By Stefanie Lee on 1/16/2013 .
Cafe Dingo’s resident TV expert selects 10 favorite episodes from 10 of 2012’s best shows:
- “Kidnapped By Danger,” 30 Rock (S6E14, 3/22/2012): Series creator and all-around genius (and my personal hero) Tina Fey penned this episode, and it’s pretty obvious. Fey’s the reason why 30 Rock has the tightest, sharpest jokes on television–and this episode contains her tightest and sharpest, in regards to a potential TV movie that Liz Lemon (Fey) is slated to write about Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) wife Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), who’s being held hostage in North Korea. Plus, William Baldwin guest-stars as the actor playing Donaghy in the movie. No one does Baldwin like… another Baldwin.
- “The Other Woman,” Mad Men (S5E11, 5/27/2012): My favorite scenes in Mad Men occur between Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and women with whom he has a platonic relationship, which whittles the list down significantly to Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss). This episode focuses on Don and Joan, who pretend to be a married couple in order to test-drive a Jaguar and scope out the company as they prepare for an important pitch meeting. Later, the two end up at a bar and have a heart-to-heart as only two heartbreakers can–without any lust or lasciviousness. Don also shares a moment with Peggy, wherein she gives her two weeks notice, breaks his heart, and truly earns his respect all in one fell swoop.
- “Miami,” Louie (S3E3, 7/12/2012): Louie is all over the place, and I mean that in the best way. Sometimes the shows are comprised of vignettes, sometimes the plots span several episodes, and sometimes they’re perfectly self-contained within 22 minutes. “Miami” falls in the latter category; Louie (Louis C.K.) travels to Florida to do a few stand-up shows, meets a gorgeous lifeguard named Ramon, and proceeds to have a spontaneous bromance with him. The two have a genuinely great time swimming, partying, and talking, some of which is portrayed with beautiful montages of beach scenery. The part that made me laugh the most, though, was a scene in a bar, in which Louie attempted to quash what he thought may have turned into an ambiguously gay flirtation. The dialogue between the two men isn’t even dialogue. It’s a series of hand gestures, sighs, and grunts, all very heterosexual and all absolutely hysterical.
- “Episode 6,” The Hour (S2E6, 12/13/2012): BBC’s The Hour aired its second-season finale after the standard six-episode season, but it easily doubled the drama of any other show–and it got there in less than half the time! Under deadline, journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) located Kiki Delaine (Hannah Tointon), an exotic dancer and witness to a government scandal whose first-hand account could help his TV series, The Hour, earn its best ratings yet. She managed to make it to the studio on time for the taping, but he got caught beneath the fists of a few thugs aiming to keep the scandal a secret. Hector Madden (Dominic West), the anchor of the program, steps in to conduct the interview, despite being embroiled in the scandal himself, as he slept with Kiki earlier in the season. As the interview airs, Freddie is being pummeled to death while his true love, Bel (Romola Garai), the producer, keeps her eyes on the show and her ears toward the phone, wondering why he never showed up to finish telling this story on the air. .
- “The Hoodie,” The League (S4E2, 10/18/2012): The League‘s most memorable moments stem from the characters inventing their own vocabularies (“vinegar strokes”) and altering their existing lexicons to fit new, bro-y contexts (“fritatta”). “The Hoodie” is a perfect example; what you might see as a hooded sweatshirt, these guys see as a visual metaphor for Andre’s (Paul Scheer) self-proclaimed half-circumcised penis. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
- “All Adventurous Women Do,” Girls (S1E3, 4/29/2012): In this episode, we see the titular twentysomething girls reveal something–either to us, the audience, or to each other–that they might have previously kept a secret. Hannah (Lena Dunham) has an HPV scare, which leads her down the path of ex-boyfriends, one of whom comes out to her. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) reveals that she’s a virgin, which comes as no surprise to her friends, who are all sexually active in contrast. And Marnie (Allison Williams), ever-uptight and perfectly-coiffed, begins to have feelings for Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone), an intriguingly confident artist possessing zero similarities to her lovey-dovey boyfriend. They’re all put in awkward situations, and they don’t handle the situations smoothly. Read: They are normal. How refreshing!
- “Maya Rudolph/Sleigh Bells,” Saturday Night Live (S37E15, 2/18/2012): Seeing Maya Rudolph host SNL makes me wish she could be on the show all the time. Oh, wait, she was. That’s why this episode was so good. Rudolph was a beacon of light from 2000 to 2007, at a time when the show was already shining bright, and she brought some of it back when she hosted. This included a cameo from Amy Poehler during a revival of “Bronx Beat,” perfect impressions of Maya Angelou, Beyonce, and Michelle Obama, and that generally all-in, up-for-anything demeanor that made her a star in the first place.
- “Frank’s Back in Business,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (S8E7, 11/29/2012): Just when I think this show ain’t what it used to be, it totally is. Frank (Danny DeVito) reassumes his position as CEO of his old company in order to prevent it from tanking, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) steals a wallet from the bar and assumes some poor bastard’s identity, and then the two storylines magically, perfectly converge when Dennis’ new identity is actually the key investor for Frank’s company. The whole thing culminates in a shoddy PowerPoint presentation for a new product, Fight Milk, which is exactly what it sounds like.
- “Walk With Me,” The Walking Dead (S3E3, 10/28/2012): After a season and a half of the same complain-y characters, my loyalty to The Walking Dead was starting to wane. “Walk With Me” jolted me straight up in my seat, because–gasp–new characters were introduced! A whole town of ’em, in fact! In this episode, we meet the charismatic Governor (David Morrissey), we discover that Merle (Michael Rooker) is still alive and working for the aforementioned Governor, and we see just what civilization can look like in a zombie apocalypse world, though Woodbury doesn’t seem exactly idyllic. In any case, it’s a nice break from Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and the rest of the troop who’s feelings we’ve been listening to for too long.
- “Basic Lupine Urology,” Community (S3E17, 4/26/2012): Community does parodies like no other comedy on television, and this episode pays tribute to a show that’s probably its polar opposite: Law & Order, which went off the air a couple years ago after 20 seasons. It really was the little things–the white-text-on-black-baground scene tags, the Belzer-like repartee, the meaningless jobs of all the extras–that made this episode such a loving homage to television, which is actually a good way of describing Community itself. Look at that, I started and ended this list on a meta note.