Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best TV Performances of 2012

This year was a nonstop parade of suspense and surprises on television. A child pageant participant and her family took the country by storm, allowing increasingly-trashy TLC to document and exploit their lives. People condemned them and TLC for programming like this to exist while others (including mega-fans Anderson  Cooper, Rosie O'Donnell, and several friends of mine) were entertained and fell head over heels with Honey Boo-Boo and her family of misfits. (And for brief moment, that little teacup pig.) Even people who were already in the spotlight excelled in reality TV. The (now sadly late) singer/entrepreneur Jenni Rivera managed to not only have a successful reality series for herself but also one of her daughters.

     One of the funniest podcasts was adapted for TV, as the surreal adventures of Scott Aukerman's "Comedy Bang! Bang!" were visualized for IFC. On Comedy Central, the sketch series "Key & Peele" became an instant hit thanks to the duo's outstanding performances--and their most popular segment, President Obama and Luther, the Angry Translator. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein returned to "Portlandia", introducing us to new faces and other quirks about the Northwestern paradise. Sitcoms didn't do too shabby. The most talked-about (but strangely not the most-watched) comedy series of the year was Lena Dunham's "Girls", which sparked controversy and conversations from the messages boards on AV Club to daytime chatfest "The View", as well as in coffeehouses, bars, classrooms, and text messages across the country.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus continued her sitcom streak with "Veep", winning rave reviews and her third Emmy Award. "Louie", "Parks & Recreation", "30 Rock", and "Happy Endings" kept hitting it out of the ballpark week after week with its go-for-broke craziness, pathos humor, and engaging characters and one-liners.

     But the biggest TV event of the year was the debauchery that was Presidential Election provided so much entertainment that the debates should be packaged and submitted for consideration for next year's Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Reality Programming. The elections took a toll on everyone from the president to us, the viewers. Even people who didn't watch TV were attacked, thanks to Facebook, pop-up ads, the billions of emails sent by the Obama camp, etc. Watching TV shows online was a hassle, since a banner for a candidate was likely to appear at some point during last night's "Once Upon a Time" or "The Colbert Report."

     The presidential candidates may not appear on this list but a couple of souvenirs from the Election have made it onto this list, recognizing the best performances on TV this year. For the first time, comedy 
performances outnumber dramatic performances. There is a fictional vice president and a real-life vice presidential contender. A woman whose job is to cover up mysteries and scandals and a man whose obsessed with solving them. We will go behind the scenes in the nation's capital, the private quarters of Downton Abbey, and a weird little shop in Gravity Falls.

12-Actor: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Character: Vice President Selina Meyer
Program/show: Veep
Network: HBO

"Tell her I'm canceling the lunch with Catherine that was supposed to prove there's nothing more important than Catherine because something more important than Catherine has come up."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as VP/emotional and political timebomb
Selina Meyer, a role which earned her a 3rd Emmy Award
(Best Actress in a Comedy) and 13th career nomination.
     There is a scene in the seventh episode where Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), in the midst of compromising her office for an action directly opposing the president and a controversial change in Secret Service staff, has her Chief of Staff (Anna Chlumsky), director of communications (Matt Walsh) and deputy director of communications (Reid Scott) sitting in her office. She has to decide which one she is going to fire. I thought this was Selina's most detestable scene. But no. Later in the episode, she sits down with Amy (Chief of Staff), where Selina pressures her into admitting a damaging secret (miscarriage).
     This is the only character in this list in which I have grown less fond of throughout the series, up to the point where I no longer empathize or care what happens to her. Which means that Dreyfus' portrayal of the vice president as the desperately-seeking power and attention hog leaves quite an impression. From the creator and writer of the British political satire "The Thick Of It" and the Oscar-nominated The Loop, this series nearly equals the number of f-words of the British series and movie but doesn't bite as often as the others. (Selina's f-bombs and tirades pale in comparison to the beautifully vulgar that Malcolm Tucker spews out.)
     ''Well, I'm a political leper, and I'm emotional time bomb. So here's an idea--Let's put me onstage." By the end of the inaugural season, which contained only eight episodes, Meyer has been knocked off her pedestal through a series of bad moves that were in and out of her control. Louis-Dreyfus earned her third Emmy for this polarizing figure whose only one heartbeat away from being leader of the free world.

"I'm the Vice President of the United States, you stupid little fuckers! These people should be begging me! That door should be half its height so that people can only approach me in my office on their goddamn, motherfucking knees."

11-Actor: Kerry Washington
Character: Olivia Pope
Program/show: Scandal
Network: ABC

One of the most addictive new dramas of the year focuses on the professional and personal conflicts of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), the former Communications Director for the White House who runs a crisis management center. Her job is to make sure scandals do not occur amongst the power elite in the capital (and occasionally outside D.C.)
     While she is successful in fixing and keeping private secrets that could cost lives, she is less successful in attempting to fix her own life. It is revealed that she left her lucrative job at the White House after ending an affair with the President (Tony Goldwyn), which began back when he was a Governor. "Scandal", created by Shonda Rhimes, the same person behind "Grey's Anatomy", the definitive semi-reputable drama turned absurd-borderline-hacky soap opera of our time, tends to be heavy-handed at times with the plotlines but Washington never loses steam. 
     After years of supporting roles to Jamie Foxx (Ray and Django Unchained), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), and Chris Rock (I Think I Love My Wife), Washington is the lead. It's a incredible juicy role that does not involved her being anyone's love interest or dependent on others. What's even more incredible is she is the first woman of color since Marla Gibbs in "227" (1985-1990) to headlight a network series. And she is killing it.

10-Actor: Sarah Paulson
Character(s): Lana Winters and Nicolle Wallace
Program/show: American Horror Story: Asylum and Game Change
Network(s): FX and HBO

Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters in Ryan Murphy's even more
frightening second anthology of "American Horror Story"

Two of the most popular programs of the year featured one very game character actor who made the most out of her supporting roles. In ''Game Change'', Sarah Paulson was Nicole Wallace, the senior campaign advisor who was in charge of making sure VP contender Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore, who also appears on this list) follows the script to election victory. Palin does not oblige, resulting in conflict, tension, and eventually Wallace in leaving the Palin bus and losing all respect for the Alaskan wild card.

Paulson as Nicole Wallace, nominated for a
Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe for her
performance in "Game Change"

In the second installment of American Horror Story, Paulson was Lana Winters, a journalist who tries to gain access to the killer known as Bloody Face. When confronted by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), she is institutionalized, which only occurs when the Sister blackmails Lana's partner (Clea DuVall) into signing the papers committing her (and condemning them for their homosexuality, who was highly shunned in mainstream society in the 1960s).
Paulson, who has appeared on TV in the past (most notably on Aaron Sorkin's short-lived "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"), has the gravitas to outshine even heavyweights such as Julianne Moore and Jessica Lange.

''You weren't properly prepped because you wouldn't LISTEN to us! You never LISTEN to your advisers!" (Game Change)

9-Actor: Lamorne Morris
Character: Winston
Program/show: New Girl
Network: FOX

At first, it seems Winston is the normal one in the bunch. I mean, between the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Zooey Deschanel), the neurotic Lothario (Max Greenfield), and the young old man (Jake Johnson, the Walter Matthau of 2030), there had to be a straight guy. But after the initial first impression, there is a whole lot of weirdness to him. He is the producer of a sports show that airs during "primetime for truckers" (aka the dead of night). There are the panic attacks. The self-admitted infidelity that only consists of staring at women while out in public. The inability to effectively prank someone. He is the only man in the apartment to acquire sympathy PMS. And he managed to get a cranberry lodged into his ear.

"You know I really wish I could (help) Jess, but I'm a single man now, so basically I have to be able to trick women into thinking that I could buy them stuff."

8 and 7-Actors: Josh Ritter and Kristen Schaal
Character(s): Dipper and Mabel
Program/show: Gravity Falls
Network: Disney Channel

Mabel and Dipper Pines

I haven't watched an animated series on a regular basis since Cowboy Bebop aired on Adult Swim a few years ago. (Though that is technically amine, so the last real animated show was probably those Saturday Morning cartoons on ABC, way back in grammar school.) Even though Disney Channel already had "Phineas & Ferb" (which is a entertaining show, just not something I would watch online or on a weekly basis), there was something different about "Gravity Falls." Way different. Like they animated "Community" or "30 Rock" for the kids.
     For the uninformed: "Gravity Falls" centers on twins Dipper (voiced by Jason Ritter, "The Event" and "Parenthood") and Mabel (voiced by Kristen Schaal, "30 Rock" and "The Daily Show") who are sent to spent the summer (and maybe even longer) at their great uncle (Grunkle) Stan's home and shop in the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. (Stan is voiced by creator Alex Hirsch.) The town has a lot of surreal residents and mysteries that the duo attempt to solve, with help from Stan's employees Soos (also Hirsch) and Wendy (Linda Cardellini. Yes, that Linda Cardellini.)
     Mabel and Dipper are at times polar opposites. The wardrobes alone show that. Dipper is dressed like he is going camping and Mabel has a large selection of weird holiday-style sweaters. Ritter and Schaal deliver humorous and delightful performances in roles that are better than much of live-action comedy available on TV.

Mabel: He is such a jerk.
Dipper: Yeah, but he's a jerk with tight pants and a guitar. I need to keep him away from Wendy at all costs.
Mabel: Don't worry, brother. Whatever happens, I'll be right here, supporting you every step of the- [screaming] OH MY GOSH A PIG!

6-Actor: Mindy Kaling
Character: Mindy Lahiri
Program/show: The Mindy Project
Network: FOX

Dr. Mindy (Mindy Kaling), with Dr. Danny (Chris Messina),
work advisory/frenemy/inevitable love interest 
Mindy Kaling made a name for herself on "The Office" as Kelly, the self-obsessed pop culture aficionado who spent half her time in a stalker-style relationship with Ryan (B.J. Novak) and the other half gossiping, reading trash rags, and shopping. While the secondary gossip hound role is nothing new, Kaling was more remarkable behind the scenes. In addition to Kelly, she served as an executive producer and writer, earning Emmy nominations for both capacities.

     In "The Mindy Project", Kaling is a OB-GYN with plenty of flaws. She gets drunk, embarrasses the groom (and former boyfriend) at a wedding reception, steals a bike, crashes bike into pool, and has a revelation with a Barbie doll--all in one night. She tries to become a grown-up while attempting to end her FWB situation with Jeremy (Ed Weeks) and competing with Danny (the top-notch Chris Messina) in the office in every situation, from hiring and firing people to impressing the head doctor Dr. Schulman (Stephen Tobolowsky). She starts a relationship with Josh (Tommy Dewey), who may or may not want to be serious. She tries to become the center of attention at a Thanksgiving party by competing for the attention of a one-time date (Ed Helms).
     But the real sparks are between Mindy and Danny. The bickering and petty shenanigans (highlight: Danny is her gynecologist in one episode) more than makes up for the inevitable consummation of this unusual union.

"Speaking as a doctor, you should be dead. Speaking as a person, that was hilarious."

5-Actor: Adam Scott
Character: Ben Wyatt
Program/show: Parks And Recreation
Network: NBC

Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, who was once given the cool
nickname "Ben-to-Bot" by Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)

Ben Wyatt seems to be suited for The Awesome Adam Scott, who prior to "Parks & Rec", appeared in one series as a regular, the criminally undervalued "Party Down," in another role that seemed suit to him.
     In fact, Scott was sorta-cast against type. In almost every role, from "Boy Meets World" to Step Brothers and My Idiot Brother, his characters were snarky, cool, and great with one-liners. In Ben, he is awkward, obsessed with numbers (and made fun of by Tom for being a nerd) and his work, and once mayor of his hometown when he was eighteen. He is the straight man, a major turn from everything else he has done. He is the guy who throws us those reactionary looks (a lá Jim Halpert) to the camera. I don't get the hype around Li'l Sebastian and I'm glad there was someone on "Parks & Rec" who felt the same way.
     Maybe straight man is not the ideal label. On this show, no one is really a label. Everyone is a bit of everything--like actual human beings. Over the past year, he allowed himself to let life lead him down a different path. He quit government to work on Leslie's (Amy Poehler) campaign. He turned down a stable accounting job twice, the second time in order to help out Tom's (Aziz Ansari) Rent-A-Swag business. He let himself fall in love, risking his job at City Hall in the process, and later propose to Leslie in the one of best episodes of the whole series. This makes Adam Scott forever awesome.

"I would guess that they'll be bankrupt by the end of...this sentence." and "They call me Devo because I can whip 'em good."

4-Actor: Michelle Dockery
Character: Lady Mary Crawley
Program/show: Downton Abbey
Network: PBS

This remarkably addictive series, focusing on the upstairs and downstairs portions of the giant Downton Abbey, upped the stakes in the second season (or series, as they call them across the pond). The Great War (WWI) arrived, taking many of the men at the estate away from to fight for the Crown and their lives, which would never be the same postwar. Matthew (Hugh Bonneville), who seemed to grow restless at home, wanted to contribute to the cause, even go over to the continent. (He was given a sedentary position, which decreased his morale.)
     But the toughest fight was being fought not by a man in uniform but by a woman. Mary (Michelle Dockery) saw her conflicted love interest, Matthew (the now sadly-departing Dan Stevens) off to war. It was during a leave that she discovers their chances were squashed with the arrival of a new beau, Lavinia (Zoe Boll) who later became his fiancé--and died from the Spanish flu. 
     Still haunted by the death of the Turkish diplomat, she was willing to sacrifice her happiness in order to protect her family name and pride by submitting herself in marriage to Sir Carlyle, a newspaper publisher who has successfully kept her family's troubles out of the press. He is, for lack of a better term, an asshole. An asshole jail warden who would hold her prisoner, threatening to release her shameful secret without mercy. Of course Matthew objects to this impending union but he remains fiercely supportive. After all, it was Mary who nursed him back to health after his near-fatal injury in France. That scene where Mary breaks down as she runs out of the makeshift hospital room upon discovering that Matthew might be permanently paralyzed was one of Dockery's finest moments. Her facial expressions are only one of the many qualities that she brings 110% in each scene. With the third season highly anticipated stateside (which is a slight understatement, given how "Downton Abbey Season 3" has 19 million results on Google, has megafans ranging from Anderson Cooper to the First Lady), and the addition of Shirley MacLaine (as Cora's mother), I am more than ready to see what life in the Roaring Twenties is like for Lady Mary and everyone else in Downton Abbey.

"Poor Matthew. What must he do to persuade you he is in love with Lavinia? Open his chest and carve her name on his heart?"

3-Actor: Zosia Mamet
Character: Shoshanna
Program/show: Girls
Network: HBO

Prior to "Girls", Zosia Mamet appeared in "Mad Men",
"Parenthood", The Kids Are All Right and a failed TV
pilot for "Absolutely Fabulous" (as Saffron) with Kathryn
Hahn (who also appeared in "Girls")
While everyone focused their praise, criticism, or anger at lead actress/creator/writer/director Lena Dunham, almost everyone on the show was overlooked. Well Andrew Rannells and Adam Driver got a lot of attention for their roles as Hannah's one-time boyfriend and kinda-sorta boyfriend, which is odd, considering the title of the show is "Girls."
     But the girl who made her mark and sadly doesn't get enough attention was Shoshanna, the most neurotic of the four young ladies. She began the season as a virgin, which quickly became her signature attribute. She is a huge fan of "Sex and the City", which partially inspired the show "Girls" as well as the foursome to move to the Big Apple and try it make it big.
     Shoshanna, portrayed elegantly by Zosia Mamet (daughter of playwright and filmmaker David Mamet), is the show's most gifted character. Mamet is game for anything, and the best example is when she was running around like a maniac after smoking crack at a warehouse party. She introduced us to the wonder that is "Baggage" and can fight back (literally, those kick-boxing moves could kill) if she needed to. She is without a doubt not only the best character in the show but the only one I actually root for in nearly every episode. But she might be under-appreciated in the show. "I sometimes feel like the show uses Shosh a little too quickly for comedic relief, but that could just be me," wrote AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff.  You are not alone, Todd. I want more Shoshanna in season two.

"I could massage your groin in a non-sexual way."

2-Actor: Julianne Moore
Character: Sarah Palin
Program/show: Game Change
Network: HBO

Julianne Moore as Palin, who earned an Emmy for Best Actress
and is the favorite to win the Golden Globe and SAG Award
for Best Actress-Miniseries/TV Movie
In 2010, the bestselling book "Game Change" was released, chronicling very in-depth looks about all sides of the historical presidential race, from the fall of John Edwards and the surprise Democratic primaries to the quick rise and fall of the McCain-Palin ticket. The Emmy-Award winning movie focused on the McCain-Palin ticket, which sparked controversy before filming even began.
       All the leads delivered nothing less than outstanding performances. (No surprise, given this is HBO.) Either one could have appeared here at number two. (Sarah Paulson's Nicole Wallace appears at #10.) But Julianne Moore, who looks and sounds nothing like the former Alaska governor, somehow embodied her, almost like how Daniel Day-Lewis channel Abraham Lincoln. Moore created Palin, a person I have no respect for, from a caricature of the media and constant source of punchlines into a real person, someone who was unprepared for international scrutiny and having everything she said pop up on YouTube and Twitter seconds after the words come out her mouth. This was a woman who was way out of her league in the race for the White House but was determined to make sure her 15 minutes of fame lasted as long as possible.
     The small moments where you see Moore's Palin struggling to memorize facts, with her family, or attempting to get her voice heard are the best scenes, proving that she is one of America's most talented actors.

''And I am raising millions of dollars for this campaign; hundreds of thousands of people are coming to see ME speak! Not John McCain, God bless him, they are coming to see me! SO, if I am single-handedly carrying this..."campaign"...I'm gonna do what I want!''

1-Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
Character: Sherlock Holmes
Program/show: Sherlock
Network: BBC
The very talented Benedict Cumberbatch as the very compelling
             and polarizing detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Even though there has only been six outings (over the course of two years) with the modern-day Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch, who has the best name ever) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman, who has the best post-Office--both versions--career ever), we have learned so much about them it feels like they have been around for much longer.
     Sherlock Holmes has been brought to life by many actors, from Basil Rathbone (whom many consider to be the ultimate Sherlock) to Robert Downey Jr., who has appeared in two commercially successfully motion pictures directed by Guy Ritchie. But Benedict Cumberbatch is the first actor to be Sherlock in modern times. He prefers to text than use a landline. He is in a state-of-the-art lab and on the Internet to crack a majority of his cases. And he has an arch nemesis, the cunning Moriarty (Andrew Scott), who is the right type of villain for the 21st Century, a man who creates panic and anarchy just for the hell of it.
     Unlike Downey's Sherlock, the Cumberbatch version is more socially alienated, up to the point where he is not fascinating or charming but more cold and irritating, up to the point where even Watson is unable to get through to him. He analyzes and insults a Christmas gift that turns out was for him by a not-so-secret admirer. He thinks nothing is wrong when landlady Mrs. Hudson has been traumatized repeatedly, either throw break-ins into 221 Baker Street or having her life at risk. But there are a couple of moments to show he his human. Despite possibly never being intimate with someone, he does have feelings for Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), the Woman who might have his heart in the end.
     Though the best episode of the second series was "A Scandal in Belgravia", the final act in the final episode, "The Final Problem", where Sherlock may have finally been beaten by Moriarty and could possibly expose the great detective as nothing but a fraud. How did he managed to defy death in that finale? Did he use a decoy? Was it all a dream? Or is he that great of an actor? (Sherlock, not Cumberbatch, who is without a doubt one of the finest actors to come out of the U.K. in quite some time.)
     It is a shame that the series might not return until 2014, which seems like an eternity, until you realize that Benedict Cumberbatch is going to appear in numerous things before then, including the next Star Trek movie. So waiting for Sherlock's surprising return to life will be well worth the wait.

"Please don't feel obliged to tell me that was remarkable or amazing, John's expressed that in every possible variant available to the English language."

Honorary Performance:
When I asked several friends for advice in compiling this list, a couple (literally) of friends (also true) suggested Daryl on "The Walking Dead." The only problem was, I don't have AMC. When I mentioned to my sister Diana, she suggested I add him here. Since I was not familiar with the series, Diana wrote this up.

Actor: Norman Reedus
Character: Daryl Dixon
Program/show: The Walking Dead
Network: AMC
From the beginning, AMC's The Walking Dead, was a heart stopping, gruesome story of the fall of mankind as the Zombie apocalypse takes place. This adrenaline pumping addiction of a show makes us all think twice about the future that awaits us. While following our group of survivors the past 3 seasons one actor/character in particular stands out. Daryl, the red neck, cross bow wielding, "FUCK OFF" American has evolved from his caveman like ways into one of the most important people in the series. Honestly as a religiously dedicated viewer, without Daryl, the group would have fallen apart. True that without the leadership of Rick they probably would have been in slight chaos but Daryl probably would have whipped them into shape. As a promising character that might be a potential next leader of the group, so Rick watch your back, Daryl is not going to be guarding it for long. -Diana Sayago

More honorary performances:

 Actor: Margaret Cho
Character: Kim Jong-Il
Program: 30 Rock
Network: NBC

The stand-up comedian and performance artist known as Margaret Cho was a delightful in her brief appearances as the late Dear Leader once known as Kim Jong-Il, who moonlighted as the "greatest waiter of all time."

Actor: Elizabeth Banks
Character: Avery Jessup
Program/show: 30 Rock
Network: NBC

Avery Jessup deserved a much better send-off that the half-assed wedding ceremony/break-up that was "30 Rock's" worst season finale. Elizabeth Banks, who had a banner year thanks to "The Hunger Games" (along with her campaigning for President Obama, her short film about having  a heart attack, and a very raunchy appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, where she won an award), was without a doubt Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) best match.

Actor: Mandy Patinkin
Character: Saul Berenson
Program/show: Homeland
Network: Showtime

The second season of "Homeland" upped the stakes from an already ingenious debut season. Mandy Patinski's Saul Berenson is the MVP of this season. This short video pretty shows his excellence.

Actors: Parker Posey, Melissa Leo, Miguel Gomez, F. Murray Abraham, Maria Bamford, and many others
Character: Liz, et. al.
Program/show: Louie
Network: FX
In the third season, Louie (Louis C.K.) has more awkward and interesting encounters with people. There is a encounter with a handsome man (Miguel Gomez) in Miami that entails a budding and misinterpreted bromance. There is an encounter where he is pressured by a unhinged woman (Melissa Leo) to return the (oral) favor that results in him getting his head smashed into a window. There are also encounters with Maria Bamford, Chloe Sevigny, and Robin Williams. But the season's best--and most unsettling--story was his date with Liz, a bookstore clerk portrayed by Parker Posey. It is expected to have the "Queen of the Indies" portray unstable folks but Liz is a different set of nutcase. She reveals some pretty heavy details about her background for a first date (or any date). She is only concerned about living life only through a series of highs (trying out fancy food, dresses, rooftops) and ignoring the lows and crashes that accompany them. Louie seems desperate for companionship, at the very least a decent lay, but is she worth it?

Actor: Martin Short
Character: Garrison Cootes
Program/show: How I Met Your Mother
Network: CBS

In only three episodes, the always funny Martin Short brought more than enough laughs and pathos as Marshall's (Jason Segel) peculiarly eccentric boss. Especially when completely flips out over the absence of his vegan spring rolls ("ARE YOU A VEGAN?!"), tries to fight ("May I warn you, I have been in a fight before!") and running across in a crowded house in a bee suit on fire.

Performer(s): Key and Peele
Program: Key and Peele
Network: Comedy Central

This video.

Performer(s): Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein
Program: Portlandia
Network: IFC

This video.

Performer: Louis CK
Program: Saturday Night Live
Network: NBC

This episode of SNL aired just under a week after Superstorm Sandy struck New York and New Jersey, which was a miracle itself. Everyone would have understood if the show cancelled. But they didn't and Louis C.K., a first-time host, delivered one of the most memorable opening monologues in recent memory as well as starring in a Louie-spoof, Lincoln, where he portrays the 16th president as a stand-up comedian.

Actor(s): Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley
Characters(s): Eddy Monsoon and Patsy Stone
Program: Absolutely Fabulous
Network: BBC

Twenty years after its debut, "Absolutely Fabulous" still has bite and the sharp tongue to comment on the lifestyles of "celebrities" and other vapid pieces of pop culture. ("There's a new disease called the Kardashians. They just spread--" "Like herpes, each one with its own reality show, they multiply like head lice.")
     After all these years, Eddy and Patsy are still trying to reach the top, whether it's trying to revive an aging actress's career by getting her to sing at the Royal Albert Hall or trying to cash in on Patsy's Social Security and numerous pensions. Who knows where they will be in another 5 or 10 years, but hopefully creator-writer Saunders will fill us in the five ladies in that giant house in Shepherd's Bush (sorry, Holland Park), London.

Actor: David Strathairn
Character: John Dos Passos
Program: Hemingway and Gellhorn
Network: HBO

So this HBO movie proves that not all things from the network are solid gold hits. Inserting the movie into historical archivey-footage was a lousy idea. And Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman hamming it up for two-and-a-hours (which a good 30-45 minutes could have been cut out) didn't do much to improve this. But David Strathairn's performance as the fiery writer John Dos Passos, however brief, was one of the very few positive highlights of the movie. 

Actor: Sigourney Weaver
Character: Elaine Barrish
Program: Political Animals
Network: USA

This summer soap opera was very addicting even when the storylines were too dramatic to be taken seriously (that gay son really had an awful lot of bad luck throughout the miniseries). Sure, Elaine Barrish was at times a carbon copy of Hillary Clinton, but Sigourney Weaver was never boring, as she tackled the Oval Office, her family, and her frenemy relationship with a political journalist (Carla Gugino) who also jumped into the deep end without protection.

Best TV Series of the Year
Parks and Recreation (Comedy), Homeland (Drama), and The Daily Show (Variety)

Best Television of the Year
The Daily Show, September 19.


Worst TV Series of the Year
"The Newsroom" (HBO), a heavy-handed, hammy, and misogynistic series about the trials and tribulations of a cable news network anchor (Jeff Daniels, who deserves much better than this dreck)

Worst Television of the Year
The live coverage of the Sandy Hook Massacre (let's be blunt, that's what it was) in Newport, Connecticut. When did it become acceptable for TV reporters to interview children outside on the street, just after their lives were irrecoverably fucked up forever?

The Best TV Show That Was Very Bad For You
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

The Best Excuses to Watch a Marathon of a Single Show in One Sitting
Downton Abbey
Parks And Recreation

The Best Podcast to Become a TV Show
Comedy Bang! Bang!

The Worst Performance by the Year in a TV Program
Karl Rove, November 6th, Fox News Election Coverage

The Worst Performance by the Year in a TV Program (runner)
Lana Del Rey, Saturday Night Live, Musical Guest

The Best Performance That Won an Emmy
(tie) Claire Danes and Damian Lewis for "Homeland"

The Best Performance That Didn't Win an Emmy
Louis C.K. for "Louie"

The Best Performance That Didn't Get Nominated for an Emmy
Chris Pratt for "Parks And Recreation"

The Saddest Moment in a TV Program
Amy and Rory's Goodbye in "The Angels Take Manhattan"

The Best Sketch Comedy Series of the Year
Key and Peele (runner-up)

The Best Place to Watch TV
The Internet
iPod on the Morning and Evening Commutes (runner-up)
Big flat screen TV when at home for the weekend (runner-up)

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