1. The Walking Dead (AMC)
2. Homeland (Showtime)
3. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
It took a couple spectacular series to keep the brilliant election year season of The Colbert Report out of the top spot, a show that began the year exposing the horrid hypocrisy of Super PAC spending influence in our elections with the formation of the Colbert Super PAC (with over $1M in donations, most of which went to charity) and ended the year with (1) a week in the Shire for the Tolkien fanatic Colbert in the wake of The Hobbit release and (2) a final week of Christmas themed guests singing holiday classics in classic combinations. Still the best bit of the whole year was probably Tom Hanks' "Halloween costume suggestions" with the special appearance by a certain actor from one of his movies (watch it here!) But Colbert was just about perfect this year and I found myself watching his show first instead of The Daily Show, which is saying something.
4. Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
5. Shameless (Showtime)
6. The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
These two "other" Showtime series (after Homeland) finished as the top two series in the last television season (2011-12) but were at a disadvantage for a full year of 2012 since they both finished their seasons back in May. And Jon Stewart, well he might not have been as funny or biting as Stephen Colbert, but the show was definitely more informative about the issues of this election than any other show on television, including every news program. Another great season for this classic series.
7. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
8. Modern Family (ABC)
And we make it to this spot on the countdown before we reach network television programs, which is some sort of statement on the state of network entertainment (all reality all the time!) and the state of what appeals to the masses and their less than refined tastes (singing competitions are oh-so-exciting for the 10th straight year!), but at least NBC still airs this wonderfully brilliant comedy despite horrendous ratings and ABC somehow got itself a hit with this nearly as brilliant and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny comedy as well.
9. Game of Thrones (HBO)
10. Veep (HBO)
11. Newsroom (HBO)
12. Life's Too Short (HBO)
13. Louie (FX)
14. Girls (HBO)
OK, so Newsroom was way too preachy, way too soap-opera-y, and way too focused on the relationship between Will McAvoy and his ex, producer MacKenzie McHale, instead of the newsroom. But when it was right -- and it was often right -- Aaron Sorkin was able to strike a balance between entertainment and information and it didn't hurt that most of the season dealt with ripping to shreds the awful politics that the rise of the Republican Tea Party has brought our country to. Now, if only they had cast a less annoying actress to play MacKenzie... Life's Too Short was an often hilarious 7-episode jaunt that really sparkled any time Ricky Gervais was on the screen. Louie's season 3 was a bit hit or miss for me but brilliant often enough. And Girls was difficult, ridiculous, way too sex-obsessed, and not really all that funny. But it was rather addicting. And really a shameless view of being young in NYC. Which I definitely liked.
15. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
16. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
17. The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC)
18. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
19. The Real World / Road Rules Challenge (MTV)
20. Unsupervised (FX)
I watched a lot of TV this year. For the first half of the year, I could hardly leave the house after my foot surgery. For the second half, I could only occasionally leave the house due to the pain in my foot from the RSD I contracted after the foot surgery. It hasn't been a good year. But it's been a really great year in television. And for those scoring at home, that's a grand total of 3 network shows in my top 20, only 2 in prime time.