'Girls,' 'Homeland,' 'Smash' among year's best
This undated image released by HBO shows Lena Dunham in a scene from the series "Girls." Dunham created, wrote, directed, produced and starred in a half-hour comedy series about 20-something adulthood, femininity and sexuality. (AP Photo/HBO, JoJo Whilden)
NEW YORK (AP) — What was TV like in 2012?
As with every year, it was a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime, the sacred and the profane.
A TV-centric political season provided many memorable moments (President Barack Obama's missing-in-action debate performance; Clint Eastwood's empty-chair duet). Excellence persevered with series such as HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and "Treme," AMC's "Mad Men," History's surprisingly splendid "Hatfields & McCoys," ABC's promising new "Nashville," CBS' "The Good Wife" and, of course, AMC's "The Walking Dead" with its icky charm.
Then there were stinkers like the best-forgotten ABC sitcom "Work It," which, focusing on two guys who dress as women to get jobs, was mercifully axed after just two airings. ABC's "Good Morning America" finally managed to out-fluff NBC's "Today" and stole the ratings crown. "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" wore on.
Bottom line: It's not easy to narrow down a Top 10 anything for TV. Still, once this year's thousands of hours are assessed, 10 notable achievements emerge, for better or worse.
— "Breaking Bad" (AMC). It's notable not only for how twisted, funny and shocking it is, but also for how it keeps on upping the ante. This summer's satisfying miniseason ended in a most unlikely fashion, hinting that Walter White (series star Bryan Cranston) might actually break free from his life of spiraling disaster and resurrect his happy home. But then, in the last scene, Walter's drug-enforcement-agent brother-in-law made the connection that had always eluded him: the drug lord he's been chasing all this time is Walter! Once again, the series' never-broken promise was upheld. Next summer's final eight episodes aren't going to be pretty!
This undated image released by Comedy Central shows Keegan-Michael Key, left, and Jordan Peele from the sketch comedy series "Key & Peele." Race and culture fuel much of their sketch-and-standup half-hour airing Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. EDT on Comedy Central. (AP Photo/Comedy Central, Ian White)
— "Fox & Friends" (Fox News Channel). We could easily salute shows that keep us laughing like "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," ''The Colbert Report," ''Saturday Night Live" and "Real Time with Bill Maher." But maybe we could more appropriately single out one obvious wellspring for those shows' humor. I'm referring, of course, to "Fox & Friends." With their three-part harmony, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade offer up a unique brand of jovially partisan delivery. Theirs is a seamless, finish-one-another's-sentence knack for issuing the network-designated messages as news. Contrary viewpoints are admissible only to be mocked. But mostly cheerful unity prevails, a tidy single-minded package of riffs as predictable as the tides — but as amusing as any deliberate caricature. Let's give credit where it's due: These Friends cry out to be spoofed.