I hope you’ve been enjoying my Best-of-2012 lists so far! Follow these links to read my Top 15 Movies of 2012: part one, part two, and part three, and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012: part one and part two.
When writing my Top 10 Episodes of TV list last year, I wrote that I’d considered not doing a best-of-TV list anymore, and the same thought crossed my mind this year. My life has gotten so busy these past few years, and as a result I watch far, far less TV than I used to. I manage to do a pretty good job of still seeing lots of movies, but I am much more of a niche TV viewer these days. There are not that many new shows that I watch, and much of the TV that I see is actually old stuff in the form of DVD season sets. But I do still love me some great TV, and so here is my list of the most wonderful television I watched this year. One last caveat before I begin: know that I have not seen seasons 2 or 3 of Louie or seasons 2 or 3 of Boardwalk Empire, or any episode of Breaking Bad and Community. All of those are shows that I would love to catch up on, and I actually have DVDs of all of those shows sitting on my to-watch shelf. Someday! OK, enough delay, here’s my list:
10. Mad Men: “The Phantom” (season 5, episode 13, aired on 6/10/12) – This was a spectacular season of Mad Men, possibly my very favorite season. The year was stuffed with memorable moments and fantastic episodes. I thought about including on this list the season 5 premiere, “A Little Kiss,” for the Zou Bissou Bissou scene; or “Tea Leaves” for the fantastic comedy of Harry and Don Draper back-stage at a Rolling Stones concert; or “Signal 30″ for the hysterical and awkward dinner party in which Pete and Trudy host Ken and his wife and, of course, the fantastic moment in which Lane punches Pete. But, instead, I opted for “The Phantom,” the fifth season finale. There’s a lot of greatness in this episode, moments both comedic and very sad, including the connections between Lane’s suicide and that of Don’s brother , Adam (from season one); Peggy and Don at the movies; and Roger on acid again. But what earned this episode a spot on my list is its closing shot, that iconic image of Don Draper, in all his James Bond badass glory, walking away from his wife on a brightly-lit soundstage and into the darkness of … [continued]
Mad Men took a little while to grow on me. Right from the beginning I recognized it as an extremely intelligent, well-made show. But while I respected the audacity of crafting a show around a group of pretty much entirely unlikable, despicable characters, I found that kept me at a distance from the show in those early days. (Click here for my review of Mad Men season one.)
(I suppose one might argue with my describing the ensemble as being comprised of entirely unlikable characters, but I stand by my assessment. The characters were well-rounded, but so filled with flaws that it was hard to find a character to root for. Even Peggy, who was perhaps the most endearing character introduced in that first season, was tremendously off-putting at times. Now please understand, this is not a criticism of Mad Men. Quite the contrary, the series’ eschewing of the usual TV need to make every lead character “nice” is a major aspect of the show’s brilliance. But it also was part of why it took a while for me to really fall in love with Mad Men, even as I was intellectually impressed by what I was watching.)
For me, it really wasn’t until season four that I began to truly LOVE Mad Men. I think it took that long for the characters to really grow on me. Whereas at first I found it hard to really care all that much about what happened to Don Draper and co., by that fourth season I was really hooked. It’s possible that the recently-concluded fifth season was the show’s strongest season yet. I certainly was captivated by the goings-on as I’d never been before.
I love the unpredictability of Mad Men. This is a show where I find it almost impossible to predict where it’s going next. Season five contained some bold narrative moves. (Beware spoilers as we proceed.) The demise of a major character was of course one shocking development (made all the more potent by the writers’ cleverly playing off of the parallels between that death and the season one death of another person in Don Draper’s life). But I was also surprised to see Peggy leaving the agency (a move I never expected to see), by Joan’s divorce, by the side-lining of Betty Draper and the tremendous prominence given to Megan, the new Mrs. Draper.
Speaking of new characters, I was worried at first by the introduction of Michael Ginsberg (played by Ben Feldman). When we first meet Ginsberg in the second episode of the season, I found him terribly annoying. I also worried that they were piling on the Jewish stereo-types a little too high. (In … [continued]
All right! So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010! I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).
Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD. Just need to find the time!!) These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!
OK, here we go:
10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble. Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him. Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child. Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her. Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged. And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business. It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.
9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson. There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that … [continued]