It's December, which means most entertainment blogs and websites will be indulging their readers with extensive Top 10 lists. I've done exactly that myself for most of the seven years Dan's Media Digest has been online. But this year I thought I'd offer something different: an awards ceremony! Of sorts. You can call it the "Danos", or something. It's basically a run-down of television shows that I thought pulled off something particularly good or bad this year. And if you still prefer a more traditional Top 10, I've included one at the very end.
Runner-up: DOWNTON ABBEY (series 3). Most people agree ITV's Emmy-winning period drama had a ludicrous soap-like second series, so it was a relief to have plausibility and of quality return for series 3. The show still has a very odd pace (a lead character's cancer scare was dealt with in two episodes), but that's partly because of its short runs. I always get the impression Downton needs thirteen episodes to do everything full justice, but ITV just can't produce more than eight and a Christmas special.
Runner-up: AMERICAN HORROR STORY - ASYLUM (season 2). Another cable horror that founds its groove was AHS; mainly because of the new location, '60s time period, and fresh characters. The first season's haunted house setting didn't justify a whole year's attention, no matter how many flashbacks and diversions were included, and the Harmon family were too insipid to care about. But this year we had a scary mental asylum in the early-1960s, which was a great deal easier to connect to as a fitting place for this show's brand of craziness. AHS is still very unwieldy half the time, but that's more acceptable when it has an appropriate context for such insanity and a carefree style. It still takes thing too far (did we really need aliens, zombies and Death herself to appear?), and there are more monsters than victims for my liking, but AHS:A was still a much stronger incarnation of the show. [premiere review]
Runner-up: COMMUNITY (season 3). I know, I know: this is a very niche show that pleases a relatively small audience in a very specific way. In other words, it's made by geeks for geeks. It's just so frustrating seeing vaguely similar fare like Big Bang Theory command huge audiences around the world, when this prime geek-friendly comedy struggles and would be completely unknown in the UK without passionate British fans spreading the word. (Okay, I mean downloading and passing around torrents.)
like this. In terms of visuals (geographically, digitally) and sheer quality of film-making (tone, style, make-up, costumes), Game of Thrones is in a class of its own for the small-screen. [premiere review]
Runner-up: FRESH MEAT (series 2). Slightly overlooked in its own way (zero nominations at the British Comedy Awards?!), Channel 4's student comedy Fresh Meat had a brilliant second series that introduced some great new characters, strengthened the existing ones, and told better stories.
As regulars know, I don't give out four-star reviews lightly. Over the course of twelve months, I don't think I've ever given out more than ten "full star" reviews. Are my standards set too high? Is television struggling to achieve near-perfection just now? It's probably a mix of both those things. Below are direct links to this year's reviews that achieved the prestigious "full star" ranking at DMD, which I hope you'll take a look at:
- Doctor Who - 'The Snowmen'
- Doctor Who, 7.5 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan'
- Breaking Bad, 5.8 - 'Gliding Over All'
- Breaking Bad, 5.7 - 'Say My Name'
- Mad Men, 5.11 - 'The Other Woman'
- Mad Men, 5.6 - 'Far Away Places'
Yep, just six episodes out of the year's reviews got a full-star review! (I'm hard to please.) There were undoubtedly more episodes deserving of a full-star rating this year, of course, it's just that I wasn't reviewing those shows here...
These are my favourite 10 shows of 2012, with 2011's ranking in brackets:
1. (1) Breaking Bad (season 5) - see above.
2. (-) Mad Men (season 5) - see above.
3. (-) Sherlock (series 2) - a trio of Conan Doyle's best stories, updated with aplomb.
4. (-) Dexter (season 7) - see above.
5. (3) Community (season 3) - see above.
6. (-) The Walking Dead (season 3) - see above.
7. (4) Game of Thrones (season 2) - faster-paced, easier to grasp, more action.
8. (2) Homeland (season 2) - stupider, but still blessed with amazing performances.
9. (8) Justified (season 3) - see above.
10. (-) Downton Abbey (series 3) - see above.
Notable absences: 'Boardwalk Empire' (a plodding third season made me quit halfway through, although I've recently restarted my viewing because people tell me the finale's so strong); 'Spartacus: Vengeance' (still enjoyable, but the change in lead actor and lack of John Hannah knocked it down in my estimation); 'Doctor Who' (not enough episodes to really justify a Top 10 placing this year); 'Fringe' (the final season's taken a very different direction that doesn't quite chime with me in the same way); 'Louie' (a weak and repetitive-feeling third season, beyond a few choice episodes and the excellent 'Late Show trilogy' near the end--no wonder Louis C.K's taking a year off to recharge);'Luck' (I never even made it past the sluggish pilot, sorry); 'Veep' (I just didn't find it that funny, clever or important); 'Hit & Miss' (I enjoyed aspects of it, but it just wasn't strong enough overall); and 'The Newsroom' (enjoyable at times, but the characters were bizarre, the arguments smothering, and the writers' hand too visible).