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The Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2012—Staff Picks

From Hollywood.com Staff

The listmaking continues! We've already unveiled our picks for the Best and Worst TV Series of 2012, but that doesn't mean we've stopped giving some critical thought to our friend the Tube. Choosing your favorite series is one thing, but an even bigger challenge may be the act of identifying precisely the most (and least) satisfying thirty to sixty minutes you've had this year while sitting in front of the small screen. And no, those of you who have sex while watching The Daily Show don't count.

Hollywood.com's intrepid staffers took this challenge upon themselves and brainstormed a new list of the Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2012. When we thought about our favorite eps, the possibilities became far more sweeping--and unexpected. Suddenly, shows like Big Brother and Smash, which we didn't put on our Best TV Series list, could get the representation they deserve. Check out our staffers' thirteen selections for the Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2012--thirteen, so that the makers of TV will know what to aim for in 2013--and feel free to nominate your own in the comments below.

Breaking Bad, "Dead Freight"

Picked By: Aly Semigran

I can't think of an episode of television from 2012 that had me as anxious and engrossed as the thrill ride that was ""Dead Freight."" Part action caper drug heist, part noir homage, this nail-biting game-changer of an episode makes you watch through your fingers. And nothing could have prepared anyone for that gut-churning final moment.

Girls, ""All Adventurous Women Do""

Picked By: Kelsea Stahler

There's not a single episode of HBO's Girls that doesn't get me even after fourth and fifth viewings (I really, really love this show, okay?), but no episode hits like this one, in which Hannah learns she has HPV and finds solace in Jessa's proclaimation that "All adventurous women do." The closing scene is simply Hannah writing and rewriting a tweet to express her helluva day and finally settling on the cryptic and social-media-encompassing phrase from her fearless friend. Finally, she and Marnie end their unfathomable day by dancing shamelessly to Robyn in their Brooklyn apartment. It's simple, but it so robustly captures the subtle dance of friendship between two 20-something girls and the daily struggle of self-reflection that it brings a tear to my eye Every. Single. Time.

Big Brother, "Dan's Funeral"

Picked By: Kate Ward

On the block and surely headed for eviction, Big Brother Season 10 winner Dan Gheesling decides to stage his own ""Big Brother funeral,"" appealing to his fellow houseguests with high compliments and tears. Like most funerals, the moment inspired tears from the cast, but unlike others, the subject rose from the dead after falsely accusing his closest ally of betrayal, and aligning with his biggest enemy via the best reality show speech since Susan Hawk's ""rat and snake"" Survivor monologue. It was a TV moment made better by the series' respectable ability to resist teasing the episode, leaving viewers as shocked by the moment as Dan's own castmates. It's funny — it took a funeral for Season 14 to prove it was alive.

Mad Men, "The Other Woman"

Picked by: Abbey Stone

Tightly written, playfully structured, and filled with character-driven suspense, ""The Other Woman"" showcases all the elements that make Mad Men a truly great television show. In this episode, not only are the characters' morals and goals tested, but so is our knowledge of these characters we have come to know in the course of five seasons. Do we believe that Peggy will really leave Don and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or that Joan is capable of selling her body for a slice of the company's profits? As all becomes revealed in this less-than-chronological episode's denouement, viewers were left scraping their jaws off the floor while the characters struggle to hold on to whatever dignity they have left.

NEXT: Game of Thrones gets the first of a couple of shout-outs. Plus, we have not one, but two series with characters breaking into song [PAGEBREAK]

Game of Thrones, "Blackwater"

Picked By: Shaunna Murphy

It's pretty crazy that, despite the glorious battle sequence seen through the eyes of the imp Tyrion, the greatest part of this episode was the performance by Lena Headey back in the castle. She deviously and drunkenly manipulated the ladies of King's Landing into trusting her (hiring an executioner, acting as a ""bodyguard"" to kill them all if they lost), verbally tortured Sansa Stark, and ran around making plans to kill her own young son — because death, to Queen Cersei, would be preferable to defeat. Her tremendous anxiety was apparent in her actions, but not in her icy cool demeanor. A real battle raged outside, but the one going on in Queen Cersei's mind was the most fascinating one of all.

The Newsroom, "5/1"

Picked By: Anna Brand

The show's saving grace, ""5/1"" actually delivered some real tension and angst. Just as the White House is about to address the nation with game-changing news (Osama bin Laden's death), Don, Elliot and Sloan are trapped on a plane and Will is suffering from a severe case of pot-brownie intoxication. Throughout all the chaos, Aaron Sorkin is able to capture the newsroom chaos with the perfect amount of humanity to such unimaginable news.

Dexter, "Chemistry"

Picked By: Lindsey DiMattina

Jennifer Carpenter's Lt. Deb Morgan steps out in this episode as the main attraction. Deb not only finally accepts that her brother Dexter is a serial killer, but she actually pushes him to use his talents to take out another victim. We are starting to see Deb's character change in a way that (I or we) never thought possible. The episode leaves us waiting to find out if Dexter will give into his sister's demands to kill his new girlfriend, or if will he betray Deb to follow his murderous heart.

Smash, "Pilot"

Picked by: Brian Moylan

Watching the pilot of Smash was like walking out of a great Broadway play. It had you so energized that you wanted to sing all the songs, sign up for a tap dancing class, and watch it all over again right away. The show had so much promise, so much buzz, so many full-scale production numbers. It was what happened if Glee grew up and became something that was actually watchable. Well, sadly the series never lived up to the promise of that first episode, but it hooked me hard enough that I watched the entire season, even though most of it stunk worse than Times Square when it's full of farting tourists.

Glee, "The Breakup"

Picked By: Leanne Aguilera

This episode left me devastated, heartbroken, and in a sea of tissues as I full on ugly-cried on my bed. And this is exactly why it was so great. It made us feel something so powerful that we literally could not control our emotions. The heartfelt and brutally honest acting from the six main characters involved in said breakups were beautiful and the episodes' six songs were flawlessly woven into the storyline. Overall, it was painful perfection.

NEXT: So many great Louie episodes to choose from, but there was one that really stood out. Plus, our picks for the Worst TV Episodes of 2012[PAGEBREAK]

Louie, "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 2"

Picked By: Michael Arbeiter

When you can be recognized as a creative force capable of delivering both the funniest bits of standup in the business today as well as the most unimaginably sad episode of television all year, you've made quite a name for yourself. In this Season 3 episode of Louis C.K.'s FX series Louie, the multi-hyphenate tells a story of his hapless character's night on the town with a strange (in every sense of the word) woman whom he met at the bookstore. Playing Louie's date is Parker Posey, channeling a subtle but all-consuming pain with unprecedented poise, terrifying the viewer with her unpredictable behavior and striking an all-too-familiar nerve when her giddy façade fades to black at the end of the ep, revealing the tortured soul hidden beneath it. An Emmy-deserving performance no doubt, and planted elegantly in such a profound illustration of human loneliness. We won't soon forget the name Tape Recorder.

Community, "Digital Estate Planning"

Picked By: Christian Blauvelt

In any other year the worthy Wreck-It Ralph would have been the best homage to eight-bit videogames possible. But not in 2012. That's because creator Dan Harmon and the mad geniuses on NBC's Community gave us "Digital Estate Planning," a luscious, textured pixelscape that, unlike Wreck-It Ralph, remains true to the gameplay tropes of an '80s arcade side-scroller all the way through. It's funny, because it's right. I've argued before that Community is so much more than just the sum of its referential parts, but when it is in full Homage Mode, it's the most inventive show on TV.

Game of Thrones, "Valar Morghulis"

Picked By: Sydney Bucksbaum

For those who don't read George R.R. Martin's best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series on which Game of Thrones is based, the Season 2 finale's last 30 seconds were a total mind-f**k. Zombies?!? What is this?!? GOT knows how to leave you with cliffhangers, that's for sure.

Homeland, "Q&A"

Picked By: Alicia Lutes

What is there to say that hasn't been said about Homeland's stand-out 5th episode, ""Q&A""? In terms of story, this episode was perhaps the most significant of the season. Carrie's stinging honesty in wrangling Marine-turned-US-Congressman Sgt. Brody during the interrogation was nothing short of a masterstroke. Here were two very broken people whose relationship was becoming all-the-more complicated thanks to their increasing involvement in Abu Nazir's plan to unleash a terrorist attack on US soil. Every word was a turn, a dance shaded with double-meaning and doublecrossing. In ""Q&A,"" Claire Danes and Damian Lewis were at their best—treating each phrase as a puzzle piece to create the image of a double (or is it triple) agent in crisis, being rebuilt from the ground up. And it was calculated, ruthless, painful, and constructive. I'll be shocked if this episode isn't nominated for a whole slew of Emmy's. Because when Homeland is good, it is really, really f**king good.

THE WORST TV EPISODES OF 2012

How I Met Your Mother, "Pre-Nup"

Picked By: Michael Arbeiter

Where How I Met Your Mother used to be a sweet, quirky celebration of unique characters living in a heightened reality of New York City, this episode exemplified the show's recent descent into lackadaisical schlock. When Barney, Marshall, and Ted team up in a shallow and chauvinistic union against their respective romantic partners, it was hard to like or root for any of the characters we had built up an affection for over the past eight years. We know you're getting older, HIMYM, but you can't just stop trying altogether.

New Girl, "Menzies"

Picked By: Shaunna Murphy

Like the world needed another reason to think women are insane and completely irrational when we're on our periods. Newsflash: It's a myth. We just crave crazy junk food, is all. Thanks for the step backwards, Zooey.

Gossip Girl, "Raiders of the Lost Art"

Picked By: Sydney Bucksbaum

When we found out Bart Bass faked his own death and was actually still alive, it was the moment when Gossip Girl officially jumped the shark. And that's saying a lot for a show that's still as juicy and soapy as it's always been.

Revenge, "Legacy"

Picked By: Christian Blauvelt

Usually the one and only thing we end up learning from flashback episodes of a TV series that isn't Lost is that people in the past had terrible hair. Revenge's first season flashback episode was no exception, though we did learn that Emily VanCamp's 2002 version of Amanda Clarke liked to krunk it in da club to 50 Cent's "In Da Club." It broke the momentum of an otherwise killer first year, just two episodes before the season finale, and hinted at the unfortunate pacing issues to come in season two.

Work It, ""Pilot""

Picked By: Aly Semigran

I like to think the pitch for the pilot episode of Work It sounded something like this: ""Imagine Bosom Buddies, only make it not funny or charming and instead fill it to the brim with sexism, out-of-date references, blatant racism, and a prehistoric view on men and women. Can't you just see it now?"" Thankfully, only a few people did see the Work It pilot, the most offensive, unfunny episode of television all year, and ABC canceled this dreck.

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

[Photo Credits: FX; HBO; NBC]

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