The Ten Best Geek TV Shows of 2012

Everywhere you look, someone is proclaiming this to be a new Golden Age of TV, what with all the Mad Mens and Breaking Bads changing the rules for televised drama and bringing home Emmys like there’s no tomorrow. Less publicized is the fact that there’s something of a Golden Age of geek TV happening at the same time. In all your fundamental geek genres — fantasy, sci-fi, horror, superhero, and more — you’ve got multiple options ranging from good to great (all that’s missing is a decent space opera; someone get on that, please!). Even better, these shows are receiving the kind of ratings — and the budgets that go along with them — that yesteryear’s cult hits could only dream of. Best of all, the trend shows no signs of slowing down, as 2012 offered more great geek TV than most of us had time to watch. To help make sure you’re not missing out on the best of it, we’ve helpfully compiled this mostly spoiler-free list of the year’s best in geek TV.

10) The Vampire Diaries.

Watching The Vampire Diaries is like a weekly visit to the best Halloween party ever — everywhere you look it’s wall-to-wall sexy witches, sexy werewolves and sexy vampires. Go ahead and run it down by calling it more soapy small-town supernatural nonsense, but damn, is it entertaining when it’s at its best. Unlike in some other vampire series that will go unnamed, the teenaged main character of this one — Elena, played by actress Nina Dobrev — is both sympathetic and charismatic. That means you actually care when bad things happen to her, and boy do they ever. The show has its issues, but at the very least it’s something to watch with your less geeky, non-genre loving girlfriend (or boyfriend), especially since True Blood (did we say “go unnamed”? Oops), its main competition in the turgid vampire melodrama category, became an unwatchable mess seasons ago. You can even pretend you’re watching it under duress — we won’t reveal your secret.

9) American Horror Story.

Sometimes, it’s enough to just be completely apeshit. And nothing on TV is more completely apeshit than American Horror Story. Set in an insane asylum run by Catholics, season two of AHS is a smorgasbord of crazy. From week to week you might find anything, as long as it’s creepy, weird or just plain fucked-up. Cannibal mutants? Sure! Mysterious serial killers? Of course. Aliens, Nazi war criminals and demonic possession? Why the hell not? You just never know what’s coming next, and if it doesn’t always necessarily make a whole lot of sense, well, that’s okay. You want tight plotting and meticulous character studies? Pick yourself an Emmy winner and go. You want sheer lunacy that hurtles around at breakneck speed, constantly threatening to fly off the tracks until it actually does fly off the tracks and crash in such an entertaining and preposterous way you don’t even mind? Well, that’s what American Horror Story is for.

8) Fringe.

If you’ve stuck with Fringe through its rough patches, things really paid off in 2012 with the series going balls out to resolve its overarching “war of alternate worlds” story, killing off main characters and even entire universes along the way. Contrast that with The X-Files — which Fringe was frequently compared to in its early going — which never seemed willing to let anyone die, much less get to the alien invasion that technically was the show’s whole reason for being. It’s also pretty much the only show you’re going to find on network TV with a main character who uses LSD to get his shit together trying to fend off a hostile takeover by mysterious bald men, so there’s that. Sure, it’s had its awkward moments and forgettable episodes — or episodes you’d rather forget, anyway — but it’s also building to what looks to be one hell of an exciting climax.

7) Adventure Time.

The story of a boy and his dog and their adventures in the post-apocalyptic world of Ooo, any given Adventure Time episode can offer something as epic as a face off against a powerful lich or as small-scale as an emotional meltdown over a friendly game of the world’s most convoluted card game. Its characters are wacky on the surface — how else to categorize entities like Lumpy Space Princess, a pink cloud that chooses to live like a hobo, or Peppermint Butler, a peppermint candy with a dark past — but surprisingly deep and human (witness the Ice King’s tragic history as a victim whose sanity is destroyed by the magic that keeps him alive). Its twisted mythology is packed with secrets to uncover and connections to puzzle out, making it perfect fodder for late-night discussions about how it all fits together and what that means. At last, Cartoon Network has added stoner philosophy to its regular menu of random stoner humor. Pass the Cheetos; shit’s about to get deep.

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