Verne Gay's 12 most fascinating TV people of 2012

Actress Kate McKinnon attends the 2nd Annual Logo Actress Kate McKinnon attends the 2nd Annual Logo NewNowNext Awards at the Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime Hotel in Manhattan. (May 20, 2009) Photo Credit: WireImage

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Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

Move over, Barbara Walters. Your "Ten Most Fascinating People of 2012" (Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC/7) has nothing over my "12 Most Fascinating Television People of 2012," who (incidentally) are actually fascinating. (In other words, no Honey Boo Boo here.)

12. JOHNNY LEE MILLER Starred alongside pal and equally precocious Benedict Cumberbatch in Danny Boyle's stage production of "Frankenstein" on London's West End last year, then both get a job as Sherlock Holmes. And both versions are hits. (Now that's fascinating.) Miller's version is, of course, "Elementary" on CBS.

11. SETH MACFARLANE Introducing your next host of the Oscars the one, the only MacFarlane, who has crafted thousands of poop jokes for "Family Guy," many spoken by his most indelible creation, Stewie Griffin. (Does ABC really know what it's gotten itself into?) MacFarlane is already shaking out the dust of the dusty old Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; one plan is to have college kids bring the Oscar statues on stage. Expect many more departures from tradition ...

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10. KEVIN CLASH On this list for all the wrong reasons, the voice of Elmo and creative force of "Sesame Street" resigned after accusations of sex with minors (four and counting) surfaced. A "Street" puppeteer of household-name status, he created a cultural icon that will live on, but without Clash's voice.

9. JIMMY KIMMEL Easy call! Onetime sidekick on "Win Ben Stein's Money" will move to 11:30 p.m. on ABC next month. There, he may well become King of Late Night one of these nights or until such time as Jimmy Fallon or Craig Ferguson move to 11:30 (and then, let the new Late Night Wars begin).

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8. MICHAEL STRAHAN Speaking of kings, he replaces Regis Philbin, prompting millions to write, tweet or just think: "What the WHAT?!" It seems superfluous to observe, but a former Giants great has never done this before. Ratings are very good.

7. PETER DINKLAGE "Game of Thrones" fans know him as Tyrion Lannister, youngest son of Lord Tywin Lannister, who nearly lost his head in the Battle of Blackwater last season and such a good head it is. Cunning, devious, cruel and ... compassionate, ironic and rakish, Dinklage fronts the show's most compelling character. And expect some versatile big screen roles next year, from a film on Federico Fellini to another on Herve Villechaize.

6. KERRY WASHINGTON Lead of one of network TVs few growing hits this fall, Scandal, Kerry became the first African-American actress to have the lead in a network drama in almost 40 years. And then, there's there is Tarrantinos forthcoming Django Unchained, in which she stars opposite Jamie Foxx; this is her breakout year.

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5. IDRIS ELBA Lead of BBC's "Luther" -- a brooding, TV-type cop who takes the law into his own hands had a 2012 arc in the BBC's fine "The Hour" and was Janek, spaceship captain in Ridley Scott's film "Prometheus." Next year looms large for Elba: "Luther" returns and he plays Nelson Mandela on-screen.

4. KATE McKINNON The newest "Saturday Night Live" player is from Sea Cliff; of greater note, she does a wicked Ellen DeGeneres impersonation. She's also "SNL's" first openly gay cast member, has replaced the irreplaceable Kristen Wiig and clearly has a brilliant future here. (Did we mention she's from Sea Cliff?)

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3. CLINT EASTWOOD Steals oh yes, very much steals the Republican National Convention by conducting a conversation with a chair. Great director, great actor and great nutty theater. Chair did a good job, too.

2. LENA DUNHAM Coming not quite out of nowhere her indie, "Tiny Furniture," did indicate a glorious or at least interesting career but her HBO show, "Girls," was one of those zeitgeisty phenoms that led to a $3.5-million book deal she could retire on, several times over. Oh, and she's 26.

1. ROBIN ROBERTS Yes, the Champ of Fascinating circa 2012. She leads "Good Morning America" to the top for the first time in 16 years, then promptly bows out to get a bone-marrow transplant from her sister, as she battles a rare blood disorder that arose from previous treatment for breast cancer. Roberts' dignity and courage may not be exactly "fascinating," but they are inspiring, and that'll do just fine for this list.

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