What made this year of television notable, one way or another, notable for me? Let’s count a few of the ways…
Best ongoing broadcast TV series: Modern Family (ABC) Everything about this comedy gets smarter, more inventive and truer to life season after season. The comedy standard-setter and breaker for this still young century. Honorable mention: The Good Wife (CBS).
Best ongoing cable TV series: Breaking Bad (AMC) Powerful drama that keeps you absorbed and on edge, now midway through its final season. Bryan Cranston delivers one of the greatest acting performances in TV history… and he’s a solid episodic director as well. Honorable mention: Homeland (Showtime)
Best new broadcast TV series: The Mindy Project (Fox) Mindy Kaling brings a fresh, colorful viewpoint as both star and writer of her sitcom, on her own from The Office. Honorable mention: Nashville (ABC), just for Connie Britton’s illuminating portrayal of a country music star.
Best new cable TV series: Switched At Birth (ABC Family) The best series ever giving voice to the issues deaf and hearing-impaired people face on a daily basis, wrapped inside perceptive family drama. Creator/executive producer Lizzy Weiss is a talent to watch. Honorable mention: Girls (HBO)
Most valuable players: The U.S. Women’s Olympic Team. Their all-around gold performance in London, especially the second week when the men’s team flopped in track and field and other sports, maintained and grew the audience for NBC’s Olympics coverage (excellent top-to-bottom, except for its treatment of the opening/closing ceremonies). Honorable mention: The Voice and Sunday Night Football (NBC)
Comeback of the year: Oprah Winfrey Network Many TV observers thought this channel was a goner last December. A mix of Oprah-featured TV (Next Chapter/Super Soul Sunday) and inspiring/enlightening nonfiction series (Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s/Our America With Lisa Ling/Ivanya: Fix My Life, etc.) turned fortunes around. Potential icing on this cake for 2013: New Tyler Perry TV series deal, with two series launched by next summer. Honorable mention: All the broadcast networks for expanding diversity via their fall/winter new scripted series, starting with more lead actors of color.
Disappointment of the year: 3D TV. Went nowhere, typified by NBC’s 200-hour 3D Olympics coverage which no one involved cared to market, promote, publicize or advertise to viewers. However, thanks to glasses-free set development and 3net’s continued effort to make original content, 3D may have a shot for the comeback kudo next year. Dishonorable mention: Venture capitalists, angel investors and the growing set of incubators/accelerators (500 Startups, Y Combinator, etc.) who avoid investing in the next generation of TV programming and technology.
Guilty pleasure of the year: Restaurant Stakeout (Food Network) This inside look at eateries getting rid of the service and management predicaments putting them on the closing cliff is not only great “you can’t make this stuff up” TV, but also a super public service for customer and restaurant owners alike. Must viewing for owners with their own service flare-ups in progress: get wise and transform your operation before customers get wise and exit your premises. Oh, and Willie Degel (the NY steak house manager behind these hidden-camera investigations) is a force of nature. Trust me, a force. Honorable mention: South Park (Comedy Central) As profane, outrageous, edgy and hilarious as ever, more than a decade in.
Biggest developments of 2012:
- The smart TV set, its expanding capabilities from interactive applications to voice/gesture controls
- More TV networks launching original series on a year-round basis
- More original scripted series going forward into production without a pilot and (in some cases) with a network commitment in place
- Comcast’s diversity network effort beginning with the launches of Baby First Americas and Aspire
- Video chat on TV, led by Skype, available on more smart sets and Comcast systems around the country
- More people watching Web sites/online video on TVs instead of PCs
- Growing online video marketplace, with YouTube’s original channels among the examples
Big developments to follow in 2013
- Bravo, Hallmark Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network (through Tyler Perry), E! and other cable nets entering the scripted TV field
- Netflix’s original series rollout, starting with House of Cards Feb. 1 and the Arrested Development revival in the spring
- More channels targeting people of color, including Revolt from Sean Combs, El Rey from Robert Rodriguez, ABC/Univision’s joint Latino news/info channel in English, Soul of The South, KIN-TV and other digital subcarrier services (available on both broadcast and cable)
- Participant Media’s new cable net, formed from the merger of Documentary Channel and Halogen
- New sports network competition pitting ESPN against contenders NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network and a possible Fox conversion of Speed
- Growing number of TV series with considerable investing from crowfunding
Have yourself an outstanding year of life–and TV viewing–in 2013.
To everyone catching Tomorrow Will Be Televised on Internet radio, podcasts and in these columns throughout this year, thank you for your listening and reading. I truly appreciate all your feedback very much, whether in person, phone calls or e-mail. Thank you to Jack Myers and Shelly Palmer, contributing the space for an ongoing dialogue of what makes TV tick, and how the medium can tick better. Whatever all of you are committed to causing this year ahead, cause that and much more.
Until the next time, next year, stay well and stay tuned!