Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. I'm wrapping up the year with my best- and worst-of lists for the calendar year. Today with start with Best New Shows.
Some of these picks go back to the last TV season, but made their debuts in 2012.
10. "House of Lies" (Showtime): Certainly not the best comedy on TV, but it was pretty enjoyable thanks to the talents of stars Don Cheadle as a slick PR specialist and Kristen Bell as one of his colleagues.
9. "Touch" (Fox): I really didn't know what to make of this series at first, which stars Kiefer Sutherland who is trying to raise a severely autistic boy after his wife died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Sometimes, the boy-as-messiah theme where he sees all the ways that people are connected in the world could get a little overwrought, but most of the time it managed to strike an emotional chord with me. I also love the subplot of the cellphone making its way around the world.
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8. "Go On" (NBC): Finally, a Matthew Perry vehicle worthy of his talents. The best-rated new comedy of the season, the show wouldn't seem to work, given that it revolves around Perry's sportscaster going to a support group to deal with the death of his wife, but does thanks to a strong supporting cast that complements Perry perfectly.
7. "Revolution" (NBC): If this series ever found consistency with its writing, storytelling and characters, it could be up there with "Walking Dead" in terms of end-of-the-world shows. Unfortunately, this show is all over the map. Some characters, such as Billy Burke's antihero "Uncle Ninja," are solid and worth tuning in for. Others, like newcomer Tracy Spiridakos' "Katniss" teen heroine, come off as flat and irritating. It doesn't help that the series' villain (David Lyons) is less interesting than his henchman (Giancarlo Esposito). Still, there's enough cool stuff that it makes up for the flaws.
6. "Vegas" (CBS): Given the immense talents of its leads, Dennis Quaid as a rancher sheriff and Michael Chiklis as a mobster running a casino in 1960s Las Vegas, I expected this to be the network's answer to FX's "Justified," but it doesn't achieve that level, given its case-of-the-week format. Still, it's pretty entertaining, and some of the supporting actors like Jason O'Mara and Sarah Jones have shined.
5. "Don't Trust The B--" (ABC): This is one of those great shows that really defies description. I had no idea what to make of it when I first saw it on ABC's press website. All I know is that I laughed my butt off and immediately watched the two other episodes that were listed. Starring Dreama Walker as a naive Midwestern girl whose life in NY comes apart in a day and Kristen Ritter as the roommate from hell, it's been James Van Der Beek performing a warped, narcissistic version of himself that's really been the eye-opener. This comedy won't appeal to everyone, but people who do get it will love it.
4. "Veep" (HBO): Absolutely the perfect vehicle for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays a largely irrelevant vice president who tries to make her mark on the country, only to have her attempts blow up in her face. It's sort of "The West Wing" in reverse, as her staff often tries to put out fires they themselves caused. Created by Armando Ianucci, who created the equally brilliant "The Thick of It," one can only hope that he's got a crossover in mind for Season 2.
3. "Nashville" (ABC): OK, I'll be the first to admit that this show is wildly uneven between its country music parts and the soapy backstage drama, but the original music is so darned good that I'm willing to overlook it. Connie Britton is perfect as a fading country music queen, and Hayden Panetierre is solid as her rival on the rise, but the breakout performers have been Charles Esten as Britton's longtime collaborator and Australian Clare Bowen as a yet-to-be-discovered talent with an astonishingly good voice. Dump the political storyline, and give us more music, and this show can still find an audience.
2. "Arrow" (CW): I was hoping "Arrow" wouldn't turn into "Smallville 2" as it depicted the rise of Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, the DC Comics superhero. Fortunately, it's taken a "Batman Begins" tone instead, albeit on a much smaller scale. Much more than a "Green Arrow vs. ____" on a weekly basis, the show has given us some interesting character development and an overall arching mystery to go along with some great action sequences.
1. "Elementary" (CBS): OK, as a lifelong Sherlockian, I was prepared to hate this series from the outset, given its mystery-of-the-week format (like everything else on CBS), its NYC setting and its female Watson (Lucy Liu), all coming on the heels of the BBC's terrific "Sherlock," which also sets the Great Detective in modern times. But I was wrong. Jonny Lee Miller has captured the essence of Sherlock Holmes, and his great, non-sexual chemistry with Watson makes for one of TV's best partnerships. Though for me it still ranks second to "Sherlock," I have to tip my deerstalker to the producers and cast for creating one of TV's most entertaining and clever hours.
So, what were your best new shows?
RIPs: To Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, who both died Monday at ages 90 and 89, respectively. Both were great character actors who worked in movies and TV. Klugman was best known for the TV series "Quincy" and "The Odd Couple," while Durning seemed to show up in everything from "Tootsie" to "Rescue Me."
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: It's a bittersweet Christmas for me tonight. On the one hand, we're getting the "Doctor Who" Christmas Special (BBC America, 9 p.m.) featuring a morose Doctor (Matt Smith) summoned to Victorian London to stop a scientist (Richard E. Grant) from killing people using snowmen. We're formally introduced to the Doctor's new companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) and see some old friends -- the Silurian detective Madame Vastra, her sidekick/lover Jenny, and their bodyguard Sontaran Strax -- who try to pull the Doctor out of his funk since the departure of his companions, the Ponds.
BBC America is airing episodes and specials of "Doctor Who" all day, and will have Smith on "The Graham Norton Show" at 10 p.m. Also getting in the mood is SyFy, which is airing the Australian spinoff series "K-9" all day long.
Less happy for me is the fact that "Leverage" (TNT, 10 p.m.) is ending its five-season run tonight with a case that ties back to the series' first episode. Though its the longest-running (and most fun) series on TNT, the network declined last week to renew it for a sixth season. Fortunately, the producers wrote an episode that serves as a series finale. It follows a new "Rizzoli & Isles" at 9 p.m.