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My Top 10 TV shows of 2012 you won't see on any other critic's list



sonsofanarchy1.jpgIf you want to see one list I provided of the Top 10 TV shows from 2012, click here to see the tally I gave

It's a little different than the list I'll present at year's end, just because I wanted to break up the expected tally of high quality shows we all know will land on most TV critics' year-end stories. Any critic who doesn’t cite the Walking Dead, Homeland, Breaking Bad or Louie among 2012 best of picks has some more TV watching to do or is trying to be too cute by half. 

So Hitfix got a slightly different tally, and here I'm trying something new, too: 

My List of the Best TV Shows of 2012 That Won’t Be on Anyone’s Else's Best of Lists.

These are the shows I like to see which aren’t cool enough or ambitious enough or well-known enough to get attention. In other words, its the stuff I'd probably check out even if I didn't get paid to watch TV.

Check them out and see if they would make your list, too:

10) Unsung (TV One). Sort of a Behind the Music for R&B and soul fans, Unsung is a series that digs into the often-messy history of artists who may not have been famous enough with mainstream critics to get attention elsewhere. Watching how Arrested Development’s frontman Speech let his ego get out of control and "Ghostbusters" writer Ray Parker Jr. also wrote the signature guitar lines in early hits by Chaka Khan’s first group Rufus, I felt exposed to a music history lesson few others might know.


9) Chopped (Food Network). There’s lots of food competition shows out there, from the overwrought theatrics of Iron Chef series to the low budget inanity of Cupcake Wars. But my favorite is Chopped; a contest which takes four chefs from a wide variety of backgrounds, hands them a mystery basket of ingredients for appetizer, dinner and dessert categories, challenging each to be as creative as possible in tight time-limits. The results, judged by a snooty-yet-expert panel of Type A food stars, are surprisingly exciting, emotional and mouth-watering.

8) The Steve Harvey Show (Syndicated). Ask for a list of the last people who should be hosting a daytime TV talk show, and I would have put comic Harvey at the top of it (he always looks like he’s one glass of cognac away from cussing out anybody who crosses him). But that was before I saw his program, where Harvey is smart, charming and adept at translating a no-nonsense attitude into compelling segments on dating and handling your son as a single mom aimed right at daytime TV’s female demographic.

7) Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell (FX). This late night show, executive produced by Chris Rock and airing at 11:30 p.m. Thursdays, tackles race, politics, gender issues and more in a off-the-cuff vibe featuring African American standup comic Bell. At times, the show is still finding its voice – like a group of your most talented New York pals putting on a show – but Bell’s riff about the difference between Sheiks and Sikhs, including a shout out to the disco band Chic, was priceless.


6) Longmire (A&E). Based on characters from Craig Johnson’s mystery novels, this series has provided an amazing showcase for Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, a Wyoming sheriff struggling to find meaning in life after his wife’s death. Sure, it occasionally veers into Murder She Wrote land (too many killings in a town the size of a postage stamp), but viewers get a modern western mashed with a modern mystery series, as cases take Longmire to the nearby Native American reservation and beyond.

5) Dirty Jobs (Discovery). I know it was canceled not long ago by Discovery but this cheeky, low-budget series in which host Mike Rowe traveled to the ickiest jobs imaginable, may have been the most subversive reality series on television. Tackling everything from lamb gelding to inseminating turkeys, Rowe showed respect and admiration for folks who found nobility in working hard at awful jobs. That’s a long way from the insulting tone of new-school unscripted series such as Rocket City Rednecks and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

4) David Letterman’s audience-less Sandy shows (CBS). This was the ultimate test for TV’s best late-night host; how to present a rollicking show when weather from the approach of Superstorm Sandy got so bad, CBS sent home the audience one day and didn’t convene an audience the next day. Yeah, it was awkward and weird. But that’s often where Letterman shines, looking at sidekick Paul Shaffer while cracking that he “feels like Clint Eastwood; an old guy talking to empty chairs.”

3) Boss (Starz). Admittedly, I wasn’t initially in love with this series, starring Kelsey Grammer as a powerful Chicago mayor secretly stricken with a debilitating nerve disorder. But the layers of machinations deployed by creator Farhad Savinia was gloriously ruthless and surprisingly compelling. When Grammer’s Tom Kane gets his daughter busted for drugs to serve himself politically, you know you’re in for a ride. Too bad Starz decided to end that ride by canceling the show this year.

2) Vegas (CBS). Another mish-mash of genres, this show blends a modernized western with a Mob story and Mad Men-style nostalgia, showcasing a rancher-turned sheriff policing 1960s-era Las Vegas as mobsters move into the casino business. Yeah, it’s still too-often a CBS murder of the week procedural, but with Dennis Quaid as the irascible sheriff and Michael Chiklis as a wily gangster, it draws me in, week after week.

1) Sons of Anarchy (FX). This is the only show on my list which might make a few other critics’ picks; a brutal drama about a biker gang which humanizes gun-running, drug muling outlaws as roughnecks trying to protect their family. This season, the show’s theme was betrayal from inside, with gang leader Jax Teller framing the club’s former leader and main villain, Clay Morrow for the murder of a major drug lord. With sizable, showy guest roles for NYPD Blue’s Jimmy Smits and Lost alum Harold Perrineau, this season barreled through shocking scenes – An informant bites off his own tongue! A woman burned alive! – leaving us fans shellshocked and begging for more. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 4:19pm]


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