Salon's Blue Glow TV Awards pick Homeland, Claire Danes as best show and performance of 2012
The online magazine Salon hit up 15 critics across the country, including yours truly, to try gauging the top 10 shows of 2012 and the best performances. They basically asked us all to list our top five shows, assigned each a point value and listed the top 10 winners.
As you might guess if you've read any top critic's lists before now, Showtime's Homeland took the top prize (followed closely by a show which didn't make my top five list this year, Mad Men). Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Girls and Louie rounded out the top five, proving that the best, buzziest TV isn't hard to guess if you're paying attention.
But the folks at Salon also asked us to riff a bit on some trends, including our favorite scene and funniest joke or line. Few of us picked he same stuff, but every choice was an interesting and revealing one.
My answers are below; click here to go to some of the other critics' answers:
1. Show of the Year. AMC's Walking Dead. This is a show which once and for all burst the bubble of the broadcast networks, which have complained to any critic who will listen that they can't be as adventurous or challenging as cable because they have to draw bigger audiences. Harsh, explicit and uncompromising in its 3rd season, AMC's zombie adventure still drew a record number of 18 to 49 viewers. What's broadcast's excuse now for giving us such lame crap?
2. The Best Scene. When Breaking Bad's dogged DEA agent Hank Schrader sits on the toilet in his brother-in-law's modest home, fishes for reading material and picks up a book with an inscription written by a dead meth cook proving his nerdy host is the biggest drug dealer in the Southwestern U.S. As creator Vince Gilligan first said, a truly "oh shit" moment.
3. Performance of the Year. Leading lady Claire Danes gets all the showy scenes as bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison. But British actor Damian Lewis has amassed an amazing pile-up of great moments as a POW-turned-terrorist agent-turned-informer, lying to his wife, kids, Congressional constituents, terrorist handlers and the CIA -- sometimes within moments of each other.
4. The Funniest Joke or Line. It's not a line or joke, but Louis C.K.'s monologue in which his character asks out a beautiful, smart bookstore clerk played by Parker Posey is brilliant in how it veers from comedy to pathos and allows Louie to ask a woman out by essentially throwing himself on her mercy. "Please don't answer yet," he says, moments into his plea, "because I know you might have a 'no' cued up in your head already...I know that being a woman in New York must be hard because it’s basically disappointing ... You try to be nice to men as human beings, and then they respond just by torpedoing towards your vagina. I want you to know that I'm aware that you're young and beautiful and I'm not either of those things and part of me knows as soon as my lips stop moving you're gonna say no...I grow on people, women. Some time goes by, you get past the bald head and I sweat a lot and I’m lumpy.” After all that, when she says yes, we're as surprised as he is.
5. The Series That Best Evoked Life in 2012. Tempted as I am to say the presidential election itself (or the debates), I'm gonna slide toward cynicism and say TLC's unreality show about a 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant from rural Georgia and her working class family, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It's exploitive, demeaning, filled with stereotypes and literally encouraging a child to act out in ways she is likely to regret later in life. It feels like a troubling allegory for too much in television and life; guilty, damaging pleasures we pretend have higher meaning, but are often just an outlet for our worst impulses (told you it was cynical).
6. Personality of the Year. In an election year, this title goes to Daily Show host Jon Stewart, hands down, for repeatedly exposing the hypocrisy and danger from too much of what passes for political dialogue and journalism in America. His reprimand of Fox News pundits Bill O'Reilly and Bernard Goldberg for lamenting the end of traditional America -- which folks at the turn of the previous century felt didn't include Jewish people or Irish people -- was just one of many priceless, spot-on social critiques.