamond every step of its doomed way.
5 * Luck
(HBO) - cancelled
I did not know what to expect here. On the one hand, a show about horse racing sounds incredibly dull. On the other hand, it's made by the genious behind Deadwood, it airs on HBO, and it stars Dustin Hoffman, and so should be filled to the brink with awesome.
Turns out, horse racing IS incredibly dull, but the show IS filled to the brink with awesome. It took me a couple of episodes to get into it (the dialogue and storylines are so dense, I struggled to pick up on all the nuances of what was going on), but once I was, I was sold. That said, this is still easily my least favourite of all the crime dramas HBO has done (and they're quite a few now). Horses running is and always will be horses running. That might be pretty once or twice, but it doesn't warrant long, extended sequences every episode.
4 * Political Animals
(USA) - cancelled
A big, big surprise! I never expected to enjoy this so thoroughly. A sunnier "State of Play" without the thriller-aspects, "Kings" in the real world, "Veep" pitched as a soapy drama, there are a hundred ways to describe this show, but really, you should just watch it. Very loosely inspired by the Clintons, this show depicts the lives of a Secretary of State, her ex-husband who is a former president, their two sons, and the reported with a grudge against them. All portrayed excellently. Ciarán Hinds in particular is unbeatable as the flamboyant, self-assured womanizer with a heart of gold, but really, the whole series was great fun. I'd rather have a second season of this than of any other show not renewed this year.
3 * Bunheads
(ABC) - returning
Yes, yes, yes, it's an obvious Gilmore Girls 2.0, and it has only about 50% of the charm. The leading lady is great, but she's no Lauren Graham. The girls in the dancing school are cute and funny, but they're not on par with Rory in the early seasons. And Kelly Bishop's character is awesome, but she's not as awesome as the one she played on Gilmore Girls, because how could she be.
But honestly, so what? Gilmore Girls is one of the, if not the
, best everyday dramas I've ever seen, so even if this as of yet doesn't reach it to the knees, it's still a welcome delight on my screen any day of the week. And bonus points for having referenced Game of Thrones at least three (or was it four?) times in a mere half-season.
2 * Mockingbird Lane
(NBC) - failed pilot
Bryan Fuller writing Eddie Izzard as a grandfatherly count Dracula? Yeah, you had me at hello. This needs a full series order like Nathan Fillion needs an adventure movie franchise. And if you haven't seen it, it works pretty well as a standalone forty-minute TV movie, too, so run off and do so.
1 * The Newsroom
(HBO) - returning
It is slim pickings when a lone pilot and a clear rehash, no matter how great, reach two of the top three spots. Compared to last year (Game of Thrones! Shameless! HOMELAND!), it's really nothing to write home about. Nor is The Newsroom, unfortunately. Aaron Sorkin is perhaps the greatest TV writer I know of, and certainly in the top three. This is his first show on cable, and not only on cable, but on HBO, which is still the goddamn king of the TV drama however AMC might protest. And even the cast is great. So why am I not raving and raving? Well, it has a few issues. First, being preachy works better when your cast is politicians or business people with a clear agenda. I get that journalists want to report the news and that this in theory is a clear agenda, but unfortunately, setting it in the contemporary USA seems to have made it impossible to avoid presenting it as such without being sucked in by the very politicizing the show attempts to critique. Second, Sorkin is retreading old ground a bit too much. The big reveal centred around a reluctant conversation with a therapist, sir? You did that on West Wing. Twice. And both times better than this.
And third, while the notion of setting it in the recent past so as to comment on pseudo-recent news makes it feel both genuine and contemporary. But it also makes it very, very lacking in tension. Because how can we possibly care about the characters' fight to reform US media when it is set 12 months ago, that it follows real-life developments, and we, being a year ahead of them, clearly know it hasn't been reformed since then?
None of which is to say it is bad. Far from it. It is really, really good. It just isn't "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"-good, at least for the most part, and it most certainly is not "The West Wing"-good. But with the great cast finding their footing, and the plot ball rolling, engines picking up steam, and other positive clichés in mind, I have faith that season 2 will be better.
And all this said, this is still the winner of the year's new offerings.
Comments, input, thoughts? Anything new this year you saw that wasn't on this list? Do please write it below!