Saturday, September 17, 2016

THE TV TALK BEST OF 2015-16 – RESULTS

Before the Emmy winners for 2015-16 are revealed this Sunday, here is the best of the TV year 2015-16, in my opinion.

Series – Drama
THE AFFAIR
BETTER CALL SAUL
DOWNTON ABBEY
FARGO
HOMELAND
MASTERS OF SEX
NARCOS

The upstairs-downstairs drama came a full circle in its final season, after going through a World War, death, murder trials, romances, blasts from the past, new families, bad financial times, the declining relevance of nobility and the fight to keep the estate. The Crawleys grew from strength to strength through each setback. In the final season, loyalties were shaken, dreams were shattered, hearts were broken, relationships evolved, and finally there were some happy endings for many. Generating a mixed bag of emotions within the confines of the sensibilities of the ’20s, DOWNTON made a comment on the socio-economic situation of the time, especially so in the final season. After an evolution for each, the characters were developed with finesse, and each one in the large ensemble was done justice to. It was a perfect end to what can be called an iconic series that spoke to so many people in so many ways.

Series – Comedy
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
GRACE & FRANKIE
MASTER OF NONE
MODERN FAMILY
MOM
MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
VEEP

VEEP has been such a roller coaster from the beginning. It’s been funny, silly, ridiculous, much like American politics has become these days. In its fifth season, the strange provisions in the American constitution to break a tie in a general election were brought to the front of the series with such outrageousness. It was comical to see the hoops that the characters has to go through to get ahead of the tie-breaking, and the extents they would go to in order to stay ahead. In addition to that, Selina’s relationship with her daughter saw new levels of hilarity, as Catherine proved to be sole heir of Selina’s mother’s estate. Additionally, Selina’s new boyfriend, new bodyguard, the meeting with the Chinese, the Finnish Prime Minister… they were all such brilliantly executed storylines. Moreover, the season took us to the top of the roller coaster that the show is, without revealing whether it was going even further up or straight down. From Selina’s hatred towards Tom James and their sexual tension to her final downfall as another woman rose to the top, everything was quite the ride with twists and surprises that kept us on our toes all along. This was a good season for VEEP.

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role – Drama
Felicity Huffman as Leslie Graham, AMERICAN CRIME
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, THE AMERICANS
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, DOWNTON ABBEY
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, THE GOOD WIFE
Claire Danes as Carrie Matthison, HOMELAND
Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

In the fourth season of THE AMERICANS, Keri Russell lent excruciating pain to her always-exemplary portrayal of Elizabeth Jennings, as the KGB spy was forced to do some things were really beyond her at this stage in her journey. She revealed with real depth that Elizabeth has started to get affected by the things her duty towards ‘the Centre’ compel her to do. She was absolutely stunning with her portrayal of the self-revulsion she felt at having to seduce her friend’s husband. She was remarkable as a mother who was trying to do what’s best for her daughter and protecting her like a lioness, despite being annoyed by Paige in certain ways. She was the complete package of perfect performance this season.

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role – Drama
Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates, BATES MOTEL
Bob Odenkirk, as Jimmy McGill, BETTER CALL SAUL
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, HOUSE OF CARDS
Michael Sheen as William Masters, MASTERS OF SEX
Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar, NARCOS
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, MR. ROBOT

Jimmy McGill went from being a guy who was trying hard to fit into a mold set for him at a corporate law firm, to kind of ‘breaking bad’ in this season of BETTER CALL SAUL. His earnestness in trying to do something right by making that TV commercial, and his outrage at being reprimanded for it, was conveyed with strong conviction by Odenkirk. He filled each scene he was in with such restrained emotion, which made you want to root for the guy even more. He even brought a certain endearing quality to revenge against a sibling. This season, Odenkirk really showed us shades of Saul Goodman that we know so well, without taking away from the positive earnestness of Jimmy McGill.

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role – Comedy
Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein, GRACE & FRANKIE
Jane Fonda as Grace Hanson, GRACE & FRANKIE
Melissa McCarthy as Molly Flynn, MIKE & MOLLY
Anna Faris as Christy, MOM
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, VEEP

Lily Tomlin’s performance as Frankie in the second season of GRACE & FRANKIE was just outstanding through the crazy situations the madcap Frankie puts herself through. She does paintings of her own vagina, she makes her own lubricant, she takes on a fight with her best friend’s executive daughter, she meets her son’s birth mother, and she prepares to euthanize a suffering friend, all the while dealing with guilt and heartbreak. She was just fantastic through it all. She delivered each quirky dialogue, each oblivious expression, each entitled posture, and everything else with no flaw.

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role – Comedy
Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper, THE BIG BANG THEORY
Rob Lowe as Dean Sanderson, THE GRINDER
Aziz Ansari as Dev, MASTER OF NONE
Gael Garcia Bernal as Rodrigo D’souza, MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman, TRANSPARENT

Bernal, a fine performer, who adds a genuine and unique flavor to whatever he does has done fantastically in MOZART. His quirky and endearing character was essentially thrown into various situations in the second season of the Amazon series, what with trying to divorce his wife and all. We even saw him outside of being part of the orchestra, and then getting involved in the politics of it. His inability to confront his feelings for ‘Hailaye’ is so believable but present, and Bernal is responsible for every nuance that puts together all of the above.


Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role – Drama
Maura Tierney as Helen Solloway, THE AFFAIR
Regina King as Terri LaCroix, AMERICAN CRIME
Lili Taylor, as Anne Blaine, AMERICAN CRIME
Maggie Smith as Lady Violet Crawley, DOWNTON ABBEY
Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist, FARGO
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, THE PEOPLE V. O.J. – AMERICAN CRIME STORY

There’s no doubt that Kirsten Dunst’s performance on FARGO this year was a knockout turn for her. In my opinion, she shined as one of the best performers of the year. Her crazy and endearing and laugh-out-loud-worthy scenes as Peggy were absolutely what made the season for me. FARGO season 2 would’ve been quite dry without her extraordinary contribution.



Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role – Drama
Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, BETTER CALL SAUL
Jim Carter as Charles Carson, DOWNTON ABBEY
Rob James Collier as Thomas Barrow, DOWNTON ABBEY
Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn, HOMELAND
Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson, THE PEOPLE V. O.J. – AMERICAN CRIME STORY
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot, MR. ROBOT

Thomas Barrow to me was one of the most interesting character in DOWNTON ABBEY, if not the most interesting. He was layered and drew empathy even through his more cunning ways. Rob James Collier took the character to various places over the years, but in the final season especially, he gave us the angst and the desperation of Thomas Barrow in the most gut-wrenching way. His suicide attempt and his surrender thereafter were beautifully portrayed.

Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role – Comedy
Mayim Bialik as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, THE BIG BANG THEORY
Donna Lynne Champlin as Paula Proctor, CARZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
Allison Janney as Bonnie, MOM
Debra Monk as Betty, MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
Suzanne Cryer as Laurie Bream, SILICON VALLEY
Judith Light as Shelly Pfefferman, TRANSPARENT

Judith Light is such a layered performer. And she brings a certain desperation to the character of Shelly in TRANSPARENT that is so self-aware, yet unperturbed. I think in the show’s second season in particular, she got the opportunity to shine more as someone who was trying to move on from her family in some ways, trying to get on with her life. All this while, she maintained with consistency the annoying qualities of the character that we’re supposed to hate and love.

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role – Comedy
Fred Savage as Stewart Sanderson, THE GRINDER
Ed O'Neill as Jay Pritchett, MODERN FAMILY
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker, MODERN FAMILY
Malcolm McDowell as Thomas, MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
Zach Woods as Donald ‘Jared’ Dunn, SILICON VALLEY
Tony Hale as Gary Walsh, VEEP

Gary comes off as really dumb. He’s a pushover, a doormat, a punching bag and everything of the kind, while actually making one think that he has no self-esteem. And now I almost cannot imagine Tony Hale as being anything different than what Gary is. I think he does an outstanding job year after year. And this year in particular, his physical comedy has been spectacular. Just seeing his expressions in some scenes can crack anyone up.  



Performance By A Guest Actress
Christine Baranski as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, THE BIG BANG THEORY
June Squibb as ‘Meemaw’, THE BIG BANG THEORY
Marisa Tomei as Mimi Whiteman, EMPIRE
Catherine O'Hara as Dr. Debra Radcliffe, MODERN FAMILY
Rosie O'Donnell as Jeanine, MOM
Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth Hale, HOUSE OF CARDS

Baranski is just the best performer in the room in any scene that she does on THE BIG BANG THEORY. She is poker-faced snarky like few can pull off. Beverly’s intellectually-laced indifference is a work of genius put together by the chameleon of an actress that is Christine Baranski.



Performance By A Guest Actor
Michael J. Fox as Louis Canning, THE GOOD WIFE
Timothy Olyphant as Timothy Olyphant, THE GRINDER
Reg E. Cathey Freddy, HOUSE OF CARDS
Harry Hamlin as Fred, MOM
Zachary Levi as James McMahon, TELENOVELA

Till the end, Michael J Fox brought to the role of Louis Canning a sort of conniving, quirky brilliance, with perfection. In the few scenes that he had on the show’s final season, he did absolute justice to the character that we grew to love and hate over the last seven years.

Writing
BETTER CALL SAUL
DOWNTON ABBEY
FARGO
HOMELAND
MASTERS OF SEX
MODERN FAMILY
MOM

Gripping to the core, HOMELAND’s writing in season 5 was at its edge-of-the-seat best. I thought every scene perfectly complemented its preceding and succeeding scenes. The plotting was well-paced, and the characters and their relationships were fleshed out with nuance, all the while doing justice to who they essentially were, despite their evolution over five seasons.

Cinematography
BETTER CALL SAUL
FARGO
HOMELAND
MR. ROBOT
THE PEOPLE V. O.J. – AMERICAN CRIME STORY

Stunning shots, genius transitions and brilliant foregrounding made FARGO the hypnotizing spectacle that it turned out to be. Without the opening visuals of some scenes, this series would not have made as deep an impact as it did.

Production Design
BETTER CALL SAUL
CODE BLACK
FARGO
HOMELAND
SUPERGIRL

From the shambles where Quinn recovers and the sex club where the CIA’s leak takes place, to the refugee camp and the European townships displayed, HOMELAND set each frame in meticulously detailed environments, getting every element right.

Costume Design
DOWNTON ABBEY
EMPIRE
FARGO
THE ROYALS

Consistency was key in the art of costume displayed by DOWNTON ABBEY season after season, in keeping with the eras that it portrayed. The costume design in the final season was nothing short of outstanding. It presented the characters and their predicaments and states of mind with brilliance. From the wedding dresses and the millinery to modifications in the staff’s livery to the children’s outfits, everything was beautifully put together, forming an essential part of the DOWNTON world.

Make-Up And Hairstyling – Prosthetic/Non-Prosthetic
CODE BLACK
FARGO
GREY’S ANATOMY
NARCOS

The excellent prosthetic make-up made CODE BLACK the graphic and disturbing beauty that it was. The chaos of the ER in a state of 'code black' would not have been the same without the excellence in make-up.

Music – Background Score
THE CATCH
THE GOOD WIFE
HOMELAND
MR ROBOT

Capturing the tense mood, the intense flavor, the intriguing madness of MR ROBOT, its soundtrack is nothing short of captivating. It complements the ingenuity of MR ROBOT’s drama to perfection.

Music – Songs (Original/Compilation)
THE CATCH
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
EMPIRE
GREY'S ANATOMY
NASHVILLE

The quirky, funny, outrageousness that is the soundtrack of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND enhances the titular craziness to such a level that without this brand of music, the show won’t be the unique comedy program that it is.



Fine Print ▪ The eligible series are those that I follow, and have had new episodes on the air or online between September 12, 2015 and July 14, 2016 (THE AFFAIR, AMERICAN CRIME, AMERICAN IDOL, THE AMERICANS, BATES MOTEL, BETTER CALL SAUL, THE BIG BANG THEORY, BLUE BLOODS, BONES, CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, CHICAGO P.D., CODE BLACK, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, DEVIOUS MAIDS, DOWNTON ABBEY, DR. KEN, ELEMENTARY, EMPIRE, EPISODES, FARGO, FEED THE BEAST, THE FLASH, THE FOSTERS, FULLER HOUSE, GIRLS, THE GOLDBERGS, THE GOOD WIFE, GOTHAM, GRACE AND FRANKIE, GREY'S ANATOMY, HOMELAND, HOUSE OF CARDS, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, MASTER OF NONE, MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA, MASTERS OF SEX, MISTRESSES, MODERN FAMILY, MOM, MOZART IN THE JUNGLE, MR. ROBOT, NARCOS, NASHVILLE, THE ODD COUPLE, THE ORIGINALS, THE PEOPLE V. O.J. – AMERICAN CRIME STORY, QUANTICO, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, THE ROYALS, SCANDAL, SHERLOCK, SILICON VALLEY, SUPERGIRL, SUPERSTORE, TELENOVELA, TRANSPARENT, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, VEEP) ▪ The maximum number of nominees 7 ▪ The minimum number of nominees is 3 ▪ The ‘TV TALK Best Of 2015-16’ is only an expression of what I considered as excellence in television in the year 2015-16 ▪

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