By Richard Connery
2012 has so far lived up to early expectations. We were promised some quality new TV series this year and that promise has without doubt been delivered on. Apart from the wonderful returning series such as Breaking Bad and Damages we have seen some top class new releases hit our screens for the first time. Series such as Magic City and The Newsroom prove that 2012 may well be the best year for sensational TV programming yet. Here is my list of the best shows to air this year so far.
1. Breaking Bad – Season 5
A troubled high school chemistry teacher who struggles with many aspects of his life, Walter White (a brilliant Bryan Cranston) is diagnosed with terminal, stage-three lung cancer. At wits end, Walter resorts to selling drugs to provide for his wife and handicapped son. The story begins in season 1 with Walter on a ‘ride along’ with his DEA brother-in-law when he sees a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) fleeing the scene of a meth lab. He contacts Jesse and devises a scheme to cook and distribute high-grade methamphetamine in order to pay for his treatment and leave his family financially stable.
Season 5 begins with a flash-forward to Walter’s 52nd birthday. He is in a poor state, hair and beard unkempt, using a false name and buying a car with weapons pre-loaded in the trunk. Things can only go from bad to worse as we flash back to the aftermath of drug kingpin Gus’s death at the conclusion of season 4. His wife Skyler is dazed and baffled by Walt’s murderous triumph over Gus while Jesse and Walt make peace. DEA brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) visits the scene of the previous seasons burnt out, high tech drug lab looking for clues. Walt remembers the surveillance cameras from the lab and he and Jesse seek assistance to get rid of the digital evidence.
2. Damages – Season 5
Up and coming law school graduate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) became the protégé for the ultra successful and hard-hitting high stakes litigator Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) in previous seasons but this year she will tackle her mentor head on. As is the formula for earlier storylines, nothing is what it seems in season 5.
Ellen starts up her own firm in the latest and final season of Damages and her very first client and case finds her head to head with Patty in a twisted and sordid tale based around the death of a Wall Street whistleblower and her connections to the founder of an online information exposure site. Is Ellen murdered in the final stanza and is Patty responsible?
3. Dexter – Season 6
Dexter is the worlds most “killer’ dad!
Based on the Jeff Lindsay novels Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter this crime thriller series follows Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood splatter analyst with the Miami Dade Police Department. He is the rock of support for his sister, he had a steady girlfriend with two kids who became his wife before becoming the victim of a serial killer at the end of season 5. It’s a normal life on the surface but Dexter also has a very “active” nightlife.
Based on a code instilled in him by his foster father, Harry, he hunts down those who have escaped justice and makes sure that they don’t get away with their crimes again. Dexter is a loveable serial killer whose urges to kill are controlled by Harry’s code. In season 6 Dexter finds himself alone again raising his infant child following the death of his wife at the hands of his season 5 nemesis. Can he control his urges? Can he maintain his anonymity? All will be tested in the turmoil that awaits in the latest season.
4. Falling Skies – Season 2
Falling Skies is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion of earth that has left most of the world fundamentally crippled.
The first season focused on the period several months after the initial invasion, the few remaining survivors have united together on the outskirts of several major cities to begin the difficult task of rebuilding and eventually fighting back. Each day is another test of survival as citizen soldiers aim to protect the people in their care while also undertaking an insurgency campaign against the strength of the occupying alien force.
Season two follows the survivors as they slowly make way to unite with other survivors that are reported to be gathering in numbers. A united front seems their best hope for survival thought the journey is fraught with trials and tests of resolve.
5. Justified – Season 3
U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is a modern day 19th century-style lawman, enforcing his own style of justice in a way that puts a target on his back with criminals and places him at odds with his bosses in the Marshall service. That conflict and a case of ‘justified’ shooting results in a reassignment for Givens to the U.S. District office covering the town where he grew up. He is an anachronism, a tough, soft-spoken, cool gentlemen who finds his quarry fascinating, but never gives an inch despite his past relationships. Dig a little deeper under his placid skin and you will find an angry man who grew up hard in rural Kentucky, with an outlaw father, who knows a lot more about who he doesn’t want to be than who he actually is.
Season 3 develops quickly as old friends become foes and old enemies become allies in a struggle against out-of-town troublemaker Robert Quarles who has connections to the Dixie Mafia. Problems become more complex as local matriarch Mag’s Bennett enters the fray along with a number of already established locals including Boyd Crowder, the Bennett brothers Dickie and Dewey, Ellstin Limehouse and Wynn Duffy. This mix of colourful identities is a sure formula for the perfect storm.
6. Line Of Duty – Season 1
From the UK, Line of Duty follows a singular multi-stranded investigation over five, one-hour episodes, as Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), who is transferred to AC-12, an internal police anti-corruption unit, after the death of an innocent Muslim in a mistaken shooting during a counter-terrorist operation.
Alongside Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) they are assigned to a team tasked with the investigation into alleged corruption (laddering) by a popular and successful officer, Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates (Lennie James). While DCI Gates cleverly manipulates his unit’s arrest figures, DS Arnott is forced to question whether Gates may actually be a scapegoat for a culture of institutionalized spin, or is he in fact guilty of darker corruption?
7. Magic City – Season 1
In one of this season best period dramas, set in the 1950′s, Magic City’s focus is on Miami Beach’s most luxurious resort style complex – the Miramar Hotel. The hotels visionary head, Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), must deal with the Mob run by the notorious Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), his complicated family and a city in the midst of histrionic change as Fidel Castro takes control of Cuba, just 200 miles away.
By day the hotel at the center of ‘Magic City’ is alive with diving clown acts and cha-cha lessons by the pool, but at night the Miami Beach strip reveals a darker truth. Dopers, dealers, strippers, gangsters and those who arrest them fuse together to hear the top nightclub acts perform. Just beneath the surface, racial tensions stir. As life becomes increasingly confounding Ike must deal with a series of misadventures to keep his dream alive, while global unrest is brewing right next door.
8. The Newsroom – Season 1
Easily this seasons best-written new series. Clever scripting and brilliant performances from the lead actors make this my tip for the best new TV series of 2012.
The Newsroom follows an established cable news anchor, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), after he returns from a forced vacation to find the bulk of his staff have jumped ship and joined another news show on the same network. He is forced to work with several new team members brought on board during his absence, including his new producer and ex-girlfriend Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer). The show offers an interesting insight into the workings of a news program and the sourcing of information and ‘expert’ commentary on a number of highly significant news events from the past few years.
9. The Walking Dead – Season 2
Seasons one and two follow a group of holocaust survivors who do everything in their power to avoid contamination from a killer disease that kills and leaves the infected as the walking dead.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a former small town deputy sheriff who awakes from a coma several months after being shot whilst on duty. When he wakes, he discovers that the world has been taken over by Zombies, and he assumes he is the only person still alive. Following his return home to discover that his wife and son missing, he heads to the city of Atlanta in search of his family.
When he narrowly escapes death at the hands of a pack of frenzied zombies in Atlanta, he meets another survivor, Glenn, who takes Rick to his camp outside the city. By chance Rick finds his wife Lori and son Carl at the camp, along with his partner and best friend Shane. The camp consists of a small group of survivors who struggle to fend off the zombie hordes, whilst competing with other groups of survivors who are prepared to do whatever it takes to stay alive.
10. True Blood – Season 5
It’s official; vampires are “out of the coffin” and are now living among us. Surviving on synthetic blood, they no longer need the blood of humans to survive. Or do they?
The small southern town of Bon Temps, Louisiana boasts a wide contingent of colourful locals, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) among them. Sookie is a sweet and innocent waitress who hides her ability read minds and lives next door to Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) a 173-year-old vampire who moved back to town in season 1. Sookie’s brother Jason (Australian, Ryan Kwantin) is a ladies man who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble though his new role as sheriffs deputy has him for now at least on the right side of the law. Local bar owner Sam, Sookie’s bet friend Tara and her cousin Lafayette add to the quirky cast of characters who each hide their dark secrets in the shadows of the night.
From the pen of Allan Ball, writer of the Oscar-winning best picture American Beauty comes the critically acclaimed world of True Blood.
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