Now that the 2012-13 TV season is “officially” over, I thought I’d get some folks together and talk about a bunch of different things that happened between September and May. This is the 2012-13 season wrap roundtable.
Previously on the roundtable: Shows changing over the season
Cory: When you think back on this season, who is the single person that you will remember the most? There are tons of shows out there, some of which that have improved and others that have tanked, but who defined television from September 2012 to May 2013, and why? This can obviously be someone in front of or behind the camera, an executive, a parody Twitter account, or whomever.
Emma: I think I’m going to have to go with the one person who has dominated my Twitter feed, emails come Wednesday morning, and that’s Nick Miller. Both New Girl and Jake Johnson have upped their games this season and while I’ve always been a Nick girl, the added tension both pre and post the kiss it cemented this feeling. Who knew that such a grumpy character could be so romantic? Also some of my favorite Twitter conversations this year have been about Nick and pie, which out of context sounds very odd indeed (actually in context it probably reads this way as well).
I’m going to cheat and mention another person because I finally started watching Parks and Rec this year and so Amy Poehler has been a big part of my TV watching experience. So I’m also going to vote Knope. Bonus Poehler mention for making the Golden Globes fun again (at least while both Poehler and Tina Fey were on stage).
Andrew R.: My pick is a little outside the box, a little personal, and a little bit of a cheat because it veers just a bit outside of Cory’s period for this season. 10 days, in fact.
On August 21, 2012, ABC announced a major switch in their schedule. Beginning in January, Jimmy Kimmel would go head to head with Letterman and Leno at 11:35, ABC’s first entertainment show in that slot in the decades since Nightline premiered. The move sent ripples throughout the television universe; ABC News complained about Nightline losing relevance, and his ratings with younger viewers likely played a major role in NBC’s decision to move on from Leno.
About a month later, Kimmel hosted the Emmy’s for the first time, which he began with an impressive actress-filled open and a solid monologue. His show was also nominated for its first Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series (alas, he too could not break Jon Stewart’s streak). That nomination was joined by first time nominations at both the Producers and Writers guild awards.
A little more than a month after that, Kimmel brought his show to his hometown of Brooklyn for a week. Announced several months in advance, Kimmel would have to change his show on the spot as it was scheduled to begin just days after Hurricane Sandy hit the city. Down to only four shows, Kimmel made the best of it with NY-centric guests including David Letterman, Howard Stern, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and in the show, I was lucky to see taped, Kelly Ripa and Alicia Keys.
A month after his move to his new timeslot, Kimmel was back in a different slot for his post-Oscars special, including his annual star-studded pre-produced sketch. His series included regular favorite bits including “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship,” “Lie Witness News,” his “YouTube Challenge,” and “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.“
However, by far the highlight of the year for Jimmy Kimmel on television was an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live where Kimmel barely spoke at all. On January 24, Kimmel’s longtime rival, Matt Damon, took over the show paying off years of Sarah Silverman songs and end-of-show tag lines. I don’t watch Jimmy Kimmel Live nightly by any means, but with his never-ending stream of YouTube clips and impact on television, Jimmy Kimmel has defined this season.
Greg: FX President John Landgraf. While FX’s decision to add an additional channel (and move a few of its current shows to that channel) certainly involved a whole bunch of people, it occurred under his leadership, and was a remarkably bold move for a channel that, to me, is probably producing the finest programming on the air at the moment. Will it work? We’ll see. But given how well FX has been doing recently, I wouldn’t bet against it. Even without that major piece of news, just look at how much discussion FX shows have generated this year (something that seems likely to continue when The Bridge debuts in July). Again, one person isn’t solely responsible for all of this, but give Landgraf a whole lot of credit for working to create possibly the finest and most talked about season in FX’s history.
Andrew R.: Really like Landgraf as a pick. Love that he’s willing to actually talk, like his comments on both violence on TV and Netflix ratings.
Les: I’m sure there are many other people who have had more of an impact on the industry and gave more emotional performances, but in terms of dominating the conversation there’s been no one I’ve had more fun talking about this season than Mad Men‘s own Bob Benson. In a season of Mad Men that’s remained problematic for many people (not me personally but I know many, including several members of this discussion and Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker), James Wolk’s Bob Benson has been the surprise unifying factor for the show. In the miserable cutthroat world of SCDP-CGC (they really need to change that name) he’s been offering a winning smile, supporting Pete and Joan in moments when they need it and never flagging when people like Don and Ken dismiss or insult him. And we viewers are so taken aback by someone on this show being a nice person that they assume he has ulterior motives, especially when he offers such throwaway lines as saying he has nothing to go home to or when the fate of his father seems to change depending on who he’s telling the story to. There’s been so much speculation that Vulture even devoted an entire article to it, with theories ranging from investigative journalist to government spy to our friend Ryan McGee’s theory that he’s a time-traveling Bobby Draper. (My theory is he’s an immortal in the same vein as the Doctor or Q, who’s merely messing with the fabric of SCDP-CGC because it amuses him personally.)
We still don’t know what his end game is, whether in five years everyone on Mad Men will all either be working for him or be dead by his hand (as Jack Donaghy would say) but there’s no question that it’s added a little color to the show as it heads into the darker years of the 1960s. And it’s also nice to see it boosting the profile of James Wolk, a likeable and charismatic actor who deserves a break after Lone Star tanked and Political Animals failed to catch fire.
Eric: I’m not sure Margo Martindale defined this season for me, but it definitely seemed like she was everywhere at all times, even after her run on Justified. Her delightful and terrifying supporting role as a KGB handler on The Americans was one of the highlights of a season full of them, in a performance that was up there with Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Noah Emmerich. Her equally delightful but less terrifying guest spot as Nick Miller’s mom on New Girl proved equally memorable and hilarious. And from what I can tell from dispatches from upfronts, she’s going to get to keep playing a funny Miller on Greg Garcia’s upcoming CBS comedy, The Millers. I’m not sure if the show will be great (especially if she just makes fart jokes), but I’m excited for fans of CBS comedies to hop on the Martindale bandwagon.
Andrew R.: Don’t forget Margo Martindale’s guest appearance on NBC’s unqualified success Smash, which is a thing that happened.
Heather: My choice certainly doesn’t define the season for me, but he provided two lightning rod moments on television and Twitter. Bill
Clinton’s nearly 50-minute speech at the 2012 DNC convention was epic in both its length and its defiance of the teleprompter. I hadn’t been watching the convention, but my Twitter feed starting freaking out when he took the stage. The quotes and quips on social media compelled me to switch my TV on, and I enjoyed the rest of the speech in the company of my friends (and their networks) on Twitter. The Twitter backchannel was what made the event memorable and a hell of a lot of fun.
The second event took place during the Golden Globes in January when Clinton stepped onto the stage to introduce Lincoln. The response on Twitter was hilarious: “Holy s—! IT’S BILL!” People in my feed were so unbelievably delighted that it took them ages to calm down. It was the third most tweeted about moment of the event, generating 18,290 TPM. (Fun little graph here). While talking about the Golden Globes, I, too, am going to cheat and join Emma is giving a shout-out to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Fey also wrapped up 30 Rock this year, and I’ve only heard good things about Poehler’s Leslie Knope.
Kerensa: Juliette Barnes. If you had told me six months ago that I’d be gunning for Hayden Panettiere to win ALL THE AWARDS, I would have never believed you. I started out watching Nashville for Queen Connie Britton obviously. But as the show continued, Panettiere completely stole my heart. Juliette could easily be a one-note bad girl foil to Rayna but thanks much in part to Panettiere’s excellent performance; Juliette is a complex, flawed woman and one of the most interesting characters on television. She does stupid and terrible things but you are always rooting for her. And in the season finale, (spoiler alert) after the loss of her mother, she was truly a heartbreaking revelation.
I’m still listening to “Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again” on repeat.
Cory: I’m surprised that no one has mentioned my pick yet, and that’s Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. I don’t necessarily have to agree with people that I think are important or fascinating, and that’s certainly the case with Sarandos, the chief content officer of one of the most talked about content providers in the world right now. But this season, and especially this calendar year thus far, has been dominated by discussion about Netflix–its production expenses, its distribution model, its attempts to supposedly revolutionize the way we consume television, etc. For better or for worse, the person pushing that discussion is Sarandos. Around House of Cards‘ premiere, Sarandos told GQ that Netflix’s goal was to “become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” a comment equal parts ambitious, delusional, and misguided. And then during the press push for the new season of Arrested Development, Sarandos made further grandiose statements including claiming that House of Cards‘ viewership was on par with the unbelievably popular Walking Dead (a Netflix rep later backtracked and qualified that comment).
Here’s the thing: I think Sarandos and Netflix are mostly full of it, and they don’t actually know what they’re doing. Every content producer/provider post-1999 wants to be HBO, and we’ve seen many of them try and fail (Showtime and AMC most notably); Netflix is closer to those cable channels than it is anything revolutionary, or even new. It’s Sarandos’ job to say the kinds of things he’s been saying over the last six months, and while I can’t help but roll my eyes every time he makes another empty claim, I also can’t help but be fascinated by his company.
Cameron: I think the best way to respond to this is to simply roll up everyone who works on Scandal into one big person and say, “this one.” The reason is because of the way Scandal has dominated Twitter conversation over the past season. Part of that is owed to Shonda Rhimes and team, who leveraged the setup of season one into an absolutely bonkers season two, but part of it also goes to the cast and crew of the show who voraciously tweeted about it on airing day, engaging with fans and with each other, and generally giving Scandal an ounce of “oomph” and energy that matches the show’s storytelling and characters. We’ve already talked about how much good television we have available to us these days (Scandal being one of those shows) but somehow the epic marathon tweeting that happens with this show specifically goes above and beyond what most shows do for social media chatter. Which is why every Thursday you’ll probably just want to mute all of your friends who are ahead of you in time zones for watching Scandal, because nobody can shut up about this show, and that’s thanks in part to the cast and crew.
And that individual that represents all of the cast and crew now has a name in my head, but it’s so epic and long that, were I to say it out loud, it would cause a black hole to rip Earth apart and end the existence of humanity as we know it.
Wesley: I think I’d have to agree with Emma that Nick Miller won the TV season for me. No character was quite so quotable. Still, I’d like to mention Brian the Sound Guy. On the night that The Office decided to go for broke and introduce Chris Diamantopoulos as a long-suffering boom operator with an affinity for Pam my Twitter feed lit up. And, while his story wasn’t particularly great, it did drive much of the show’s final season. So, when I think of this season and The Office ending, I’m likely to think of Brian.
Sabienna: When I think back on the 2012-2013 television season, I will always think of my queen, Natalie Dormer first. I’ve been a Dormer fan since she blew me away as Sarah on the cancelled way too soon The Fades, but this season she had not just one, but two killer roles.
As Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, Dormer has been exquisite. Margaery is the ultimate chameleon, a woman who was raised to play the game in a way that baffles and infuriates all those around her. She can be kind, she can be sadistic—she can be whatever she has to be to achieve her goal of being not a queen, but the queen. What made Dormer stand out in a cast overstuffed with brilliant performances though is her ability to project Margaery’s sincerity at all times. Like everyone else in the world of Westeros, Margaery was playing the game, but Dormer always made it clear that Margaery is one of the rare people who is actually fit to be a ruler. Whether she was handing out toy soldiers painted with the Tyrell colors, or befriending Sansa, we were always aware that she was operating on two levels: she truly cares about the people, but she also wants to win.
Dormer might have been my pick even if she had only played Margaery this season (she deserves it for that horrifying/awe-inspiring seduction of Joffrey alone), but she also showed up on Elementary as another woman highly skilled at playing games: Irene Adler. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling what was, for my money, the best finale of the season, but I will say no one has been better at playing manipulative, powerful, and fascinating characters than Dormer this year.
Images courtesy of AMC, NBC, and CBS.