For the Ones That Weren’t Quite In The Top 10
As has become something of a tradition for this column, here I will honor certain series and actors that were very good this season, but just weren’t good enough to crack my top 10. I hope the avid viewer will seek them out.
Best Revival of An Old Series: Twin Peaks
Some might complain that this new group of episodes that Showtime assembled bore very little resemblance to the series that captivated so many a quarter of a century ago. For me, that’s the exact reason its on this list. Anybody can gather the former cast of old series to do some half-ass revival. But I can’t think of anyone other that David Lynch who would try something this radical, who would bring the cast back, and then spend just as much time dealing with literally hundreds of new characters. And Kyle Maclachlan’s performance (s) was among the most astounding work of 2017; it would be stunning if he and the revival didn’t have multiple Emmy nominations in its future. The revival was surreal, counterintuitive, and had stunning visuals; it was utterly unlike Twin Peaks, and yet simultaneously unlike anything else on TV. I fully expect the same kind of cult that came around the original series twenty-five years to begin forming almost immediately.
Most Intriguing New Series from an Unlikely Source: Kevin (probably) Saves The World
Calling ABC an unlikely source for new TV seems odd, I admit, but I’d given up hope for the network after they cancelled American Crime. But this quirky and engaging new series is one of the more charming new series to premiere on any network in awhile. Featuring Jason Ritter as the title, often clueless character chosen to search out the thirty-five righteous souls, the series has the most engaging and spiritual sense to it than any show since Joan of Arcadia (which also featured Ritter), but moves at a quicker (if still gradual pace). Considering how little real respect God seems to get these days, its a relief to get a series about faith that centers on being entertaining as well as spiritual. I hope ABC has the belief to keep it around for another season.
Most Enjoyable New Comedy: SMILF
It would’ve been easy for this series to go down the same dark route of so many initially entertaining shows. Hell, its practically a trademark of Showtime. But the fact remains, Frankie Shaw has taken a series that could so easily have been centered around a single joke concept, and managed to make it charming, unsettling, and endearing, all at the same time. One wondered how the series would handled what seemed to be a throwaway reference in the pilot about Bridgette being molested by her father. But slowly, it built it to a bizarre, moving and yet hysterical climax in the final episode. Shaw is a genuine talent, and she’s done a fine job assembling a great cast from Rosie O’Donnell to Raven Goodwin. The series, like its central character, clearly got game, and it has already been renewed for a second season. Let’s hope Shaw and company can continue the mood.
Most Undervalued Actress for the Year: Laura Dern
I know this seems a bit of a stretch considering that Dern managed to win an Emmy and was at the center of the new Star Wars movies. But the fact remains, she’s never been an easy fit in any of the mediums she’s been a part of. This year, however, two of the most gifted auteurs of the past — David E. Kelley and her former paramour David Lynch — gave her the meatiest roles she’s had in awhile. As the only working mom at the center of Big Little Lies, and whose child was the critical element that started the dominoes falling. Kelley gave her more depth than she had in the book, and the Emmy she got was deserved. She was the complete opposite in Twin Peaks, playing the Diane who was at the center of all those recordings Cooper made — or was she? Whatever she may have been, her hostile, edgy performance was one of the high points of the revival, and may well get her another Emmy nomination. I don’t know what’ll come next for Dern, but given the trend of revivals these days, maybe the flawed but still brilliant Enlightened could come back.
Most Undervalued Actor of the Year: The Doctors
Doctor Who is one of those series that people either love with a passion or just don’t care about. But one thing has become increasingly clear is just how talent all of the actors associated with it are. The companions have been realizing their value over the past decade, but this year the former Doctors have been doing some stunning work. The best work was done by Christopher Eccleston, number 9, in the criminally undervalued series The Leftovers, including one of the best sequences of the year when his character of a torn minister had a confrontation with God. David Tennant did superb work in the closing season of Broadchurch, where his flawed detective may have come close to equilibrium. And Matt Smith was engaging as the young Prince Philip on The Crown, making us realize just how vital this staunch patriarch is. Peter Capaldi’s already had a great career, but I can’t wait to see what his next post-Doctorate will be.
And a special shout out to: Asia Kate Dillon on Billions
This is already a great show, but the series took it up a notch in Season 2 by introducing Taylor, the first gender neutral character anywhere as the up and coming trader at Axe Capital. I’ve been a huge fan of their work ever since their first scene on the series, but as the second season unfolded and they made a rise to power, one found yourself rooting for this character, not because they were gender neutral, but because they were as ruthless as anyone in that cutthroat world. There should have been awards in their future (and there still might be) but they’re the main reason I look forward to Season 3.