TV Highlights
TV highlights of 2012 - London 2012 Olympics & Parlaympics, The Thick of It, The Great British Bake Off, Mad Men

2012 was a year of revelations on television. First, the nation gathered around their TV sets to witness the Queen's soggy Diamond Jubilee celebrations, before the clouds parted to allow the sunshine to illuminate Team GB's historic feats at London 2012. There was drama in reality shows The X Factor, The Voice and I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here, with the investigations of current affairs shows such as Newsnight and Dispatches making the headlines for both the right and wrong reasons.

British shows Doctor Who and Downton Abbey returned, while we also lapped up foreign imports such as Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Killing. If you're looking to catch up on what you missed on TV this year, then here are our highlights of 2012.

Best Live Coverage: London 2012 Olympics (BBC One) / Paralympics (Channel 4)

Film director Danny Boyle's sublime opening ceremony astonished the nation before a single starting gun had been fired. His Isles of Wonder extravaganza charted the history of Britain, from rural splendour to vibrant post-industrial society, in the space of two hours.

The spectacular festivities inside the stadium were coupled with brilliant filmed segments such as James Bond 'skydiving' with the Queen and a hilarious reinterpretation of the famous Chariots of Fire theme featuring Mr Bean.

This was only the warm-up for the unforgettable weeks of sporting drama that followed. So many great moments flashed by that it's almost impossible to pick the best: Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history; Usain Bolt retained his 100m crown; and blade runner Oscar Pistorius ran in the Olympic 400m. Then there were the magical moments for Team GB and Paralympics GB. Wiggo, Super Saturday and the Weirwolf all stir wonderful memories, but perhaps the enduring image of the Games was the close-up of judo contestant Gemma Gibbons after she qualified for the final, staring towards the heavens with teary eyes and telling her deceased mother that she loved her.

For the majority of us it wasn't in the Olympic Stadium that the trials and tribulations of these sport stars touched our hearts, but on our own TV screens. 2012 was the year the nation spent a sizzling summer indoors.

Other highlights - Sports Personality of the Year, Stargazing Live

Best Drama: Mad Men (Sky Atlantic)

There was no Mad Men in 2011, making fans even more impatient for the show's fifth season, which started in March. Still following the adventures of advertising executives in the 1960s, we've now reached 1966 and the world is beginning to change a lot faster.

Don turned 40, and with new wife Megan tried to lead a new life as a monogamous man. His co-workers' trousers remained as loose as ever, though, as they continued their womanising, smoking and drinking, the highlight of which was Roger's hallucinatory LSD trip while listening to Pet Sounds.

Through storylines involving black secretaries, Buddhists and the Beatles, the social and cultural mores of the time were addressed, revealing a turbulent period in history. Mirroring the violence occurring in America both on the civil rights front and in the Vietnam conflict, season five was the darkest of the show so far. Woven throughout its 13 exquisitely crafted episodes was a morbid fascination with death, with references to Sylvia Plath and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

For its brilliant performances, attention to detail and subtle storylines, the world of Mad Men is a joy to return to, and is without a doubt the best television drama this year.

Other highlights - Breaking Bad, Sherlock

Best Reality Show: The Great British Bake Off (BBC Two)

Only in the UK would millions tune in on a Tuesday evening to watch other people bake cakes. The Great British Bake Off is perhaps the most quintessentially British reality show yet. You can almost smell the freshly cut grass and hear the local game of cricket as you watch contestants produce their mouth-watering colourful concoctions inside their marquees.

Despite appearances, this show wasn't some jingoistic, middle-class nostalgia-fest. Like this summer's Olympics, Bake Off showcases modern Britain's multicultural society: in one task Hong Kong-born contestant Ryan Chong fused Western baking with Eastern flavour when he made an opera cake using green tea as one of the layers.

The good cop/bad cop routine played out by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood was a delicious sweet/sour combination that left us cheering on and defending the painstaking effort that had gone into the contestants' creations.

With warmth, humour and heaps of entertainment, The Great British Bake Off had all the right ingredients to rise to the status of the best show of the year.

Other highlights - I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Junior Apprentice

Best Documentary: Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile (ITV)

For all the excellence highlighted here, 2012 was also the year when the small screen let us down. The BBC, seen in this country as the beacon of informed and educational programming, made a serious error by not broadcasting its Newsnight report on child sex allegations against its late star Jimmy Savile. It then compounded the mistake by broadcasting a report it shouldn't have done, wrongly implicating Lord McAlpine in similar allegations.

But where one channel drops the ball another is there to pick it up, and it was the underrated work of ITV in broadcasting its own exposé of Jimmy Savile that finally brought the original Newsnight allegations to light. Rivetingly presented by former police detective Mark Williams-Thomas, the investigation found women willing to finally speak out after years of hurt about their abuse at the hands of Savile. Poignant, pertinent and thoroughly researched, the documentary and the subsequent furore it provoked proved the value and importance of high-quality broadcast journalism.

Other highlights - 56 Up, On Death Row

Best Sitcom: The Thick of It (BBC One)

Peter Mannion: You bought a bank out of social embarrassment? I sometimes buy The Big Issue out of social embarrassment, I don't buy a f**king bank!

Malcolm Tucker: She's going to have to fall on her sword. Which means that we have to stick one in the ground, trip her on to it and get someone to jump up and down on her back for 10 minutes.

Peter Mannion: Sorry darling, I have to go - I think the bailiffs are coming to take away my will to live.

Sometimes a show's dialogue does all the talking. These three quotes alone are just a fraction of the giddy, naughty joy that was watching the fourth and final series of political sitcom The Thick of It. With the coalition now in power and Malcolm thrust into the shadow (cabinet), the usual formula was given a fresh update.

It wasn't all put-downs and jokes, as the series took a sinister turn when the highest ranks of government faced a scandal over the culture of leaking. Armando Iannucci's show eerily held its finger on the pulse of British politics as we witnessed a send-up of the Leveson inquiry that revealed how hopelessly insecure and insular the halls of Westminster really are.

Without question the greatest sitcom of the last decade, it was a true shame to say a final f**kity bye to The Thick of It.

Other highlights - Peep Show, Veep

Follow the links below to read the IBTimes UK picks of the year, in:-

Tennis

Pictures

Manchester United

Films

Free apps for iPhone 5

50 Shades of Grey

World football

Technology

Sporting Heroes and Villains

England Cricket

The Newsmakers

Business Quotes

This article was updated November 30, -0001 00:00 AM
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