Every major network listens to hundreds of television pitches each year. A small percentage of those receive a script order, a small percentage of those receive a pilot order, a small percentage of those actually get picked up, and hilariously, an overwhelming majority of those are still not very good. Most new television programs barely make it the full season let alone get picked up for another go around. Fortunately, there are always a dozen or so that somehow navigate through all of those trappings and actually work. This list is a celebration of those television programs.
The following list contains ten shows that premiered in 2012. Some of them are already among the best shows on TV. Others have shown enough snippets of incredible promise to make more astute viewers tune in for the sake of what the show could become. TV Blend stands behind every single one, and while there’s no way to tell where they might go from here, what we do know is that each of their outputs over the past year was damn good.
Here are TV Blend’s best new shows of 2012…
Detective Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is legitimately old school, and the show often focuses on guns, women, and Reservation politics. Add a procedural format, and you get a show that somewhat skews to older viewers but still has enough punch to pop up on this list as one of 2012’s best new series. The veritable tug of war constantly going on between the Res police and the Sheriff’s department also adds a little something extra to the procedural format, as Native American politics often get in the way of investigations and those living on the Reservation prefer to keep their mouths clammed shut. Longmire may not have the budget that some of its cable counterparts have, but it is still a welcome addition to the summer lineup, and speaks highly of the new direction A&E has been working to go in.
Like most Judd Apatow produced projects, the HBO series was able to find a great group of actors to surround Dunham’s stubborn, once-spoiled Hannah with Allison Williams perfectly cast as the model-beautiful but anal best friend Marnie and Jemima Kirke as Jessa, the returning wild child who never found herself. The real standouts, however, are Zosia Mamet as the high strung virgin and Adam Driver playing Hannah’s odd, to say the least, love interest. And to top off the hilariously honest storylines and empathetic if unlikable characters, Girls also manages to be beautifully shot and soundtracked, offering a great look at a subsection of New York City. Dunham’s often uncomfortable yet surprisingly warm show is not just one of the year’s best new series but, as most awards shows will attest, one of the best comedies period.
(Spoiler alert!) Season 1 introduced us to the work Pope does and the personal conflicts of Olivia and her staff. And Season 2, which debuted this fall, didn't lose a step, launching forward on the first season's momentum and leaving us on the edge of our seats as we watched Fitz get shot, Huck get blamed and Olivia caught in the middle of it all. Exciting, dramatic, romantic, and suspenseful, Scandal is captivating and addictive in all the right ways and great addition to dramatic television in 2012.
Right down to the last moment, Smash stuck to the go-big-or-go-home attitude, leaving two aspiring stars, one a veteran, one a newcomer, locked in the battle for the role of a lifetime – that of Marilyn Monroe – in the production of Bombshell. Smash’s success was made by a stellar cast, including Debra Messing and Jack Davenport, but perhaps especially Katharine McPhee, who quickly proved American Idol voters were wrong. In 2012, Smash gave us fabulous melodrama, characters to love and hate, underdogs to cheer for and of course, some fabulous musical numbers. What Season 2 will bring now that creator Theresa Rebeck has moved on is anyone’s guess, but Smash was among 2012’s best.
Of course, “earn” is an extremely generous term for how Selina ended up in the office. She tried to run for the Presidency prior to Veep’s first episode and failed in spectacular fashion, forcing her to accept a charity VP gift from a man she knows damn well doesn’t even like her. That scenario leaves her with both a disdain and an obsession with pleasing her boss, and the show utilizes it to maximum effect. Between filibuster reform bills and new silverware, she constantly rearranges her priorities and her courses of action depending on whether she’s more in the mood to be a team player or to further her own agenda. Someday she might figure it out and find happiness, but that definitely won’t happen as long as she’s the swearing, hysterical Veep many fell in love with for the first time in 2012.
Still, all of this would be boring without the addition of a likeable and amusing cast. Newcomer Jessica Raine and the nymphish Helen George are charming for very different reasons (the latter reminds me a bit of All the Way Mae in A League of Their Own), but it is comedian Miranda Hart who really shines, transforming the bumbling Chummy into a witty worker, willing to crack a joke but still fight hard for what she believes in. Really, there’s nothing this series is missing. The post-WWII settings are astonishing, the fashion is fun, and the show has even managed to nab Academy award winner Vannessa Redgrave to narrate. A second series is already in the works, and if you can manage to maneuver your remote all the way to PBS, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
Not that the inspiration is in any way not welcome since the gritty and realistic approach to handling the vigilante’s adventures has made Arrow one of the most exciting new action series of the year. Stephen Amell is perfectly suited to play both the flamboyant playboy and the physically demanding side of the titular character while the rest of the cast performs admirably and seem similarly well suited for their roles. So the acting isn’t the number one reason to watch The CW superhero series but it the well shot and choreographed action. In addition, the always engaging storylines that include compelling flashbacks and DC criminal cameos make the wait between issues extra hard. Issues. That’s what they call... nevermind because Arrow isn’t just for comic book fans, everyone should be watching the Starling City vigilante try to clean up his city every week. Season 1 resumes on January 16.
With Martin and his son at the heart of the story and the connections formed within the stories of the other characters, Touch is emotional, suspenseful and like nothing else on television in the way it tells its story. Fox took a chance on the series and it paid off in its first season, using its unique premise to build suspense throughout the season as Martin attempts to understand his son's gift and follow the patterns to see where they lead and what they connect. There's certainly the chance that Touch will eventually get tangled up in its own plot, but its first season realizes some of the potential delivered in the pilot, contributing to some of the most intriguing drama TV had to offer in 2012.
Go On is the show that Matthew Perry needed. It lets him use his trademark sarcasm and dry wit as well as surrounds him with the kind of quirky characters he plays off so very well. Yes, there’s still something of Chandler about his portrayal of Ryan King, but in Go On, it seems right and not so distracting that we expect Joey to walk in the door at any moment. Of course, only half a season in, Go On still has a lot of work to do to prove itself, and Matthew Perry still has a long way to go to show there is life on television for him after Friends. So far, however, things are looking good. Go On is a solid comedy with a funny cast and a feeling of darkness that is unusual in network series. There’s hope for the future of this one. Congrats, Mr. Perry.
To this point, there really hasn’t been a weak episode either. From high school grudges to scavenger hunts to missed 21st birthdays, Ben & Kate has consistently churned out exciting, humorous premises well conceived to both maximize the comedy and give us a bit of backstory about the lead characters. The ratings haven’t exactly blown people away, but given the potential and the quality already exposed, it would be a real shame if this show gets chopped before it’s able to really hit its stride. Thanks to some excellent casting and a natural charm, Ben & Kate is one of the best new shows on television, and ten episodes in, it’s only getting better.