We're finally down to what most people would call a reasonably sized list, with 20 more spots to fill out in our Top 100 Everything of 2012. This is when the real arguments about what should go where went beyond verbal and got into shanking; we lost a copy machine, two highlighters, and three interns in the Battle of What Deserves Spot Number 16, but it was totally worth it. All those interns did was play Farmville, anyway. R.I.P. highlighters, you will be missed.
We'll trot out our picks 10 at a time, continuing through the end of the year, so check back regularly to see what else made the cut or to learn how to count down from 100.
Usually a show limping into its seventh season after a few mediocre years is doomed, but Showtime's Dexter revitalized itself and set series ratings records when Deb finally learned that her brother liked to Saran Wrap people to tables and stick 'em with the pointy end. The development saved the series, and Jennifer C. Carpenter's performance was extraordinary.
Previously: Dexter's Season 7 Premiere: Yes.
It's been a fun ride with the Ponds, but as with all things, sometimes a girl's gotta make some choices. Amy and Rory's struggles with their double lives have been a consistent plot point in Series 7, and their exit was a natural, lovely, affecting result of those struggles. R.I.P,. Amy and Rory. We'll miss your feistiness and your quibbling.
Let's pretend for a second that NBC didn't cancel Kyle Killen's latest brilliant show and focus just on its pilot, which was one of 2012's best hours of television, hands down. Awake concept wasn't easy for viewers to wrap their heads around, the odds were against it because it was a "smart" show on network TV, and the subject matter required lots of Kleenex to wipe away the tears. But it was fantastic television that challenged its audience and was grounded by an incredible performance from lead Jason Isaacs.
Previously: Awake Series Premiere Review: Hurts So Good
Supernatural's rabid fan base may flip-flop on its main hunks Sam and Dean, wanting them to make out one minute and quit whining the next, but Bobby Singer was universally adored. He served as the Winchester brothers' solid foundation and surrogate father for more than half a decade and was regarded as the honorary third member of the Winchester Demon Extermination Crew. So when Dick Roman put a bullet in his head at the end of "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters," we were all shocked. But Bobby didn't simply fade to black, and in the late 2011 episode "Death's Door," he was given an excellent send-off which led to the emotional repercussions felt throughout Supernatural's 2012 run.
This pivotal moment in HBO's tragically cut-short horse-racing drama was a masterpiece. Gettin' Up Morning became the center of the universe for the show and changed the lives of its characters, and it was artfully handled by some of the best in the business.
CBS's cheeky procedural featured two spectacular episodes back-to-back... even though they aired more than four months apart. The Season 1 finale, "Firewall," was damn near perfect, full of reveals and action, and the Season 2 premiere, "The Contingency," focused on the series' heart and soul. But the two meshed together like a John Reese bullet and a thug's knee and showed this series has a lot left in it.
No one will ever say FX's Sons of Anarchy pulls punches, but one that utterly destroyed us was the murder of Opie Winston, a fan favorite who we thought would follow Jax to the end. The circumstances surrounding his murder were tragic and heroic, perfectly befitting the gentle giant. And his death wasn't for naught: The path his best friend Jax took as a result proved to be the backbone of Season 4.
Previously: Sons of Anarchy "Laying Pipe" Review: Sacrifice
Since The Vampire Diaries began, there's been no mistaking Elena Gilbert's purpose on the show: To be an audience surrogate and nothing more. You know, the normal human caught up in a mysterious and dangerous world of immortal hotties. Her oft-criticized blandness (the girl rarely cracks a joke) has always been in the very DNA of TVD and has provided an important contrast—not to mention a grounding element—to the over-the-top madness that surrounds her. So when in the Season 3 finale Elena drowned TO DEATH and awoke on a slab as a transitioning vampire, many viewers were straight-up shocked. Can they DO that? Making the show about THREE vampires was anathema to the entire premise, right? Well, as it turns out that game-changing twist has paid off handsomely in Season 4, as Elena's vampirism continues to not only develop her personality in compelling ways while also disassembling and reinvigorating the frequently wheel-spinny central love triangle. But like most things on this show it still all comes down to Elena, and so far Elena's trials and tribulations as a vampire have led to one of the strongest character work on the show to date. Sometimes you need to become a monster in order to learn just how human you are.
A typical money-hungry businessman would have looked at the Fringe situation and instantly canned it, but Fox, perhaps still feeling the sting from viewers over previous fan-favorite cancellations, took one for the team and gave the abysmally rated sci-fi show a fifth and final season not just to appease the fans but also because Fox execs wanted to see how the series ended. Our faith in humanity, restored.
NBC's innovative comedy produced a trio of gems in the second half of Season 3, all displaying the creativity that makes it the best network sitcom on TV today. "Digital Estate Planning" pixelated the gang into 16-bit video-game characters, "Pillows and Blankets" sent up Ken Burns documentaries with a massive pillowfight, and "Basic Lupine Urology" parodied Law & Order and put Britta in glasses (still very, very hot). Just when we thought the series' "special" episodes were nearing the precipice of trying too hard, Community once again put our fears to rest. Cool cool cool.
Previously: Community "Pillows and Blankets" Review: Pillows Are the New Paintballs
Previously #2: Community "Basic Lupine Urology" Review: Greendale's Finest
Previously #3: Community: Once, Twice, Three Times a Comedy