Although it’s a few days overdue, all of us here at This Was Television want to extend our New Year greetings to our readership.
We also want to express our gratitude for the fantastic start we had in 2012.
We’re gradually recovering from our holiday comes with the return of My So-Called Life and the launch of Noel’s new Astro Boy coverage.
Over the next few days, we will be bringing back several popular features, including January’s Hall of Fame discussion and the announcement of our next roundtable topic.
In one final tribute to 2012, we have an extra post to acknowledge the outstanding work from our first year.
Toward the end of the year, we recognized our staff’s personal favorites for 2012, and now our WordPress administrators have provided us with the top five most-read posts of the year.
We find it interesting to see which pieces attracted the most attention, so we thought it would be worthwhile to share this information with you and provide some insights into why we are proud of these articles and their appeal to our audience.
5. Fawlty Towers, “A Touch of Class” and “The Builders”
Not surprisingly, our most-read review of the year was a critique of one of the most famous sitcoms of all time, John Cleese’s epic farce, Fawlty Towers.
Les analyzed the first two episodes of the series, relishing the slapstick and wordplay that the show is renowned for while also admiring the well-constructed nature of the series.
This encompassed the interconnectedness of the sets and the distinct strengths of each ensemble member.
Of course, there was a deep admiration for the lead character, Basil Fawlty, portrayed with seamless ease by Cleese: “That dichotomy is illustrated to remarkable effect in the way he deals with everyone around him: looking down his nose at every single guest with thinly veiled contempt, but when the seemingly distinguished Lord Melbury shows up, a switch is flipped, and suddenly he can’t bend over backward fast enough.
(Literally in some cases—Cleese’s height and gangly frame allow him to infuse a lot of energy into his movements, especially in the confined setting of the hotel dining room).”
For those inquiring, our coverage of the second series is just one of the many projects coming to This Was Television in 2013.
4. Women in the Box: Ellie Walker, The Andy Griffith Show
Sabienna’s initial column about the iconic female characters in TV history became an early success, marking the beginning of one of our most well-received series.
This column delved into the life of Ellie Walker and her brief endeavors to bring a more enlightened perspective to the town of Mayberry.
Ellie was a character who disappeared from the show during the first season (in fact, most fans of the series would likely need a moment to recall her), but Sabienna highlighted three episodes that demonstrated how, had she remained on the show, it could have taken a markedly different and more progressive direction.
The article offered a fantastic exploration of this remarkable character: “In her twelve episodes, Ellie challenged Andy and Mayberry more than any of the opportunistic criminals that would roll into town over the next seven seasons.
She provided a source of internal, culturally current conflict that didn’t align with the show tonally.”
3. “So, could Aaron Sorkin ever write women?”
The debate about the portrayal of women in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” was one of the most contentious TV discussions in 2012.
This Was Television took it upon themselves to point out that this is not a new issue for the often controversial showrunner. Andy’s insightful retrospective on the early episodes of “Sports Night” revealed that, even in his first show, Sorkin had difficulty consistently giving his female characters agency.
Successful moments with characters like Dana and Natalie in “Mary Pat Shelby” were quickly undermined in the following episode, “The Head Coach, Dinner, and The Morning Mail.”
As Andy keenly pointed out, Sorkin’s problems may not stem from intent but rather from a tone-deaf approach to presenting the matter: “I think, on some level, he believes the praise he vicariously showers upon them.
Unfortunately, it reeks of tokenism when he relies on or forces the audience to view their positive traits through the prism of a more robustly written male character.”
2. Black in Time: A Celebration of TV’s Black Nerds
Erin’s exploration of Black nerds was another strong addition to our series and quite timely, given the resurgence of such characters in shows like Happy Endings, Key and Peele, and Community.
In her piece, she carefully selected a diverse range of non-stereotypical nerds, including Raj Thomas, Dwayne Wayne, and Carlton Banks.
Erin elucidated precisely why we admire these characters and how they’ve influenced more recent ones.
What’s even more significant is how she placed these characters in the context of today, emphasizing that their latter traits have become more important than their former ones:
The burden of having to represent every African-American person ever is lifted, and viewers can appreciate these characters for being black nerds instead of Black nerds. It may seem like a small victory, and perhaps it is, but it’s another step toward increased representation for characters of color.
(She achieved all this without singling out Urkel, which is quite an achievement in itself.)
1. Okay, I Finally Watched It: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
We all know that the Internet loves Joss Whedon, and we had one more piece of evidence to that regard in our most-read piece of 2012: Les’s first time through the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
While free of any controversial stances on the series, it was a piece that charted just how impressive the show’s growth was as it learned from its mistakes and highlighted the arcs that even today rank as some of the best character development ever to be featured on television.
It may not be a show that needs more exposure (unlike some of the other forgotten gems covered by our writers over the year), but it’s a show that there’s always something to say about and one that Les was pleased to finally gain an appreciation for:
I finally understand why so many of these titles are spoken of with admiration bordering on reverence. They’re clever and deep, but they’re also damn fun, a tightrope that Whedon’s writing walks better than most any TV writer I’ve encountered.
So once again, thanks to everyone for reading in 2012. We’re all eager to see what’ll top the list by this time next year.