Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Television 2012

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 the The West Wing this year).

Here are the hows we watch:

How I Met Your Mother
New Girl
The Middle
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
Big Bang Theory
The Office
The Soup
The Mindy Project
Go On
Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Beauty and the Beast
Downton Abbey
Amazing Race

The winners, therefore, must be taken from this list.  If anyone has any recommendations for shows I should add to our nightly viewing, let us know.

So, without further ado, this year's winners are:

Best Drama:

Every mystery show in some way has been influenced by Sherlock Holmes. And so if you are going to do a show about the preeminent detective, you had better bring your A-game. And that is exactly what the producers of the BBC show Sherlock have done. The concept is simplicity itself: tell the Holmes stories in today's world. In fact, most of the stories have their basis somewhere in the original Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries. No small amount of credit should be given to the lead actors: breakout stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. Cumberbatch brings a lot of flawed, nearly psychotic tendencies to Holmes. But he makes him fascinating enough to watch. Freeman gives us enough of an everyman connection to keep us emotionally tethered to the stories. One other excellent innovation is that each episode is 90-minutes. This makes it feel like a self-contained movie, with full arcs and character development in one sitting. But above all, the show is smart. And this season watching Holmes match wits with his equals in Irene Adler and James Moriarty has made for some amazing television.

-Downton Abbey
-The Walking Dead

Best Comedy

Once again, this show wins top spot. Only 12 episodes of Community aired in 2012. But there was more wit, creativity, and genuine belly laughs in those 12 episodes than can be found in many sitcoms today. It doesn't look like Community is long for this world, which is a crime against TV. Community not only understands and dissects pop culture and media genres (look at last year's brilliant send up of Ken Burns' documentaries and Law and Order, not to mention the love letter to 8-bit video games that was “Hawkethorne”), but they use them as a means of character development. As silly as everything is on the show, it still beats with a very real heart. The season finally tied up main character Jeff's (Joel McHale) entire character arc from the pilot episode. In the very first episode he espoused moral relativism and that truth was whatever he said it was. But after finding true friendship, he knows that there are things out there that are real. They may be really weird, but they are real. When the show comes back in February, do yourself a favor if you haven't watched it yet (and I say this without hyperbole) : check out one of the best shows in TV history.

Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
The Office

Best Actor in a Drama
Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead

Most actors who win in these dramatic categories tend to do so because of their emotional intensity, which Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes has in spades. As the leader of the small band of survivors, Rick must make decisions that are decisive but may be deadly. And it is Rick that has to live with the consequences. Lincoln gives Rick the sense of solid strength we need to see from someone that others would trust with their lives. And he shows how this trust wears away at his soul. He takes on all of the burdens and gets all of the blame. Lincoln makes us understand Rick, even when we disagree with him, and makes us care about him enough to keep watching his journey, even if we can see no hope in the end. The level of emotional darkness that Lincoln has had to plumb already in this season show us a man whose soul is slowly being clawed apart.

Nathan Fillion – Castle
Johnny Lee Miller - Elementary
Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock

Best Actress in a Drama
Sutton Foster – Bunheads

It is easy to dismiss Foster as simply a reboot of Lorelei Gilmore from Amy Sherman-Paladino's other classic show Gilmore Girls. And to be sure, the personality and vocabulary are identical. But Foster infuses her dancing fish-out-of-water Michelle with a lot more quirky energy that adds layer upon layer of texture. Unlike Lorelei who had to grow up because of her daughter, this is what Lorelei might have been if she had never gotten pregnant. The result is that Foster must portray this neurotic, lost, intensely witty character while also showing us the the emptiness she has from being rootless. She peppers her performance with charismatic and unique voice inflection and body language that make clear there isn't another actress like her on television today.

Stanna Katic – Castle
Sarah Wayne Callies – The Walking Dead
Emily Van Camp - Revenge

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister, the character Peter Dinklage plays on Game of Thrones is not a good man. He is lecherous, deceitful, and ambitious. But unlike many of the characters on the show, he tries. He tries to be good as best he knows how. And that is the wonderful struggle that Dinklage shows us. And he does it with such amazing charm that you cannot help but root for Tyrion, even when he is wrong. And he gives Tyrion so much gravitas that he convincingly rallies his deserting army to defend their city. His plea is not for glory, but a simple heartfelt appeal to protect the basic things of life: home and family. And he delivers his last line of the speech with a matter-of-factness that implies the imperative of duty: “There are brave men on the other side of these walls. Let's go kill them.”

Colin Donnell - Arrow
David Morressy – The Walking Dead
Martin Freeman - Sherlock

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Lara Pulver – Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is the stuff of legend. He is the ultimate opponent in a battle of wits. Lara Pulver's Irene Adler from the show Sherlock needed to be as good and as believably legendary. And Pulver delivered. Her Adler is playful but predatory. She chameleon-like adapts to any situation she is in and gives the appearance that she is in complete control (even when she is not). And she makes us believe that she could have true feelings for Sherlock. But we are never quite sure if that's real or just an act. Adler is that good of an actress. And so is Pulver

Laurie Holden – The Walking Dead
Lauren Cohan- The Walking Dead
Lena Heady – The Game of Thrones
Danai Gurira – The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy

Nick Offerman - Parks and Recreation
Outside of Amy Poehler, Offerman's Ron Swanson is the most iconic character on the show. The writers deserve a lot of credit for not making him simply a punching bag for his non-liberal views ala All in the Family and Last Man Standing. But Offerman plays Ron so uncompromisingly sure that it is a surprise that he is so likeable. He is so perpetually annoyed with everyone and everything, but in a way that gives voice to your own frustration. Offerman is able to convey a great deal of comic intensity in great stillness. His deadpan is so funny because you can't tell if he's joking or about to kill you, which makes it all the funnier.

Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
Ty Burrell – Modern Family
Joel McHale - Community

Best Actress, Comedy
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Once again Amy Poehler takes the best actress spot. There are a lot of good women comedians out there, but Poehler is the funniest one working in television today. Her Leslie Knope is full of an insane amount of energy that you work hard just to keep up. And it is very difficult to play someone fully sincere while at the same time not making them stupid. But Poehler's Knope is smart, but she wears her heart on her sleeve. She gives herself over to any emotion she feels, like Homer Simpson if he we was oriented towards public-spiritedness. What's great is watching Leslie try to overcome things that she can't. After she has a mini-breakdown from lack of sleep because of her heated campaign for city council, I dare you not to laugh.

Zooey DeChannel – New Girl
Kalee Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Patricia Heaton – The Middle

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy

Dany Pudi -Community

When Pudi's Abed is his normal self and not pretending to be someone else, the actor has a very limited palate to work with. Abed's emotional deficiencies mean that Pudi must continually limit his range of feelings. Abed feels things but doesn't know how to express them or see them in others. And yet he is very observant and caring. And witty. Abed has some of the best lines on the show, because he delivers it with an understanding that they are on a TV show. But where we see his skill work best is when he confronts “Evil Abed.” There is a believable character difference between the two beyond the superficial. In his narrow window, Pudi builds a mirror-universe version of Abed that is as emotionally unavailable but also morally repellent. He does that mostly with subtle changes to voice and body language, but he also does it to great comedic effect.

Neil Patrick Harris– How I Met Your Mother
Donald Glover – Community
Nick Offerman – Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory

When they first introduced Bialik's Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, she was meant to be a female Sheldon. And if you look at her early performances, they were not very good. She gave stale, flat answers as a way of conveying lack of emotion. But a character is not about what isn't there, but what is. And so Amy was only a flat, uninteresting character. But slowly Bialik has built an inner life to Amy so that we can now see her in 3 dimensions. Unlike Sheldon, she has a raging, beating heart in her, but it is smothered by over-intellectualism and social awkwardness. But Bialik shows you this emotionally raw and primal person hiding beneath her frumpy exterior. And it is when this emotional repression finally leaks through her brainy exterior that the laughs come flowing.

Aubrey Plaza – Parks and Recreation
Yvette Nicole Brown – Community
Alison Brie – Community
Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope

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