17. The Walking Dead

Network: AMC
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus

The year’s most infuriating name: Sophia, referring to the missing little girl who plagued the first half of The Walking Dead’s crucial second season. And, before the undeniably powerful midseason finale, Sophia is all the AMC zombie show’s haters could talk about, though they had good reason to complain. It’s not all Sophia’s fault, but, nevertheless, The Walking Dead’s second run has so far been exemplified by overly preachy monologues and very little undead action. Which unjustly trivialized some grade-A work from co-stars Norman Reedus (as crossbow-shooting redneck Daryl Dixon) and Jon Bernthal (as the fearless, and reckless, Shane).

A few weeks removed from The Walking Dead’s most recent hour, though, it’s now easier to appreciate the season’s slow-burn approach thus far. Yes, characters like T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Andrea (Laurie Holden), and Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) have yet to earn much goodwill, and all of Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) scenes continue to disinterest us. But the power struggle that’s being set up between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane, along with the midseason finale’s vicious destruction of the Hershel farm’s tranquility, promises to pay off in major ways come February, when The Walking Dead starts back up. And, hey, at least we know there won’t be any more talk about she-who-won’t-be-named.