21 Best Things on Cable TV in 2012 (and Boo Boo, too!)

21 Best Things on Cable TV in 2012 counts down the top shows, moments, trends and more that made 2012 an unforgettable year in cable TV.

21 Best Things on Cable TV in 2012

The Biggest, The Best … And Boo Boo, Too!
If The World Ends In 2012, At Least There Was Something Good On Cable. The Top 21 Shows, Trends, Moments And More That Will Take Us Out With A Bang.

21. Get Angry AND Even
Remember when Charlie Sheen would never work in this town again? Do not doubt the Vatican Assassin Warlock! Sheen landed a starring role in FX’s Anger Management, which became the most-watched scripted comedy prime-time premiere in cable history and got renewed for a whopping 90 episodes.

20. Case Closed
After grilling suspects for seven seasons on TNT’s The Closer, LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) bid farewell in a fulfilling finale. The Closer’s legacy lives on in the spinoff Major Crimes, which kept 7.2 million rapt Closer fans tuned in to cable’s top new series launch this year.

19. Inmates Run “Asylum”
So they took some cast members from FX’s American Horror Story and made them different characters in a whole new story set in a 1964 loony bin? That’s totally insane! And we love it! Having a new story every season guarantees we’ll be scared witless, not bored out of our minds.

18. More as This Story Develops
Aaron Sorkin is going to be Aaron Sorkin, dammit! You might find The West Wing creator’s shows smug and sanctimonious, but Sorkin stuck to his guns in HBO’s The Newsroom, a provocative drama about idealism vs. realism behind the scenes of a cable TV news show. Season 2 is expected to premiere in June 2013.

17. Hot Wheels
Sundance Channel’s Push Girls smashed stereotypes by documenting the lives of five dynamic L.A. women — models, athletes, dancers and musicians among them — who are paralyzed from either the waist or neck down. Their stories of triumph over tragedy made for reality TV at its inspiring best.

16. Medium Gets Large
TLC’s Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo hit it big this year, being spoofed on SNL, pitching for Priceline and hitting the road for a nationwide tour. Our dead relatives pester her at all hours of the day, but that’s the price of fame.

15. Earth’s Frozen Assets
There’s more to life at Earth’s top and bottom than polar bears, penguins and Santa Claus. Discovery Channel’s seven-part Frozen Planet exposed the beauty, fragility, adaptability and peculiarity (“brinicles,” anyone?) of nature in the Arctic and Antarctic.

14. Walter White Goes Dark

The story of a cancer-stricken teacher who turns to cooking meth was never sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and AMC’s Breaking Bad went to really dark places in Season 5. (Sorry, kid on the dirt bike.) The series concludes with eight episodes in summer 2013.

13. Prep School
National Geographic Channel’s most watched series ever, Doomsday Preppers is a fascinating look at the extreme and expensive lengths people go to get ready for the complete breakdown of civilization. We’re sure these people are nuts, but we are stockpiling booze and ammunition … you know, just in case.

12. Bull’s Eye!
Of all the sports at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, archery hit the mark with viewers on NBC Sports Network and MSNBC. Olympic archery averaged 1.5 million viewers — more than basketball — but we’re assuming half of the viewers were 12-year-old Hunger Games fans.


The Green Bay Packers stole the ball but the Seattle Seahawks stole the win on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The replacement officials’ controversial game-ending touchdown call sent more eyeballs to SportsCenter than have been there in at least 22 years.

10. You Betcha!
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her brood can exit stage right anytime. But we’ll never tire of Julianne Moore’s spot-on Palin portrayal in HBO’s Game Change, the network’s most-watched original film in nearly eight years.

9. Zou Bisou Bisou

Man Men is so worth the wait. Jessica Paré’s smokin’ rendition of the 1961 French pop song “Zou Bisou Bisou” totally made up for the AMC hit drama’s 17-month absence. It was Don Draper’s birthday, but the 3.5 million viewers who watched the Season 5 premiere got the gift.

8. Here for the Beard
You know you’ve arrived when they turn your hirsute head into a Chia Pet. Outdoor-sporting-goods mogul Willie Robertson and his family turned a small idea into a big business — and turned that into a captivating, funny reality TV series in A&E’s Duck Dynasty.

7. The Ricktator
“This isn’t a democracy anymore!” proclaimed Rick “The Ricktator” Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in the Season 2 finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The other survivors of the zombie apocalypse fell in line, and so did the 10.9 million fans who returned for more gory goodness in the Season 3 premiere, the largest audience for any drama series in basic cable history.

6. You Better Redneckognize!
Hail Honey Boo Boo, 6-Year-Old Queen of English Shows With English Subtitles! Alana Thompson and her family made TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo a TV car crash we couldn’t turn away from. Laugh at them if you will, but Boo Boo and Mama will be laughing all the way to the bank. They’ll now reportedly get between $15,000-$20,000 per episode.

5. Enemy Within
It’s no conspiracy. Showtime’s Homeland is that good. The political/espionage thriller won big at the Emmys, capturing awards for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (Damian Lewis) and Outstanding Lead Actress (Claire Danes). A growing audience ensured this plot will keep thickening, as Showtime ordered a third season.

4. J.R. Gets Another Shot
Resurrecting the Southfork saga was a bold move that could’ve gone south, but TNT’s new edition of Dallas — mixing an eye-catching young cast with the big stars from the original prime-time soap — struck oil and drew 6.9 million viewers for its premiere. (RIP, Larry Hagman)

3. Real Girls of NYC
The chances of HBO’s Girls becoming a hit were as slim as seeing a naked Lena Dunham eating cake in a bathroom stall during the Emmys telecast. Fortunately, we got both. Dunham’s comedy about the poor decisions of twentysomething women in New York was one of the year’s most buzzed-about shows.

2. Curiosity Piqued
While space shuttles became museum pieces and Neil Armstrong left this Earthly plane, the astronomical success of the Curiosity Mars rover landing in August kept our chins up and eyes pointed to the heavens. Shows like National Geographic Channel’s Martian Mega Rover and Discovery Channel’s Mars Landing 2012: The New Search for Life revealed the rocket science involved in the historic project.

1. Them’s Fightin’ Words
History’s Hatfields & McCoys miniseries starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton shed new light on the decades-long, old-timey clash between the clans. It was watched by more than 62 million viewers and won five Emmys out of its 16 nominations. The three installments rank as the top three entertainment TV shows of all time in ad-supported cable history.

About Ryan Berenz 2038 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.