Despite COVID-19 stopping nearly all production in Hollywood for months on end, the show must go on. That’s right, the Emmy’s air this Sunday as normal (well, as normal as it can be), which means it’s time again for my annual TV Awards! (See previous Awards – 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013)
Not only was there plenty of shows to choose from on network TV, new streaming platforms, including Disney+, Quibi and Peacock, made their debuts, adding more content then we could possibly view unless we spent 24/7 on our couches… which, come to think of it, isn’t out of the realm of possibility these days. So, as always, over the next two days we’ll grant awards, good and bad, to over twenty series, compiling several actors, scenes and moments that resonated with me in some form or another over the tumultuous season.
Best New Series: The Mandalorian
Is it the hype? Is it my bias for everything Star Wars? Or is it simply because The Mandalorian was just that good? I think it may be a little of everything, but that’s why this show became the cherry on top of the 2019-2020 season. The Mandalorian had a lot riding on its shoulders, being the show that would basically make or break the launch of Disney+, and yet, Jon Favreau (together with animated Star Wars vet Dave Filoni) was up to the task, matching (maybe even exceeded) all the hype with terrific direction, an incredible score, streamlined stories that still had enough meat even if they didn’t completely move the story forward, and the most scene-stealing character this side of Boo. Better yet, it did what no other Star Wars property since Empire Strikes Back has been able to do — unite all Star Wars fans for the good by taking the essence of George Lucas’s vision and creating something entirely new and fresh. By mixing the use of old-school practical effects with new world-building computer-based technology, it gave everyone a visually-stunning piece of artwork that no one wanted to see end. At a scant twenty to thirty minutes per episode, The Mandalorian didn’t feel like it was enough to fulfill our weekly Star Wars fix, yet was exactly the amount we needed. If you haven’t guessed yet, I can’t wait for the next season.
Worst New Series: Carol’s Second Act
There were several shows this year that had the potential to fall into this spot, but when all was said and done, the winner for the worst show of the year has to go to Carol’s Second Act. The show, a work-place comedy set in the halls of a hospital, fell flat on its face with the first attempted joke. Nothing against the cast; alone they are perfectly fine (I’ve liked many of them in other shows). But as a group, the team had absolutely no chemistry and always felt as if they were all in a different show, each committing to a different tone depending on their own natural instincts. It was extremely difficult getting through the first episode, and even harder getting through the second. So, although it tried to do with comedy and medical shows what The Rookie was able to pull off in the the police genre, fortunately there will be no second act for Carol.
Series that shouldn’t have been this good: Nancy Drew
Based on the initial previews, and seeing as how I didn’t much care to witness the adaptation of a tween book series that started publishing long before the term tween even came into existence, let’s just say, I didn’t have high expectations for Nancy Drew. The first few episodes didn’t help, as the actors and the writing felt subpar at best. But I stuck with it, and as the season went on, both of those elements flourished. Soon, I was hooked on the mystery behind the death of Lucy Sable (Stephanie Van Dyck). Unaware that the show would feature such a heavy dose of supernatural aspects, the more they pushed into the fantastical, the better the show got. Riverdale with ghosts? It probably shouldn’t have worked; but it did, and I’m eager to see what case Drew (Kennedy McMann) and her crew of amateur sleuths face next season.
Series that should have been better: Batwoman
As the newest member of the CW’s Arrowverse, Batwoman should have fit right in. However, after the first half aired (before Crisis), the show still couldn’t find a solid footing among its partner shows. You’d think with all of the lore that’s already setup for the character, it would have been easy for Batwoman to settle into a groove right away, but for some reason, the show felt very incomplete. Ruby Rose [was] fine as Kate Kane, who discovers that her (missing) cousin Bruce is Batman, then takes up the mantle to track down her evil sister (Rachel Skarsten), whom she thought was dead. The premise was intriguing; I just never felt the full cast clicked the way it should (or could) have, and the writing was too dry to fit into the overall universe. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just couldn’t find a way to fully engage, and that’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to this one. (With the sudden change in casting that occurred just after the season ended, I may have to give this one a second chance. Perhaps Javicia Leslie is the spark the cast needs to bring some much-needed life to the proceedings.)
Best New Character: Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), Evil
Michael Emerson has graced our television screens for many years now. Beginning with sadistic Ben on Lost to the enigmatic tech wizard behind the man in the suit on Person of Interest, Emerson delights in every role he’s brought to life, no matter if he’s good or evil. But, in all honesty, he’s always better when he’s evil, so what a joy it was to see him return to our screens on a show called Evil as the psychological foil to Katja Herbers’ Kristen Brouchard. From subverting her diagnosis in court to manipulating her mother (Christine Lahti) into falling in love with him just to toy with Brouchard, Emerson made every moment he was on (and sometimes off) screen count. And that’s just the beginning, as he spends his days manipulating his patients to commit crimes to appease his master, the devil himself. Here’s hoping we get to see him cause even more havoc in season 2!
Worst New Character in an Established Show: Lena Bosko (Ronda Rousey), 9-1-1
Way back in 1999, a character named Maurice Boscorelli, aka “Bosco” (Jason Wiles) appeared on the pilot episode of a show called Third Watch. What was at the time a slightly generic show about first responders, it was Bosco who kept me interested enough to stick around to witness the show bloom into a powerhouse drama. From then on, whenever a show felt dry or stale, I would say it was because it didn’t have a Bosco. How disappointing was it, then, when a similar show with the same kinetic energy introduced us to their very own Bosko (Eonda Rousey) — one of whom was a complete failure. From her first appearance on the show, she just rubbed me the wrong way; every line reading felt like just that — there was hardly any emotion, and whatever passion there was felt extremely forced. As a transplant from another fire house (who took over Buck’s (Oliver Stark) spot on the fire crew), she never truly felt a part of the team and was always more annoying than exciting. Bosco’s name deserves so much better. Luckily, she was MIA for the latter half of the season. Let’s hope it stays that way moving into next season.
Most Underutilized Actor: Michael Sheen, Prodigal Son
Each week, Prodigal Son kept getting better and better. As the mystery of the girl in the trunk and what happened to Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) as a boy evolved, the case of the week and the chemistry between the cast continued to get better as the writers and the production crew found their footing. The only misstep was the underutilization of the shows best actor: Michael Sheen. Every time Sheen was on screen it was magnetic to watch. Though he did begin to get more screen time in the back half of the season (possibly because of other commitments he had in the first half), when he was missing, it was quite noticeable. There’s no doubt the producers chose the right person to portray the sadistic serial killer, I just wished they would have given him more time to grit his teeth and cause turmoil. Fingers crossed that he gets more to do (including helping his son solve some cases… and connect even deeper with Ainsley (Halston Sage)) in season 2.
Actor who’s better than the show: Steven Weber, Indebted
Steven Weber has been a part of television for a very long time, so to see him relegated to the mess that was Indebted was a bit sad if it wasn’t so grating. Paired with Fran Drescher as a dim-bulb couple who move in with their son (Adam Pally) after some problems with poor money management, Weber does his best to raise the bland material to the quality that he deserves. It didn’t help. When he wasn’t around, the show was nearly unbearable; when he was on screen, it never felt as if he really wanted to be there. Whether he agreed to this project as a favor or because he himself needed some fast cash, this fantastic actor deserves so much better.
Best Crossover: Crisis on Infinite Earths
The CW family of super shows (affectionately called the Arrowverse) has been on this list a lot for their outstanding crossovers. But there’s a reason for that — the production teams behind these five shows know how to get things done. So, although Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I. finally had there first (and sadly, their last) full crossover this season, I’m giving Crisis the award because of the legacy it leaves behind. Though we all knew that Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was most likely going to die during the crisis (as the flagship show, Arrow, was ending), it was a bit of a shock to watch him perish in the first episode of the 5-episode arc. However, the crossover had just enough Easter eggs to keep even the passing fan satisfied as it pushed to the finish line. Cameos abounded as we got to see the Smallville crew back in action, Burt Ward return for a brief holey moment as Robin, a quirky meta-moment as Brandon Routh (who plays Ray Palmer in Legends of Tomorrow) suits up once again as Superman, and of course two mighty surprises that needed a completely different award (see part 2). Fun, tragic and a nice farewell to the flagship show, Crisis on Infinite Earths was everything you needed to create a great crossover on the small screen.
Most Repetitive Series: Muppets Now!
I’m a big fan of the Muppets! I’ve seen all of their movies (some better than others) as well as all of their shows (outside of the original Muppet Show, which was before my time), so I was excited to see what the team at Jim Henson Studios had up their sleeves for the Muppets on Disney+. Overall, the concept was good, and the ideas and the execution behind the sketches was good. However, with so many characters in their arsenal, I am a bit confused as to why the crew decided to do the same sketches over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and- …. sorry. Got stuck there for a moment. In the first couple of episodes, the sketches were funny, cute and right on the mark. But as more episodes dropped with the same sketches in tow week after week, those same jokes I found funny at first just become rote and unimpressive. There’s a reason sketch shows like Saturday Night Live and In Living Color don’t perform the same sketches each week. By spacing these sketches out over time and giving other Muppet characters the spotlight would have given the show much more life and allowed us to enjoy the show for what it was meant to be instead of getting stuck in a rut as we watch the same retread over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-
Check out Part 2 of our Television Awards, which includes the Best Cameos, Most Surprising Death, and Cutest Creature of the 2019-2020 season.