This week, my sister and I came to the conclusion that 2011 was a horrible movie year. I mean, really bad. Good luck to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as they attempt to find ten Best Picture-worthy nominees this year. Think about it: can you think of ten films that deserve special recognition alongside classics like (for instance) On the Waterfront, Gone with the Wind, Chariots of Fire, and Schindler's List? That's what I thought.
TV, on the other hand, had a banner year. In spite of the fact that both Big Love and Friday Night Lights ended their excellent runs this year, both delivered stellar final seasons: in BL's case, erasing the tepid memories of a super-weird fourth season; and in FNL's case, giving fans the perfect, sweet, nostalgic farewell that they hoped for. At midseason, ABC cautiously introduced the hilarious Happy Endings and NBC rolled out a shortened, but pitch-perfect season of Parks and Recreation. The summer brought a new slew of charming cable dramedies for us to enjoy, such as USA's Suits and Necessary Roughness (for which Callie Thorne just scored an excellent WTF? Golden Globe nomination). But best of all, the fall season introduced us to Homeland, Once Upon a Time, Suburgatory, and (yes I'm including it) The Secret Circle, while still promising an imminent end to Desperate Housewives! Yessirrie, things are alright in TV land these days.
You know what the best part is, though? The start of 2012 promises even more fun! Here's what I'm looking forward to as the new year kicks off.
The return of 30 Rock and Cougar Town! The former is happening this month, while the latter is still TBA, but with at least a few episodes in the can already, I don't fear an untimely end to Cougar Town just yet. While I don't relish the idea of trading Happy Endings (e.g., instead of Modern Family, of which I've grown to be a little bit of a hype-hater) for Cougar Town's survival in mid-March, I can't wait to welcome the Cul-de-Sac Crew back to my TV. 30 Rock replaces Whitney on NBC's Thursday night comedy block. Win-win.
Southland's fourth season! With Homeland going on hiatus, TNT's brilliant Southland should fill the serious-minded drama void nicely. Odds are pretty good that Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, and Regina King will each find new ways to be freakishly good at their jobs.
NBC's Smash. NBC has been holding this one out on us, hopefully because they think they've got a hit on their hands. It's a terrible shame that Prime Suspect wasn't a hit, because NBC's scrambling desperately for a scripted TV hit (they've got The Voice and the NFL, after all), and if Smash doesn't live up to expectations, we might lose what looks like another quality drama. I'm really interested to see what happens, though. The show itself looks like the kind of meta-showbiz thing I love to watch (don't even get me started on Studio 60), and it features one of my favorite shunned [American] Idols, Katherine "McPheever" McPhee in her first major starring role (I love to see the Idols succeed!), along with Debra Messing and Angelica Houston. Come on, y'all, this show looks cool.
Speaking of former Idols (segue alert), American Idol returns at the end of January! Has America's fascination with singing reality shows finally peaked? If the whole Voice-X-Factor-Sing-Off overload has finally set in, will viewers continue to tune into Idol? Frankly, I hope Idol still emerges as the favorite. I like The Sing-Off, but The Voice and The X-Factor were both unsettling for me in their first seasons. While watching the latter for a while this season, I found myself craving the simple joys of the Idol way: a capella auditions for the "judges", the shy contestants who take a little while to get used to performing for a crowd (I'm looking at you, Carrie Underwood), the out-of-nowhere semifinal surprise (Allison Iraheta's "Alone"; David Cook's "Happy Together"; even Alexis Grace's "I Never Loved a Man [the Way that I Loved You]). Neither The X-Factor nor The Voice (which is only watchable because of Blake Shelton) allows any room for this kind of reality show magic. Come on, Idol: you've got this.
Pretty Little Liars is returning, and they've promised to tell us who "A" is before the March 19 finale! [This news does not require an explanation because it is objectively awesome.]
Chuck's series finale. It'll be sad to see Chuck go, but it seems like the right time. The show has been in perpetual cancellation limbo since its 2007 debut, so it's nice to see it go out on its own terms, with a full season to tie up loose ends. With [SPOILER ALERT!] Chuck and Sarah finally getting married at the end of last season, it's the perfect season to give Casey a chance at romance. I predict a saccharin, but not sickening happily ever after for everyone in the gang. Awww, I love Chuck.
FOX's new JJ Abrams show, Alcatraz. DON'T read the description of this show before you watch the trailer. You'll think it's ridiculous. As any JJ Abrams fan knows, though, the man who invented Felicity (that's right: I chose Felicity to illustrate why he's awesome) can make almost anything (last year's Undercovers was...off) awesome, and this show looks like no exception. It falls right into the Abrams sweet spot -- e.g., realist, sci-fi fantasy that doubles as a character drama -- and it's got Sam Neill acting spooky. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
The inevitable early cancellation of ABC's offensive-looking drag comedy Work It. Any show that manages to simultaneously piss off LGBT advocacy groups, "family" media watchdogs, and critics who think it's "duuuuummmmb" doesn't deserve a healthy TV run.
NBC's Awake. Even though its premiere date is still TBA, this trippy Jason Isaacs thriller actually has the makings of a niche hit for NBC. I wrote briefly about the cool trailer here, and after watching it again, I stand by my initial fangirl excitement. Let's see it, NBC!
I hope 2012 turns out to be an awesome TV year!