The Good Wife
At its best, The Good Wife is a wonderful balance between the unique intrigue of a legal procedural and the overarching forward momentum of a serial drama. It lets all of its main characters cultivate rich and extensive personal lives with real consequences and still manages to show a riveting courtroom chess match between opposing litigators each week. In that way, viewer loyalty is rewarded but not necessarily required, though anyone who missed a moment of 2012 surely missed out. From Will’s disbarment to Lockhart/ Gardner’s unceremonious plunge into bankruptcy, the writers definitely didn’t play it safe this year, and more often than not, the places they took the show were riveting and mentally stimulating.

The addition of Nathan Lane’s trustee Clarke Hayden was a masterstroke, offering Diane Lockhart and Will Gardner both a helping hand and a judgmental boss to answer to, and many of the guest stars including Martha Plimpton (who won an Emmy) and Jason Biggs made the most of their episodes. Best of all, the characters we’ve grown to love like Alicia, Kalinda and Will all grew richer, more vibrant and more intriguing. Things might not be blissful inside the once thriving law firm of Lockhart & Gardner, but from a viewer’s perspective, things have never been better inside this fictionalized version of Cook County.

Boardwalk Empire
Not many returning series had as big a mountain to climb as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. The prohibition era drama set in Atlantic City was facing said hyperbolic challenge because of the ballsy yet series shattering conclusion of the second season. The show, uh, shot itself in the face a little by murdering Michael Pitts’ Jimmy, because he wasn’t just a co-lead but a lot of the heart and, on a more perfunctory level, the storylines and characters depended on his presence. But creator Terence Winter, and his band of writers, were more than up to the task, crafting a novel of a third season that somehow both extended its sprawl, elevated the emotion and wrapped itself up, oh so tightly. And bloodily. But the third season of Boardwalk Empire was about so much more than just littering the screen with corpses, delivering a run of episodes as good as any on the small-screen this past year.

It began with an explosive few installments before switching gears into (what some thought was too much of) a slow burn but the final six were undeniably engaging, emotional, shocking, and ultimately satisfying. And that’s all on top of Boardwalk Empire always delivering luscious costumes, impressive sets and stunning cinematography, not to mention the actors, both returning and new - Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Jack Huston, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Charlie Cox and Bobby Cannavale - who make an ensemble that should rival any series come awards time. If not, they could easily bribe and intimidate the judges or, if it comes to it, take them out.

Check out our Top 10 Comedies of 2012 HERE.

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