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From ‘Boardwalk’ to ‘Downton Abbey,’ television’s top 10 moments of 2012


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Updated: December 27, 2012 12:57PM

The best television moments stir something deep inside of you, triggering an emotional volcano that can erupt in a multitude of ways.

Maybe it’s tears, either happy or sad. (I’m sending my receipts for those extra boxes of Kleenex to you, “Parenthood.”) Maybe it’s belly laughs. Rage. Disappointment. Astonishment.

Television’s best moments have one thing in common: They’re memorable. And 2012 had plenty of them.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. The small screen saw some not-so-proud moments this year too. Fox News accidentally broadcasting a carjacker’s suicide. Lifetime’s “Liz & Dick,” where Lindsay Lohan’s lackluster performance was grounds enough to revoke her probation.

But there’s too little time left in 2012 to dwell on the negative. Here are my top 10 television moments that will stick with me well into the New Year.

Spoiler alert: Skip the items on shows you’re not caught up with.

Carrie and Brody’s tete-a-tete on ‘Homeland’

Interrogations don’t get any better than the intimate, 15-minute exchange between CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) in this season’s “Q&A” episode, a.k.a. Unequivocal Proof That These Two Deserve Their Best Actor Emmys. Carrie’s brutally honest, gently persuasive good-cop approach shakes the seemingly unflappable Brody to his core as he visibly collapses under the weight of what he’s wrought. “It’s the lies that undo us,” Carrie tells him, speaking from experience.

He put a ring on it on ‘Downton Abbey’

After a season marked by trench warfare and Spanish flu, the finale rewarded us with the uplifting engagement of Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who got down on one knee and proposed beneath a shower of snowflakes. As J. Lo would say, it gave me goosies.

Capone takes a business trip on ‘Boardwalk Empire’

This season’s penultimate episode just might be the HBO show’s finest hour, and the last scene turned out to be the cherry on top. A beleaguered Nucky (Steve Buscemi) stands in front of his brother, who went to Chicago and brought back some much-needed muscle in the form of a baby-faced, cigar-chomping Al Capone (Stephen Graham). “We’ve been on the road 18 hours,” Capone says, emerging from a crowd of armed men to greet Nucky. “I need a bath, some chow. Then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies.”

Jerry lets loose on ‘Parks and Recreation’

Yes, jokes about passing gas are sophomoric. They’re also hilarious in the case of “Parks and Recreation’s” Halloween episode. I’ve watched the clip of this minute-long scene more times than I care to admit. Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) reaction to Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) “attack” never fails to slay me.

Showdown on ‘The Walking Dead’

We knew Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane’s (Jon Bernthal) mano a mano was coming, but that didn’t make this deadly, moonlit confrontation between the two former BFFs any less thrilling.

A little ditty on ‘Mad Men’

It’s been the better part of a year and I still have Megan’s (Jessica Pare) rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” playing in an endless loop in the back of my head. Her titillating performance of the ’60s French pop song at Don’s 40th surprise birthday party in the season premiere made the dapper Draper (Jon Hamm) blush. It also illustrated the differences between Don and his new bride, setting the stage for the two of them to drift apart.

Ann Curry bids adieu on ‘Today’

I wasn’t always the biggest fan of “Today” co-anchor Ann Curry, the anointed fall guy for the NBC morning show’s rating woes. But Curry’s heartfelt goodbye is a master class in how to go out gracefully. “For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion, “I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line.”

Sorkin speechifying on ‘The Newsroom’

Cable news net anchor Will McAvoy’s rant about America in front of an auditorium of Northwestern University students is equal parts insightful and scathingly witty, delivered with rat-a-tat-tat perfection by Jeff Daniels. It’s Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “Sports Night”) at his best. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the season was Aaron Sorkin at his worst.

Dirty deed on ‘Breaking Bad’

The cold open in the episode “Dead Freight” shows a young boy riding his dirt bike in the desert. With all the Jesse James-style train heist action that followed, I’d completely forgotten about the boy by the end of the episode, when my jaw hit the floor as the poor kid was gunned down by itchy-trigger-finger Todd (Jesse Plemons) for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing is off limits in this AMC masterpiece.

Teary confession on ‘The Killing’

After two seasons of trying to figure out who killed Rosie Larsen, we finally learn Aunt Terry’s (Jamie Anne Allman) role that fateful night. As chilling as it is to see Terry sit on her dead niece’s bed and confess to the crime she’s been hiding, it’s even more heartbreaking to watch her run into the arms of her shell-shocked sister, Mitch (Michelle Forbes).


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