The Emmy’s are back and with it, the Chaos Breeds Chaos Television Awards. For those unfamiliar with these awards (see also the 2014-2015, 2013-2014 and 2012-2013 awards), I’ve spent the entire calendar year (mid-September 2015 to mid-September 2016) watching as much television as my brain (and tastes) would allow, compiling a list of all the ups and downs of the 2015-2016 season. (The biggest surprise? The CW didn’t take home the prize for Best New Show!) This list of course only covers those shows I watched, so if you’ve seen something over the course of the season that you believe should be on the list, it may be missing simply because I don’t watch that particular show. Then again, it just may be omitted because I didn’t think it awesome enough (or cringe-worthy enough) to include. So please, leave your comments and choices in the comments section at your leisure. Now, without further adieu, here are the best, worst and most bizarre of this year’s TV offerings according to me, your avid TV watcher.
Best New Series: Preacher
How do I describe Preacher? If I had to give it the old college try, I’d say it’s an absurdly weird supernatural, modern-day western that plays by its own rules. As someone who was not at all familiar with the graphic novels the show was based on (and with Seth Rogen helping to run the show behind-the-scenes), I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. But from the first minutes of the first episode when a preacher explodes all over his congregation, I was hooked on the show’s brazen absurdity. The dialogue was consistently crisp, the characters wholly three-dimensional, and the story lines remained on point with nary a plot hole to be found. Being able to watch something that doesn’t care what its viewers think, following its heart down the rabbit hole of its own madness to the brink of alienation and doing so with delicate precision, was a refreshing change of pace. Kudos to all involved on making such a terrific show (that isn’t on the CW) shine brighter than an angel’s return from death.
Worst New Series: Scream Queens
In opposition to Preacher, within the first few minutes of watching Scream Queens, I knew right away this show wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. It was when they revealed their opening credits sequence that I understood why. I know a lot of people enjoy Ryan Murphy’s work, but I have never been able to make it past an episode of anything he’s created (The People Vs. O.J. Simpson may be an exception, but he was only a producer on that mini-series, as opposed to one of its creators). I’m not sure what it is, but Murphy’s writing style and visionary tendencies just don’t jive with mine, and as I sat there, being tortured by the first hour of the two-hour premiere, I couldn’t help but feel everything was so manufactured — and in a bad way. Every choice, from the characters and dialogue to the costumes and tone, were all wrong, and I couldn’t help but feel bad for Jamie Lee Curtis and Abigail Breslin (and to a lesser extent, Emma Roberts), who are all way better than the material they were given. Now I understand this was supposed to be a campy fright fest that made fun of horror and “mean girls” cliches, but there’s a right way to do that (see Wes Craven’s Scream), and this wasn’t it. It was too over-the-top, too forced and too in-your-face to allow me to feel any compassion for anyone, or even the ability to become invested in any character. By the end of that first hour, I had to wonder if being mowed over by Satan would be better than watching the second hour.
Weirdest New Show: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I’m not quite sure what to make of the new CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. At times it was quite cute and relaxing, and at other times was so over-the-top and bizarre, it was like watching a train wreck you can’t turn away from. Rachel Bloom is sweet and lovely as the title character, who moves to West Covina, California so as to be around a boy (Vincent Rodriguez III) she had a fling with several years earlier, but everyone else around her never seemed to find the right groove to sit in with her to make it all work. And don’t get me started on the songs, which came off as so amateurish, it seemed like a six-year-old wrote them after binging on candy and Mean Girls. And maybe that’s the point, and maybe it’s because I’m not a girl… but whatever it was, I just didn’t get it. I wanted to, and there were certainly moments that held my attention long enough to keep watching, but after the third episode, the crazy outweighed the sanity too much not to break up with the show.
First Show To Die Award: Wicked City
One of the last shows to premiere this past fall was also the first to die (officially). With networks taking a more comforting approach to the ax this season by reducing episode orders rather than officially canceling their poorly rated shows (see Minority Report, The Player, and Blood and Oil to name a few), Wicked City was the first show to be removed from the schedule after just two episodes, sending the bland characters and sexualized serial killers to their graves without a second thought.
Series that shouldn’t have been this good: Limitless
I’ll be completely honest with you — I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie Limitless. I found it to be somewhat derivative and a slow burn that never really found its voice. I’m probably alone in that assessment, but there it is. So when I heard they were developing a series around the film, I didn’t have high hopes for its success. But after a decent debut, the show found a strong voice, doing everything it could to buck the normal procedural trend while remaining true to its formula. Jake McDorman as lead character, Brian Finch, is amusing and relateable, fun and annoying, playing off of the entire cast like creamy butter to create an atmosphere that feels like home. The show fell into its own unique voice quite nicely, didn’t pander to its audience and wasn’t afraid to try new things, making each episode a little different, a little quirky and a little exciting. It’s a shame not as many viewers found this show in time to save it from a heartbreaking demise.
Series that should have been better: The Muppets
I’ve been a fan of the Muppets for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched all of their movies and television iterations (except for The Muppet Show, which aired before my time), so after their recent resurrection in theaters, I was excited to see them back on the small screen. Was the show awful? Far from it. There were multiple hints at a show that could have been one of the best on television. The problem was, there wasn’t any focus and there were too many jokes that didn’t quite land right. When the original showrunner was replaced in the latter half of the season, it got a lot better, and what made the Muppets shine so long ago came through in much more clever ways. But it ended up being too little too late, which is a shame, because by the last few episodes, The Muppets had finally hit the stride I’m sure the producers were hoping for when the fall season race began.
Best New Character: Jess “Mama” Sallander (Luis Guzman), Code Black
From the moment Luis Guzman appeared on screen teaching the new residents of Angels Memorial Hospital, he walked away with the Best New Character prize. Guzman has been around Hollywood for a long time, giving voice mostly to sidekicks and comic relief characters, and his time on Code Black is no different. But as the head nurse at a hospital that sees more influx of emergencies than any other hospital, he isn’t just a nurse, he’s the brains and the heart to an otherwise chaotic work environment. He is your mama, and with that comes the trust and the care and the hard hand that grounds the chaos into peace and serenity.
Best New Character in an Established Show: Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), Gotham
When he first appeared in season 1 of Gotham, Jerome was painted as the heir to the Joker throne. So when the showrunners announced they would be focusing on the villains in season 2, knowing Jerome would be back for multiple episodes was exciting to hear. And in his very limited time, he didn’t let me down. His maniacal laugh and insane antics lit up the show, overpowering the less than stellar story lines that muddled the first half of the season. Did he sometimes go a little too over the top? Sure, but that was sort of the point, and though I would have liked to have seen him given more screen time than he was actually allowed due to the other Arkham Asylum inmates that got under your skin, he made every moment count. And when it turned out that Jerome wasn’t the Joker of lore, and simply the inspiration for what was to come, that twist would become one of the most surprising of the season.
Come back tomorrow for more television awards, including the best twist, the most surprising death and the worst farewell of the 2015-2016 season. (Go to Part 2)