Thursday, December 28, 2017

Catholic Skywalker Awards 2017 - BEST IN TELEVISION

With 2017 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 (so I'm told) programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see suck as The Defenders, Ozark, The Punisher, Runaways, etc.

Shows we watch:


Big Bang Theory
Kevin Can Wait
Me, Myself, and I
The Middle
Satruday Night Live
Brooklyn 99
The Mayor
Last Man Standing

This is Us
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Flash
Doctor Who
The Walking Dead
Legends of Tomorrow
Stranger Things
Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars

Best Drama:

Stranger Things

A number of people have said that this current season of Stranger Things is not as good as the first. 

They are correct.

But it is still the best TV show right now.

Admittedly this season had two missteps: the 11-centric solo episode and the very uninteresting Jonathan/Nancy storyline.  But even at its worst, the show is still immensely entertaining.

While the show is filled with nostalgia, that is only the icing on the cake, not the substance.  The story is still about these average/extraordinary people who have to deal with an extraordinary problem. 

One of the things that this series does well is create unexpected character depths where normally there would be paper-thin templates.  Last year we saw this especially with Steve Harrington.  This year we see it in others.  Bob should be a dopy goof.  Murray should be a paranoid con man.  Dr. Owens should be a heartless monster.  But the show plays with tropes and expectation not for the sake of simple misdirection.  They build up the characters to create a richer narrative.

And this turn into the unexpected led to some great moments, not the least of which is the pairing of Steve and Dustin for much of the story.  They create such an unlikely bond that it cannot help but draw you in.  Also watching the love triangle develop between Lucas, Max, and Dustin was a real delight that mirrored early school crushes.

At the same time the show expanded its mythology in a way that felt organic from the last season while completing an entire story arch this season.  All the while the show has been infused with some of the best child acting on television today.

Thematically, I love how they tie the coming of age difficulties in with the overarching supernatural plot. 

If this show can maintain this level of quality for its entire run, it may be in the rankings for one of the greatest of all time.

-Doctor Who
-This is Us
-The Flash

Best Comedy
Last Man Standing

I only discovered this show less than a year ago and it is now off the air. 

Even so, it's last season still had some incredibly big laughs and big heart.  

One episode I particularly loved is when Mike realizes that his adult children have stopped going to church and this was a problem that needed solving.  One of the reasons this episode worked so well was that it wasn't the expected sermonizing you might find in other television shows.  Instead, he had his daughters take ownership of their place in the church and this brought them closer to their faith.

However, good values do not a great sitcom make.  The show had to deliver on the laughs, which it did.  The laughs were wonderfully found in the constant tension between Mike and everyone else.  It was great to see jokes made at the expense of people of every kind of political stripe and philosophy.  No one was spared ridicule and that makes for a fertile field of joke telling.  This show will be missed.

The Big Bang Theory
The Simpsons
The Middle
The Goldbergs

Best Actor in a Drama
Martin Freeman - Sherlock

You might think that this award should go to the actor playing the title character.  But not this time.  This year, Martin Freeman stole the show playing a man dealing with such volotile and contradictory emotions.  


Watching Freeman's Watson slowly have his integrity softened and then to be brought to the brink of absolute despair and hatred only to be brought back by the ghost of the one he lost.  He loves Sherlock but he needs a place to put his anger and the unfairness of his loss.  While at the same time Watson deals with the guilt of wanting to cheat on his wife.  This leads to one of the best dramatic performances I've seen on television:

On top of this, I love how Freeman acts with his entire body when dealing with any situation.  Watch how he uses his hands to express his guilt and rage or his posture to show is hesitation.  This is the work of a seasoned actor who deserves accolades.

Peter Capaldi - Doctor Who
Milo Ventimiglia - This is Us
Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock
Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead

Best Actress in a Drama
Millie Bobby Brown - Stranger Things

Though she is not given a lot to say, Millie Bobby Brown steals every scene that she is in.  In fact, the degree of difficulty for someone of her age to portray a character this enigmatically and charismatically is quite remarkable. 

Eleven is such an interesting character because she carries with her a deadly maturity that you begin to forget that she is still a child.  In fact, she is more innocent in many ways than most children her age.  Brown is able to convey believably both extreme contradictions in her personality to great effect.

And do not discount the difficulty of making us believe that she has these extraordinary powers.  Yes the special effects do help, but she sells it with her complete commitment to her performance so that we see believe the power radiating off of her.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Fargo
Mandy Moore- This is Us
Amanda Abbington - Sherlock
 Pearl Mackie Doctor Who

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Jessie L. Martin - The Flash

Jessie L. Martin's performance on this series has long been a highlight of this show.  But it has never been more evident as his Joe West begins to feel the tight grip of desperation to save his daughter as the clock ticks down.

He made the fear and despair palpable to watch and felt everything he did as the gravity of the moment arrived.  All the while Martin has been playing a character struggling to maintain a normal life in such strange circumstances.  He strives to be the voice of common sense and reason while doling out his fatherly insights.  And this season we've watched as he struggled with letting go of that role and letting his kids grow up. 

And of course he is able to play the comedy moments perfectly.  That look on his face when he found out he was going to be a father again... priceless.

Justin Hartley - This is Us
Sterling K. Brown - This is Us
David Harbour- Stranger Things
Jeffrey Dean Morgan - The Walking Dead

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Sian Brooke - Sherlock

You could chalk it up to a trick of makeup, but it was amazing to me that this actress could appear as multiple characters in the same episode and I was unable to pick up on this fact.  Sian completely morphed into whatever dramatic shape that the scene needed and began hiding in plain sight.

Not only this, but she was able to match acting chops with Cumberbatch and Freeman, who are also at the top of their game.  She was able to convey genius and insanity with the perfect blend of charisma and horror.  

Chrissy Metz - This is Us
Emily Brett Rickard - Arrow
Susan Kelechi Watson - This is Us
Melissa McBride– The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy
Tim Allen - Last Man Standing

It would be easy to write off Tim Allen's performance as a one-note curmudgeon.  And while that is what we find in much of his character, Allen knows how to the play the part pefectly as a man out of step with everyone else and not caring a fig about it.

His Mike Baxter does go on his rants, but it his reactions that make the most comedy.  When he responds to something he considers insane, the simplest eye squint or nose wrinkle illicits big laughs.  

On top of this, he is still able to infuse Baxter with some real paternal affection.  If not, then all of the times he acts tenderly towards his family would fall completely flat.  Instead Allen plays the part all too familiar in many families of the father who seems out of step with his children but would do anything for them.

Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Johnny Galecki - The Big Bang Theory
Neil Flynn - The Middle
Jeff Garlin - The Goldbergs

Best Actress, Comedy
Patricia Heaton - The Middle

(The following last year's award, which Heaton also won.  All of it still holds up)

Frankie Heck is one of the most infuriating mothers on TV because she embodies all the foibles of suburban moms.  She is constantly a person who thinks the grass is always greener on the other side.  She builds up family events in her head more than they should.  And she never gives 100% of her effort to anything.  

And what makes Heaton's performance so wonderful is that despite all of this, we love her.  She gives Frankie a real relatable heart.  All of her faults are only exaggerated versions of the faults that most of us lower-middle class Americans experience.  

And unlike her character on Everybody Loves Raymond, Heaton has wild mood swings and is the unstable one in the family.  This season has been particularly fun watching her twist inside as she seethes about Axel's dim-witted girlfriend and then ride the emotional seesaw of her fractured relationship with him.

At a time when many actors in sitcoms begin phoning in their performances (I'm looking at you Jason Segel in How I Met Your Mother), Heaton is just hitting the gas.

Wendy McLendon-Covey – The Goldbergs
Kaley Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Nancy Travis - Last Man Standing
Lea Michelle - The Mayor

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Marcel Spears - The Mayor

One of the things I love about picking up new shows is the discovery of new talent.  The Mayor is a fairly decent show, but Marcel Spears is fantastic in it.  He delivers his lines with the quick wit of a Marx brother but does so with the innocence of a Shirley Temple.  Perhaps that last sentence was a bit hyperbolic, but Spears is able to take mediocre jokes and give them such unexpected life and personality that he is the real breakout of this series.

Christopher Sanders . - Last Man Standing
Kunal Nayar - The Big Bang Theory
Terry Crews - Brooklyn 99
Simon Helberg - The Big Bang Theory

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Molly Ephraim - Last Man Standing

Ephraim's Even Baxter used to be a one-note caricature.  And to be sure Ephraim played the part to the end with incredibly broad humor.  But over the years she stood out as the primary Baxter daughter whose storylines helped carry the show.  Ephraim could pull off complete vapidity only to call us back to some real pathos underneath it all.  Her chemistry with Christopher Sanders' Kyle as two idiots in love, brought some of the series best jokes.  To this day, my wife and I still giggle at their "turtle kiss" bit.  And that is a testament to her complete commitment to the character.

Haley Orrantia - The Goldbergs
Melissa Rauch - The Big Bang Theory
Yvette Nicole Brown - The Mayor
Mayim Bialik - The Big Bang Theory

Stay tuned next week for the CatholicSkywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2017

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