“Adventure Time” (Cartoon Network) Mind you, this is coming from a dedicated fanboy, but Pendleton Ward’s candy-colored, post-apocalyptic fantasy has matured so wonderfully over the course of four and a half seasons. If you’ve watched every episode (and you should), you’ve seen simple cartoon characters grow and mature into incredibly deep human beings (or non-humans as the case may be). Call me crazy, but the Oct. 15 episode, “I Remember You,” was the most emotional thing I saw on TV all year. And the cliffhanger ending for season four was some straight-up craziness worthy of “Lost.”
“Breaking Bad” (AMC) Clearly the makers of this show want to go out on top. The first half of the final season was just about perfect: Gritty, dark, funny, shocking. I have no idea what’s in store for Walter White in 2013, but watching him grow into a monster and then get slapped back down by bigger monsters is an endless delight. Sadly for Albuquerque—and the rest of the viewing public—it really is ending. Good luck, Walt. You’re gonna need it.
“Game of Thrones” (HBO) The 10 episodes in season two of this epic adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series only left us hungry for more. (Patience. Season three will be here on 3/31/13.) By pumping the proper amount of money into this thing (a reported 15 percent bump over season one), HBO has created a TV series on par with Hollywood’s biggest theatrical blockbusters. (Hello, Battle of Blackwater!) Sure, at it’s core, it’s a soap opera in which people behead one another, but ... it’s a soap opera in which people behead one another!
“The Last Resort” (ABC) I was obviously wasting my breath on this one, since it got canceled in November after less than a season. But I still maintain this story of a rebellious nuclear sub crew hiding out in the South Pacific is the best action series on television. It didn’t seem, after the breathless premiere episode, that producers could keep up the pace. Week after week, though, it has delivered nail-biting thrills, whiplash-inducing surprises and intense political debates. I eagerly await the “no-holds-barred kick-ass ending” series co-creator Shawn Ryan is promising.
“The Walking Dead” (AMC) This ratings smash still generates controversy. (Not enough zombie action? Too much zombie action?) But people are watching. In droves. As well they should. The second season ended on a high note and the amped-up third season has been filled with juicy drama. Viewers can still argue over character motivations, stupid moves and pointless deaths—but that’s great. Who’d have thought a TV show about killing zombies would engender such passionate weekly debate?
Charlie Sheen’s revived career in “Anger Management” (FX); the rebirth of hicksploitation in “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (TLC); the brain-numbing mix of “Jackass” and “American Idol” in “Killer Karaoke” (truTV); the pure, conceptual silliness of “The Mob Doctor” (FOX); the idea that—thirty-plus years after “Bosom Buddies”—viewers would actually watch a sitcom about out-of-work guys getting jobs by dressing in drag in “Work It” (ABC).