It’s that time again! The Emmy’s are right around the corner, so herewith are the best of the best of the 2016-2017 television season. Remember, these are NOT picks for who should win the Emmy’s — that show is so biased, I can’t watch! These are awards I give for the best and worst moments of the television season from the shows I actually watch (so no Game of Thrones or Empire moments; sorry). So please, leave your comments and choices in the comments section at your leisure. (For more fun, check out 2015-1016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014 and 2012-2013 awards.)
Best New Series: This Is Us
Based on the advertising campaign, I wasn’t sure I was going to like This Is Us. I was afraid it was going to be just another weepy chick-flick that would bore me to death with its melodramatic soap opera shenanigans. How wrong I was to believe that. Major twists aside, the show hits every note, every squabble, every loving moment with perfection. From Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack to Ron Cephas Jones’s William, there isn’t a weak link within the chain of actors, who create a terrific portrait of loving, flawed characters that keep you wanting more every week. Even the elements that do border on melodrama (aka, the inane love triangles, the philandering playboy who only seeks to win the heart of the one that got away) are handled with genuine affection and realism. NBC announced they were renewing the show for two more seasons, and rightfully so. If the acting, stories, and best of all, the writing stay at the level they’re currently at, this could end up becoming the best show of the decade, much less the year. Time will tell.
Worst New Series: Star
From the phony reboot of MacGyver to the misguided humor on Son of Zorn, I wasn’t sure which show that premiered this season would fall into this slot — until I watched the horribly overproduced premiere episode of Star. The shallowness of every character grates on you as the privileged band of starlets (which is odd, since a couple of them have had such a hard life and should know better than to be so stuck-up and rude) rise to fame. It’s not just the whiny brats that hurt your ears, either. The music is excruciating, with songs that not only feel forced but include layover tracks that make it clear there’s no way these girls are singing live. It’s so heavily mixed that the studio production screams at you at the top of its lungs and shoves you out of the show. One reason I think it keeps you at arm’s length is because if you really knew what was happening, you’d turn the station. I did anyway, and am probably better for it.
Weirdest New Show: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
What the h-e-double hockey-sticks is this show exactly? I’m not quite sure I even know, but week in and week out, it never failed to be absurdly humorous in a fun, intelligent way. Elijah Wood brought just enough daftness and resistance to Todd, who’s dragged into this insane new perspective on life by Dirk Gently (the breezy and likeable Samuel Barnett). There are enough twists to keep you entertained until all of the connections between time travel, mind-swapping, phantom shark-kitties and disease-sucking hoodlums are slowly built into one excellent show.
First Show To Die Award: Doubt
Who knew that the first show of the 2016-2017 television season to get officially canceled would be a show that premiered in February. With most networks continuing to hold on to their properties for as long as possible before making any official announcements, CBS ripped its freshman drama Doubt from the schedule after just two episodes. The Katherine Heigl debacle tried to be a mix of Boston Legal quirkiness and The Good Wife drama but ended up being something even The Grinder would find unwatchable. When the ratings for the premiere came in lower than an average episode of Code Black and then dipped even further it’s second week, the writing was on the wall without a Doubt.
Worst Show I Couldn’t Stop Watching: Aftermath
The dialogue was horrible, the acting was horrible, the holes were big enough to drive a mach-truck through, and yet, for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop watching Aftermath, SyFy’s original apocalyptic mess of a show. Maybe it was because the effects weren’t all bad, or because some of the ideas were strong, or maybe it’s because I like to torture myself with SyFy awfulness (How’s it hangin’, Sharknado!). Whatever the case, I followed the Copeland family to the bitter end. (Just so everyone knows, every episode was about one family member disappearing and the other’s trying to find them; and every episode seemed to get the characters into some sort of trouble they would miraculously find their way out of by the end with nary an explanation as to how.)
Series that shouldn’t have been this good: Lethal Weapon
As so many properties are being rebooted, remade or translated to television, it seems nothing is sacred. So when I heard producers were rebooting yet another movie that probably should have been left alone, I was all but ready to hate it. I mean, what are the odds that a television show convincingly recreate the magic chemistry between psychotic hot-dog Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and by-the-books family man Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) without Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, respectively? Somehow, they found a way. I give credit to the original Lethal Weapon writer, Shane Black, who returned to write the pilot and really set the tone for the rest of the series, but really, the show rested on the shoulders of its leads, and as far as Crawford and Wayans go, they absolutely hit it out of the park. The brotherly banter and annoyed friendship is spot on and the chemistry with the rest of the supporting cast compliments the frenetic, sometimes insanely comical action and deep dramatic heart at the core of what originally made Lethal Weapon such a great film.
Series that should have been better: 24: Legacy
What was once must-see television back in the early 2000s, FOX and the producers of 24 had to go and dilute it’s legacy with a tired, slow and overall boring reboot. Gone is the excitement that sparked the first few seasons of this game-changing show. Corey Hawkins is no Keifer Sutherland and it shows in his dry, monotonous delivery among a show that couldn’t figure out how to revitalize the series without returning to every single trope that the original series had already run into the ground. 24: Legacy could have been a return to form for the franchise, but instead, poor acting couldn’t help overcome the manufactured plot lines and uninteresting characters.
Best New Character: Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), This Is Us
Who wouldn’t want Jack as their father? Ventimiglia takes what could have been a simple, perfect, one-note father and transforms him into a layered, insecure human who hides every fear under a cloying smile and faithful heart. He’s authentic because he isn’t perfect, yet he wants so bad to be, that he somehow is able to turn lemons into lemonade at every turn, even when he feels so isolated and distant from the world at large. Credit to Ventimiglia who conveys the weight of the world on his shoulders through the subtlety of his facial expressions, displaying a fight between doing what’s wrong out of spite and doing what’s right for him, his wife and his children. And let’s not forget how terrific he is at making any facial hair work!
Worst New Character: Cruz (Richard Cubral), Lethal Weapon
The moment Cruz was first introduced, I hoped against hope that he would only be around for a single episode. Unfortunately, he stuck around for much longer than that, and with every scene, it was clear he didn’t belong. Not only did his acting style clash with the playful banter between Riggs and Murtaugh, but his chemistry with every cast member, especially with partner frequent partner Detective Sonya Bailey (Michelle Mitchenor) made it feel as if he was part of a completely different show. It seems, though, that the producers got the message, as Cruz was MIA for the last few episodes of the season. Here’s hoping his character doesn’t return for season 2.
Come back tomorrow for more television awards, including the best twist, the most surprising death and best milestone episode of the 2016-2017 season. (Read Part 2)