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The 12 most fascinating TV people of 2012

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu)

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu) consult on a case in "Elementary." Credit: CBS

Wednesday, one Ms. Barbara Walters -- we know her fondly and familiarly as "Babs" -- will release her 10 most fascinating people/ 2012 edition at 9:30 p.m.; it's always an audience grabber because audiences love to grab onto her first choice and bicker over it. (Oh come on, really!?)  Naturally, we've got our own most-fascinating list here, and let the disputes begin -- but by "fascinating" we basically mean someone who's done something so unusual (good or bad) that eyebrows must be raised and questions asked. And with that ... on to our list!

12.) Jonny 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...

10.) Kevin Clash: On this list for all the wrong reasons, voice of "Elmo" and creative force of "Sesame Street" after accusations of sex with minors (four and counting) surfaced. The only "Street" puppeteer of household name status, he created a cultural icon who will live on, but without his 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 (umm) nights or until such time as Jimmy Fallon or Craig Ferguson move to 11:30 (and then, let the new Late Night Wars begin.)

8.) Michael Strahan: Speaking of Kings, he replaces Regis Philbin, prompting millions to write, tweet, or maybe just think: "What the WHAT?!" This may seem superfluous to observe but a former Giants great (NFL defensive player of the year, 2001; NFC player of the year, 2001, 2003) has never done this before. And 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, raksih, Dinklage fronts "GOT's" most compelling character. And expect some versatile big screen roles next year, from a film on Fellini to another on Hervé Villechaize .?.?.

6.) Kerry Washington: Lead of one of network TV’s 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 Tarrantino’s forthcoming “Django Unchained,” in which she stars opposite Jamie Foxx; this is her breakout year.

5.) Idris Elba: Lead of the BBC's "Luther" — brooding, takes-the-law-into-his-own-hands TV cop type — had a 2012 arc in the BCC's fine "The Hour" and was Janek, captain of the Prometheus in the Ridley Scott movie of the same name, but 2013 looms large for Elba: "Luther" returns, and he plays Nelson Mandela on the big screen.

4.) Kate McKinnon: Newest "Saturday Night Live" player is from Sea Cliff, but of greater note, she does a wicked Ellen DeGeneres impersonation; is “SNL’s” second openly gay cast member - LI native Terry Sweeney was the first; replaced the irreplaceable Kristen Wiig; and clearly has a brilliant future here. (Did we mention she's from Sea Cliff?)

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 hit, "Tiny Furniture," did indicate a glorious or at bare minimum interesting career — but her new HBO comedy "Girls" was one of those zeitgeisty phenoms that lead to a $3.5 million book deal she could retire on, several times over. Oh, and she is 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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