This season’s most noticeable trend: COVID-19 Finale Alterations
Though a lot of shows weren’t impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown (as filming had already been completed on all episodes), many shows had to shorten their seasons anywhere from one to five episodes, depending on their production schedule. While most of these shows, especially sitcoms and procedurals, had the luxury of simply ending their seasons early (without major cliffhangers to satisfy us until next season), some had to change or alter their story arcs to condense the season accordingly, leading to mixed results. The Blacklist had to complete what would end up being their finale with animation that in many ways distracted from what was actually happening (I would like to see them finish this episode once production starts again and then re-air it as it was meant to be seen); New Amsterdam completely removed an episode that introduced a new character due to the nature of the content (which they say will be aired eventually… we’ll see; at least The Resident didn’t shy away from their virus-themed episodes); Prodigal Son condensed a few of their storylines to make sure they could get the finale they wanted and did a fantastic job in delivering the finale they intended without losing any of the show’s integrity; and Supergirl, somehow pulled off a win by throwing some of the footage it filmed for its final episode into episode 19, which then served as its season finale.
Worst Anthology Switch: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages
Let’s start by saying that the first season of Miracle Workers was a blast. The entire season was overly absurd as a team of bumbling “miracle workers” fought to stop God (Steve Buscemi) from destroying the Earth by proving that love matters. It all worked because of the chemistry, the writing and the complete conviction that the performers had for the premise and nicely drawn out character arcs. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the second season. As we shifted focus into the medieval era and paired different actors together, it seems all of the chemistry, the writing and the magic of the first season had been stripped away. It was never clear as to the purpose for the season or if it was just an excuse for the actors to keep working. I don’t mind anthology series like this, but in the case of Miracle Workers: Dark Ages, nothing felt genuine as everyone simply went through the motions instead of believing in the foundation of the story.
Best Courtroom Testimony: Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe), Mr. Mercedes
In Holly Gibney, Stephen King wrote a fantastic character rooted in psychosis, paranoia and tics, and Justine Lupe was able to utilize all of it in order to became the perfect representation of the character from the book. Everything we’ve come to love and adore about Holly was on full display when she took the stand to testify in support of Lou (Breeda Wool), who was on trial for killing Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) with a 3-D printed gun in the second season finale. Her honesty and integrity mixed with every single little tick made for such a compelling testimony that fit the character like a glove. I was completely drawn to every word she spoke, leading to a series of stories that made you empathize for why Lou would do what she did. Lupe is a powerhouse performer who doesn’t get enough kudos.
Best Review of a Star Wars Character Arc: Dave Filoni, Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian
As part of Disney+’s Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian, one episode showcased the cast and crew discussing the legacy of Star Wars. In one of the best, most impassioned speeches I’ve seen from any fan, Dave Filoni lays out his reasons for why he believes Duel of the Fates, the epic lightsaber battle in Star Wars: Episode 1: The Pahntom Menace, is the quintessential moment in the entire Star Wars Saga. His ideas flow from his soul in a way that proves why he was the perfect person to bring life to not only the animated arm of the Star Wars universe, but take charge of pretty much everything connected with Star Wars television. He understands the complexities of what George Lucas was going for, explains his knowledge of the universe in glorious detail and defends his ideas in a way that is so clear and concise, it’s hard not to completely agree with him. Well, said, Dave. You are a true Jedi Master.
Most Poingant Confession: Eric (Jason Ritter), A Million Little Things
Admitting the truth is never easy, and watching Eric (Jason Ritter), the man who claimed to have received Maggie’s (Allison Miller) brother’s heart, confess his lie to her on the opposite side of a door made this scene even that much more poignant and devastating. Maggie is understandably upset with Eric for lying, but as he tells her why he lied, and the real recipient of her brother’s heart, you felt a deep connection to Eric and why he would do what he did. Should Maggie forgive him? That’s a question that’s hard to answer, but as Eric’s reasons were shrouded in his grief over the accidental death of his fiancee after she had received the heart in a miraculous turn of events, the innocence and compassion should allow Maggie to heal from the wounds caused by his deception.
Stupidest Stunt: Katy Perry, American Idol
Katy Perry can be an acquired taste, and though most of her antics are all in good fun, there are times where she can take the absurdity too far. Case in point: in the first “live” episode of season 18, Katy appears in a hand sanitizer costume. Though amusing at first, her wearing that getup for the entire episode quickly became grating, and in a way, felt extremely disrespectful to the contestants, who were already forced to forgo the usual Idol experience for the inconvenience of live recordings at their homes. She must have got some bad feedback, as in subsequent weeks, though she continued to wear silly costumes to begin the show, she didn’t leave them on throughout. It has been announced that she will be coming back as judge in season 19, so she better tone down the antics and allow the contestants to shine above her own glorified ego.
Most Devastating Therapy Session: Elliot (Ramy Malick) being forced to remember how his dad molested him, Mr. Robot
The entire commercial-free hour of the seventh episode of Mr. Robot‘s final season focused on Elliott (Rami Malek) and his impromptu therapy session with Krista Gordon (Gloria Rueben), both of whom had been kidnapped by Javi (Jahneer E. Williams) in order to get to the root of who Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is and why he is so important to Elliott. As we progressed through the episode, and Javi forces the doctor to pull the truth from Elliott’s subconscious (to Mr. Robot’s objection), Elliott learns that he wasn’t just protecting his sister (Carly Chaikin) from his father, but himself as well. Malek does some of his finest acting over the course of the episode (as does Christian Slater), but the moment the truth finally hits him, the pain and guilt and remorse that rises up in his soul is heartbreaking, leaving behind a moment that is incredibly emotional and downright devastating to watch.
Most Romantic Compromise: Shaun (Freddie Highmore) and Carly (Jasika Nicole), The Good Doctor
In an episode that found Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) conflicted about why holding hands was so important, we got a terrific compromise from his girlfriend, Dr. Carly Lever (Jasika Nicole). In the middle of the episode, Carly tells Shawn why holding hands is important to her, but he is still uncomfortable to physically touching anyone (outside of Lea (Paige Spara), but that’s a whole other story) in that way. Carly is saddened by this, but in the end, during the wedding of Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff) at city hall, Shawn and Carly held hands spiritually by coming as close as possible without actually touching, a moment that is not only tender and sweet, but probably more sensual than the actual act.
Biggest Diss: Jimmy (Brian Dietzen) not getting his moment with Ziva (Cote de Pablo)
In a two-part episode that officially revealed that Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was alive and on the hunt for those who tried to kill her, every character got at least one personal moment with her, whether they had worked with her in the past or not. All except for Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), the now NCIS medical examiner, who spent the entire second episode trying his best to get a chance to see her but never did. I think this was a major disservice to a long-time character of the show who never seems to get his due. Why give Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) a great moment with Ziva, but keep her from giving Jimmy a proper congratulations for his promotion? I know he eventually did finally get a very brief moment with her in a later episode, but by then it felt too little too late. Bad form, NCIS. Bad form.
Biggest Failed Experiment: Conducting live shows from people’s homes
Well, they had to try. With COVID-19 forcing productions to come to a shrieking halt, live performance shows had two options: end their seasons until production could begin again or try out a new format. American Idol led the way by filming their “live” shows from each of the contestant’s homes. Saturday Night Live and The Voice followed suit, providing their viewers with content despite having everyone forced to be separated. It was an interesting experiment at first, but it quickly became obvious that these types of shows just do not work when there isn’t a live audience. Performers, whether singer or comedian, need an audience in order to perform at peak levels. The feedback from a live audience helps produce adrenaline, which fuels the performer. When you strip that away, things tend to fall flat more often than not. For Idol and The Voice, this came in the way of horribly karaoke-style performances (though, some did rise to the occasion), and though the first episode of SNL: Stay At Home was fresh and interesting, by the time they did their third (and hopefully final) episode in this manner, it just felt like they were dragging their feet. The silver lining for all of this is that by the time America’s Got Talent got around to their live shows, they had figured out how to do it right; so although it still didn’t feel the same, at least they gave the contestants the love and support that they signed up for prior to the pandemic.
And thus concludes the 2019-2020 television season. Come back next year for more wonderful chaos in the world of television!