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Two Tivos To Paradise 12.28.12: The 2012 TTTP TV Entertainers of the Year
Posted by Al Norton on 12.28.2012

Hello friends. I hope all those who celebrated had a wonderful Christmas this past week, surrounded by friends and family, enjoying good food, great memories, and a few gifts. The twins are 4 now and it's an amazing age for the holidays; they were fully on board for everything kid-oriented about the season, from not one but TWO Elves on shelves to an Advent calendar to our Nativity scene to singing carols to not only the classic TV specials but also the holiday themed episodes of their favorite shows. My son was over the moon with the DVD he got that had 13 different holiday episodes of Scooby Doo!

I ran the SNL cold open last week featuring the New York City Children's Chorus and thought that was likely the most moving tribute to the lives lost in Newtown, CT two weeks ago but then the folks at The Voice went and put this together, which brought more than a few tears to my eyes…

Thanks for all the feedback on our Best of 2012 column last week. I love passionate TV fans and while I think that there is still too much "you don't like my favorite show so therefore you suck" out there in the world, I love the lengths people will go through to defend the series they enjoy the most.

We'll be back next Friday with our first news report of 2013, a look at the headlines from the last three weeks, and we're lining up interviews for January including Sutton Foster (Bunheads), Charisma Carpenter, Patricia Heaton (The Middle), and Norty Award winner Cheryl Hines (Suburgatory). Oh yes, and there may even be a Jack Wagner sighting!

All I need is a little more news to be sure what I feel.

Here is our 6thth annual list of those who gave us the most TV joy over the course of the year. While I do my best to not ignore any obvious choices, I also go out of my way to try and find people who constantly deliver the goods but might not get the full spotlight they deserve and then use this list to shine a light.

Honorable Mention: Lena Dunham, Jeff Daniels, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, James Van Der Beek, the coaches on The Voice, the women of Happy Endings, Louis C.K., Jon Hamm, Chip Esten, and Amy Poehler & Adam Scott.

20) Glee
I know, I know; this makes some of you roll your eyes, and that's fine with me. There are no rules that say we all have to like the same shows. For me, even when Glee isn't very good, which was a decent amount of season three, the music more than picked up the slack, and when it was good, like the Yes/No episode, it was bliss. Season four has been quite impressive as it has rebooted on the fly, introducing new characters seamlessly at McKinley while bringing some existing favorites to a new location and blending both worlds without missing a step. This has been the show's strongest season since the first and one that has cemented its place in Fox's primetime lineup for a couple more seasons (at least).

19) Paul Johansson
If you never watched One Tree Hill I'm sure it seems bizarre that someone from the show would make a list like this, especially because of his acting, but for those who were fans and went along on the journey of redemption for Dan Scott, there is no surprise to this at all. His last 10 minutes on the show's third to last episode were brilliant, a master class in portraying emotional honesty as catharsis that made me cry like no TV show has in years, and that was before Keith Scott showed up, at which point the tears really flowed. Danny Boy was one of my favorite episodes of the year and Johansson cemented his place as an all-time TTTP favorite. I can only hope he is in as much demand this pilot season as his talent deserves.

18) G.W. Bailey
I first saw G.W. Bailey as Rizzo on MASH reruns, and then again in the Police Academy films, so I was really caught off guard by his dramatic abilities when The Closer began its run. Provenza is one of my favorite current TV characters and with the new spinoff Major Crimes, he's received even more screen time and been more than up to the challenge. Provenza can make you laugh, think, and even draw a breath at his compassion, and Bailey is never anything less than 100% authentic in his performance.

17) Mandy Patinkin
I frequently talk about underplaying, where an actor makes the choice to not go for histrionics and instead scores a big moment by simply letting the words and the inflections speak for themselves, and Mandy Patinkin is as good at this as anyone on TV. You always know there is something going on beneath the surface with Saul but you're never quite sure what, and that's just how both he and his portrayer want it. It's tough to stand out on a show with a cast as strong as Homeland's, but Patinkin does it by letter the character speak for himself.

16) Alton Brown & Bobby Flay
I suppose it's kind of lazy of me to group these two together because they work on the same network and appear on a couple of shows together, but the real reason I am grouping them together is because both really opened my eyes to their talents this season. Brown's work as a mentor/coach on Food Network Star was amazing, as good as anything I've seen in the reality competition genre as he became emotionally invested in his team, offering up criticisms that made sense, made them better, as opposed to just talking to sound smart, and it's no coincidence that not only did his team have TWO finalists but also produced the winner. Also worth noting is his commentary on Iron Chef America, which keeps the show moving yet never condescends to the audience.

Flay had always come across as a little cold and a little arrogant to me – it works for him on Food Network Star since he is clearly the most successful person on the network – but on Food's Six Days to Open he got to help folks on a much more intimate level, working with them to help keep their dreams alive. Flay opened up more, showing that he is not only passionate about food but that he genuinely wants others with the same passion to do well. Six Days was one of my favorite new shows of any kind in 2012 and I am hoping it comes back.

15) Kristen Bell
Sure, most of the press on House of Lies went to either a) Don Cheadle, b) all the sex, or c) why it wasn't a better show than it was, but went overlooked was Kristen Bell proving she is much more than just Veronica Mars. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Veronica Mars and Bell immediately became someone whose presence in a project would get me to watch, but that ended in 2007 and her TV work since (Heroes, Gossip Girl) hardly had her on a track to stardom. Lies gave her a meaty character to sink her teeth into; Jeannie is as smart as anyone else in the room, funny as hell, dark and emotionally twisted, and you root for her even though you know she couldn't care less, and Bell brings her to life in ways that very few other actresses could. I mean, she holds her own with Don Cheadle; what higher praise is there?

14) Billy Burke
I read in Entertainment Weekly that Billy Burke was originally cast in Revolution as Monroe and they even started filming the pilot with him in that role (and no one cast as Miles) until the producers realized they could never find anyone to play Miles that would seem like a formidable match for what Burke was bringing to Monroe, so they had him change parts, and after watching the first half of the show's first season, I totally believe it. Burke is another in a long line of cynical TV anti-heroes, with Miles being perhaps the most interesting since Sawyer on Lost. Add in his work Phillip Stroh on The Closer and you've got an actor with great range, one who knows the value of a sideways glance or the hesitation in a line delivery.

13) Max Greenfield
What puts Max Greenfield on this list isn't so much his hysterically funny work on season one of New Girl, the second half of which aired in 2012 but rather how he came back for season two and Schmidt not only didn't lose a step but he stayed just as funny while becoming a more complete character. Schmidt could have easily crossed an over-the-top line in season two but instead of more of the same we actually got more, and then led to a lot more laughter. Schmidt is perhaps the single funniest character on TV right now – he's certainly on the short list – and Greenfield has more than met the huge expectations created by the success of season one.

12) Mindy Kaling
It must be very difficult to create a show where you are the lead and not write yourself as the smartest, funniest, most popular character in the world, and yet Mindy Kaling resisted that temptation because she knew it wasn't good for comedy. A struggling, slightly daffy Mindy, one who tries too hard and makes the kind of mistakes in life we all tell ourselves we would never make (but likely all have at one point or another) is much more of a recipe for laughs, and season one of The Mindy Project may well have been a tad erratic so far but it's highs have been high and overall its demonstrated that Kaling is capable of being as much Mary Richards as she is Kelly Kapoor.

11) Rick Hoffman
Suits was already one of my favorite shows after season one – a guaranteed good mood and a show that I always watched the night it was on – but in the first half of season two it made the leap from great fun to great series, with one of the main reasons being the work of Rick Hoffman. I first noticed Hoffman on the short lived Jake in Progress and then again on Samantha Who?, but his performance as Louis Litt on Suits is easily the best of his career. Yes, Louis is a bit of a weasel, with more than touch of self obsession and paranoia, but he is also smart, caring, and really just wants to be considered part of the gang; Hoffman makes all of that clear almost every scene and knows just when to pull the right strings or hit the right button, so when you think you really hate him you realize you can't and then when you think you love him you realize there are some serious flaws there. I love when you can tell that a writing staff realized it had something more than they hoped for in an actor and write to those strengths, which is just what happened this summer with Hoffman on Suits.

We let Rick Hoffman know he had made our list and asked him who he thought the TV Entertainers of the Year were…

Jon Stewart always is up there as one of my favorites, especially in this election year, where he brought much needed levity to all the political chaos. Mandy Patinkin on Homeland is one of those actors that I love to watch because he is so freakin interesting...Highly entertaining!

10) Jason Isaacs
I am not sure any one person carried the load of a scripted series the way Jason Isaacs did on Awake, appearing in just about every scene of the thought provoking drama, and while he wasn't playing two different characters, he was playing the same person in two similar but different "realities", and did a brilliant job of showing us the stress of remembering not only where he was but the differences between the two places at all times. I will always think of Awake as one of the best one-season dramas of all time and Isaacs work on the show was the embodiment of "leaving it all on the field."

9) Key & Peele
Sketch comedy can be pretty hit or miss, and it's been a while since a new show came along that left me feeling like I HAD to watch the next episode, but Key & Peele has sucked me in in ways that MadTV, a show they are both alums of, never did. They have a strong point of view, nothing is off limits, and they always remember the point is actually to be funny. I am thrilled Comedy Central has given these two this showcase and even more happy that it has paid off the way that it has.

8) Giancarlo Esposito
Giancarlo Esposito becomes the rare talent to make this list two years in a row; 2011 was the year of Gus Fring, with Esposito getting his best material to work with in years, and now the folks who cast Revolution have proven themselves quite smart by giving him another complex character to play. While Major Tom Neville is at times equally as cold as Fring, he also is much more likely to let his emotions get the best of him, and it's fun to see Esposito lose control a little bit. Oh, and I forgot to mention his fun work on Once Upon a Time, too, something completely different than either of the two above referenced parts. I am not sure why it's taken so long for Esposito to be recognized as the tremendous talent that he is but I am thrilled it's finally happening.

We let Giancarlo Esposito know he had made our list and asked him who he thought the TV Entertainers of the Year were…

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul for their innovative and captivating performances in Breaking Bad. Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton formed a hateful bond that we loved to watch in Hatfields and McCoys.

7) Joel McHale
The sun rises, the sun sets, and Joel McHale is one of our TV Entertainers of the Year. The only person to make this list all six years branched out even further this year, with a small role on Sons of Anarchy. Yes, it would have been the kind of thing that was much better if it hadn't been mentioned first, but for an actor dipping his toes in dramatic waters it was fine. What really gets McHale on this list is the combination of the bitingly sarcastic attitude he brings to his gig hosting The Soup and the way he finds new emotional and comedic levels for the seemingly cliché self-obsessed-jerk-with-a-heart role he plays on Community. And because of his role in the summer blockbuster Ted he made much more frequent than usual appearances on the talk circuit, stints that were always highly entertaining. Hey, I almost forgot how great he was as a semi-frequent guest co-host with Kelly Ripa…Come to think of it, how is he only 7th on this list?!?!?

6) The Sharks
It took the panel on Shark Tank a little over a season to fully gel – the addition of Mark Cuban was the final piece of the puzzle – and now they are without peer in the world of reality TV. Regular viewers know almost instantly which pitches will appeal to which of the Sharks, although the truth is we fans are wrong just enough to keep us on our toes. When I say there is no ego involved in Shark Tank that's not to say the folks with the money don't have huge egos but rather that they are smart enough to know that is never more important than a good deal.

We let The Sharks know they had made our list and asked Lori Greiner who she thought the TV Entertainers of the Year were…

Gabriel Mann (Revenge), Madeline Stowe (Revenge), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Craig Ferguson (The Late Late Show).

5) Ryan Murphy
Considering the odds, creating even one show that gets picked up in your lifetime is a pretty impressive achievement, so Ryan Murphy's current feat of having three different shows on the air at once is mind blowing, especially since when I say they are three different shows I mean they really couldn't be more different; Glee, American Horror Story, and The New Normal are roughly about as different as series can be. Well, they all contain original and distinct characters, but what makes Murphy's work so interesting is that while there are clearly millions of people who like each of those shows, and quite a few who like two of them, there probably isn't a huge group of people who like all three, and I mean that in the best of all possible ways. Murphy has also proven himself to be great at being himself on The Glee Project, where his commitment to bringing new points of view to TV is supremely evident.

4) Jon Stewart
I am running out of words to praise the integrity and commitment to excellence Jon Stewart brings to The Daily Show, a show that is not only laugh out loud funny but legitimately thought provoking, and there's no other show on TV that matches that description, so I'll try this new compliment out; if Mrs. Tivo somehow arranged for me the very cool gift of having a weekly conversation with any one person in the TV industry, there is not even a sliver of doubt that I'd pick Stewart to chat with.

3) The Cast of Sons of Anarchy
I wrote earlier this year that the next poorly cast part on Sons of Anarchy would be the first and that held true throughout the rest of the season. The acting on the show was already uniformly excellent, and not only did literally every regular member of the cast get some high quality material to work with this season, the show also added Jimmy Smits, who proved to be more than equal to his reputation as an actor's actor, and Harold Perrineau, who found a way to put his own spin on "cool, calm, and collected." Oh, and I forgot to mention Walton Goggins work on the show, a performance that is why the phrase, "has to be seen to be believed" was created.

We let the cast of Sons of Anarchy know they had made out list and asked Theo Rossi (Juice) who he thought the TV Entertainers of the Year were…

My absolute favorite shows this season have been Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead is just a very fun show. Each week it's like just taking a break from reality and watching a live graphic novel. The addition of THE Governor, and the whole seemingly harmonious village and where it went till the mid-season finale is a great ride.

I was weary of where Boardwalk would go after losing my favorite character Jimmy Darmody, but they really outdid themselves. The show was so consistent episode after episode, and just had this incredible slow, tense build to an epic finale. The character Gyp Rosetti brought to life by Bobby Cannavale was one of the most enjoyable performances I have seen in a long time. You never knew where he was going to go with his emotions at any moment and who was going to suffer for it. Just fascinating to watch and kept you on the edge of your seat at all times. Riveting stuff.

I cannot write this without including the always consistently great Jack Huston as Richard Harrow. Seeing the creators explore his humanity and play the moral compass in a world of deception, greed and murder was a pleasure.

2) Peter Krause and Monica Potter
If you ask me who the most realistic married couple on TV is, I would quickly answer Adam and Kristina Braverman, a duo who would also be the answer to the question, who are the best parents on TV. They have picked up the torch from Coach and Tami Taylor and run with it, and Peter Krause and Monica Potter deserve huge amounts of praise for not only bringing convincing real life to scripted TV but also for making it entertaining. This fall their story on Parenthood has become increasingly dramatic and each have brought a new and fresh take to the all-too-familiar places Adam and Kristina find themselves in. When I think of the work they do, the word "truth" comes to mind, and I can't think of a higher compliment.

1) Claire Danes
Let's be clear about this; the work Claire Danes is doing on Homeland ranks up there with Bryan Cranston's on Breaking Bad, Andre Braugher's on Homicide: Life on the Street, Hugh Laurie's on House, and Jon Hamm on Mad Men, which is to say she has, in two seasons, given a Hall of Fame worthy performance as Carrie Mathison that is up there with the best TV has seen in the last decade. She's frequently the smartest person in the room, yet she's not smart enough to see her fatal flaw is that she thinks she's always the smartest person in the room. She's also a wounded soul, one desperately looking for a connection in her personal life that makes her feel even half as alive as she does when she's at work, which is why despite it being one of the worst ideas in history, she finds herself so drawn to Brody. I know some have said they find Carrie "annoying" but in some ways that's a compliment to Danes' work as that frustration with her decision making is something the characters in her life feel as well. As much as I love Damian Lewis on Homeland, there is no question that if season three were going to focus more on one of them than the other, I'd choose Carrie in a heartbeat.

And there you have it, our picks for the 2012 TV Entertainers of the Year, Please help yourself to the comments section below to share your thoughts on who made the strongest tubular impression on you these last 365 days.

Two Tivos To Paradise
3 Days to Open with Bobby Flay, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, 30 Rock, After the Catch, American Idol, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Antiques Roadshow, Archer, Arrow, Around the World in 80 Plates, Auction Hunters, Baby Daddy, Ben and Kate, The Big C, Boardwalk Empire, Being Human, Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Bones, Breaking Bad, Bunheads, Burn Notice, Cake Boss, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, Chicago Fire, Chopped, Comic Book Men, Community, Cougar Town, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Deadliest Catch, Destination Truth, Don't Trust the B- in Apt 23, Fact or Faked, Falling Skies, Family Guy, Fast Food Mania, Flipping Out, Food Network Challenge, Food Network Star, The Franchise, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Lab, Glee, Gossip Girl, Great Food Truck Race, Grey's Anatomy, Happy Endings, Haunted Highways, Haunted Treasure, Hawaii 5-0, Hollywood Treasure, House of Lies, How I Met Your Mother, Inside Comedy with David Steinberg, Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, Iron Chef America, Justified, Key & Peele, Last Resort, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, Longmire, Lost Girl, Louie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, Men at Work, The Middle, Mike and Molly, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Monster Man, Nashville, Necessary Roughness, New Girl, The New Normal, Next Iron Chef, The Office, Outside the Lines, Parks & Recreation, Private Practice, Project Accessory, Project Runway, PSYCH, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, Raising Hope, Real Time With Bill Maher, Restaurant Impossible, Revenge, Revolution, Royal Pains, Rules Of Engagement, Saturday Night Live, Shark Wranglers, Shear Genius, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Suits, Suburgatory, Supernatural, Texas Multi Mammas, Top Chef, Top Chef Just Desserts, Top Chef: Masters, Top Design, Tosh.0, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Warehouse 13, Wilfred, Worst Cooks In America,

People Love You When They Know You're Leaving Soon
Here ends another Two Tivos To Paradise.

We'll be back next week with our first news of column of 2013, including a look at everything that happened while we were in year-in-review mode!

Sources for this week's column include Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Hollywood Reporter (plus the web sites for those publications) as well as Aintit.cool.com, TVline.com & Deadline.com.


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