It wasn’t just games in 2012. There was a fair bit of time spent watching the old goggle box as well.
It was a year of shows I loved before and still love today (some in their second seasons, one in its eighth!), but two new shows did make it into my top ten; Awake and Girls. I feel bad for leaving Community and Doctor Who off this list, but sadly their seasons weren’t quite up to the standard they had set previously. Let’s not start off on on a sour note and instead enjoy my picks of 2012, because we all know I have the best taste, and the best hair, and… let’s just stop while we’re ahead.
American Horror Story
While the first (rather bizarre) season resided in Murder House, Asylum takes place in a mental institution in the ‘60s with some of the same actors playing new roles. Jessica Lange plays a larger role as Sister Judy, the head nun, Evan Peterson is a convicted serial killer, and Zachary Quinto is now a psychiatric doctor. There are no apparent ghosts in Asylum so the show feels a little more based in reality. That being said, I’m forgetting about mad scientist abominations and being possessed by the devil! Time doesn’t jump around as much so it’s more or less a linear narrative (with the odd flashback here or there). The cinematography is incredible for a TV show and although I wasn’t jumping out of my chair, it was hella creepy and I did have to look away from the screen more than once.
When Kyle Killen’s Awake got cancelled after its first season I have to admit I was a little sad and a tad angry. To me the show was just finding its stride. It started off like a police procedural set in two dimensions, but the more the show delved into Michael Britain’s psyche the more interesting the show got. It was emotional and didn’t mind screwing with your head a bit, especially when Michael starts to see things like computer generated penguins. The two worlds are lit differently to make it easier on the viewer (the one with the wife is warm and bright, while the one with the son is cold and blue), but even so I still had a hard time tracking which reality was which. The two shrinks offer good reasons why each world is real and even at the end I still wasn’t sure which was the real life — if there ever was one. There’s a fair bit of detective work, but there’s also a lot of Jack-Baueresque running around with guns. If you want something different from your typical cop show, think Life On Mars, even for only one season, I would recommend you give this one a watch.
Surprise! Well if you’ve been paying attention to the Internet over the last. five years, not really. Breaking Bad is a fan favourite and resides on many a list. This epic meth making saga continues for one last time. Walt has near and truly gone all Scarface. It’s often nail biting and heart wrenching, but the writers don’t forget the comedy. I am reminded of the scene in which Jesse has dinner with Walt and Skyler; one of the most awkward and hilarious things to watch. Vince Gilligan’s mid-season finale left us in suspense for what’s around the corner. What will become of Walter White and his plucky sidekick Jesse Pinkman?
Game of Thrones
I read George R. R. Martin’s first book before watching the first season, but I found it rather dense. Fantasy isn’t my forte with all those made-up place names and characters that are impossible to spell. But I’ve stuck with this rendition and I’ve been rewarded for my efforts. When the show isn’t quick cutting away from the large ensemble and instead focuses on a set of characters (i.e. the episode Blackwater) the show really gets into the heart of its characters. I only hope the next season does more of this. It’s fantasy done right for the small screen. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings and are interested in seeing something darker (a lot darker), you will have much to like here.
This isn’t quite your Sex and the City. Set in New York, Girls follows the lives of a group of young friends. Lena Dunham writes, directs and stars as the unlikable, but somehow endearing, Hannah Horvath. Girls is kinda hilarious, and it has its dramatic moments too. As an HBO show they do get to show a bit more than you’d find in a network comedy. Not that we wanted to see it in the first place! But they do discuss subjects like abortion and sex and all that good stuff in a realistic context. Even with all the deprave acts many of the characters on the show partake in, I still found myself invested in their lives by the end of the season. Adam was pretty much a dick at the start, and gradually I began to like him more and more. It all comes to an interesting conclusion when things flip-flop in the season finale.
Louie is in its third season and still going strong. Like Girls and Lena Dunham (but on a greater degree), Louis C.K. writes, directs, and stars in Louie. This eclectic comedy/drama/medley of a thing is about a fictional version of Louie living in New York, doing stand-up, and supporting his two kids. Each episode is unique and while some events don’t have continuity, other things do come back for future storylines. There’s the amazing three-parter where Louie is pegged as the replacement for a retiring David Letterman. He is trained up as a late night talk show host by David Lynch (Twin Peaks) playing as an eccentric tutor. Louie is great. You never know what to expect week from week. Only thing I’m not too happy with is the fact we have to wait until 2014 to get more of it.
Parks and Recreation
This season in particular came off to a rocky start, tying together events in Pawnee and Washington D.C. But once it pulled out the knots Parks and Rec turned back into the show we know and loved. Amy Poehler as the plucky Leslie Knope, deputy of the Parks Department, now city councillor, is endearing as always. Unlike The Office (I stopped watching after season eight), the jokes are funny and it feels like the show has a soul. This season has NZ’s own Lucy Lawless as Ron’s new romantic interest, and Mike from Breaking Bad even makes an appearance as Ben’s dad. Parks and Recreation is reliably funny and uplifting, and I hope the show’s writers learned their lesson from splitting up the cast at the start of the season.
Now entering season eight (I did a marathon of season one through seven in the same year). David Mitchell and Robert Webb play as flatmates who are complete opposites; Mark (Mitchell), the anal-retentive office worker and Jeremy (Webb), the unemployed stoner. Peep Show offers us a direct look into the minds of these two guys and their thoughts without filters (through voice over). It’s not always pretty, but it’s always ripe for a laugh. This season Mark is wanting to move things forward with Dobby and Jeremy is left without a home. Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain write the perfect voices for the comedic pairing of Mitchell and Webb. The show hasn’t changed much since it first aired in 2003. The unique POV shots are all but familiar now, but the comedy is always fresh, so it’s a good thing there’s lots of it.
I started to review this season episode by episode but I ended my write-ups abruptly due to… well, nothing but sheer laziness really. And it’s a shame because I care a great deal about Skins. It’s shot beautifully, and the images are placed perfectly to great selections of music. Unfortunately this season falls into the same trap of making two guys fall head over heels for a girl who is by the end of the season self-loathing, selfish, and completely unlikable. I’m looking at you Franky. The Alo as a pedo episode is the funniest, most awkward, hard to watch thing I’ve seen in a while. And the Rich episode still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. I guess I do tend to identify more with the young awkward males! But each episode does give an insight into each character and how and why they tick, which makes the Skins format of focusing on a particular character each episode really ideal.
I’ve yet to see the original Australian version of this show about a man who talks to a dog (well, a man in a dog costume). But this American version starring Elijah Wood (Ryan) and Jason Gann (playing as Wilfred, the dog from the original) is fun to watch. It doesn’t mind going for crude humour and the toilet jokes. The show often plays with the mystique surrounding Ryan’s ability to see and talk with Wilfred to hilarious meta effect (just see the first episode with guest star Robin Williams!). Like the Peep Show pairing, Ryan is the serious type while Wilfred is always getting into mischief. It’s a tried and true combo that still works here.