Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2021 - BEST IN TELEVISION

  With 2021 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 Witcher or The Wheel of Time.

Shows we watch:


Falcoln and Winter Soldier
What If...?
Cobra Kai
Squid Game
The Rookie
The Flash
This is Us
Locke and Key
Superman and Lois
The Shrink Next Door

The Good Place
Ted Lasso
Mythic Quest
Only Murders in the Building
Girls 5Eva
Rutherford Falls
Brooklyn 99
The Crew
Mr. Mayor
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Dancing with the Stars
The Amazing Race
The Masked Singer
Tough as Nails

Best Drama:

This first season of Superman and Lois has been the best Superman I have seen on television.  And yes, this includes Smallville, Lois and Clark, and Superman: the Animated Series

It is such a novel idea that works so perfectly: Clark and Lois raising teenagers.  As Superman stands for wholesome values usually associated with the past, it seems fitting that he fits into the father-figure role, trying to bring the new generation to virtue.  The show is a wonderful exploration of family, parenthood, and values of decency.

If it was only that the show had good themes, it would not be in this position and Best Drama.  The show does a bang-up job executing on its premise.  I don't know what the budget is, but this is one of the most cinematic-looking shows I've ever seen on the CW.  The shots of Smallville are downright beautiful.  The writing is also wonderful with nods to those who are deep in the Superman lore while being perfectly accessible to anyone.  It also plays with expectations, but in the best possible way.  It brings out what you think are going to be tired tropes, but then uses this expectation to turn things around with surprises hiding in plain sight.

The action is also surprisingly good.  In one of my favorite Superman moments, Lois is in trouble and is able to finally hit her distress transmitter.  What follows is how I always imagined Superman would break into a scene to save the day, as seen from Lois' perspective.

The performances are also excellent.  There is something raw and honest about the connections and dysfunctions of this family along with all the frustrations of raising a family.  I also have to hand it to the writers for making the main action narrative flow harmoniously with the family drama narrative.  

For me, this show became appointment television every week.  I don't know if the second season will be nearly as strong.  But I am just so grateful for how good this first season was.

-Cobra Kai
-Locke and Key
-This Is Us

Best Comedy
Mythic Quest

From my review of the series:

This show is a fantastic blend of inane workplace politics and goofy absurdity; it's almost like The Office and Community had a love child.

Mythic Quest fills their show with over-the-top personalities, but always infuses them with just enough humanity to keep them grounded.  The show takes you behind the scenes of a massive multiplayer online video game.  Rather than the show being something insular that only gamers could appreciate, the setting is a medium to explore all kinds of different human relationships.  The writing also reminds of Arrested Development in that it takes these very unlikeable characters and puts them in situations where their humor and depth can be seen.  And just when you start to sympathize with them too much, their horrible flaws come to the surface, but not enough to repel you completely.  It is such an odd and tense dance, but somehow they are able to make it work.

One of the things I really like about this show is how it handles social issues.  Rather than taking a simple side and then preaching, the show delves into the issue to mine it for comedy while making fun of all sides.  

All the while, you begin to connect to these characters and the humor becomes more pronounced once you really get to know them.  

Only Murders in the Building
The Simpsons
Mr. Mayor
Ted Lasso

Best Actor in a Drama
Tyler Hoechilin - Superman and Lois

I remember when Hoechilin made his debut as Superman in an episode of Supergirl.  I wasn't terribly impressed, but I don't think that was necessarily his fault.  He didn't have all that much to work with.  But with Superman and Lois, we see a real exploration of his character.  The thing that Hoechilin does so well that is essential to the Superman character is the way he embodies Superman's feeling of helplessness.  The horrible irony of Superman is that he has the power and the virtue of character to completely take care of everyone's problems.  But Superman knows that he has to show restraint in order to give people their freedom, even if it gets them hurt.  He has to let Lois and his kids make their own choices, no matter how dangerous and it eats him up inside.  Hoechilin shows us the in the utter restraint he shows.  He always seems like he could spring into action in a second, but he has to hold himself back from doing so all the time.  All the while he has to play all of the complicated emotional relationships he has and at the same time never losing that special heroic stature that is necessary to the character.  It is a difficult task, but Hoechilin has done a fantastic job.

William Zabka - Cobra Kai
Lee Jung-jae - Squid Game
Sterling K. Brown - This is Us
Milo Ventemiglia - This is Us

Best Actress in a Drama
Elizabeth Olsen - WandaVision

From my review: "The performances are wonderful.  The show stands or falls on Olsen's power as an actor.  She has always been someone who has shown skill beyond many of her peers and she is able to effortlessly slide into various personalities and genres with the greatest of ease and with the element to truth in her performance. "

Not only this, but beneath the exterior versatility, she was able to capture the core emotion of grief in a way that not only made her sympathetic, but dangerous.  She was simultaneously victim and victimizer and Olsen was able to garner enough of your sympathy through her performance without playing her as a saintly, misunderstood figure.  Her Wanda was someone who could believable choose either great good or great evil.

Mandy Moore - This Is Us
Elizabeth Tulloch - Superman and Lois
Jung Hoyeon - Squid Game
Emelia Jones - Locke and Key

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Paul Rudd - The Shrink Next Door

This is one of Rudd's best performances.  Like many of his previous characters, Rudd's Dr. Ike is funny and charming.  But Rudd also does a great job of letting the sinister menace float just under the surface.  Ike is a social vampire, looking to suck the life out of his victims.  But first he has to seduce them with his charm.  Rudd is able to show you flashes of that monster lurking in his soul.  But he also shows you the horrid truth that Ike doesn't see himself in any way as a monster.  He is someone who commits such horrible indecency while thinking he is a decent person.  This actually makes his Ike slightly terrifying so that you don't know what the upper limit of his avarice will make him do.

Luke Wilson - Stargirl
Alex Garfin - Superman and Lois
Eric Winter - The Rookie
Xolo Mariduena - Cobra Kai

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Katheryn Hahn - The Shrink Next Door

Hahn could have played this character a simple foil to the devious Dr. Ike.  But instead, as the sister of Ike's main victim, she has to play a very intersting tightrope.  As her brother Marty falls deeper and deeper in Ike's spell, we have to see her frustration at what is befalling her brother.  But at the same time she has to play it in a way where Ike can believably spin her concern so that Marty only sees jealousy and greed.  What Hahn does really well is that she makes sure not to eliminate the more venal elements of her relationship with Marty.  In a small way, she is a bit like Ike.  And this tiny flaw leads to so much tragedy.  If she had played her character as too virtuous, the whole tragedy of the story would not have been felt nearly as powerfully.

Darby Stanchfield - Locke and Key
Emmanuelle Chriqui - Superman and Lois
Susan Kelechi Watson - This Is Us
Mekia Cox– The Rookie

Best Actor, Comedy
Jason Sudeikis- Ted Lasso

Normally I try to avoid giving out same award to the same recipient two years in a row.  But Sudeikis did such an amazing job this year with Ted Lasso that I had to give him recognition once again.  Not only was able to do the same job of balancing his comedy and drama, but he even went to deeper depths.  What makes this so fascinating is that when you begin to realize the horrors that Ted has endured in his past, it not only gives texture to his dramatic performance, but it actually makes the comedy all the funnier.  You can see how laughter is part of his light shining out of the darkness and Sudeikis' performance brings about a wonderful lightening of the heart.

Ted Danson - Mr. Mayor
Emelio Estevez - The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers
Rob McElhenney - Mythic Quest
Steve Martin - Only Murders in the Building

Best Actress, Comedy
Lauren Graham - The Might Ducks: Game Changers

While on the surface, Graham's character here is very similar to her iconic turn as Lorelei on Gilmore Girls, those surface comparisons are all there is.  Her Alex Morrow is a woman who is more lost and unsure than Lorelei ever was.  Graham plays into that insecurity for all of the humor she can while bring about every ounce of her charisma.  Her character clearly has no idea what she is doing and Graham makes sure to use all of this to make the audience laugh.  But like all parents, she has to at least give the illusion of control for the sake of her kids and she is able to hold down that core of authority.  

Hannah Waddingham – Ted Lasso
Selena Gomez - Only Murders in the Building
Charlotte Nicdao - Mythic Quest
Sara Bareilles - Girls5Eva

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
F. Murray Abraham - Mythic Quest

One of my favorite parts of discovering Mythic Quest was F. Murray Abraham.  I really only have encountered him as a dramatic actor.  But seeing him in a comedic role has been a revelation.  His CW Longbottom makes me laugh in every scene that he is in.  He is a walking contradiction.  He seems to be a font of literary knowledge, but he is also a hack who is so insecure that he carries his major award with him wherever he goes.  He tries to act the part of the elder statesmen, but he is so perverse and petty that everything he does collapses into chaos.  Abraham understands one of the most important rules of comedy: serious is funny.  He uses the entire weight of his dramatic skills to the utter absurdity of his character and therein lies the genius of his comedy.

David Hornsby - Mythic Quest
Danny Pudi - Mythic Quest
Brett Goldstein - Ted Lasso
Michael Greyeyes - Rutherford Falls

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Amy Ryan - Only Murders in the Building

For those only familiar with Ryan's work as Holly Flax on The Office, you may be fooled into thinking that Ryan is a one-note character.  But for anyone who wants to see what she is capable of, I highly recommend checking out Only Murders in the Building.  In this show she has to keep up with comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short.  As a comedy murder/mystery, she is able to slip comfortably into any role the story needs while remaining a consistent character.  And when sharing the screen with these Hollywood heavyweights, Ryan is more than a match for them in every scene.

Juno Temple - Ted Lasso
Paula Pell - Girls5Eva
Holly Hunter - Mr. Mayor
Jessie Ennis - Mythic Quest

Stay tuned next week for the Catholic Skywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2021

No comments:

Post a Comment