2012 was certainly a mixed bag. The year that was included some untimely deaths and some disappointing trends including the dominance of increasingly sensational reality TV. But there were some bright moments and those are the ones we’d like to celebrate here. Here, in our humble opinion, are some of the best entertainment moments of 2012 in TV, film and music.
While most of you were talking about what was going on “Love and Hip-Hop,” “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “The Braxton Family Values” and all the reality shows, there was actually some *cough, cough* quality TV in 2012. Here are the shows you might want to add to your DVR list.
“Homeland” Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime
Season 2 just ended but it’s not too late to catch up on TV’s most daring show, as it only runs 13 episodes a season. This show about a CIA agent with her own problems chasing a suspected terrorist while trying to stop another attack on America will have your jaw on the floor. Both of its lead actors, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, won well-deserved Emmys for their work on the show. Catch up on Netflix or the inevitable Showtime marathon so you can be ready for Season 3 next September.
“Scandal” – Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
Olivia Pope is a Washington fixer and Kerry Washington is the actress who plays her to the hilt. A show created by, written by, produced by and starring a Black woman is one we’d love to support. And we do – it’s the #2 show in Black households this year, according to Nielsen. Thank God it’s also really, really fun to watch. Pope and Associates return to finish out their second season starting January 10th.
“Black Girls Rock” BET, fall
With all the crassness of reality shows and the women who star on them that lack any viable accomplishment that doesn’t involve 1. A man 2. A singing career 3. A clothing line 4. A role on reality TV, it’s refreshing that there’s one program you can count on to celebrate the best of accomplished, educated Black women. “Black Girls Rock,” conceived by DJ and former model Beverly Bond, does it with their televised awards show. This year, several esteemed women, including activist/educator/author Angela Davis, were honored. Kudos to BET for providing an alternate example of Black women than what is available on most of the rest of TV.
“Sons of Anarchy” Tuesdays at 10 p.m on FX Network
If you were wondering what white outlaw bikers do in motorcycle gangs, well, watch “Sons of Anarchy” which “Entertainment Weekly” just anointed TV’s most badass show. It’s not hype. The body count per episode outdoes “Oz” and “The Wire” – combined. While the racial politics of the show are, well, regressive, there is plenty of color on the show from “Soul Food’s” Rockmund Dunbar, Jimmy Smits and Harold Perrineau this last season to Glenn Plummer in the past. Just don’t get attached to any one character. You’ve got plenty of time to catch up to all 5 seasons as “Sons” won’t return until September of next year.
“The Melissa Harris Perry Show” Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. on MSNBC
She is the smartest woman on TV and that, coupled with an easygoing manner and a warm accessibility, make Melissa Harris Perry the best that news has to offer. Though she’s on a mainstream network, she’s aware of her blackness without being strident about it. Perry is an unabashed liberal but without the smug snarkiness that marks so many TV hosts and pundits. We heart MHP and her #nerdland followers.
Whatever happened to the promise of Black movies like “Love Jones” and “Love and Basketball?” We love Tyler Perry sometimes but we’re just wondering when another Spike Lee or John Singleton is going to come along again to challenge him. Seems like black film is either frothy Christian romance or retreads of Black pathology. Sigh. So don’t mind us if every film we picked as good this year isn’t overwhelmingly Black.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
I was prepared to walk out of it in the first 15 minutes after seeing the squalor people in this fictional Southern town were living in, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was original, beautiful and lyrical and it didn’t romanticize or patronize the poverty of its main characters. The father/daughter story at the center of the movie will move you as will acting newcomers Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry who play them.
If you see one movie on this list, see his one. The documentary about the greatest musician Jamaica has ever produced is a spiritual experience that will last long after the last, moving frame. Whatever you think you know, you don’t know until you see this brilliant take on Bob’s amazing legacy.
I’ll be catching this about an hour after I turn this in, but according to Rottentomatoes.com it’s one of the best reviewed movies with a Black star this year, coming in on their tomatometer at 88%. Despite Spike Lee’s understandable feelings about it, http://www.eonline.com/news/373826/spike-lee-slams-django-unchained-slavery-was-not-a-spaghetti-western you might want to see for yourself.
“End of Watch”
Think cops in L.A. Then think movie. Then prepare to be surprised by what is a suspenseful, funny, moving movie about a male friendship, as opposed to the traditional cops in L.A. busting heads movie you were expecting. Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena have real chemistry as two beat cops who come up on something unusual during their usual rounds.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
Best of the Batman movies thus far and a worthy end to a great superhero trilogy.
Honorable Mention: ”Looper”
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my personal favorite movie of the year, which has no Black characters whatsoever. “Looper” was phenomenal, original and not what I was expecting at all. It was well-reviewed but somehow underrated in the year-end awards race. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play the same character in different time periods. Anything else would be a spoiler.
If you’re 35 and up, this hasn’t been the best year for music. If you’re like a lot of grown folks, you’re playing the best of the 90’s, your Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder CDs or old school hip-hop. R&B has virtually disappeared from view unless you count Chris Brown as R&B (and we don’t). The top new artist this year, Frank Ocean, left us wondering why he’s been anointed the next king of R&B while we’re still waiting for that new D’Angelo album. (At this rate, it will probably come out when “Detox,” Dr. Dre’s long awaited follow-up to “The Chronic” does.) Here’s what we did like this year.
Music You’ll Likely Share With Your Kids:
“Unapologetic”- Rihanna Music’s fun-loving, weed-smoking, crazy -love affair having artist lives up to the hype with a funky, sexy take on the same techno ground everyone else covers but with a lot more spunk.
Most Modern Throwback: “Life is Good” -Nas He’s basically doing what he’s been doing for 20 years – taking great lyrics and turning them into solid and sometimes great hip-hop. This is one of his most consistent albums in years anchored by the breakup anthem “Bye, Baby” which tells his side of his marriage and divorce from singer Kelis.
Actual Throwback: “S.O.U.L. Vol. 2” – Marvin Gaye
It’s not the greatest production and they should know that over 40-eyes can’t see the fine print that indicates that it’s a live CD. Obviously production values back then weren’t the same as they are now, but it’s Marvin. Respect the man.
New R&B That’s Halfway Cool: “Kaleidoscope Dream” – Miguel
Out of the strange landscape of new-school R&B covered by The Weeknd, Ocean and others, Miguel actually makes some kind of sense. It’s like when you first listened to Prince and were like “Huh” and then you got it. He’s not Prince, though, but he’s probably the closest thing we have these days.
What We Wish R&B Still Sounded Like: “Ambition”- Wale
So, if Nas and Lauryn Hill had a baby and he was old enough to rap, he’d look and sound like Wale. Even though he’s part of Rachet, I mean Maybach Music Group, he makes lively hip-hop that sounds like contemporary R&B should, if that makes sense.