MISSOULA, Mont. — I moved way out west to the mountains this year, far from home, for a few months. Life is different here. For starters, the woodsy condo I’ve been living in has a 70-inch high-def television in it (just like Lewis and Clark had), which receives its signal from Dish.
Yes, Dish, the oft-maligned but admirably resolute satellite service, which spent most of the year in a contractual standoff with AMC, which meant my three favorite shows of 2012 ...
1. “Breaking Bad"
2. “Mad Men"
3. “The Walking Dead"
... might have been unavailable to me, were it not for the screener access privileges afforded to grumpy TV critics. The penultimate half-season of “Breaking Bad," with Walter White’s hubristic attempt to run his own meth mini-cartel, continued to prove why it’s far and away TV’s best show. (Geez, just for that train robbery episode alone ...)
“Mad Men," meanwhile, finally found a newly devoted fan in me, thanks partly to Jessica Pare’s happy/sad turn as Don Draper’s new wife, Megan (zou bisou bisou!). She came on like a daisy applique affixed to a rainy window, brightening up the ’60s. Yes, I know she might be a fruit bat. I love her anyhow.
And once the survivors in “The Walking Dead" fled Hershel’s farm, the sociocultural zombie drama is going places again — and boldly shedding important characters. No one is safe from the walkers, not even Carl. (Get out of here, Carl!) Now, will the people who’ve read the comic books please tell me — how much longer do we have to put up with “the Governor?"
There are plenty of other shows that made my job a lot easier this year:
4. Showtime’s “Homeland" veered smartly into a new arrangement (double agent!), and has me biting my nails every Sunday night.
5. The funny and profane “Veep" (HBO) broke a long spell of boring Beltway-related TV shows by ignoring politics and deliciously chronicling the raw, ugly ego of Washington — starting with Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ Vice President Selina Meyer.
6. “Dallas" (TNT). Sometimes lowered expectations give way to a delicious bit of guilty pleasure. Such was my reaction to the faithfully fun “Dallas" update, which came on sharply and stylishly.
7. “Girls" (HBO) got off to an annoying start for many readers, but built to a compelling and melancholy finish worthy of its hype.
8. If there was anything on TV this year as lovely as Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen’s acoustic duet near the end of the perfect pilot episode of ABC’s “Nashville," then I’d sure like to know about it.