Critics’ Choice: Best of 2012

It’s time once again for TV Tonight to conduct its annual Critics’ Choice Awards.

As independent media, TV Tonight is one of the few forums to be able to bring together voices from rival publications in one place.

10 critics and scribes have participated in this year’s list and there is consensus and division on some of the year’s best telly.

They are:

AM: Andrew Murfett, The Age
MI: Michael Idato, The Sydney Morning Herald
DS: Debbie Schipp, The Sunday Telegraph
EM: Erin McWhirter, TV Week
AMe: Andrew Mercado, The Playlist
HB: Holly Byrnes, The Daily Telegraph
MH: Melinda Houston, The Sunday Age
SE: Scott Ellis, The Sydney Morning Herald
JM: James Manning, Mediaweek
SY: Sue Yeap, West Australian

Here is the first of the two part results. You will not some differing interpretations of categories. It was also not mandatory for every question to be answered.

BEST AUSSIE DRAMA: Howzat! Runners Up: Redfern Now, Puberty Blues.
AM: Offspring – hits that sweet spot where it is able to draw together brilliant performances, deft writing and commercially appealing presentation. Wonderful local television.
MI: A great year for Oz drama: Puberty Blues, Redfern Now, House Husbands, Underground, Beaconsfield, Howzat all brilliant. House Husbands was outstanding because it changed the perception of what Nine was/is capable of, but Puberty Blues and Howzat were the standouts. Both recent past “period”, and brilliant examinations of transformational times in Australian history.
DS: Howzat! I’m throwing mini-series into this category because, quite simply, I can’t go past Howzat! as the winner, by an innings or two. Lachy Hulme was simply sublime, and terrifying, as Kerry Packer. Soundtrack awesome. Honourable mentions to Puberty Blues and Rake. Puberty Blues deserved better ratings, and would have had them on another network, and has gained a richly deserved as second season.
EM: My show of the year would be Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War – Indulging in a bellowing Kerry Packer, played brilliantly by Lachy Hulme, in this well crafted, scripted and cast series is the reason we love to live and breathe television. Even cricket lovers couldn’t’ resist this retro flashback and a unique peek inside the very business-focused world of Mr Packer.
AMe: That is such a tough question given what a banner year it was for local drama but I guess Puberty Blues and Redfern Now are the ones that resonated with me the most.
HB: We were spoilt for choice this year and I’m torn between the phenomenal work of Lachy Hulme in both Howzat and Beaconsfield and the mesmerising Jimi Bani and Deborah Mailman in Mabo. Howzat by a chest hair!
MH: This is such a tough one – there have been so many cracking Aussie dramas this year. Beaconsfield, for making such compelling television from such difficult material (not only did we all know the story, more than half the action took place underground, in the dark, with only two characters and virtually no movement). Redfern Now – great drama in its own right, and so important socially and culturally. Offspring, Miss Fisher and House Husbands: clever, accessible crowd pleasers. Honourable mentions to Mabo, Howzat, Jack Irish.
SE: Howzat,
JM: Redfern Now: Wonderfully written and fantastic acting. Only beat Howzat! because offered more weeks of enjoyment.
SY: Puberty Blues ticked all the boxes; great acting, casting and scripts married with fantastic period set design, costumes and music. At times it was almost too heart-breaking to watch. Brilliant young cast well matched by their more experienced “parents”. Honourable mentions to the water cooler favourite with the women in our office, Offspring and Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War. Well done John Edwards.

BEST AUSSIE COMEDY: A Moody Christmas. Runners Up: The Hamster Wheel
AM: Slim pickings but The Hamster Wheel is just ahead of A Moody Christmas. Hamster was the most cutting and pointed of all Australian shows this year. Its uneven number of laughs can be forgiven – the laughs that land are as potent as any on Australian TV.
MI: It is often said Australia cannot produce a “sitcom” but what we have proved is that we can deliver very diverse, very eccentric comedies. Strange Calls, Outland, Woodley were all excellent, eccentric comedies. A Moody Christmas stands out for me, for its simplicity, the elegance of its concept, the diversity of its cast and its execution.
DS: A Moody Christmas. This late-season six-parter is delicious. Clever, quirky, and oh—so-Australian in its humour. It swings between subtle, bittersweet and laugh-out-loud hilarious. And every week you spot another member of your own family.
EM: Hamish and Andy’s Euro Gap Year – Comic duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee haven’t always got it right with the TV they produce, but this one hit the mark. From the outset the boys had us hooked with their weird and wonderful antics abroad (who could forget their bridge plunge in the first episode – the belly flop gave belly laughs), more so than any other series they’ve done.
Ame: The Hamster Wheel was bang on and A Moody Christmas was great.
HB: A Moody Christmas was short but oh-so sweet. Anyone, and by that I mean everyone, with a dysfunctional family would have seen themselves or their mad relatives in these perfectly average, but hilarious characters.
MH: Laid still did it for me.
SE: Hamster Wheel.
JM: A Moody Christmas: A great idea wonderfully executed. Some great characters here that could be spun off into other projects too. Feels mean to single out two – but love the work of Jane Harber and Patrick Brammall.
SY: Only the ABC and SBS seem to be making situation comedy these days. Given it’s the festive season I’d have to go with A Moody Christmas, for giving me hope that we can still make a decent sitcom.

BEST AUSSIE LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: Hamish and Andy’s Euro Gap Year. Runner Up: The Project / The Voice.
MI: The Voice. A brilliant format which set a very high bar for itself, and for the other shows in the genre. It is a rare moment in television that allows the observer to see the rulebook being written around us, and a single show, but The Voice was transformational: for television in general, for talent shows in particular and for Channel Nine.
DS: Anything Hamish and Andy. Whether it’s Gap Year, or a Caravan of Courage special, the boys deliver a familiar recipe. And why wouldn’t they? It works. Honourable mention – The Project. Which continues to deliver despite weathering more timeslots than Ten Breakfast had viewers. I suspect Carrie, Charlie and co now sleep at Ten because they’re not sure what time of day they are due on air.
HB: They must have jet lag from all the time changes, but The Project gets my vote for its consistency, community advocacy and genuine news value as evidenced by the Walkley win for Hamish MacDonald and Sam Clark.
MH: Probably AGT for my money.
SE: Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year.
JM: The Voice & The X Factor: A newcomer and an old favourite both performed for their networks.
SY: Hamish and Andy’s Euro Gap Year. Plenty of laughs.

BEST AUSSIE REALITY: TIE: The Amazing Race Australia / The Voice. Runner Up: MasterChef Australia
AM: The Amazing Race Australia – just over The Voice and MKR. Superb cast, inspiring locations such as Cuba and Vancouver, fast-paced, exciting television.
MI: It was the year that soft script shows tried to dominate the local reality TV slate – The Shire, Being Lara Bingle, Brynne: My Bedazzled Life – but program makes proved more effective when rules were in play. Project Runway Australia was solid, Big Brother was a gentle, smooth reinvention but The Amazing Race Australia was the strongest performer: a local version which was easily the equal of (if not better than) any of the international iterations which preceded it.
DS: The Voice. Raised the bar again on the reality/talent genre with awesome casting – both judges and talent, and superior production values. We fell in love with Joel Madden, in and out of love with Seal, and finally saw Keith urban as someone other than Mr Nicole Kidman. And then they gave us Karise Eden. Sublime success. True event television.
EM: The Voice – The thing that stood this new reality singing show apart from the rest was the excitement of the spinning cars and the calibre of talent. With most contestants professional singers before stepping in front of Seal, Keith Urban, Joel Madden and Delta Goodrem – the talent kept us hooked. The coaches had great chemistry from the outset and the format was sleek. However, the real star of The Voice was those big, red spinning chairs. The initial rounds had us glued and intrigued – who would the contestant or the coach choose? Genius.
HB: The Voice. I was on board early with this one, pestering Les Sampson about the US version when it first aired on Go! But could not have imagined the talent the local series would unearth, the exceptional execution by Nine and Shine and the overwhelming way the country embraced this show. Besides, it was just straight out fun!
MH: Still Masterchef for me, although I did enjoy The Block and Celeb Apprentice – great characters, and really well put together.
SE: The Block.
JM: The Amazing Race Australia: Worthy International Emmy winner.
SY: My Kitchen Rules for its clever, fiery casting this year and MasterChef Australia for bringing the focus back to food. Oh and all those top guest chefs never hurt.

BEST AUSSIE DOCO / FACTUAL: Go Back To Where You Came From. Runner Up: Agony Uncles/Agony Aunts.
AM: Agony Uncles/Aunts.
MI: Go Back To Where You Came From, series two. Because at its conceptual stage – the original series, but featuring celebrities – it seemed like a bad idea, blending a very serious subject with the typically shallow gimmick of “celebrities”, but in the execution it soared, a crisp, compelling examination of the issues and a diverse group of personalities who truly transformed a brilliant idea into a riveting piece of television.
DS: Go Back To Where You Came From. Despite the fact it followed a similar vein to series one, it remained confronting, and, for a couple of the participants, redeeming. Serious sit-back-and-think TV. Still provocative, still clever.
HB: If great TV is meant to make you feel something, then the winner is…Go Back To Where You Came From (second series). It made me cry and punch my TV screen in equal measures.
MH: Agony Aunts/Uncles for sheer pleasure, but Then the Wind Changed was a stunning piece of work and thoroughly deserved its Walkley. It still haunts me.
SE: Go Back to Where You Came From.
JM: Sunday Night & Australian Story. Consistent performers who both keep managing to pick stories that audiences love watching
SY: Border Security. I can never see enough cheese and salami smugglers on a Sunday night.

BEST OF PAY TV (Aussie): Tangle. Runner Up: Grand Designs Australia
AM: Selling Houses Australia – Simple format, well-presented with compelling hosts. Andrew T Winter is under used in the world of TV.
MI: Grand Designs Australia or Tangle.
DS: Tangle. Remains seriously good, seriously dark, and seriously well-acted Aussie drama. Taut, tense stories, beautifully told. Please give us one more season. Eight dedicated stations showcasing every Olympic sport meant sports lovers were absolutely spoiled for choice. It was a triumph over the time difference and heralded in a new era of the viewer controlling their program choices. A nice respite from the totally Aussie-centric coverage that has come before it. Here’s to an empowered audience.
AMe: It was never enough getting just six episodes of Tangle per season but this year it finished after a perfect storm build-up with the most devastating cliffhanger I’ve ever seen.
HB: Tangle. Dare one of the commercial networks to pick it up.
MH: Loved Grand Designs Australia and Wife Swap Australia. Both really classy, really satisfying telly.
SE: Foxtel’s Olympic coverage – a game changer.
JM: Grand Designs Australia. Makes you wonder if Top Gear Australia might have been allowed to flourish on a subscription TV channel.
SY: Conspiracy 365 because my son loved it and it seemed authentic to the books!

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOW: Homeland. Runner Up: Mad Men / Revenge.
AM: Homeland/Mad Men/Breaking Bad/Girls – Simply cannot split them. Mad Men maybe at a pinch.
MI: Modern Family: unquestionably the best contemporary comedy on TV. Once Upon a Time: brilliant reinvention of the fairytale genre. The Bridge: absolutely compelling police drama. Not just world class, world leading.
DS: Revenge. Unapologetically soapie-style, high on drama, and allowing audiences to see the rich and privileged get their come-uppance.
EM: Homeland – captivating from the moment we met bipolar CIA agent Carrie Matthison (Claire Danes), this US crime drama deserves the accolades and critical acclaim its received around the world. With twists and turns galore, the final episode had us on the edge of our seats with one of the best and most disturbing cliffhangers any TV show has produced in a very long time.
AMe: Given I haven’t seen Homeland (I know, I know, but I can’t watch everything) then it has to be Mad Men because it just gets better and better with every season.
HB: The Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin, call me.
MH: Again, a tough one. Game of Thrones and Homeland both keep going from strength to strength.
SE: An Idiot Abroad.
JM: Homeland: The most compelling storylines that made you want to watch each week to find out where they would be going.
SY: Super soap Revenge had me absolutely hooked, I didn’t miss an episode. The whole Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke identity swap played out well and you never really knew who you could trust. Plus – it had the cliffhanger of the year.

HIDDEN GEM OF THE YEAR (Aussie or international): Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police
DS: Redfern Now. Each episode is a beautifully-nuanced gift. Powerful storytelling that pulls-no-punches, this series has showcased some awesome young talent – yes, Aaron McGrath, I’m looking at you.
AMe: Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police on E! The older she gets, the harder she goes.
HB: Still love Suits, buried by Seven. Smash was also a favourite (first run on Foxtel, picked up by Seven).
MH: Grimm. What fabulous characters, what a fun premise. Thoroughly B-grade but so much fun. Awake was also excellent – really messed with my head. Sporting Nation. So accessible, but so thought-provoking, and full of fascinating characters and tidbits. Classic Clarke. And I am loving Bunheads, which has just started on Fox8.
SE: Sons Of Anarchy.
JM: Fashion Police. More laughs per minute than anything else on offer with Joan Rivers and a wonderful panel.
SY: Episodes was a must-see for anyone with an interest in the TV industry, so cutting, so clever but so not seen by so many.

MULTICHANNEL SHOW OF THE YEAR (Aussie or international)
AM: Doc Martin re-runs or maybe Gilligan’s Island. Multi-channels filled with cheap re-runs and imports.
MI: Are You Being Served? No, really … (With honourable mentions for To The Manor Born and George & Mildred.)
AMe: American Horor Story on Eleven.
HB: ABC2 – Joe Hildebrand (of Dumb, Drunk and Racist fame) made me say that!
MH: Well, I still love Supernatural and I’ve been enjoying it having a safe home on Eleven. Bit of a return to form this season, too. But no real standouts in this area.
JM: Hit and Miss: Chloë Sevigny.
SY: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which is on late but thankfully not as late as in the US. Who doesn’t love a talk show with a gay robot skeleton sidekick? Also secretly addicted to 7Mate’s legion of Repo/Pawn/Gator type shows.

Critics’ Choice: Dog of the Year.


  1. Great to see I’m not the only one feeling the love for Craig Ferguson. I’m aware Ten don’t want to cannibalise what audience they have (yes, hi Channel Ten, some of us are still persisting with you!) but would it hurt that much to bring Fergy back to 10.30. Give us Letterman after him insteadof the ridiculous 3.45am we’re getting currently!

  2. Woah, Sue Yeap knows that The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson exists – maybe she could tell the 11 programmers?

    You’d think a new, current show would be something they’d want to promote, but they’ve pushed it back further and further. Why bury a show still being produced with double repeats of Sex and the City or King of the Hill?

    With that out of the way, the list here was fairly solid and I couldn’t disagree with it. A bit more love for Once Upon A Time would’ve been nice – great cast, fantastic costumes and effects.

  3. I absolutely agree with Amazing Race Australia, Homeland, Once Upon A Time, Smash Grimm, & Revenge. Other unmentioned ones include Revolution, Wedding Band, Merlin, & Covert Affairs. I don’t think any of the multichannels deserve an award seems though they have all deviated from their target demographic resulting in them effectively detering their audience.But I have to say that I love Rizzoli & Isles on Gem, Glory Daze on GO! and Hou$e of Lie$ on One.

  4. Lachy Hume should win all the Best Actor awards going – what a fabulous performance as Kerry Packer, not to mention a character totally opposite (and a lot thinner) in Offspring.

  5. Well isn’t Scott Ellis a man of many words lol. And while everyone else picks Mad Men, Homeland, Revenge for best Int’l Show, he goes for An Idiot Abroad.

    Pretty spot on with these picks. And Amazing Race Australia has to come back. Critically loved, Int’l Emmy winner, love by fans. Only people who seem to hate the show is Channel Seven.

  6. Good to see some great comments re “Tangle”–it simply must get another series this year. It cant end on that ridiculous inconclusive cliff hanger. Also it will give Lincoln Younes an excuse to get out of “Home and Away” for a while, undoubtedly one of the best young actors on Australian TV.

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