I often laugh when misty-eyed, geriatric viewers talk about the “good old days of television” because TV is one medium that continues to get better with age. From the seamless use of green screen technology to advancements in pyrotechnics, television is in a constant state of improvement. That was especially evident in 2012 as we got to enjoy an uncommonly high number of quality programs. Here are five reasons why I think TV is better than ever.
1. Modern Family
How do I love Modern Family? Let me count the ways.
I love that it gives equal screen time to every single character in its brilliant ensemble cast.
I love that it treats Mitchell and Cam like a real couple rather than a curiosity.
I love that its female leads are more than just mothers or eye candy.
I love that it manages to get great guest stars like Matthew Broderick, Greg Kinnear and Ellen Barkin, but it doesn’t rely on them.
I love that it finds new ways of tackling old subjects like Halloween and Thanksgiving, consistently infusing them with surprising new twists.
I love that it’s given Ed O’Neill a platform to prove he’s more than just a one-trick pony.
I love that it tackles serious issues like gay adoption, teenage promiscuity and dishonesty without ever seeming preachy.
I love that it’s equal parts silly and brilliant, bringing together clever one-liners with slapstick humour.
I love that it trusts its audience enough to eschew a laugh track.
I love that they found a clever way of keeping Sarah Hyland on the show even when her battle with kidney dysplasia threatened to keep her on the sidelines.
I love that it doesn’t reduce characters to stereotypes.
I love that it manages to tie together three-to-four different storylines at the end of every episode in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
In short, I love everything about it and am already counting down until Modern Family’s very next episode.
2. The Mindy Project
The Mindy Project has been one of television’s most enjoyable new shows, but not for the reason you may suspect. Sure, Mindy Kaling has been delightful as the program’s lovelorn lead, but it’s her supporting cast that really makes this offbeat sitcom worth watching. It begins with Chris Messina as antagonistic obstetrician Danny Catellano and continues with Ed Weeks as pompous doc Jeremy Reed. Both actors know exactly how to play off of Kaling and display the kind of timing and instincts most shows sorely lack. Credit is also due to MADtv scene-stealer Ike Barinholtz who plays a goofy male nurse with a shady past. Together, they form the sort of supporting cast that most stars could only dream and provide a nice counterbalance to the program’s estrogen-fueled storylines.
The small screen hasn’t traditionally been kind to superheroes. Just ask Batman. It took this bad ass vigilante over 30 years and three films before viewers started to forget about his campy TV show from the late 1960s. That’s why I didn’t have high hopes when I heard rumours about a new series based on Green Arrow. I was especially underwhelmed when I discovered it was being developed by the CW, the same network that has been on a mission to lower our country’s collective’s IQ over the years with shows like 90210, America’s Next Top Model and Oh Sit. And yet, despite those two tremendous strikes, Arrow is surprisingly deep. The show’s protagonist is a believably tortured soul whose personal vendetta is simultaneously engaging and repulsive. There’s blood and body counts to add to the realism and not a Pow!, Bang! Or Zip! in sight to sell the body shots. Arrow also contains just enough suspense and tantalizing flashbacks to keep you tuning in to the next episode. It’s arguably the best small-screen adaptation ever of a superhero saga and it’s quickly becoming my Wednesday night guilty pleasure.
Not many viewers know about Workaholics, and that’s s shame because this hidden gem is one of the most consistently funny shows on TV. Produced by Comedy Central, Workaholics stars Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine and Anders Holm as three hard-partying roommates who share the same cubicle at a telemarketing company. It’s The Office for the 20-year-old slacker set and its use of politically incorrect, gross-out humour often leaves me laughing in spite of myself.
5. Eastbound & Down
Eastbound & Down had a lot to prove after its somber second season and it didn’t disappoint. Kenny Powers came back bigger, better and more mulleted than ever before and the show’s new Myrtle Beach setting helped usher in a lighter vibe that was sorely lacking during his Mexican misadventures. Cameos from Will Ferrell, Matthew McConaughey and Don Johnson also helped, but this was ultimately still Danny McBride’s baby, and he delivered a knock-out performance as the show’s beer-guzzling, jorts-wearing hothead.