Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2018 - BEST IN TELEVISION

With 2018 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 such as The Punisher, Ozark, Jessica Jones, etc.

Shows we watch:


This is Us
The Rookie
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Flash
God Friended Me
Doctor Who
The Walking Dead
Jack Ryan

Big Bang Theory
The Connors
The Middle
Saturday Night Live
Brooklyn 99
The Kids Are Alright
Last Man Standing
Single Parents
The Kids are Alright

Dancing with the Stars
The Amazing Race
Child Support
Shark Tank

Best Drama:

This Is Us

This has been one of the consistently best shows on television since it premiered.  I have been so horribly impressed with the high quality of directing, writing, and acting that is found here.  Most hour-long dramas are very perfunctory in execution simply because of the massive amount of work that needs to be done in a very little amount of time.  But this show takes its time to maximize the visual elements of their storytelling.  The writing deserves special credit for its ability to pull back layers on characters in a way I really haven't seen since Freaks and Geeks.  Side characters who seem one-dimensional at first are given more back story and texture than would normally be found in most shows.  And the acting has been superb every season.  Not only are the actors very charismatic, but they are pushed to all ends of the emotional spectrum and are able to be incredibly credible the whole time.  What set this year apart was the post-Superbowl episode.  Not only did it have some of the best directing and acting, but it was able to take a story with an inevitable ending and make it feel unexpected and even more heartbreaking.  It is amazing that a show can already give away the ending of a character's story and still draw you in to the previously hidden part of their lives.  Great achievement and it lives up to the hype.

-Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency
-Doctor Who
-God Friended Me
-The Flash

Best Comedy
The Middle

The Middle did something that not enough TV shows do:  they gave us a proper ending.

Understanding that they had one final season, this show was able to wrap up all their loose ends and build everything towards a final cathartic episode.  I was particularly wrapped up in the Sue/Sean romance that was teased out week after week.  And when they came around the finale, the brought the entire story full circle to Frankie going nuts in the middle of an empty street over her wonderfully dysfunctional family.  We got a chance to say goodbye, to see how the characters had grown over the years, and we were left knowing that this family that we spent nearly a decade watching was going to be okay.

The Big Bang Theory
Single Parents
Last Man Standing
The Goldbergs

Best Actor in a Drama
Milo Ventimiglia - This Is Us

One of the great challenges of this show is jumping across all points in a character's lifetime.  Milo Ventimiglia has been so effortless in his ability to go from responsible, heroic father to young, haunted, and brooding Vietnam veteran just beginning to fall in love.  Throughout our lives we become different sorts of people but we are still ourselves.  Ventimiglia lets us see the core of Jack in everything he does, but we can feel the differences in every subtle look and mannerism that he brings.  Every week he never ceases to impress me.

Elijah Wood - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
John Krasinski - Jack Ryan
Samuel Barnett - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead

Best Actress in a Drama
Mandy Moore - This Is Us

Like Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore has gigantic leaps to make in her character's timeline.  But unlike her onscreen husband, she has much more to deal with.  Jack is always fairly consistent with the kids.  But Becca's relationships with each of her three children are different and come with a whole different set of complications.  Moore plays all of those with frustratingly wonderful accuracy.  This season what set her apart for the post-Superbowl episode.  The movement from relief, to shock, to disbelief, to horror, to heartbreak was amazing to watch and is one of the most moving moments of television I have ever seen.  While Jack is held up as the show's patron saint, Becca is the flawed mother who has made so many mistakes that stem primarily from a single trauma.  Watching Moore play all of those contradictions in her relationships is amazing to see.

Jodie Whittaker - Doctor Who
Hannah Marks - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Jade Eschete - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Dannai Gurrera - The Walking Dead

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Joe Morton - God Friended Me

Joe Morton could have played his preacher character as a holier-than-thou foil to his main character atheist son.  But Morton brings such a relaxed subtlety to his character.  He struggles so hard with seeing his son reject everything that is important to his own life.  But Morton plays him with a cool, but not cold ease.  The pains and the hurts and the doubts all bubble beneath the surface.  And he is not a flawless caricature.  Morton jumps into this incredibly complicated relationship and makes it feel incredibly real.

Justin Hartley - This is Us
Sterling K. Brown - This is Us
Jesse L. Martin - The Flash
Jeffrey Dean Morgan - The Walking Dead

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Susan Kelechi Watson - This Is Us

For a few seasons, Susan Kelechi Watson has been the film emotional anchor to the craziness of the other Pearsons' lives.  But this past season, we have been allowed to see the emotional toll that this is taking on Watson's Beth.  Strong and confident are difficult to play on screen.  But flawed and broken are always more interesting.  And right now we are beginning to see the cracks in her perfect exterior.  The burden of being that solid foundation is beginning to show.  Watson takes us behind the curtain to see Beth's inner struggles while putting on that same strong exterior for her family.  Now he brave face reminds us that she is hanging on by a thread.  Watson makes us feel like the emotional dam is about to break and she holds us in horrible anticipation.

Chrissy Metz - This is Us
Fiona Dourif - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Emily Tennant - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Melissa McBride– The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy
John Goodman - Roseanne/The Conners

John Goodman is one of the few actors that is amazing at both drama and comedy.  With the reboot of Roseanne and the spin off The Conners, Goodman has been able to show us his mastery of both.  I don't think there has been a better comedic performance on television this year than the episode where Dan yelled at Roseanne in order to win an argument, only to see him collapse into a lump of jelly under her withering demeanor.  It is a moment that takes us on a full emotional and comedic arc in the space of a few seconds and most of it is non-verbal.  And watching Goodman's Dan struggle with home disasters and the loss of his wife has been heartbreaking.  While The Conners has lost most of the magic of Roseanne, Goodman is keeping this television life-raft afloat.

Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Tim Allen - Last Man Standing
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)

This will be the last time that Heaton will win this award on this site for The Middle.  But I refuse to pick someone else to win simply because Heaton is often the top actress.  She should not penalized for doing excellent work.  The energy it must take to play a character like Frankie Heck is enormous.  And she has a lot of courage to allow Frankie to be a little cloying, to be a little intrusive, and to risk the audience being turned off by her antics.  But Heaton always makes sure to show you that Frankie is ultimately always motivated by her love for her family.  And that love sometimes makes her do silly and embarrassing things.  Watching it all converge in the final goodbye of the final episode made me realize how much I am going to miss this TV mom.

Wendy McLendon-Covey – The Goldbergs
Kaley Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Roseanne Barr - Roseanne
Mary McCormick - The Kids Are Alright

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Charlie McDermott - The Middle

McDermott grew up a lot on this show.  His Axel was always a slacker who cut every corner, which is something that we saw all the way until the end.  But this past season, much of the story was about Axel's transition into adulthood and all the pain and humor therein.  McDermott had to straddle the line between adorable, merry prankster and frustrated, stunted millennial.  We had to enjoy his antics while feeling like he needed to grow up.  McDermott showed us both of these world but he also did it with a wonderful amount of comedic talent in order to get us to laugh at his journey every step of the way.

Brad Garrett - Single Parents
Kunal Nayar - The Big Bang Theory
Atticus Shaffer - The Middle
Simon Helberg - The Big Bang Theory

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Marlow Barkley - Single Parents

Most child performers are simply funny because of their precociousness.  And to be sure, young Barkley is as precocious as they come.  But she has a delivery and expression that is beyond her years.  Her child co-stars are fine at the level of children.  Barkley is able to act toe-to-toe with more seasoned performers like Taran Killam and Brad Garrett.  All of the adults interact with her as if she is as smart as they are.  And even though she can play the part as silly child, Barkley projects an adult understanding that is used to maximum comedic effect, especially when foiled against Killam's Peter Pan-like father.

Sara Gilbert - Roseanne/ The Conners
Melissa Rauch - The Big Bang Theory
Eden Sher - The Middle
Mayim Bialik - The Big Bang Theory

Stay tuned next week for the CatholicSkywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2018

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