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Best TV of 2012: 'The Walking Dead,' 'Breaking Bad,' 'Parks and Rec,' 'Fringe'

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  • A bad, bad man

    Walt (Bryan Cranston) embracing his dark side was among the year's TV highlights.

Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 8:00 am | Updated: 10:00 am, Wed Jan 30, 2013.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t watch as much television this year as I have in the past.

But my proudest accomplishment — TV-related, that is — was catching up on “Breaking Bad,” so I can finally include it on my best-of list. It took a long time and I’d like to thank all the little people for helping make it happen.

The bad news is that “Boardwalk Empire,” “Mad Men” and a few others remain on my to-do list. You won’t find them here, but you will find lots of other comedies, dramas and series that fall somewhere in between.

Here were my favorite shows of 2012 (you can read about my favorite individual performances here):

“The Walking Dead”

I left AMC’s zombie drama off my best-of list last year — annoyed, like many people, about all the downtime Rick and company spent on Hershel’s farm. Well, those quiet, peaceful days are gone. The introduction of the prison, the Governor and Woodbury would have been enough to intrigue me, but then the writers upped the ante by killing off Lori in one of the most traumatic television deaths ever. The intensity with which they are now telling stories makes my head spin every week.  

“Breaking Bad”

Walter’s descent into darkness is complete and boy is it making for some good television. But the kicker is seeing how everyone else reacts to him — Poor Skyler is terrified; Jesse is ready to get out of the meth-making business altogether; and, in a finale clincher that sent chills down my spine, Hank is finally hot on his trail.

“Homeland”

The funny thing about this show? I can overlook the plot holes — and there are major ones — because the performances are so good. Claire Danes makes me feel a mix of hatred and sympathy for Carrie. Damian Lewis always keeps me guessing about Brody’s true intentions. And I can’t help but love and root for Mandy Patinkin’s Saul, one of the only true good guys left. Throw in more appearances by David Marciano’s Virgil and the introduction of Rupert Friend’s shady-yet-likeable Peter Quinn, and season three can’t come soon enough.

“Parks and Recreation”

It’s the funniest show on television. I feel like a broken record just writing that, but there’s not much more you can say. I’ve talked a lot about last season and how much I loved the laughs and drama that came out of Leslie’s bid for a city council seat. And, so far this season, I’ve enjoyed watching her take that seat and deal with all the headaches that can come with public office.

The writers have managed to keep her relationship with Ben believable and sweet, and have done such a good job of showing how characters like Tom, April and Andy are starting to grow up, even if it is only a little bit. And watching Ron Swanson embark on a real, adult relationship with Lucy Lawless? Perfection.

“New Girl”

My appreciation for “New Girl” grew exponentially in its second season, as the show shifted to become more about Jess and her crazy roommates, as opposed to all Jess, all the time. I love Zooey Deschanel as much as the next person, but think she’s funnier — and the show is better — when she’s playing off of her hilarious costars.

“Fringe”

Talk about going out in style. The second half of last season ended with Olivia saving the world and then finding out she was pregnant with Peter’s child. Though I was sad to say goodbye to the alternate universe storyline, and all of its rich characters, I’ve been more than happy to embrace this season’s post-apocalyptic world. Watching Walter, Astrid, Olivia, Peter and their daughter reunited and try to save the world, again, has made for such good television. The Observers are seriously scary foes, but I have no doubt the Fringe team will defeat them before the series finale airs later this month.

“Game of Thrones”

“Game of Thrones” got even better in its second season, thanks in large part to Peter Dinklage and pretty much everything he did as Tyrion Lannister. I’m not sure there was a better episode of television this year than the series’ Battle of Blackwater, which saw Tyrion step up in a major way.

“Justified”

Raylan Givens can’t catch a break. Bad for him, but good for us.

Season three introduced two new foes who caused all kinds of trouble for my favorite television cop (played by the fabulous Timothy Olyphant) — Neal McDonough’s unstable Robert Quarles and Mykelti Williamson’s Ellstin Limehouse.

Raylan went back and forth with both men throughout the season, but it was a moment he shared with his bad-guy father, Arlo, in the finale that really got me. Arlo had just killed a state trooper and told Raylan he didn’t know who the guy was, only that he was wearing a hat — a hat similar to Raylan’s signature Stetson. His own father trying to kill him? Just another day at the office.

“Parenthood”

“Parenthood” is one of those shows that can make me laugh one second and cry the next. This season, I wasn’t so sure about several plot developments, namely Christina’s cancer and Ray Romano as a love interest for Sarah. But both storylines have been handled perfectly, par for the course on this show. The Bravermans are one of television’s best families.

“Scandal”

I finally believe all of the Olivia Pope hype. She really is that amazing. I love where the show has gone this season, delving into Olivia’s relationship with the president and her involvement in the fix that got him elected. I can’t wait to see where the show goes next.

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