Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Television 2015

With 2015 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

To reiterate:  the reasons for choosing a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

(My appreciation and judgment of a TV show should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility)

And now we here at Catholic Skywalker would like to celebrate the best in Television this year.

There are a lot of wonderful programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see (I only caught up on Doctor Who this year).

Shows we watch:

Big Bang Theory
Life in Pieces
The Grinder
The Middle
Satruday Night Live
Brooklyn 99
Master of None
Parks and Recreation
The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt
The Jim Gaffigan Show
Agents of SHIELD
The Flash
Doctor Who
The Walking Dead
Jessica Jones
House of Cards
Game of Thrones
Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars

Best Drama:


(from my Sunday Best TV Dramas of All Time #23)

Daredevil is a fantastic piece of television.  And regardless of where the rest of the series goes, what they have already accomplished is amazing.

The show follows the travails of a "street-level" superhero Daredevil (Charlie Cox) who beats up bad guys by night.  His alter ego, Matt Murdoch, is a lawyer by day and fights against large corrupt forces in his city.  He is aided by his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Hensen) who acts not only as comic relief but moral compass.  Also there is his girl Friday/Damsell Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who enters dramatically into their lives.  Together they must confront a shadowy underworld led by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio).

What makes this show stand out even after one season?

Let me reference The Dark Knight here.  One of the reason that film is reverenced in the super hero cannon was that it created an intricate social, moral, and mental landscape all the while grounding the the comic book genre in a tangible, rough reality.  And the true is the same of Daredevil.

In other words, Daredevil is The Dark Knight of TV shows.

-Doctor Who
-The Flash
-The Walking Dead

Best Comedy
Parks and Recreation

The show came to an end earlier this year.  Community also ended this year, but the producers of Parks decided to spend the entire series preparing for the goodbye.  And this is what sets Parks above Community this year.  Besides all of the humor, there was a wonderful sense of catharsis.  

The final season skips ahead 3 years, allowing for some funny moments imagining how society and technology will change in that time.  The biggest drawback is that the show, which has traditionally avoided most larger political issues, took its final season to get a little politically preachy.  That said, the focus was not on politics as much as character.  

The show also took a great deal of time to close the loop on all of their character arcs.  My favorite episode was the "Johnny Karate" episode.  Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) has a kid's entertainment show that is reminiscent of Stanley Spedowski's Club House from UHF.  The entire episode made as an episode of that show.  And it is as funny and crazy as I hoped.  

The final episode also gave us glimpses into the the future of all the characters.  The producers understood something that not enough storytellers do: after we spend so much time with these characters, we come to love them and we want to know that they are going to be okay.  Parks and Recreation gives us the chance to say our goodbyes with some tears but a lot of laughter.

The Big Bang Theory
The Middle
The Goldbergs

Best Actor in a Drama
Charlie Cox - Daredevil

When they originally cast Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, I thought it was a mistake.  He is not a bad actor. But in all of the previous roles I had seen him in like Stardust and There Be Dragons, he played a young, sometimes naive, innocent.  This is not the kind of beaten-down hero that Daredevil is.  

But I was wrong.  Cox knocked it out of the park both as Daredevil and his alter ego Matt Murdock.  I loved the way he carried himself throughout the series, often being robbed of access to his eyes, one of the most powerful instruments in an actor's toolbox.  I found the cadence of his voice, with its calm measure as Matt and its frantic desperation as Daredevil to be riveting.  I felt the wear and tear of Daredevil's life.  Every punch and kick he took felt painful.  Every punch and kick he gave felt exhausting.  And his dramatic moments, like his one with Foggy in his apartment, showed more range than I had ever seen on him.  This set him apart from all the others in his field this year.

Steven Amell - Arrow
Peter Capaldi - Doctor Who
Patrick Wilson- Fargo
Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead

Best Actress in a Drama
Rose McIver - iZombie

The crux of the show iZombie is that it is a police procedural where the Medical Examiner eats the brains of murder victims to help solve their deaths.  What makes this show different is that our zombie ME Liv, played by Rose McIver, takes on the personality and character traits of the person who died.  This is a TV actor's dream: to play the same character but be able to play them differently from week to week.  And McIver makes the most of it.  She shows incredible comedic and dramatic range whether she plays a spoiled house-wife, a cynical blogger, an old racist, or a talented song-writer.  McIver brings something new and exciting with each episode while keeping the through-line of her character.  The degree of difficulty along with the skill of execution makes her the best dramatic actress this year.

Stana Katic – Castle
Chloe Bennet - Agents of SHIELD
Jenna Coleman - Doctor Who
Krysten Ritter - Jessica Jones

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Jonathan Banks - Better Call Saul

This was one of the toughest calls this year because the quality of the supporting actors has been outstanding.  Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin was at first jarring, but then I realized its genius.  Jesse L. Martin continues to bring paternal heart to The Flash.  Lennie James raises the bar on an already great show like The Walking Dead.  And I gone on record as saying David Tennant's Kilgrave is the best villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe mostly because of his performance.  

But the best supporting actor this year had to be Jonathan Banks for Better Call Saul.  What sets him apart from these other great performances?  In a word: control.  Watching him in Better Call Saul, I'm watching a master of the craft of acting using all of his skills to create a character with every tool at his disposal.  His performance is so restrained, but you can feel the raging torrents underneath.  And then when those torrents break, it is done with such mastery over his emotions that every look and gesture twists the heart.

If you want to see why he won, check out the video below.  BE WARNED MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BETTER CALL SAUL

David Tennant – Jessica Jones
Jesse L. Martin - The Flash
Vincent D'Onofrio - Daredevil
Lennie James - The Walking Dead

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Debroah Ann Woll - Daredevil

Karen Page, played by Deborah Ann Woll, is a wonderfully complex character with several layers that are slowly pealed away throughout the series.  She is need of help, but she refuses to be a damsel in distress.  Woll plays her confidence while showing how out of her depth she often is.  She is able to take her character and turn her from terrified to confident to desperate to guilt-ridden in a very small space of time.  All the while she shows an amazingly deep range of emotions without becoming overly melodramatic.  She grounds Karen in a reality that makes all of her emotion more real and tangible.


Emily Brett Rickard - Arrow
Rachael Taylor - Jessica Jones
Jean Smart - Fargo
Kirsten Dunst - Fargo
Melissa McBride– The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy
Johnny Galecki - The Big Bang Theory

Often Johnny Galecki gets overlooked on The Big Bang Theory for his much lauded co-star Jim Parsons.  But I think this does a disservice to the wonderful comedic skills of this actor.  He plays the low self-esteemed nerd pefectly while making him identifiable and likable.  His speech to graduates made me laugh and laugh.  But what is often overlooked is his ability to use little bits of physical comedy, whether it is little leg lift as a "sexy" graduate or him dancing around in Penny's lingerie, a scene that I caused me to howl with laughter.  Galecki was able to show his dramatic range this year with his last-minute confession to Penny before marriage, the wedding vows, and the subsequent quarrels.  But even in all of this, Galecki never lost the humor and brought the laughs whenever possible.

Andy Sandburg - Brooklyn 99
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Nick Offerman – Parks and Recreation
Joel McHale - Community

Best Actress, Comedy
Ellie Kemper - The Unbreakable Kimmi Schmidt

The Unbreakable Kimmi Schmidt is not a good show.  It has some very funny moments, but it is mostly an exercise in frustration.  But regardless, Ellie Kemper is a star.  She elevates the show with her dynamic energy.  She is a fantastic comedienne, both in line-delivery and physical comedy.  She has a natural charisma that draws her to be the center of attention.  And playing Kimmi is not as easy as it would seem for such a broad comedy.  While most of the other characters are completely dimensional, Kemper makes sure not to play Kimmi's wonder as stupidity.  Her optimism is not naivet√©.  And the fact that everyone else around her is awful, she is able to bring great humor by foiling them.

Wendy McLendon-Covey – The Goldbergs
Kaley Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Patricia Heaton – The Middle
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Simon Helberg - The Big Bang Theory

This may have been the most dramatic turn for Simon Helberg's Howard Wolowitz.  The death of his mother was devastating and Helberg pulled at every heartstring in a way that I have never seen him do before.  But that would not have been enough for him to win this award, since it is in the comedy category.  What puts him over the top is the way in which he uses the comedy to highlight the tragedy and the tragedy to highlight the comedy.  A lot of credit should be given to the writers, but Helberg executes this difficult juxtaposition with great skill and none of his sudden tonal shifts feel false.  He was fantastically funny and heartbreaking this year.

Adam Scott– Parks and Recreation
Danny Pudi – Community
Chris Pratt – Parks and Recreation
Keith David – Community

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Gillian Jacobs - Community

"Britta is the worst." That is the most common thing said about Gillian Jacobs character on Community.  And in its final season, Jacobs gave her performance its full comedic force to show her as "the worst," which made her comedy the best.  She has always been a rebel looking for a cause.  The episode where we finally meet her "oppressive" parents, is both silly and realistic.  Her reaction, particularly when she steals the big wheel, is done with such a manic desperation that does not comport with the situation that it cannot help but be hysterical.  And through it all, there was actually some growth for her as a character that Jacobs brought forth as the series came to a close.  I am going to miss her being "the worst."

Aubrey Plaza – Parks and Recreation
Alison Brie – Community
Eden Sher- The Middle
Mayim Bialik - The Big Bang Theory

Stay tuned next week for the CatholicSkywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2015

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