The Emmy’s air this Sunday, which means it’s that time again to present my awards of the Best (and Worst) of the 2018-2019 television season. (See previous Awards – 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013)
We start as always with more traditional categories, and over the next two days will continue with additional categories for moments that resonated with me in some form or another over the past television season.
Best New Series: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
I usually like to wait as long as possible before choosing the best new series of the year, as you never know when a gem will arrive. For the last several months, New Amsterdam was holding onto the top prize, and I was about to solidify its position as the number one show of the 2019-2020 season…. Then, at the tail-end of summer, I decided to try Netflix for the first time (mainly to see the new season of Lucifer) and discovered a glorious new show: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The 1982 film has slowly turned into a cult classic, and although there are good aspects to it, it can be extremely slow and meandering, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new prequel set in the time before the evil Skeksis wiped out all of Gelfling kind. It did take some time to get used to, but by the end of the second episode, the show truly hit its stride. From then on, I was hooked. Though we know where everything will eventually end up, the wonderfully distinct characters, masterful puppetry, terrific set designs, perfect flow, a brilliant mix of practical and CG that blend so well together you don’t know where one begins and the other ends, and wonderfully crafted scripts with plenty of twists keep your interest peeked and your investment worth every minute of time.
Worst New Series: Murphy Brown
I didn’t care for the original Murphy Brown when it aired in the late-eighties/early nineties, so it’s probably no wonder why the reboot didn’t grab my attention. In a year where most comedies, such as The Conners and The Cool Kids, failed to live up to the hype and the talent involved (or get canceled way too soon; keep reading for more on that), at least those shows had a few moments of pure joy and heart. Murphy Brown seemed to me to be one long tirade of bitterness. I’m not against political comedy, but to sustain humor, you need to be more diversified and come from a place of respect, which Murphy Brown was incapable of committing to. It’s no wonder they were eventually voted off the television lineup.
Series that shouldn’t have been this good: The Purge
Based on the four-film series, which started with an intriguing premise and devolved into a routine horror show that kept getting worse with each new installment (leading to a movie that failed on almost every level), it was hard to believe that I’d be interested in a series based on the franchise. However, television, it turns out, is the best medium for The Purge because it has the time to develop the premise in much more intriguing ways. Episodic television allows the writers to explore what’s happening with each character and help us connect with how and why each of them makes their decisions before and during the purge. It’s not a perfect show, nor is it the best thing on television, but it did do what it promised and lifted the franchise to a whole new level.
Series that should have been better: Nightflyers
Nightflyers had all the makings of a stellar sci-fi space opera: an intriguing premise, some interesting technology, a killer opening sequence and George R.R. Martin as executive producer. But the show itself ended up to be as lifeless as its ghostly A.I. Starting with the characters, who all solemnly trudged along through the swamps of sadness, the show couldn’t find a rhythm to hold your interest. The characters that were intriguing, like Thale (Sam Strike) or Lommie (Maya Eshet), ended up being wasted by a series of scripts that couldn’t even make sense of its own language. By the third or fourth episode, I had to force myself to hit play in hopes that the show would somehow find its groove. It never did.
Best New Character: Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), New Amsterdam
I was sorely disappointed when it was revealed that Tom Keen had officially died on The Blacklist. Tom started the show as a spy infiltrating Elizabeth’s (Megan Boone) life and turned into one of the best characters on the show as he tried to redeem himself. A spinoff eventually failed, but that wasn’t because of Ryan Eggold, who made Tom Keen the only bright spot in an otherwise generic spy thriller. But then he showed up in New Amsterdam as a doctor who becomes the head of a public hospital while also fighting throat cancer. From his first act of firing the entire cardio department to requiring Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) to stop spending her time making television appearances, Eggold infused Dr. Max Goodwin with a brain, a heart and courage to fight a system that cares more about money than its own patients. Always moving, never wavering in his resolve, Max is a force to be reckoned with, and every moment he is on screen shines with a spirit you want to embrace for all time.
Worst New Character: Gutierrez, aka “The Gute” (Paola Lázaro), Lethal Weapon
When the powers that be decided to fire Clayne Crawford from Lethal Weapon, everyone knew the show wouldn’t be the same. But if I was to put money on who would be the worst part of a Martin Riggs-less Weapon, I would have bet on Seann William Scott. However, although Scott was definitely a step down from Crawford’s Riggs, he was able to turn on just enough charm to keep things running smoothly. What I wasn’t expecting was a new addition to the team named Gutierrez. Self-proclaimed “The Gute”, Gutierrez was neither funny or charismatic. I believe the show wanted to use this character to bring back some of that naughty rule-breaking left behind by Riggs, but whether it was the character or Paola Lázaro’s infusion of pompousness, Gutierrez just never fit in with the rest of the cast. She tried too hard to be “edgy” and never quite hit the rhythm needed for the character to truly fill another character’s beloved shoes.
Best Ensemble Cast: New Amsterdam
Beginning with Ryan Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin (see above), the cast of New Amsterdam fires on all cylinders. Tyler Labine is beautifully resonant as Dr. Iggy Frome, the head of the psychology department, who respects every patient no matter what they may say or do to him; Anupam Kher as Dr. Vijay Kapoor is funny, knowledgeable and is always there to listen no matter his own problems; Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe only wants what’s best for everyone, doctor and patient alike; Jacko Sims as Dr. Floyd Reynolds is the voice of diversity; and Janet Montgomery as Dr. Lauren Bloom proves that everyone is fallible, and isn’t always willing to admit it. The show has found a few pairs it likes to keep together, but it’s for a very good reason, as each one works wonderful together. Individually each actor brings something new and fresh to their character, and together, they blend perfectly into a musical symphony that breathes new life into a saturated genre.
Worst Reboot: Roswell, New Mexico
Using basically the same premise as the original Roswell, Max Evans saves Liz after she’s shot in the Crashdown diner, exposing himself to be an alien from the 1947 crash. All of the familiar faces are here. What’s missing is the spirit that made the original show so fascinating and relatable. Julie Plec may have found magic with The Vampire Diaries and their off-shoots, however, when you take a show that worked so well with teens and update it with a pack of adults with hardly any charisma and zero chemistry, it simply made me want to grab the pilot of the original and revisit Roswell the way it was meant to be seen.
Worst Premiere Episode: The Conners
Despite the decision to fire Roseanne from her own show because of a stupid comment on social media, I wanted to give this new iteration a chance. Overall, The Conners (much like the roboot itself) was an uneven attempt at moving forward without its controversial matriarch. There were a few highlights, mostly when it came to Laurie Metcalf’s Jackie and the appearances by Johnny Galecki as Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) husband, David, but overall the show had a hard time finding its footing. And it all started with the initial episode, which picked up weeks after Roseanne’s death. From the jump, this felt odd, as we weren’t allowed to experience the immediate reactions from each character to that major life event. We hear about what each character felt, but it simply left me feeling a bit cold about the whole situation. Not to mention that a couple of episodes later, we see instances of grief (mostly by Dan (John Goodman)) that would have been better suited to appear prior to this episode, which also begs the question: was this actually the pilot? Whether it was or episodes got switched around, this particular episode set a poor precedent for the ultimate tone of the series moving forward.
Most Disappointing Cancellation: The Kids Are Alright
I wasn’t too excited about The Kids Are Alright when it premiered, but over time, the show found a rich, loving rhythm, and through that, the characters grew into their own one-by-one. From two parents who show their love by not caring about what their children are doing from one minute to the next, to kids who are always getting into trouble in one way or another, the show depicted a large family growing up in the seventies in the most honest, respectful way it knew how. All of the cultural references were subtle and the quarks of each kid, which started out grating and obnoxious, only became more endearing with each episode. It’s a shame ABC didn’t give this show a second chance; I have a feeling it could have grown into a phenomenon with a little more time and a little more love.
Check out Part 2 of our Television Awards, which includes the Best Multi-Character Twist, Most Surprising Death, and Most Vile Creatures of the 2018-2019 season.