01. The Walking Dead - Seeing as 2012 includes both the back half of the second season (still the high point of the show so far) and the solid opening half of the third, this one gets the top spot with ease as it saved itself from being something that I was very close to giving up on altogether.
02. Boardwalk Empire - The second season wasn’t bad by any means, but the third took it up to another level, proving that the bold move in the second season finale was anything but a mistake and this show has the kind of longevity that should see it continuing to increase with each season.
03. Eastbound & Down - I had all but given up on this show after its brutally dull detour into Mexico during the second season, but the third season brought Kenny Powers back into the United States and with his return came the memory of just how vulgar and hilarious this show could be. Still not the most consistent season, but when compared to how bad the one before it was this was a drastic improvement on every level.
04. Happy Endings - Likewise to Boardwalk, this was already on an upper level of current programming but in 2012 it remained relevant and successful while so many other comedies were falling apart at the seams. For my money this is the best comedy currently running on network television, and it continues to improve on itself.
05. Mad Men - Another one that wasn’t remotely bad before this year but saw a drastic increase in quality that took it to a new height. I’ve always been a fan of Mad Men but had never reached the level of appreciation that most have for it, never so far as to where I would call it one of the best shows on television. That changed in 2012 with what I firmly believe is the show’s finest season to date, making it one of my Top 5 shows of the year overall.
Honorable Mention: Community - The third season was paltry compared to the first two, but this makes the list due to the fact that the first half of that season landed in 2011, meaning that the second half (where it made at least some effort to rising itself from the atrocity it had become) was apart of 2012 and is another that saved itself from being something that I had given up on altogether.
01. Homeland - I can’t even process the level of disappointment going on with this show right now. A decline swifter than Damagesfrom Season 1 to 2, the show that was far and away my all-around favorite of 2011 has so rapidly become a complete parody of its former glory.
02. Damages - Speaking of, talk about going out with a whimper. After the second season of the show was a huge disappointment I was just about ready to all it quits on the show, but I reluctantly stepped into the third season and was pleasantly surprised to find a return to its former glory. The fourth season came in 2011 and remained at a peak level, which is why I was so surprised that the fifth (and final) season fell back into the pits. Not horrendously bad by any means, but certainly not on the level this show was capable of.
03. Parks and Recreation - Would probably top the list if it wasn’t for the first half of Season 4 falling into 2011, which unfortunately gave a brief warning sign as to how far this show was about to fall. What was once my favorite comedy on the air period, the fourth and fifth season have turned it into a recycled, monotonous bore that has seemingly lost all sight of the freshness and endless likability its characters were once flourishing in.
04. American Horror Story - The first season definitely wasn’t something that I would call great television by any means, but it was camp fun at its most ludicrous and bizarre. With outrageous overstuffing and some of the best worst acting on television, it was a consistently entertaining joy from week to week. Which makes the utter bore that is the second season such a painful surprise.
05. True Blood - I know that most people had long given up on this show being anything resembling fun, but I actually quite enjoyed 2011’s fourth season and thought it was the best the show had produced since the first. Then the fifth came and brought me to the point where most people are, where I more than likely won’t be continuing to watch it when it makes its return this summer.
Honorable Mention: Up All Night - The first season wasn’t the best thing in the world, but it was at least somewhat enjoyable and certainly not something I’d come close to considering bad. Like a lot of the current NBC programming though, the second just lost itself, this one in much more obvious ways than any others. By readjusting just about everything from the first season, the brand spanking new second season didn’t even somewhat resemble the pleasant, if unexceptional, first.
Going strictly off of what was eligible for the awards this year, including what categories the actors were submitted in and strictly for the season they were eligible for in this year’s ceremony (the full ballots with every performance that was eligible can be seen here and here). Not doing the miniseries/TV movie categories because I haven’t seen enough from them.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Damian Lewis, Homeland
02. Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
03. Timothy Olyphant, Justified
04. Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
05. Jon Hamm, Mad Men
06. Dustin Hoffman, Luck
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Claire Danes, Homeland
02. Mireille Enos, The Killing
03. Glenn Close, Damages
04. Kerry Washington, Scandal
05. Anna Torv, Fringe
06. Jessica Pare, Mad Men
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
02. Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
03. Shea Whigham, Boardwalk Empire
04. Walton Goggins, Justified
05. Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones
06. Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
02. Rose Byrne, Damages
03. Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
04. Joelle Carter, Justified
05. Maggie Siff, Sons of Anarchy
06. Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Chris Messina, Damages
02. Jeremy Davies, Justified
03. Jared Harris, Fringe
04. Ray McKinnon, Sons of Anarchy
05. Michael Cerveris, Fringe
06. Brendan Sexton III, The Killing
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
01. Julianne Nicholson, Boardwalk Empire
02. Julia Ormond, Mad Men
03. Bellamy Young, Scandal
04. Joan Allen, Luck
05. Liza Weil, Scandal
06. Rebecca Mader, Fringe
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Louis C.K., Louie
02. David Duchovny, Californication
03. Will Arnett, Up All Night
04. Garret Dillahunt, Raising Hope
05. Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
06. David Cross, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
02. Lena Dunham, Girls
03. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
04. Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
05. Christina Applegate, Up All Night
06. Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
02. Damon Wayans Jr., Happy Endings
03. Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
04. Adam Driver, Girls
05. Justin Kirk, Weeds
06. Rob McElhenney, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Eliza Coupe, Happy Endings
02. Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings
03. Zosia Mamet, Girls
04. Casey Wilson, Happy Endings
05. Gillian Jacobs, Community
06. Kaitlin Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Jon Hamm, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret
02. Christopher Abbott, Girls
03. Jason Lee, Up All Night
04. Chris O’Dowd, Girls
05. RZA, Californication
06. David Cross, Modern Family
THE MEGAN MULLALLY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
01. Megan Mullally, Up All Night
02. Pamela Adlon, Louie
03. Kathryn Hahn, Parks and Recreation
04. Joan Rivers, Louie
05. Megan Mullally, Happy Endings
06. Megan Mullally, Parks and Recreation
Often times in television, the people responsible for the progression of the show aren’t made aware that their time is up and thus the audience is left with unresolved questions and huge cliffhangers, or conversely each season of a show is nicely wrapped up in a little bow just in case and then reopened awkwardly the next season when they get renewed for another run. Damages is one of a rare breed of show, one that was aware that there time was up and so they made sure to bring everything to a resolution — only to then be picked up by another network and placed back into the fold for a few more seasons.
Creators Todd Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman believed that the third season of their legal drama was going to be its last, as FX made it plain to them that they wouldn’t be picking it up for another afterwards. So, through plenty of awkward contrivances and returning characters, they made sure to resolve the lingering questions that had been opened in the first few seasons with a pretty unfortunate season three finale that thankfully didn’t end up being the close of this great show. Instead, DirecTV picked up the show for two more seasons, which not only gave the trio more room to evolve its characters and their dynamic but also gave them more time to bring things full circle to what they wanted the end to be.
With the wider range of abilities that this new network afforded them (cursing!), Damages stepped up its game with their excellent fourth season, leading into these final ten episodes which saw the inevitable showdown between the veteran Patty Hewes and newcomer Ellen Parsons come to its climax. The fifth season was structured similarly to its predecessors, with a primary case bringing in a bevy of recurring guest stars while the more overlying elements of the Patty/Ellen dynamic were woven through that core narrative.
This season’s case was one of the weaker elements of the overall run, and probably the least interesting one the series has ever had, with the somewhat dated premise of a Wikileaks-esque website run by Channing McClaren (Ryan Phillippe) being put under fire after the death of their most recent whistleblower, Naomi Walling (Jenna Elfman). As McClaren is sued by Walling’s daughter (who hires Patty as her lawyer), McClaren goes to Ellen for his defense, as she is starting up her own firm and is looking for a big case to make her name. Ellen sees the potential to go after Patty one-on-one in court and she takes it, setting the stage for the big showdown that the whole series had been building towards.
Unfortunately, the payoff was not in the cards for this season, as Zelman and the Kesslers were less concerned with making the case interesting and much more concerned with building the parallels between Ellen and Patty that have been growing throughout the series. The case felt very much like background noise throughout the entire season, never being particularly interesting and being played out by the dullest set of actors the show has featured yet (looking at the names for the cast it’s not really a surprise, as they are a significant step down from the usual roster the show puts together).
What began with a promising few episodes, giving the season’s trademark glimpse into the future with what looks to be a scene of Ellen dead in an alley a few months from the present day, quickly began to wear out its welcome as the episodes became less intense and more focused on plots that held no real weight for the overall narrative. While the showrunners seem more intent on bringing everything with Ellen and Patty to a head (something which they ultimately weren’t able to do), they still had to give the case the proper twists and turns to keep it going and it felt like their attention wasn’t properly in it all the way.
To their disadvantage, the things that they were more focused on felt like they didn’t have much to do with anything — oddly placed subplots like a marital dispute between Ellen’s mother and father came seemingly out of nowhere and only served as either red herrings for her eventual fate or overly-labored and redundant attempts to draw further parallels between her and Patty. The focus on the family element of both of these women could have had more of an impact if these things had been able to develop gradually, but they come on so forcefully in this season that they don’t have any room to grow organically.
While there were moments that worked very well, particularly all of the truly effective dream sequences (this show has always been the best with those), overall it felt like the tone wasn’t ever established well and with such a weak case it was hard to get too invested in the overall narrative that drove this season. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne continued to deliver some of the finest work on television, but a lot of the supporting ensemble struggled to keep up — likely due to their weak material. The members of the ensemble who did manage to impress, reliable actors like Judd Hirsch, M. Emmet Walsh and Chris Messina (so pleased they kept him on after his monumental work in season four) gave solid performances that were often not given enough time to develop their characters properly. Hirsch was giving one excellent scene after another, until he all but disappeared from the final few episodes.
Usually, a show being given the knowledge of their end date prior to its occurrence is a very positive thing. I’ve always believed that no show should last longer than five seasons (there have been a few exceptions to this belief), and the team here was given two whole seasons awareness of when they had to conclude their saga by. Damages, however, is a rare case where it seems like maybe the knowledge of the end was ultimately a negative thing on the quality of the program, as it led to an abundance of focus in some areas that really weakened others and those areas that got the most attention ended up building to a disappointing lack of a payoff. I can’t say that I hated this season in the way that I did season two, but after the return to brilliance of three and four, this final season was definitely a disappointing conclusion to what has been at times one of the best shows of the past decade.
01. I Love You, Mommy (5.04)
02. You Want to End This Once and For All? (5.01)
03. I Need to Win (5.06)
04. There’s Something Wrong With Me (5.05)
05. I Like Your Chair (5.09)
I just want it to be Wednesday, I need new Damages.
Just give me the last four episodes now.
Only five episodes left ever!
I love Wednesdays!
Damages always has the most chilling dream sequences.