As the length of this section shows, there is no lack of drama on TV these days. It comes in all forms, family, zombies, mystery, fantasy and crime. These shows range from tear-jerkers to nail-biters. See below for our writers picks for best TV Dramas of 2012.
Daniel Johnson – Whenever I hear of a classic piece of work being retooled for the modern era I tend to roll my eyes, but when the BBC Sherlock arrived on the scene in 2010 I was blown away. This was a modern updating done right, respecting the characters and source material of [Arthur] Conan Doyle, while working them beautifully into today’s world. If Series 1 introduced us to the character of Sherlock, this year Series 2 found ways to humanize him, featuring the only time he ever fell in love (“A Scandal in Belgravia”), doubted himself (“The Hounds of Baskerville”), and met his match (“The Reichenbach Fall”).
Cat Edison – I remember watching Sherlock Holmes on Public Television as a kid and being enthralled by the stories told and the oh so clever way in which the mysteries were solved. When I heard about a reboot, I too was hesitant to believe in the merit of such an undertaking, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. Benedict Cumberbatch has fast become one of my very favorite actors and holds a very special place among those who can do no wrong. That is to say nothing of the chemistry between he and the incomparable Martin Freeman as the very modern, very perfectly imperfect Watson. The intricate story lines and intimate attention to detail make this show intriguing and impossible to ignore.
Game of Thrones
Daniel Johnson – Slowly but surely, shows like Game of Thrones are proving to me that a lot of superior entertainment is moving out of theaters onto the small screen. The sheer spectacle and scope of the show is unparalleled on television, with sweeping vistas, iconic characters, and a dense, rich world rivaled only by such universes created by [J.R.R.] Tolkien. Something like Game of Thrones would have been impossible years ago, but now television is catching up to film in terms of its imagination, storytelling, and technology, and this show deserves a place among the greatest fantasy epics of our time.
Jim Napier – HBO is another powerhouse when it comes to TV series. I have always been a fan of gangster movies like The Untouchables, Casino, etc. Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg have done a fantastic job of creating an authentic environment as Executive Producers of the show. Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Kelly MacDonald, Stephen Graham, and Jack Huston are all phenomenal in this show.
The Walking Dead
Lyndsey Miller – At first glance, The Walking Dead appears to be a gore fest fit for a midnight horror film marathon. But that’s just on the exterior. Much like we were taught in elementary school, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, could also be the perfect phrase to apply to this phenomenon show. Once you start peeling back the layers of this onion, you find an incredibly smart and emotionally realistic portrayal of, well, the end of civilization. The zombies are only a secondary character in the story and serve as this particular “doomsday” scenario. It is so wonderfully acted and well-written that you could sub the zombies out for any other catastrophe and I would still tune in.
Jim Napier – Zombies have crossed over into the mainstream thanks to this TV show based on a graphic novel. AMC has done a fantastic job of bringing the show to life, even though there have been some missteps with Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara leaving as show runners. What makes this show a must-watch every weak is the characters. The zombies are great, but the characters are even better. If you are not watching this show yet, ask yourself why.
Lyndsey Miller – Breaking Bad eerily depicts a man transform from an everyday Joe to one of the greatest villains of the 21st century. What does 2013 have in store for Walter White and the end of such a landmark show?
Jim Napier – I did not start watching this show until it was available on Netflix, and then I watched the first three seasons all in one sitting. It is easy to fall in love with these dark and twisted characters. Despite cooking meth, each of them is easy to relate to. The love-hate relationship that Walt has with everyone in his life could not be portrayed by anyone other than Bryan Cranston.
Once Upon a Time
Sarah Katz – It is no easy task to make classic fairy tales seem shiny and new, but Once Upon a Time (ABC) has succeeded admirably. Week after week, Once Upon a Time has held audiences’ rapt attention through creative plot lines and characters that seem familiar, but are in fact mysterious strangers motivated by secrets that determine whether they are (and will continue to be) friend or foe. All who have fallen under its spell can’t help but spend Monday–Saturday eagerly waiting to see what magic Once Upon a Time will work upon us next.
Cat Edison – As a parent of a young girl, I struggle to find a show that not only can both of us enjoy together, but that provides good examples of strong women and valuable lessons. I have found this in Once Upon a Time. While initially I began watching the show for her benefit, I quickly became engrossed in the stories myself and look forward to every Sunday night that we get to spend lost in these precious moments together.
Nicholas DeLorenzo – In today’s landscape where nearly every network drama is a glorified soap opera, Parenthood‘s abilities to tell complex, honest family stories has to be lauded as one of the most impressive feats on television. The show always had well-defined characters that you couldn’t help but love hanging out with on Tuesday nights, but Season 4 has brought depth to the family dynamic with Kristina’s (Monica Potter) cancer arc, throwing the Bravermans (and me, specifically) through the emotional ringer. Potter’s powerful and oftentimes hilarious performance deserves Emmy recognition, and Peter Krause‘s portrayal of Adam –the straight man whom all the other Bravermans rely on — puts him in the discussion alongside Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm as TV’s best leading man.