4. Parenthood

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The Braverman clan fight, they hug, they support each other, they playfully dance around in kitchens–never have I wanted to be a part of a TV family more than I want to be a part of this one. This honest and emotionally gratifying drama should have a much larger audience because of the way that it avoids schmaltziness but is still very sweet and sentimental (in an era where it isn’t cool to be sweet and sentimental). Showrunner Jason Katims deftly juggles multiple plots and this show–perhaps the best on broadcast TV–gets better every season.

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3. Louie

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Louie is this confounding but somehow perfect bouillabaisse of genres, shifting elegantly between drama, comedy, and Woody Allen style surrealism. It’s also the most earnest mediation on modern life that you’ll find on TV today. Season three was distressing (Louie’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, played by Parker Posey, took him on a confusing and ultimately tragic emotional journey), disgusting (who can forget little Never’s bathtub indiscretion?), and, as always, chock full of unexpected delights (guest star Melissa Leo delivers a wonderfully raunchy performance as a potential love interest). There’s no telling where Louis CK’s strange, beautiful mind will take us next, but I’m more than willing to follow him.

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2. Homeland

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So, maybe too much attention was paid to Dana (Morgan Saylor), TV’s angstiest, brow furrowing-est teenager, but season two of Showtime’s slow-burn terrorist thriller was stirring and ended explosively (literally). After being dismissed from the CIA at the end of season one, Carrie (Claire Danes) begins a calm but unfulfilling life with her sister’s family. When she’s pulled back in to the CIA at the beginning of this season, she’s as erratic and impulsive as ever. But that’s how she operates best and not knowing what Carrie is going to do next is what makes this series exciting.

This year, revelations were made quickly, something that usually doesn’t happen on these sorts of shows. Last season Carrie sussed out former POW Brody’s (Damian Lewis) secret allegiance to terrorist Abu Nazir but no one believed her. This season everyone is on board with her theory by episode three and by episode four, Brody, now a congressman, has a black bag over his head while government agents swarm. You have to respect showrunners who, in an era of mythology rich dramas, have enough confidence in their story to cut to the chase.

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1. Breaking Bad

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The best drama on TV. Period. And what really makes it amazing is that it’s consistently the best drama on TV–you’d be hard pressed to find anything as engrossing, addictive, well-acted, or focused as Breaking Bad has been. Over the past four and a half seasons, we’ve witnessed the transformation of dorky chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) into this cocky, irredeemable, meth-cooking monster.

The writing along the way was so taut, the twists so crazy that, at least for me, watching this show has been a mentally arduous experience–it wreaks havoc on my nerves and I love it.

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2012 Year in Review


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