David Bianculli Says 2012 Brought No New TV Favorites

Aaron Paul plays a meth-making drug dealer on the AMC drama Breaking Bad.

hide captionAaron Paul plays a meth-making drug dealer on the AMC drama Breaking Bad.

Ursula Coyote/AMC

Rounding up his favorite shows from 2012, Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli says that when it came to television, it was another good year for cable and another so-so year for networks. Nor were there any new shows, he says, that wowed him. All the shows he watched and liked in 2012 were shows that have been around for at least a season.

While they didn't necessarily make his top 10, Bianculli says that other shows he watched and enjoyed regularly were Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Moyers & Company, Sherlock, Treme, Girls, Newsroom, Real Time with Bill Maher, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, American Masters, 60 Minutes, American Experience and Great Performances.

"I watch all those all the time," he says, " ... which means I have no life."

And now: Bianculli's Top 10 Shows of 2012 (in reverse order for maximum drama):

10. Justified, tied with Homeland

9. Modern Family

8. Walking Dead

7. Parenthood

6. Louie

5. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

4. The Good Wife

3. The Colbert Report

2. Mad Men

1. Breaking Bad


Interview Highlights

On when Breaking Bad is returning with new episodes

"It's not soon enough. It's next spring or summer, but it will be ending when it comes back so I'm already looking forward to it with dread. You know, it's like the last piece of pie from that pie."

On not letting a plot continue indefinitely

"You really do get a lot of richness by knowing that your story is going to end. I think that what could save American television is to do more of the British model and do fewer episodes each year and do them for only X number of years."

On news coverage of the presidential debates

"I thought that this was the year that the political debates really stepped up because they were important and people were watching them in pretty good numbers. But the formats that they used — they're not tried and true, they were, like, tried and false. And we just sort of endured them all waiting for a 'gotcha' moment instead of actually [talking] policy stuff back and forth."

On his response to coverage of the Newtown massacre

"I've been a TV critic for like 35 years or something and this is the first time I was in a position, because I'm not writing for a daily newspaper anymore, that I was able to say, watching the Newtown coverage, 'I've had enough.' You know, I didn't have to keep watching. Once I realized no new news was coming out and checked all the different outlets, it was affecting me so much emotionally that — unlike 9/11, you know — this one I was able to say, 'No. I'm going to turn off the television set for a while because it's just too sad and it's getting to me.' And some people say that television has desensitized us to violence. I don't think that's true in these real-life cases because ... they stop everything and the networks go 24 hours and we are horrified by them and fascinated by them for the exact reason that they do affect us and they are still unusual and tragic."

On watching television while he was ill this past year

"I spent close to a month in the hospital on two different visits — I'm fine now by the way ... but they didn't even have Turner Classic Movies on the hospital cable where I was ... that would have been comfort food 24 hours a day. But it got to be where when [the] Andy Griffith Show would show up on TV Land in the morning, that was really important to me, and made it easier to get through that hour. And I forgot how soothing television can be because I watch so much of it and take it for granted and teach it and everything like that, but just watching Andy and Opie was huge for me."

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