2012 was an exciting year for Television series all round. Eoghan Dalton of The Daily Shift has put his mind to the task of choosing the best and worst of the year just gone…
Best Show - Mad Men.
Mathew Weiner’s drama about the ad men in 1960s New York continues to excel, this year showing us SDCP’s advancement through the advertising business as well as the rise and fall of several of its employees. We were treated to suicide, prostitution and a memorable acid trip (see below) but also some brilliant quiet moments. Simply put, each hour spent with the show was a pleasure; direction, writing and the performances all captivating.
Best Episode - ‘Blackwater’ (Game of Thrones).
The HBO fantasy epic had several problems throughout its second season in trying to grapple with the numerous separate strands the story had acquired. Too often a setting would only get one or two scenes per episode, allowing little development or plot. This was done away with though for Blackwater, as we focused just on the battle engulfing the capital city. This allowed the scenario to be fleshed out, along with granting a greater look at the likes of Cersei, Sansa, Stannis and the Hound. Add in a thrilling battle and the best special effects ever seen on the small screen to equal the best single episode of 2012.
Best Actor - Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).
The first half of Breaking Bad‘s final season gave us another captivating performance from the man formerly known as Hal; now more Heisenberg than Walter White, he has at last become the true villain of the show. Instead of being the put upon genius, he’s now the criminal mastermind.
A meeting with potential business partners in the Arizona desert let Cranston show Walt at his most confident, demanding that they figure out his alias. The actor was similarly superb elsewhere, showing Walt’s deviousness and trickery in scenes with his wife and brother-in-law. This season may not have given Cranston as much to do as in previous years when his character was more vulnerable, but this didn’t prevent the chemistry teacher-come-criminal being the most compelling character to watch in 2012.
Best Actress - Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men).
While not garnering as many headlines as some of her glamourous co-stars, Moss has grown as an actress throughout Mad Men‘s run to become one of the show’s main performers in last year’s run. Season five gave us a Peggy Olson who felt she had finally hit the glass ceiling at SCDP, thereby giving Moss some substantial material. Combine this with fantastic comedic scenes including where she swindled Roger Sterling and we have ample reason to name her as 2012′s best actress. Honourable mentions should also go to Moss’ fellow mad madam Christina Hendricks and fifteen year old Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones.
Best Irish Show - Moone Boy.
Chris O’Dowd’s semi-autobiographical comedy made for a charming watch; starring newcomer David Rawle and O’Dowd, it followed young Martin Moone and his imaginary friend around 1980′s Roscommon. It mainly dealt in the usual tropes and stories, such as bullies and birds and the bees chats; however, each story was handled delightfully. The backing of Sky also allowed for lovingly drawn animated segments and some worthwhile guest stars in Steve Coogan and Johnny Vegas.
Most Talked About Show - Love/Hate.
It may not be scientifically fool proof but my Facebook feed clogged up with Love/Hate statuses every Sunday night for a month, usually pertaining either to how ”deadly” the show is or how ”goddamn dreamy and worthy of a slice of toast” Darren is (I’ve paraphrased that last one). In fairness to RTE, it’s attracted a strong cast so far in it’s run; the lovely Darren is played by Robert Sheehan (previously of Misfits) while Aiden Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) has also starred.
Despite the show’s popularity with viewers, it is lacking in ways that have little to do with RTÉ’s budget compared to other crime dramas. There is less sense of the wider world outside of the gangsters, while the women in their lives are nowhere near as interesting as someone like Skyler White or Gloria Trillo (The Sopranos). Also, as John Boland of the Irish Independent recently pointed out, even the curse-ridden threats lack any of the lyrical imagination that Tony Soprano or Proposition Joe could spit out. Maybe I’m being unfair but that’s the price to pay for success; more is expected. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how writer Stuart Carolan builds on the latest season for this year’s fourth edition.
Best Scene - Roger Sterling’s acid trip in Mad Men.
Ah, Roger. We’ve seen him chance Betty Draper, dump his wife in favour of a woman half his age and he even did blackface. Season five of Mad Men topped it all though with Roger Sterling doing acid with his young wife and several other couples. Whereas most programmes would have the aging, out of touch executive make a fool of himself, Mad Men tries a different tack; he takes it all in his stride and we see Roger be completely honest with himself for the first time. As an added highlight, his playing with a whiskey cork triggers a burst of orchestral music. This all makes it the best acid trip a show has ever done, all without even leaving the room it takes place in. Much of the satisfaction within the scene lies in seeing Roger’s five years floundering leading him to this point.
Flop of the Year - The Newsroom.
This at first looked like a winner; Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing) latest, mixed with his usual witty, sharp dialogue and a stellar cast including Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer and Sam Waterston. Instead, we got a smug and grating partisan newsroom that when it wasn’t lecturing, was simply dull. An opportunity wasted then.
Best New Show - Girls.
Ya can’t go for a flick through the channels these days without finding a show packed with frauds, scumbags or just simply selfish people. Girls is no different but HBO took a risk here; they placed their hopes on the untested shoulders of Lena Dunham and allowed her to write, direct and star in nearly every one of its ten episodes. This should have backfired but Dunham instead crafted an unpretentious look at a group of twenty-somethings and the disastrous lives they inhabit. While it may sound unoriginal (probably because it is), it worked out wonderfully. Layered characters like Zosia Mamet’s Shoshanna and Adam Driver’s Adam added more joy to the debut year.
Biggest Disappointment - The cancelling of David Milch’s horse racing drama Luck.
Milch (creator of Deadwood and the short lived John from Cincinatti) has always been an awkward talent but when he’s on form he’s unlike any of his contemporaries. Luck never rose above the sum of its parts in its nine episodes, but it could have in future seasons; there were certainly enough worthwhile bits, such as the inveterate gamblers and the racing itself. Sadly, following the deaths of three horses on set, Milch called it a day on his dream project. Unlike The Newsroom, Luck made use of its cast, which included Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Ian Harte (Professor Quirrell, not the left-back).