You can feel it in the air, its the most magical time of the whole year… the unveiling of the Official Mainville Report TV Awards! And, due to the overwhelming amount of fantastic to fair TV crowding the airwaves, these prestigious awards have grown to include more categories than ever before. Also, I’m terrible at narrowing down things I genuinely love. And I love a lot of TV.
Best New Drama: Preacher (AMC)
Granted, a lot of the time I didn’t know what the hell was going on during the first season of Preacher, but it never failed to entertain. It provided a master class in tone setting and world building; which was key considering the season proved to be 10 hours of set-up. And if the success of a new show is measured by how excited it gets you for next season, Preacher has no competition.
Honorable Mention: Queen Sugar (OWN)
With all of its marital scandals, sibling rivalry and business intrigue it would be easy to write Queen Sugar off as just another soap opera. What sets it above such dismissals is its gorgeous visuals, strong writing and truly captivating performances from every single cast member, no matter age or screen time. Sometimes an innovative show is less about telling a new story as it is telling it through a new lens and a telling it really, really well.
Best Returning Drama: Game of Thrones (HBO)
Freed from the restraints of its source material, the sixth season of Game of Thrones proved it doesn’t need to wait around for George R.R. Martin to finish this story in a satisfactory way. This season gave us some of the most heartbreaking moments of the series (I still can’t ask someone to hold a door for me within getting choked up), some of the greatest moments of deserved gratification (which is a word I never thought I would use to describe someone being eaten alive by dogs, but here we are) and one of the best hours of television ever created (“Battle of the Bastards” will go down as such, it is known).
Honorable Mention: Better Call Saul (AMC)
This show has not right to be this good. A spin-off from one of the greatest shows ever, it was set up for failure just by virtue of not being Breaking Bad. But with every season it forges its own path and cements its own legacy as one of the greats.
Best New Comedy: Insecure (HBO)/Atlanta (FX) /Fleabag (Amazon)
Most years I’m struggling to pick comedies and this year I couldn’t even narrow it down to two! All three of these comedies come from fresh, young voices in TV who not only created and wrote their own series, but also starred in them. They all also told stories of people we rarely get to see have their stories told; i.e. complex, deeply flawed women and people of color. And, the most heartening thing about all of these comedies; they have this much in common while also being vastly different; proving there are all kinds of markets for all kinds of stories.
Honorable Mention: Search Party (TBS)
Best Returning Comedy: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Who would have thought that a musical comedy would also be the smartest, sharpest and most convincing portrayal of female friendships and issues? And yet, where we are a full season and a half into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and that’s the reality we’re living in. Now go watch it! Critical acclaim won’t keep this gem around forever and I really need it to be around for forever.
Honorable Mention: Broad City (Comedy Central)
Best Show to Obsess Over: Westworld (HBO)
For some shows, part of the fun is in the obsessing; watching episodes, scouring the internet for fan theories and boring all your acquaintances with your own conclusions. And if that’s your bag, then Westworld was probably your favorite show of the year. The narrative didn’t always make the most sense, but it was constantly entertaining and gave you something to do all week while you waited for the next episode.
Honorable Mention: Outlander (STARZ)
Best Stand-in for Mad Men: Good Girls Revolt (Amazon)
Look, nothing will ever be Mad Men. Ever. But, if you liked Mad Men, then chances are you would be into an early 70s set, feminist workplace drama. And if so, then this is certainly the show for you. At least, it was for me.
Sophomore Slump: Mr. Robot (USA)/UnReal (Lifetime)
Ironically enough, last year these shows tied as well… as two of the surprise hits of the year. Unfortunately, the added pressure of too much hype, and the probable leeway that hype afforded, gave way to some truly disappointing seasons of television. Mr. Robot’s issue came with its construct; you can only use the reveal of an unreliable narrator once. Trying the same trick again only feels tired.
UnReal, on the other hand, seems to have no gasp on what people liked about the first season (i.e. the realistic feminine bonding and dark underbelly of reality TV) and thought season two needed more love triangles and trying to redeem a one-dimensional villain by having him commit murder. Yeah, no. If we wanted those kinds of stories we could watch literally anything else on Lifetime.
Show that Proves Networks Can Still Compete with Cable: This Is Us (NBC)
Looking over this list, I realized there was not a lot of network representation. And truthfully I don’t watch that much network TV for a variety of reasons. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t salute a quality show when it premieres. This Is Us is fantastic in a way a lot of shows try and fail miserably at. It has you laughing one moment and sobbing the next and never once lets you feel all the effort it takes to pull that off.
Best Show You’re not Watching: Good Behavior (TNT)
Casting Lady Mary aka Michelle Dockery as a meth smoking, alcoholic thief sounds like a truly terrible idea on paper. But that’s why no one should ever trust paper. Granted, it’s hard to believe an addiction to meth could result in such porcelain skin, but everything else works like gangbusters. Her chemistry with co-star, Juan Diego Botto, is off the charts and the show’s ability to build tension and suspense is astounding. There is a sequence in the pilot that may be one of the most nerve-racking of the year. It also pulls off the difficult task of being unpredictable without being outlandish. In the new world of twist-centric television, this is more welcome than you can even imagine.
Honorable Mention: The Girlfriend Experience (Starz)
The Show that Started Great, But Then Fell Apart: The Night Of (HBO)
The Night Of started so strong. I thought, here is the next frontier of crime procedurals. But, in the end, there was way too much time spent on eczema and cats and not nearly enough time spent on character development. The concept was there, but the execution faltered.
Honorable Mention: The Get Down (Netflix)
Biggest Gut Punch: Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
OITNB has established itself as a show that knows how to balance comedy with drama. This season they proved they can also deliver straight up tragedy like literally no one else. Between Lori Petty’s heartbreaking performance (which I cannot believe isn’t getting nominations!) to the one-two punch of the last two episodes, I had to take extended sobbing breaks during my binge and a full day to fully absorb that finale.
Surprise Hit of the Year: Stranger Things (Netflix)
Netflix is no stranger to hit TV shows, but they also have their fair share of series that fly under the radar. So who would have thought that a small little genre show paying homage 80s cinema would become the former and not the latter. A lightning strike combination of well-paced mystery, multi-generational appeal and some truly great performances from an ensemble of relatable kids gave us a great summer escape and inspirations for nearly everyone’s Halloween costumes.
Best Show that Still Got Cancelled: Togetherness (HBO)
Clearly HBO feels the need to have a show exploring middle aged, bumpy marriages forever on its roster. But clearly, they thought two shows exploring such themes would be overkill. And, unfortunately, they picked the wrong one. Once they decided to move ahead with Divorce (a complete waste of every inch of talent involved), they also chose to cut Togetherness loose despite a supremely strong second season. Hope still lives for a Netflix reboot or at least a movie to tie together the loose ends, but given the Duplass brothers’ incredibly busy schedule (including a new HBO show), it doesn’t seem too likely. Instead, we’ll just have to comfort ourselves with the two great seasons of television we were given.