Welcome to Part 2 of The 2014 T.O.Y. (Television of the Year) Awards! This is the awards show where I give prizes to shows I actually watch. (Here’s Part 1)
In this week’s section,
- Most Improved Show
- Best Cancelled Show
Most Improved Show
Over the long run of a television series, or even a single season, there are weak episodes and strong episodes. Sometimes, there is a long string of weak episodes which makes me question why I’m taking the time to watch this show.
Then, comes a turning point. A single episode reminds me why I watch this show, and I think, “I’ll watch one more.” Next thing I know, I’ve watched the five episodes sitting in my queue, and I’m left waiting for the next episode.
The Nominees for Most Improved Show Are:
Episode Where I Nearly Gave Up: Seeds (episode 11)
In Seeds, we get to explore the Hogwarts of SHIELD, and it turns out… to not be very interesting. The first half of Season 1 had a few bright spots – such as The Magical Place – but was starting out with one-dimensional characters and generic action show plots. I actually nearly gave up on it earlier, but said, “But it’s a Joss Whedon show,” and kept trying to like it.
Episode Where I Got Pulled Back In: T.R.A.C.K.S. (episode 12)
T.R.A.C.K.S. is the first episode where I noticed the characters taking stronger form and building dimensions. The episode has a great narrative device that builds the story and the tensity. By the end, the characters are far more likable, they feel like an actual team with chemistry, and yet the audience is left with a major twist that hooks them in.
From there, everything builds up, falls apart, and all of the shades of betrayal, danger, tension, and dynamic characters we expect from a Whedon branded show came to fruition. I still think most of the first half of the season can be skipped, if you haven’t watched the show yet. Read a bit about the characters online, and start with T.R.A.C.K.S. From that point on, the show is a great, fun ride.
Episode Where I Nearly Gave Up: Nasty Habits (Around the middle of the Neverland story arc)
While there were a few interesting moments and breakthroughs in the first half of Season 3, Nasty Habits was part of a slow build-up for the overall season. Good Form was a better episode, exploring Hook’s backstory, but the first half lagged. For me, the moments with Regina being a ‘lets get this done’ anti-hero and Rumplestiltsken being both dubious and helpful are a highlight that carried me through.
Episode Where I Got Pulled Back In: Going Home (End of Season 3 Part 1)
This episode could have been a satisfying series finale. Without going into spoilery details, this episode builds on the best Once Upon A Time can bring: A twist on magic we’ve seen before, the willingness of both heroes and anti-heroes to make a sacrifice, and the willingness of the writers to lay everything on the line.
And then the show returned with a spectacular second half. There were a few slow moments, but the overall pacing was far stronger. There was a mystery to solve, a formidable villain to fight and bring together former enemies, and an epic race to save loved ones. Most of all, the second half of Season 3 showed immense character growth for Emma, Regina, and Hook.
I would argue Season 3 Part 2 was the strongest section of the whole series so far. It will be interesting to see how they are able to incorporate Frozen, and if they will be able to build on the character growth established. What I hope the most if they don’t have Regina regress for the sake of conflict. She’s far more interesting when she is trying to do good.
Episode Where I Nearly Gave Up: Cooperative Polygraphy (where the Greendale group learn the contents of Pierce’s will)
While Season 4 had good moments, there were moments of cynicism and strangeness that did not fit the overall show. Then, Season 5 arrived with the return of Dan Harmon. The first few episodes were good and full of potential (though, if you like crime dramas, I highly recommend Basic Intergluteal Nimismatics).
Then, came Cooperative Polygraphy. I had previously tolerated Pierce’s dirty jokes because they tended to be scattered and could be ignored. However, this episode seemed built only on those. This episode, combined with the lost steam of season 4 nearly made me give up.
Episode Where I Got Pulled Back In: Geothermal Escapism (Where all of Greendale plays a game of Hot Lava, which Abed uses to try to keep Troy from leaving)
What I love most about Community is how easily all of Greendale Community College gets consumed in school-spanning genre-specific mayhem. From the paintball episodes taking on action movies and epics, to the Ken Burns style pillow fort vs. blanket fort civil war, to the giant game of Hot Lava in Geothermal Escapism, each episode not only commits to the faux-world and society that has been created, but also builds in the psychology of the characters. These episodes work because it still tells the story of the characters, and yet are utterly splendid in their ridiculousness.
Geothermal Escapism and the following episodes built together to a fine, though strange climax – but that seems appropriate for Community.
And The Winner Is….
While Once Upon A Time was greatly improved, I was not as frustrated with it in its low points as I was with Agents of SHIELD, and not as excited by high points. Itt is rare for a show to go from, “What is this terrible to thing?” to “I have to watch the next episode, now!!!!!”
Agents of SHIELD succeeded in doing that, and for that rare form, it is this category’s winner.
Best Cancelled Show
It is always risky at the beginning of the Television Season to try out new shows. Some of them flourish, and live on for a second season (for example, Brooklyn Nine Nine and Sleepy Hollow). Others are taken out back and dumped quietly, soon to be treated as they never existed.
And then there are the shows which have been limping along for years, barely scraping things together for another season. While the fan base is fervent, there is always the looming threat of the axe being dropped, and the show being cancelled (more on the life of post-cancellation later.)
The Nominees for Best Cancelled Show Are:
Though only a 13 episode series, it is the remarkable the transformation of the series in that short run. At first, it was on okay show which got stuck in repetitive episodes and a lack of character growth. About 2/3rds through, the characters changed, and the plot thickened. Instead of being a show about chasing and escaping, it became a show about Bo (the main character in the poster) and Tate (a fugitive from death row) bonding as daughter and father. By the end, they had a smooth chemistry as Tate protected Bo, but trusted in her supernatural instincts and abilities.
If it had been given a second season after the first season’s growing pains, I think it could have grown into a pretty good show. It would take a lot to make it great, but I enjoyed the last four or five episodes. Most of all, I liked that the show was centered around kindness and treating people with humanity, and the solutions were usually something related to helping people.
A few months ago, I wrote an entire post about the mistreatment of Almost Human. If given a solid time slot and aired in order, I think Almost Human could have earned enough viewers to merit a second season. There were a few stilted episodes in the beginning, and, similar to Believe and Agents of Shield, had a lot of common cliches and tropes.
However, as the two main characters, Detective Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy), an android, developed, their rich chemistry built a deeper foundation for the show. The plots themselves became more sci-fi and began to push into interesting variations on modern technology and questions of ethics.
And just when the show was on the verge of greatness, it was cancelled.
First, after the recent announcement of Yahoo picking up the show, Community now only semi-qualifies for this award. It will be interesting to see what the show’s writers will do with 1. more time and 2. less restrictions. Both of those could be a double-edged sword.
However, since NBC did officially cancel the show, I’m including it in the category.
As mentioned before – usually, a great show, but with a few weak episodes. Its biggest asset is the infinitely quotable catch phrases and fervent fan base.
And The Winner Is….
First, Karl Urban makes anything more awesome. Second, if this show had been able to continue in the path it finished on, now that the characters were fleshed out, it could have been a great sci-fi show and spawn more greatness. Unfortunately, it ended before its time.
Coming up next week we have:
3. Best Show I Gave Up On
4. Show I Enjoyed More Than It Merited
- What is your favorite show that was cancelled too early?
- What show are you glad you gave a second chance to?
- How many shows would be better if you replaced the lead character with Karl Urban?