— ‘‘Key & Peele’’ (Comedy Central). The biracial status of comedy partners Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (black fathers, white mothers) is notable only because it gives them unique insight sizing up the human condition. And they made the most of that insight on their sketch-and-standup half-hour series. In particular, they scored with Peele in an unsurpassed impersonation of Obama where the unflappable president is joined by Key as ‘‘anger translator’’ Luther, who demonstrates, comically unfiltered, what Obama really thinks. But whatever they did, the humor of Key and Peele proved fresh and smart. And without ever preaching, they illustrated how the issue of race (in their words) ‘‘always boomerangs back to culture’’ and ultimately ‘‘is an absurd thing.’’ Doggone funny, too.
— ‘‘Luck’’ (HBO). This drama set at a California racetrack boasted the rich density of David Milch’s writing and a king’s ransom of a cast: Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina, Jill Hennessy and Richard Kind for starters. It explored a strange and fascinating world while capturing the horse races with breathtaking footage. But three horses died during production of the series. That sad fact, and another — the show wasn’t exactly a ratings blockbuster — led to HBO canceling ‘‘Luck’’ after its first season, in a bow to bad publicity led by animal-rights activists. Amid the hubbub about the horses’ welfare, there was a question no one seemed inclined to ask: Assuming every reasonable precaution had been taken, was risking the lives of a few horses an excessive price to pay to keep an excellent drama series on the air?
— ‘‘Smash’’ (NBC). This NBC musical drama put a bright, sexy sheen on one of filmdom’s most timeless tropes: Hey, kids, let’s put on a show! Which ‘‘Smash’’ did, embedding songs and dance into the story of how a Broadway musical comes to life. Sure, ‘‘Smash’’ took knocks for unbelievable plotlines, cardboard characters and trite show tunes. It gave new life to the term ‘‘hate-watch’’ (that act of watching something solely to delight in its awfulness). So what? With a show-must-go-on defiance emblematic of Broadway, ‘‘Smash’’ never flagged in its unique charm and meticulous artistry. And if anything about it seemed over-the-top, its naysayers should consider the recent cockamamie real-life fraud that sank the Broadway musical ‘‘Rebecca.’’ As ‘‘Smash’’ knows and demonstrated proudly, nothing is too wacky for Broadway.
— ‘‘Sons of Anarchy’’ (FX). Tough guys on motorcycles selling guns and drugs. Tough women keeping them in line, or trying. Rival gangs, corrupt cops and a club membership in turmoil. Jax (Charlie Hunnam), his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), and her husband, Clay (Ron Perlman), were the core of a series that, in its fifth season, raged wilder than ever. A family drama set in a hard-hitting workplace, ‘‘Sons’’ was bloodthirsty and brilliant like nothing else on TV. Its audience knew what its characters found out: there was no escaping its excitement.
— Donald Trump (all over the place). Never before has this list bestowed a personal commendation. But then, The Donald is an exceptional TV presence. Whether a game-show host (NBC’s ‘‘The Apprentice"), a commentator-at-large (Fox News Channel and elsewhere), a beauty contest impresario (his Miss USA pageant, which is broadcast on NBC), a former almost-candidate for president, or a free-floating billionaire attention junkie, Trump leverages the media with enviable shrewdness. Exactly the nature of Trump’s TV appeal has yet to be identified. Equally unexplained is why he always gets a pass from his media gatekeepers, no matter what he says or does. But why sweat the vagaries of stardom? Trump rules. Or if he doesn't, he will surely be the last to know it.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier