It’s been another year of television goodness, which means it’s once again time to present my annual TV Awards to all the shows I had time to watch over the past 12 months! (See previous Awards – 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013).
As always, these awards, good and bad, are for those shows or episodes that aired or streamed from this time last year, and only includes those shows in which I watched at least one episode. Of all of the shows I watched that fit that category, old and new, I will be handing out awards to twenty-six series that cover all types of actors, scenes, and moments that resonated with me.
Up first, we got all of the familiar categories, including Best Series, Best and Worst Reboot, and Best Ensemble. Read on to see if your favorite won.
Best New Series: Foundation
I went back-and-forth on what show was most worthy of this award. There were a few shows I could have easily handed Best New Series, however, when it all came down to it, I couldn’t disregard the enormous effort everyone on the production and at AppleTV+ put into making Foundation so incredibly captivating. From its mesmerizing effects and immersive set designs, to the clear storytelling and brilliant performances, every note played was perfectly executed. The biggest feat was making all of the pieces, including a time-span of hundreds of years, multiple generations, several planets, a multitude of characters and motivations, and plenty of political fodder, easy to follow without allowing the cogs of time to get so muddied it becomes confusing. Among all the other shows that proved their might over the past year, Foundation found a way to create a majestic world with enticing characters that kept you fully engaged across time and space.
Worst New Series: Astrid & Lilly Save the World
On the flip side of Foundation, you have Astrid and Lilly Save the World. About ten minutes in, it became clear this show was nothing but a cheap knockoff of plenty of other similar shows that felt as if it was written by a six-year-old with a four-year-old’s drawing as inspiration. The characters were annoying or out-of-place, the makeup and effects were shoddy, and the show never seemed to have a grasp on its own mythology. When it came to the scene where we see the first villain stealing the tears of teenagers, I had to finally write-this one off as a lost cause. I know some people enjoyed the show, but for me, I just didn’t see the point in wasting my time.
Best Limited Series: Dopesick
I wasn’t sure about Dopesick when I first saw the previews for it. With our current culture, I was half expecting the show to keep itself reigned in on the subject matter, sticking with a surface-level narrative that would refrain from offending any sensibilities. So, call me pleasantly surprised when the show actually dug deeper into what caused the opioid crisis of the mid-late nineties to occur and how everyone involved, including the makers of Oxycontin, the pharmaceutical reps, and the doctors, pushed this drug into the marketplace to make as much money as possible without any regard to what it was actually doing to its victims. The scariest aspect, of course, was how closely related a lot of the concepts they used to push the drug correlate with what’s happening in the world today. Great performances from all involved and a strong subject matter make Dopesick one to check out.
Most Unique Premise: Severence
As a writer, Severance has a premise I wish I had come up with: a device allows someone to be able to separate their home life from their work life. What I wasn’t so sure about was how they would execute this premise into a strong story. What they ended up doing was beyond my wildest imagination. The way they utilize the premise was unique and interesting and creates a world that gave the premise time to breathe, providing pieces and hints throughout that would eventually culminate in a killer finale, but didn’t hide every secret to the point where it felt like they didn’t know where the show would go beyond a first season. They say originality is dead; Severence proves there’s still some life left when you put in a little effort.
Best Reboot: Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock
When it was announced that Fraggle Rock was returning to our television screens, I was more than ready to once again let the music play and dance my cares away. However, I was worried that, like a lot of television reboots, Back to the Rock would try too hard to capture the magic of what made the original show what it was. Luckily, the producers chose to keep every aspect, including the music and voices, in tact. From The Gorgs and their radish garden to the trash heap’s sage advice and Uncle Traveling Matt’s postcards, the reboot not only brought back a warm feeling of nostalgia, but it felt as if the Fraggles had never even left our screens. When it did make changes, such as the multiple-episode story arcs, they fit quite nicely without fracturing the essence of what we all cherish. The only change I don’t think worked all that well was the new scientist. I don’t know if it was her age or the environmental storyline they straddled her with, but it always felt she was on a different wavelength from the rest of the show, especially when it came to her camaraderie with devoted dog, Sprocket. Overall, though, the show provided a new generation a tasty morsel of what us old-folk remember from our childhoods.
Worst Reboot: 4400
There’s a reason Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock is in production on Season 2 and 4400 was canceled after one season. Unlike Fraggle Rock, 4400 didn’t do its mothership series justice. The producers could have easily made this show a continuation of the previous iteration, bringing back a few characters from the original run to bridge into this one (think CSI: Vegas). They chose instead to redo the entire premise, and in so doing, gave us nothing but bland characters that did nothing but whine and preach. None of the actors had any chemistry with one another and it felt very much like the only reason they did anything was to fill a quota or push an agenda. From the couple of episodes I watched, there was nothing to like about any anything. The characters were all cliché messes and the acting and writing were all mediocre at best. It’s a shame because the original was something special that gave us at least one Oscar-winning actor (Mahershala Ali). No such luck with this reboot.
Best Ensemble: Ghosts
Ghosts (based on the British show of the same name) is one of those shows that grows on you very quickly. Based on the premise, my biggest fear going in was that it was poised to become like almost every other ensemble comedy these days where each character is given a hyper-annoying characteristic that’s pushed to the edge and beyond until they are so irritating they become unwatchable. Fortunately, the writers found a way to provide a terrific balance between the absurd and the genuine. With such whip-smart writing, each actor was able to imbue their inevitable quirk or hyper-personality subtly into their character so it never overwhelms there personality, but instead enhances the reality of who they are, the troubles they go through as ghosts, and the need and want to eventually get sucked off (their words, not mine). Together, along with great performances by Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar, every character plays perfectly off one another to form a tremendous ensemble that are noticeably missed when they’re absent from an episode. In other words, the show could have gone off the rails real quick had it not been for such a fantastic stable of actors to give depth to these haunted souls.
Worst Ensemble: NCIS: Hawai’i
When procedurals spin their shows off into new cities and states, it’s always a gamble that the new iteration will work as well as its predecessor. With NCIS (which was a spinoff of its own), each replica has been hit or miss. Though many people like NCIS: Los Angeles, I always preferred NCIS: New Orleans. Now we have NCIS: Hawai’i, and I have to say, one episode was enough for me (except when forced to watch because of an NCIS crossover). Aside from the poor writing and the cinematography coming up short in capturing the amazing island views, the cast of this new NCIS was completely flat. The chemistry was non-existent, the acting in several cases was subpar at best, and even those characters who were supposed to be fun and enigmatic came off as copies of a copy of what made the original NCIS cast so dynamic. It felt to me as if each character was investigating a different case even when they were together, and that, my friends, did not bode well for future episodes.
Series that should have been better: La Brea
With a Lost-like mystery at its forefront, La Brea was poised to be the break-out hit of the year (a water cooler series if there ever was one). So it’s disappointing to see such an intriguing premise go to waste the way it did. The twists and plot lines were all where they needed to be, but with some poor writing, questionable special effects, a lot of muddling characters that changed motivations week-to-week, and a lot of mediocre performances, nothing in this show ever clicked the way it should have. Will I continue watching; yes, as I continue to hope things will change for the better. Do I think it will get better? I’m not sure. In the end, La Brea is a show that should be so good, you can’t wait for the next episode, but it’s ultimate outcome just makes you wish there was more power and intrigue behind the mystery.
Best New Character: Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley), The Big Leap
Everyone knows that producers of television shows, especially “reality” shows, are parasites. And no one shows this side of Hollywood better than Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley), producer of The Big Leap. There are so many emotions spinning around in Nick that you half expect his head to explode at any minute, and Foley does a terrific job of balancing a mix of desperation, love of entertainment, empathy, and grit to make Nick lovable and authentic. As we watch the show within the show develop, we get a kick out of watching Nick manipulate almost everything behind the scenes to capture the perfect emotional balance that will keep viewers watching, and in turn, hold the real viewers attention in a way that keeps you engaged enough for the other characters to slowly develop into an ensemble that works on different levels. If it wasn’t for Nick, I’m not sure I would have stuck around for the show to blossom into what it eventually became, despite its eventual cancellation.
Next week, check out Part 2 of our Television Awards, which includes a lot of story-based awards, including Best Twist, Best Storytelling Device, Most Pointless Death, and the Oddest Narrative Shift.