Top 10 TV Shows of 2012

Photo Credit:

2012 is coming to an end, and we here at The Filtered Lens have found much to celebrate about what we saw on TV this year. We got tons of great new shows and tons of returning ones that lived up to their great past or even got better. Below you will find three top ton lists. One from each of the TV writers on the site. Enjoy and don’t forget to tell us your favorite shows and who you agree with the most! Happy New Year!



Matt’s Take:

2012 was a great year for television that delivered a ton of new series that I loved. Four of my top ten are first season shows. But other classics still proved they had some stuff left to deliver. Check out my favorites below. Full disclosure: I have not yet watched any of Homeland. But that will change very soon.



Photo Credit: 30 Rock

NBC’s veteran comedy almost fit two whole seasons into 2012. While season six was a series low, it still delivered a number of classic episodes, perhaps most notably Leap Day. As for season seven, just wow. The show went back to its roots without forgetting its mistakes. Between the election and the wedding, 30 Rock was “can’t miss TV” this fall. Sadly, 2013 will see the end of this classic series on January 31. It seems too soon.


Photo Credit: The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin’s lastest workplace drama divided critics when it premiered back in June, but I found a lot to love about The Newsroom. From Jeff Daniels’ stellar performance as Will McAvoy, to the use of real world events to tell the story, the first season felt like a nostalgia trip for events that happened barely a year before. My guess is that the show has a bright future just based on the number of major news stories this year alone.


Photo Credit: The Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling left The Office (which pretty much went down the toilet this year save for the first half of the final season) to go do her own thing. That thing turned out to be the best new network show of the year. Kaling’s brilliant sense of humor and love of classic rom-coms bleed through making the series feel incredibly personal.



Photo Credit: Louie

Louis C.K. brought his utterly unique comedy back for a third season that continued to break barriers in the television medium. 2012’s episodes featured such A-list guest stars as Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld. But the focus was always on Louie, who continued to get into crazy situations involving sex and his career.



Photo Credit: Mad Men

Another year, another unforgettable season of Mad Men. The long wait between seasons four and five was worth it as Don Draper and company came back more cheery than ever. Season five was lighter in tone than the alcoholic depression of season four. That is, until the shocking ending to the season which saw major changes for major characters. Chiefly Joan, Peggy, and Lane.


Photo Credit: Parks and Recreation

2012 saw the best yet of NBC’s less successful mockumentary series. With the second half of season four dealing with Leslie’s election, we got several of the best episodes in the series yet, including the debate and the finale. The first half of season five has been pretty great too as love is in the air for many of the main characters. Parks and Recreation is hardly running out of steam despite not being so young anymore.


Photo Credit: Game of Thrones

I’ll be honest, while I enjoyed the first season of HBO’s fantasy saga, I was not in love with it. Too many characters. Too slow and fast at the same time. But the second season streamlined it, made more than a few characters lovable and badass (looking at you Arya), and told more interesting stories. Oh, and we got the best TV action sequence of all time. The Battle of Blackwater. And there are no signs of slowing down.


Photo Credit: Breaking Bad

The adventures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman entered their final season this year, and while only giving us the first half, it still was one of the best shows 2012 had to offer. Walter White completed his journey to the dark side while Jesse, Skylar, and others searched for a way out. Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Anna Gunn have never been better then they were here. 2013 sees the end of one of the best TV shows ever, and with the cliffhanger we were left on, no one is safe.


Photo Credit: Girls

I haven’t fallen this hard for a show in a long time. Does it have to do with the fact that I’m a 20-something writer trying to make it in New York City? Because that is the audience Lena Dunham seems to be writing for. Scarily real yet gut-wrenchingly funny, a show like Girls comes once in a lifetime. Every character has something relatable about them, making for one of the best TV casts in recent memory. Girls will hopefully have a long life on HBO.


Photo Credit: The Legend of Korra

I know, kind of an unconventional choice to put a Saturday morning cartoon as the best show of the year, but hear me out. What other show delivered a single story full of lively characters and stunning action? What other show could have you laughing at an insane facial expression one moment and drop your jaw the next? Korra bested all expectations by flawlessy lifting the tone of the original series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and mixing in a darker tone for an older audience. Don’t mistake this for a kids’ show. If you want to see a society crumble and strong themes of equality, look no further. The Legend of Korra certainly lived up to its name.



Meg’s Take:

With old favorites returning with wonderful seasons, and a lot of newcomers bursting onto the scene in a huge way, 2012 was a very exciting year for television. Now, I feel like I need to be completely candid, no matter how embarrassing it may be: I have never seen an episode of Breaking Bad or Homeland. (I have plans to remedy this.) While some of my list may seem a bit out of left field, I honestly feel like I’ve captured what I feel was so amazing about this year in TV: the eclectic nature of all the great shows fueled almost entirely by great writing.


Photo Credit: Awkward-

It may seem odd to have an MTV show aimed at teenagers on a best of the year list. But I honestly think that what they’ve done with this show is incredible. The writing is smart, and the show is surprisingly relatable, high school aged or not. And its star, Ashley Rickards, is absolutely charming, and I can’t wait to see what comes of the long promising career that is obviously ahead of her.


Photo Credit: Suits-

A lot of USA original shows seem contrived, and this series about a hot shot lawyer who’s taken a college dropout who just happens to be a genius under his wing is no exception. But what is exceptional about this show, especially in its sophomore season, is the depth of the characters and the talent of the actors, in particular Gabriel Macht. And bringing back a nemesis of his, a former managing partner played by David Costabile, created so many great suspenseful storylines. The mid-season finale left me dying for its return in January.


Photo Credit: American Horror Story: Asylum-

While some of the drama from the first season is gone now that we know AHS is going to be an anthology series, Briarcliff Asylum has been an amazing setting for the second season. Jessica Lange carries this show, and has given us a truly captivating performance. With only a few episodes left in the new year, I’m anxious to see where they take things, because nearly every episode has been a surprise. I’m certainly expecting a lot more curveballs when the show returns.


Photo Credit: Louie-

The talent of Louis CK is undeniable. As a comedian, as an actor, and most prominently in his FX series, as a writer. 2012 saw him pick up a well-deserved Emmy for his writing ability, among numerous other nominations. As the seasons progress, I’m happy to see the show getting more attention and more notable guest stars (Amy Poehler and Parker Posey immediately come to mind). Writing, directing, and starring in a television show must be exhausting, but my disappointment in the announced hiatus is extreme. 2014 seems way too far away to have to wait for more episodes ofLouie.


Photo Credit: Parks and Recreation-

Since the pilot, Amy Poehler has been irresistible as Leslie Knope. And exploring such different storylines, having her run for office and fall in love, took the show, and the character, that we’ve come to adore in such an amazing direction. The ensemble cast that they’ve assembled is wonderful, and the evolution of the characters (especially Andy and April) is incredibly impressive. And, most importantly for 2012, last season’s finale made me sob like a baby.


Photo Credit: The Newsroom-

Aaron Sorkin’s return to television was met with much anticipation, and a pretty mixed reception. Is the show flawed? Of course it is. There are a lot of first season kinks to be worked out. But Jeff Daniels is perfect as Will McAvoy, and he makes up for some of the shakier characters. When it comes to The Newsroom, the bottom line is that if you love Aaron Sorkin, you love this show. And to say that I love Aaron Sorkin is an understatement.


Photo Credit: The Mindy Project-

It was about two minutes into the pilot episode before I was in love with Mindy. My favorite thing about the debut season so far is that even though the protagonist is a romantic comedy obsessed gynecologist, they manage to keep the show funny in a gender neutral way, very universally appealing. I’m so excited for the rest of the season, especially for the growth of the central relationship between Mindy and Danny, played by Chris Messina. Mindy Kaling has a way of making you feel like Mindy is your best friend. (And I genuinely wish that she was.)


Photo Credit: 3. Veep-

Romanticized notions of the white house have been peddled forever. But think of Veep as the foil to The West Wing. Satiring the darker and much less glamorous side of politics in Washington, this show is brilliantly done. Julia Louis-Dreyfus heads up an extremely talented ensemble cast, and flawlessly portrays the extremely flawed Selina Meyer, the first female vice president. With such sharp writing, HBO truly has yet another winning series on their hands.


Photo Credit: Justified-

I have maintained since their premieres season that FX’s Justified is the best written show on television. The third season still focused on the Dixie Mafia, but added some amazing new criminals to the mix and really shook up the dynamics of the cast. I still yearn for the moments when Raylan and Boyd (portrayed respectively by Timothy Olyphant and Walter Goggins) are on screen together, because theirs just may be the best dynamic I’ve ever seen in a TV show. Those moments were fewer, but maybe better than ever, this past season.


Photo Credit: Girls-

I don’t know how to describe Lena Dunham without using her own phrase: she is the voice of my generation. There has never been a more relatable, more uncomfortably realistic, show than Girls. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that I believe Girls will change television as we know it. The writing is absolutely brilliant, and the acting (especially from Lena Dunham and Adam Driver) has been incredible to watch. The second series premieres in January, and I have been watching the trailer daily and counting down the seconds until Hannah is back in action.




Mike’s Take:

As Matt and Meg both said, 2012 was an excellent year for television, which made it extremely difficult for me to cut down my list of favorite shows to just 10.  Some of the shows on this list are fan favorites that have kept the pop culture landscape abuzz throughout the year.  Others are hidden gems that I feel deserved much more attention.  Check out my list below, and let me know what you think in the comments section.  And don’t worry guys, I totally watch Homeland.


Photo Credit:

10. 30 Rock

After an uneven sixth season, Tina Fey and Co. are really pulling out all the stops before they say farewell.  The show has managed to be both topical—Jack and Liz’s hilarious election debate—and still true to its unique brand of humor.  It’s safe to say this show will be dearly missed when it goes off the air in January.



Photo Credit: The LA Complex

Who would have guessed that one of the summer’s best shows would be a Canadian import from the creators of Degrassi? A show about attractive twenty-somethings trying to make it big in the City of Angels seems like it would be overwrought with soapy melodrama, but LA Complex was equal parts heartbreaking and humorous, with some observations on Hollywood that were hilariously on-point.


Photo Credit: Political Animals

A great example of art imitating life, USA’s summer miniseries told the story of a former first lady, scorned by her cheating husband, who unsuccessfully runs for President and ends up becoming Secretary of State.  Sound familiar?  Comparisons to Hilary Clinton aside, Political Animals is a smartly written drama with an awesome cast, including the supreme Sigourney Weaver in the lead role.


Photo Credit: New Girl

Zooey Deschanel’s adorkable Jess and her band of wacky roommates proved they could pull off a successful Friends-esque ensemble comedy with their stellar first season debut.  Season 2 continues to impress with more zany, racy shenanigans and great use of guest stars like Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner, and Olivia Munn.  The heart of this show’s humor, though, lies with its wonderfully developed characters.  They might be weird and dysfunctional, but it’s hard not to fall in love with them.


Photo Credit: Parenthood

NBC’s criminally overlooked drama has once again proven itself masterful at tackling multiple storylines, while still making you feel for each individual character. This season’s central plotline has dealt with Kristina (Monica Potter, who deserves a million Emmys) learning she has breast cancer.  What could easily have been sappy and overdone has ended up feeling refreshingly honest.  Perhaps this is what makes it all the more heart wrenching.


Photo Credit: The Legend of Korra

This was, hands down, the best animated show of the year.  Korra had a lot to live up to in order to please fans of its predecessor.  Set 70 years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Korra quickly established itself as a worthy sequel.  Whereas Airbender unfolded as an epic saga, Korra plays out more like a thrilling superhero movie. The news that Nickelodeon ordered three more seasons of the show isn’t surprising.  Who doesn’t want to see what Korra and her team do next?


Photo Credit: Game of Thrones

HBO’s faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved series continues to be one of the most groundbreaking shows on television. With a major player out of the way, the epic second season saw the various kingdoms go to war. The show has a unique ability to feel completely authentic, even with an increasing amount of supernatural and fantasy elements. Also, the Battle of Blackwater might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on TV.  Ever.


Photo Credit: Girls

Lena Dunham’s freshman comedy drew both praise and criticism when it debuted in April.  Well, haters can hate all they want, because I think this show is one of the smartest, funniest, most true to life comedies on television.  Bracingly honest and unapologetically awkward, Dunham has truly captured the spirit of the millennial generation with her take on post-grad life in the city.


Photo Credit: Homeland

There’s a reason the buzziest show of 2012 picked up so many awards at this year’s Emmys.  The exquisitely acted tale of a bipolar CIA operative and a suspected domestic terrorist is both a twisty thriller, and a heartfelt love story. Season 2 has had its share plausibility issues, but they’re vastly overshadowed by the way it broke the conventions of the serialized TV drama.  Simply put, if you’re not a fan of Homeland you probably just aren’t watching it.


Photo Credit: Breaking Bad

The top spot on my list has got to go to Vince Gilligan’s utterly compelling drama about chemistry teacher-turned-meth maker Walter White.  The great thing about Bad is that it can be at once incredibly outrageous, yet still completely believable.  Not to mention, the entire cast gives top-notch performances.  The first half of this season saw Walter evolve from scrappy antihero to full-on villain, and the cliffhanger at the end of episode 8 will surely make for a fantastic final showdown this summer. 



So do you agree with our picks? Who has the best list? What are you most excited for in 2013? Sound off below!


One Response to Top 10 TV Shows of 2012

  1. Sherry Dauerman says:

    Michael has great picks. Although another great show was Elementary which pushed the envelop and always was entertaining. Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *