Well, this is awkward.
As an avid TV fan, I've never found it even remotely difficult to pick a year's worth of top 10 shows.
Until now, that is. Top eight shows, anyone? I can give you eight; are we OK with that?
It seems that somewhere along the road through 2012, I managed to stop watching mostly quality television and took a hairpin turn into mediocreville.
Not that all the shows I watch are mediocre. There are a clear eight that are top-notch TV. But as I began my annual list of the best 10 shows, it quickly was apparent that the journey ends two short.
What have I been watching that's only mediocre all these weeks? Well, I made an effort to try out more new shows this season. So I've wasted hours in front of "Go On," "The New Normal" and "The Mindy Project." I like these shows fine, but none of them are of such quality to make a best-of list.
I also tried watching shows that were getting attention, but that I had ignored. Shows like "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23." It's pretty funny stuff, but I couldn't honestly put it on a roundup of the year's tops.
In my own defense, a lot of the best television right now airs on premium channels. I don't subscribe to HBO or Showtime, so I'm immediately out of the loop on shows such as "Homeland," "Veep" or "Game of Thrones" all making top 10 lists of various critics this season.
And in scanning my past years' choices, I couldn't in good conscience return at least one former perennial favorite to the list: "Burn Notice." Oh, I still like "Burn Notice," I just didn't think it was up to its own quality this year, mostly due to a turn to darker fare that the otherwise frothy spy delight took.
Still, there are shows out there that I could be watching, shows on cable and network channels that are peppering all those TV critic best-of lists, that I've simply passed over.
I gave a one-show shot to "The Walking Dead," for instance, and found it engaging. But I failed to commit. I think Zooey Deschanel is adorable and there's no reason for me not to watch "New Girl," a comedy on several critics' lists this season. "Louie" appears to be popular, as do "American Horror Story: Asylum" and "Parenthood."
Still, the biggest fail of all for this TV fan has to be not tuning into "Downton Abbey." One of the most talked about and lauded shows on television right now, and I've totally ignored it.
Talk about awkward.
So, as I close out this past year with my list of the best eight shows on TV, I also offer up this resolution for the new one: I resolve to begin watching "Downton Abbey" and attempt to catch up on old episodes, as well. I also resolve to tune in to more of the available shows that critics promise are worthy. (Not "Parenthood," though. Sorry, but I've actually tried to watch this show, and found nearly every character on it utterly nauseating.)
And so, here are my picks for TV's top (eight) shows for 2012:
1. "Mad Men" Five seasons in and this remains the TV gold standard. I went in this season expecting a slump and was surprised to find the drama on 1960s Madison Avenue to be as stellar as ever.
2. "Damages" Few saw this powerhouse legal drama/thriller as it ended its run this year. But it went out the way it came in: explosive and shocking. Glenn Close remained the best actress on TV right through the series finale of this stunning show.
3. "Justified" Modesto native Timothy Olyphant never disappoints as a Kentucky marshal dealing with some of the most fascinating backwoods characters on television. A particularly warped adversary this past season brought a different twist to the action.
4. "Modern Family" One of the most clever comedies on the tube, this band of lovable characters gets to deliver some of the best lines being scripted.
5. "The Good Wife" A legal drama that hides its soapy side beneath sharp dialogue and fascinating plot lines. It's so overall well done that this season's annoying side story about Kalinda's bizarre and boring ex-husband is forgiven.
6. "Breaking Bad" Despite being difficult to watch and, at times, utterly frustrating in its refusal to soften, this show is one of finest-written, best-acted and most riveting to hit TV, pretty much ever.
7. "Top Chef" Yes, I know it's just me, but this is just darn fun to watch. I'm a sucker for anything this reality/competition show has to offer. If you're going make reality TV, this is how to do it.
8. "30 Rock" As this perennial comedy favorite prepares to bow out, it appears to be doing so with nearly as much quality and sharp humor as ever. The quirks and goofiness will be missed, along with its merry band of crazy characters.