Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2020 - BEST IN TELEVISION

 With 2020 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  Queen's Gambit, etc.  I am cheating a little by including Cobra Kai season 2 on this list.  Technically, the season premiered last year on YouTube, but since it came to Netflix this year and since 2020 has been a mess, I'm okay with including it.

Shows we watch:


This is Us
The Rookie
The Flash
Locke and Key
Star Trek Picard
The Mandalorian
This is Us
Cobra Kai

The Good Place
Bless this Mess
Space Force
Saturday Night Live
Brooklyn 99
Last Man Standing
Single Parents
Truth Seekers
Ted Lasso

Dancing with the Stars
The Amazing Race
Shark Tank
The Masked Singer
Tough as Nails
Floor is Lava

Best Drama:

The Mandalorian

One of the things I find annoying about television awards shows is that often the same shows win year after year.  I try not to do that with the Catholic Skywalker Awards.

But I had to give The Mandalorian the Best Drama for the second year in a row.

It was clear that this was going to be the winner part way through the season.  Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni not only fundamentally understand good storytelling, but they fundamentally understand Star Wars.  George Lucas created a space western with strong mystical/mythic themes and tones.  The show is consistently exciting and entertaining.  The eight episodes a season make the show tight, with episodes flying by in what seems like seconds.  And all the while, the characters are moving, changing, and deepening.  Each episode feels important because they have a lot of story to get through in not a lot of time.  The performances are also outstanding.  Who knew Bill Burr could act?!?  

And all of this was before the season finale.  The last 10 minutes of the finale were, in a word: Magic!

There hasn't been this much magic in Star Wars in years.  I cannot tell you how transported and elated I was by what this show gave us.  And all of it was built upon an emotional ending that I have rewatched several times and still moves me each time.

If there was ever a story that could rescue Star Wars from the pop culture dust bin and remind us why it holds the place it does in our collective hearts and imaginations, it's The Mandalorian.

-Cobra Kai
-Locke and Key
-The Flash

Best Comedy
The Good Place

From my review of the series:

I'll be honest, I have been putting of this review for a long time.  I found it difficult to put into words how I feel about this show.  And The Good Place is a show that has really affected me emotionally...

Speaking of the humor, I have never seen a show that did a perfect balancing act between high brow and low brow humor.  Many shows appeal to pure crudity like Married with Children.  Some try to stand on high wit like Frasier.  Some try to not go too broad or too sophisticated.  But The Good Place is a show of two extremes.  

It will build incredibly intelligent jokes based on Aristotelean ethics or Catholic moral principles like Double Effect in the Trolley Problem.  As a philosopher, I cannot tell you how good it is to watch a show that uses Kant, Hume, Nietzsche, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas as setups and punchlines.  It even has some wonderfully insightful jokes.  For example, the neighborhood in the "Good Place" is filled with frozen yogurt shops.  Michael comments to Eleanor that humans coming up with frozen yogurt in place of ice cream is typical of our species.  He says "There's something so human about taking something great and ruining it a little so you can have more of it."  I laughed so hard at that line and spent days thinking about how insightful that is.  In another episode, Eleanor and Chidi end up somewhere called the "Medium Place" where it is neither good nor bad.  Here there is only one movie: Cannonball Run 2.  And I remember think that that movie so exquisitely medium.  It is not awful, but it is no way good.  

Objectively, I can say that the story moves at a wonderful pace.  There are exactly 52 chapters.  And unlike a lot of shows, once you leave the first season it feels like the story is going somewhere.  My big complaint with shows like The Walking Dead is that each season starts strong and ends strong, but the middle always feels like its spinning its wheels.  The Good Place feels like something momentous happens each episode that pushes the story in a new direction.  The end of each chapter left me desperate to find out what was going to happen to our characters....

The Good Place is a show that holds a special place in my heart.  That place is cemented by the emotional context in which I encountered it.  I don't know if it would have been the same if I had watched it at any other time.  Perhaps you will feel the same.  Perhaps you will not.

But at the very least, the show reminded me that as long as you have real, true love and friendship, you don't have to wait to die to be in the "Good Place."

Single Parents
The Simpsons
Bless This Mess
Ted Lasso

Best Actor in a Drama
William Zabka - Cobra Kai

Five years ago if you had told me that William Zabka would be getting an acting award from me for a Karate Kid sequel, I never would have believed you.  But oh my goodness, Zabka is amazing in this show.  You can tell that the actor understands what an opportunity this show is and he is putting every ounce of his talent and technique into the character.  His Johnny is so flawed and broken but he is trying to save himself by saving others.  Watching his conflict between son and his student is fascinating and frustrating.  He knows that he has to play Johnny as a person who is kind of a man out of time who is constantly confused by a world that has left him behind.  All he has to rely on is his will to survive.  Watch his performance when he talks to Miguel about how he abandoned his son or watch the chemistry he has with his former Cobra Kai pals.  This is a great performance and Zabka deserves all of the credit he gets for carrying this show.

Pedro Pascal- The Mandalorian
Nathan Fillion - The Rookie
Sterling K. Brown - This is Us
Milo Ventemiglia - This is Us

Best Actress in a Drama
Mandy Moore - This Is Us

Mandy Moore has won this award before and she has earned it once again with her performance as Rebecca Pearson.  She has makes it look easy.  She jumps between radically different ages in Becca's life and I am completely mesmerized.  I never question it or have my suspension of disbelief  broken.  And this year, she has had to play the horrible fear of a woman losing her memory slowly.  She is on a long road to a sad goodbye and we can see all of that depth of emotion play out in a mother who is trying to be strong for her adult children who are barely holding it together.  She continues to be fantastic.

Breck Bassinger - Stargirl
Melissa O'Neil - The Rookie
Cobie Smulders - Stumptown

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Luke Wilson -  Stargirl

Luke Wilson grounds this series with his Pat Dugan.  Wilson is alternately goofy, serious, heroic, paternal, and frustrated.  His chemistry with Brek Bassinger is fantastic and the step-father/step-daughter relationship grows so organically that when it all comes to a head in the final episode, it feels right.  Wilson knows exactly how to play this part.  He takes the world he's living in very seriously, but also knows how to infuse the series with fun and humor.  Wilson has always been a very good actor and I'm glad that Stargirl is giving him a chance to shine in a series.

Jake Johnson- Stumptown
Ralph Machio - Cobra Kai
Jackson Robert Scott - Locke and Key
Xolo Mariduena - Cobra Kai

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Emelia Jones - Locke and Key

The character of Kinsey is a difficult one to play.  She has all of the problems of an outsider teenager girl at a new school while being the survivor of a horrible family trauma and the supernatural horrors of her family home.  Watching Jones lose herself in Kinsey's distractions is frustrating but incredibly interesting.  As Kinsey slowly abandons her responsibilities you can't help but understand why even as you want to scream at her for using the people in her life to make her feel better.  As written, Kinsey could easily be completely repulsive.  But Jones makes it understandable that people are still drawn to her.

Darby Stanchfield - Locke and Key
Anjelika Washington - Stargirl
Susan Kelechi Watson - This Is Us
Melissa O'Neil– The Rookie

Best Actor, Comedy
Jason Sudeikis- Ted Lasso

I've written on this blog how playing evil is easier than playing good.  I think that is the reason why so many TV shows have their characters begin as selfish jerks.  It is easy to play someone who is lesser than you.  But Sudeikis plays Ted Lasso as a relentlessly kind person.  This could easily have been a one-dimensional caricature of virtue.  But Lasso is a fully realized character.  He is not flawless.  He is not a saint.  But he is someone who will always try to be as positive and uplifting as he can.  Sudeikis makes the sincerity seem real while adding depth.  But above all, he is funny.  Ted Lasso is a hoot with some of the best one-liners I've heard this year on television and Sudeikis' delivery is spot on.

Ted Danson - The Good Place
Dax Shepherd - Bless This Mess
Nick Frost - Truth Seekers
Steve Carell - Space Force

Best Actress, Comedy
Kristen Bell - The Good Place

As I wrote in my review for the series:

Bell is one of the few actors that can handle drama and comedy perfectly.  She is able to make Eleanor unlikeable and likable at the same time.  Just when you want to write her off, she shows some humanity.  And just when you think she's been redeemed, she falls a step.

Not only that, but it was incredible to watch the subtle changes she made in Eleanor over the course of the series.  There was real growth while she remained the core of the same character.  I don't think the show could have lasted without her at the helm and it convinces me more and more that she is someone who can do anything effectively.  

Hannah Waddingham – Ted Lasso
Lake Bell – Bless This Mess
Leighton Meester - Single Parents
AJ Michalka - Schooled

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
William Jackson Harper - The Good Place

Chidi is alternately wise and neurotic, sage and silly.  Harper conveyed not only the intelligence of Chidi but also his horrible anxieties that were at the core of his character.  When he became nauseous with nervousness, he was able to produce that same effect in the viewer.  Even though he was the uptight intellectual, he was actually the every man that the audience connected with on the journey.  Harper proved his comedic chops with this role.  And his final speech to Eleanor about the ocean is heartbreaking.

Brad Garrett - Single Parents
Samson Kayo - Truth Seekers
Brett Dier - Schooled
Tim Meadows - Schooled

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Juno Temple- Ted Lasso

Temple's Keely Jones seems to be a superficial soccer groupie.  But as the show peeled back the layers, so did Temple in her performance.  In the first episodes, she is overly vulgar and sexualized, but as the story progresses you can see how she is a woman who has traded on her looks and sex appeal and coming to realize that the shelf life for these qualities is soon expiring in her.  Temple does a convincing British accent for an American and she fits right in with the overall culture presented.  While she does not evolve into a person of humility and chastity by the end of the season, we can see growth in the character, particularly in how expressive Temple is with her eyes.  When she goes back to see Roy Kent in the locker room during the final game, she is able to project a comforting sympathy that I would not have guessed from the first episode.

Kimrie Lewis - Single Parents
Pam Grier- Bless This Mess
Lennon Parham - Bless This Mess
Hayley Orrantia - The Goldbergs

Stay tuned next week for the Catholic Skywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2020

No comments:

Post a Comment