2012 Television Critic Top Ten Lists

  • Publish Date: December 12, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 26 user comments

Below, we collect every year-end Top Ten list published by major TV critics and publications. This page will be updated throughout December and January whenever new lists are published; be sure to check back frequently.

Critics pick the best TV shows of 2012

Added in last update (Jan. 21; final update): PopMatters

Below is our updated running tally of the TV shows most frequently mentioned by individual critics in their year-end Top Ten lists. Note that if a critic ranks more than the standard 10 shows, we will not include titles ranked 11th or worse. In case of a tie for first or second, each show will receive the full points for that position. Our points system works as follows:

  • 3 points for each 1st place ranking
  • 2 points for each 2nd place ranking
  • 1 point for being ranked 3rd - 10th, or for being included on an unranked list
  TV Show / Network # 1st Place # 2nd Place # Other Points
1Breaking Bad (AMC)9111968
2Mad Men (AMC)762457
3Homeland (Showtime)712750
4Louie (FX)332540
5Girls (HBO)132635
6The Walking Dead (AMC)411731
7Parks and Recreation (NBC)112025
Game of Thrones (HBO)112025
9Downton Abbey (PBS)111318
10Justified (FX)11813
11Parenthood (NBC)011012
Sherlock (PBS)10912
13The Good Wife (CBS)01810
14Boardwalk Empire (HBO)1058
Modern Family (ABC)0088
16Community (NBC)0157
American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)0077
New Girl (Fox)0077
30 Rock (NBC)0077
Nashville (ABC)0077

Individual critic top ten lists

Below are the 45 individual top ten lists used to calculate the standings above. Some critics may list ten shows without ranking them in order; such lists are displayed below, without numbers, in alphabetical order.

The Atlantic Richard Lawson View article
  • 30 Rock (NBC)
  • Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Girls (HBO)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
  • Teen Wolf (MTV)
  • Veep (HBO)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
A.V. Club Staff consensus View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  6. Girls (HBO)
  7. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  8. Community (NBC)
  9. 30 Rock (NBC)
  10. Bob's Burgers (Fox)
Blast Magazine View article
  1. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. (tie) Homeland (Showtime)
  5. (tie) The Walking Dead (AMC)
  6. New Girl (Fox)
  7. Community (NBC)
  8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  9. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  10. Sherlock (PBS)
Boob Tube Dude Ryan McGee View article
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Spartacus: Vengeance (Starz)
  3. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. Cougar Town (ABC)
  7. Girls (HBO)
  8. Sherlock (PBS)
  9. Archer (FX)
  10. Mad Men (AMC)
Cleveland Plain Dealer Mark Dawidziak View article
  1. Justified (FX)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Parenthood (NBC)
  6. The Middle (ABC)
  7. Treme (HBO)
  8. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  9. Homeland (Showtime)
  10. American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
Complex Matt Barone View article
  1. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  2. Justified (FX)
  3. American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  7. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  8. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  9. Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
  10. Wilfred (FX)
Contra Costa Times Chuck Barney View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Sons of Anarchy (FX)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  5. Girls (HBO)
  6. Mad Men (AMC)
  7. Parenthood (NBC)
  8. Louie (FX)
  9. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  10. New Girl (Fox)
The Daily Beast Maria Elena Fernandez View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Parenthood (NBC)
  3. Dallas (TNT)
  4. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  5. Switched at Birth (ABC Family)
  6. Nashville (ABC)
  7. RuPaul's Drag Race (Logo)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  10. Awkward (MTV)
The Daily Beast Jace Lacob View article
  1. Borgen (LinkTV)
  2. Girls (HBO)
  3. The Good Wife (CBS)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. Shameless (Showtime)
  6. Parenthood (NBC)
  7. Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
  8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  9. Louie (FX)
  10. Sherlock (PBS)
Denver Post Joanne Ostrow View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Louie (FX)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Girls (HBO)
  7. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  8. Nashville (ABC)
  9. Episodes (Showtime)
  10. Revenge (ABC)
Entertainment Weekly Ken Tucker View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Girls (HBO)
  5. Mad Men (AMC)
  6. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
  7. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  8. Justified (FX)
  9. The Good Wife (CBS)
  10. Nashville (ABC)
Film School Rejects Amber Humphrey View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Homeland (Showtime)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Parenthood (NBC)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Archer (FX)
  7. Sons of Anarchy (FX)
  8. Justified (FX)
  9. Sherlock (PBS)
  10. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Filmmaker Dan Schoenbrun View article
  1. Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Girls (HBO)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. The Eric Andre Show (Adult Swim)
  7. Luck (HBO)
  8. Sex House (online at The Onion)
  9. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  10. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Grantland Andy Greenwald View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Happy Endings (ABC)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. 30 Rock (NBC)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  7. New Girl (Fox)
  8. Sherlock (PBS)
  9. Girls (HBO)
  10. Bent (NBC)
HitFix Daniel Fienberg View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Louie (FX)
  3. On Freddie Roach (HBO)
  4. Treme (HBO)
  5. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  6. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  7. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. 30 for 30 (ESPN)
  10. The Hour (BBC America)
HitFix Alan Sepinwall View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  4. 30 Rock (NBC)
  5. Girls (HBO)
  6. Louie (FX)
  7. Luck (HBO)
  8. Treme (HBO)
  9. Parenthood (NBC)
  10. Homeland (Showtime)
Houston Chronicle Therese Odell View article
  1. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  2. Girls (HBO)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. Homeland (Showtime)
  6. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  7. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  8. Veep (HBO)
  9. Louie (FX)
  10. Fringe (Fox)
Huffington Post Maureen Ryan View article
  • American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Girls (HBO)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
  • New Girl (Fox)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Lincoln Journal Star Jeff Korbelik View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  3. Longmire (A&E)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Sons of Anarchy (FX)
  6. Modern Family (ABC)
  7. The Good Wife (CBS)
  8. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  9. Mad Men (AMC)
  10. Southland (TNT)
Los Angeles Times Robert Lloyd View article
  • Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
  • Bent (NBC)
  • Bunheads (ABC Family)
  • Girls (HBO)
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
  • Lilyhammer (Netflix)
  • Luck (HBO)
  • The Mindy Project (Fox)
  • Nashville (ABC)
  • (Olympics opening ceremonies)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Miami Herald Glenn Garvin View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Dexter (Showtime)
  3. The Good Wife (CBS)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Modern Family (ABC)
  6. Hell on Wheels (AMC)
  7. Boss (Starz)
  8. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  9. Mad Men (AMC)
  10. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
The New Republic Laura Bennett View article
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Episodes (Showtime)
  3. Saturday Night Live (NBC)
  4. Girls (HBO)
  5. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
  6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  7. Widerøe Airlines's "Grandpa's Magic Trick" commercial
  8. Homeland (Showtime)
  9. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  10. Fox News election night coverage
The New York Times Mike Hale View article
  1. Sherlock (PBS)
  2. Southland (TNT)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. (Various HBO documentaries)
  5. The Killing (AMC)
  6. Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
  7. Dexter (Showtime)
  8. Moyers & Company (PBS)
  9. Homeland (Showtime)
  10. The Good Wife (CBS)
Newsday Verne Gay View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  3. Mad Men (AMC)
  4. Louie (FX)
  5. Frozen Planet (Discovery)
  6. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  7. Community (NBC)
  8. Portlandia (IFC)
  9. 30 Rock (NBC)
  10. The Walking Dead (AMC)
NPR (Fresh Air)/TV Worth Watching David Bianculli View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
  4. The Good Wife (CBS)
  5. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
  6. Louie (FX)
  7. Parenthood (NBC)
  8. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  9. Modern Family (ABC)
  10. (tie) Justified (FX)
  11. (tie) Homeland (Showtime)
The Oregonian Kristi Turnquist View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. (tie) Portlandia (IFC)
  7. (tie) Sherlock (PBS)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. Homeland (Showtime)
  10. Grimm (NBC)
  11. Nashville (ABC)
Orlando Sentinel Hal Boedeker View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  3. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  4. The Good Wife (CBS)
  5. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  6. Mad Men (AMC)
  7. Modern Family (ABC)
  8. The Middle (ABC)
  9. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  10. Person of Interest (CBS)
Paste Josh Jackson View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  3. Mad Men (AMC)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Community (NBC)
  6. Sherlock (PBS)
  7. New Girl (Fox)
  8. Louie (FX)
  9. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  10. The Walking Dead (AMC)
The Phoenix [Boston] Eric Gould View article
  1. Call the Midwife (PBS)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
  6. Girls (HBO)
  7. Awake (NBC)
  8. Hell on Wheels (AMC)
  9. Inside Comedy (Showtime)
  10. Family Guy (Fox)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Rob Owen View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Boss (Starz)
  4. Episodes (Showtime)
  5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  6. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  7. Girls (HBO)
  8. Raising Hope (Fox)
  9. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  10. The Neighbors (ABC)
PopMatters View article
  1. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  2. The Hour (BBC America)
  3. Sherlock (PBS)
  4. Justified (FX)
  5. Nashville (ABC)
  6. Homeland (Showtime)
  7. Girls (HBO)
  8. Mad Men (AMC)
  9. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  10. Treme (HBO)
Salon Willa Paskin View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Girls (HBO)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. Bunheads (ABC Family)
  6. 30 Rock (NBC)
  7. Parenthood (NBC)
  8. Louie (FX)
  9. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  10. Shameless (Showtime)
The Salt Lake Tribune Scott D. Pierce View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. The Good Wife (CBS)
  3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  4. Revenge (ABC)
  5. (tie) The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  6. (tie) Modern Family (ABC)
  7. (tie) New Girl (Fox)
  8. (tie) Raising Hope (Fox)
  9. The Newsroom (HBO)
  10. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  11. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  12. (tie) Elementary (CBS)
  13. (tie) Sherlock (PBS)
  14. Game of Thrones (HBO)
San Francisco Chronicle David Wiegand View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. The Hour (BBC America)
  4. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  5. Mad Men (AMC)
  6. Girls (HBO)
  7. Justified (FX)
  8. Sons of Anarchy (FX)
  9. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  10. Southland (TNT)
Slant Staff consensus View article
  1. Girls (HBO)
  2. Louie (FX)
  3. Mad Men (AMC)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  6. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  7. Luck (HBO)
  8. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  9. Justified (FX)
  10. The Walking Dead (AMC)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Gail Pennington View article
  1. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Mad Men (AMC)
  4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  5. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  7. Parenthood (NBC)
  8. The Glee Project (Oxygen)
  9. CBS News Sunday Morning (CBS)
  10. Homeland (Showtime)
Time James Poniewozik View article
  1. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  2. Louie (FX)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Mad Men (AMC)
  6. Girls (HBO)
  7. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  8. Parenthood (NBC)
  9. American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  10. (The 2012 election)
TV Guide View article
  1. Homeland (Showtime)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. 30 Rock (NBC)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  6. Parenthood (NBC)
  7. Louie (FX)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  10. Happy Endings (ABC)
TV Worth Watching/The Grassy Noel Noel Holston View article
  • 60 Minutes (CBS)
  • American Masters (PBS)
  • The Good Wife (CBS)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • Masterpiece Mystery (PBS)
  • The Mentalist (CBS)
  • The Mindy Project (Fox)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • The Simpsons (Fox)
  • Smash (NBC)
Uncle Barky Ed Bark View article
  1. Louie (FX)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Mad Men (AMC)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. The Dust Bowl (PBS)
  6. Downton Abbey (PBS)
  7. Treme (HBO)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. Justified (FX)
  10. The Middle (ABC)
Under the Radar View article
  1. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  2. Community (NBC)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  5. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  6. Louie (FX)
  7. Modern Family (ABC)
  8. Girls (HBO)
  9. Doctor Who (BBC America)
  10. New Girl (Fox)
USA Today Robert Bianco View article
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Girls (HBO)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
  • The Middle (ABC)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
Vulture Matt Zoller Seitz View article
  1. Mad Men (AMC)
  2. Luck (HBO)
  3. Louie (FX)
  4. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  5. Community (NBC)
  6. Treme (HBO)
  7. Homeland (Showtime)
  8. Archer (FX)
  9. Hatfields & McCoys (History)
  10. (tie) Coma (A&E)
  11. (tie) American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
Wall Street Journal Dorothy Rabinowitz View article
  • Commander in Chief: Inside The Oval Office—Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Military)
  • Election coverage (C-SPAN)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • The Hunt for Bin Laden (Smithsonian)
  • Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (PBS)
  • Revolution (NBC)
  • Upstairs Downstairs (PBS)
Washington Post Hank Stuever View article
  1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  2. Mad Men (AMC)
  3. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  4. Homeland (Showtime)
  5. Veep (HBO)
  6. Dallas (TNT)
  7. Girls (HBO)
  8. Nashville (ABC)
  9. American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  10. Dish Earth (DISH Network)
The Wrap Tim Molloy View article
  1. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
  2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
  3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. The Walking Dead (AMC)
Yahoo! TV View article
  • American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Girls (HBO)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • Homeland (Showtime)
  • Louie (FX)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
  • Once Upon a Time (ABC)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • The Walking Dead (AMC)

Comments (26)

  • punkzu  

    1. Game of Thrones
    2. Breaking Bad
    3. The Walking Dead
    4. Homeland

    ...and why mention any other

  • Alienware  

    Will someone warn us when the updates will stop coming?

  • sidney001  

    infantil

  • sidney001  

    Well, actually Breaking Bad already won last year, so this wouldn't be a first.
    Anyway this is my Top 10:

    1 - Breaking Bad
    2 - Luck
    3 - Homeland
    4 - Archer
    5 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    6 - Treme
    7 - Louie
    8 - Justified
    9 - Sherlock
    10 - Mad Meninfantil

  • sidney001  

    Well, actually Breaking Bad already won last year, so this wouldn't be a first.
    Anyway this is my Top 10:

    1 - Breaking Bad
    2 - Luck
    3 - Homeland
    4 - Archer
    5 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    6 - Treme
    7 - Louie
    8 - Justified
    9 - Sherlock
    10 - Mad Men

    http://buffetinfantil.buffeteventosrj.com.br/

  • renny  

    Hey what about Jon Stewart's Daily Show. I don't think there's ever been a time where a comedy/satire news show has been so influential and entertaining in the history of television. (Or maybe it's because the 'times' themselves have never been so bizarre).
    BTW I'm looking for an internet researcher for film and television projects. If interested please get back to me info@take2publishing.com.

  • dmj  

    http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/year-in-review-the-12-best-tv-shows-of-2012-ahump.php/3

  • CobaltBlue  

    Orlando Sentinel
    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_tv_tvblog/2012/12/best-television-series-of-2012-homeland-downton-abbey.html

  • urkobg  

    http://www.denverpost.com/television/ci_22270041/2012-chaotic-year-television-and-ostrows-10-best

  • name  

    1. Breaking Bad
    2. Homeland
    3. Sherlock
    4. Game of Thrones
    5. The Walking Dead

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