Half the fun of watching TV is all of the weird crap and ephemera popping up in the middle of the night on cable or even in primetime on some out of the way station. To that end, the first annual edition of the TV Club Awards in a wide variety of hyper-specific categories. Feel free to debate our choices or come up with your own prizes.
Best Example Of Writers Saying “Fuck It! No One’s Watching Anyway!”: ’Til Death
Fox kept ordering new seasons of ’Til Death because the production company sold it to them for a steal, hoping to get the series to syndication. But by the end of season four, the ratings had become practically non-existent. Knowing no one would watch freed the show’s producers to wander into off-the-charts insanity. That included making one character aware he lived in a sitcom, recasting a part with a rotating wheel of actresses, and throwing in an animated episode for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever.
Best Theme Song Fucking Ever (Non-Hawaii Five-0 Division): Terriers
This fall, TV critics’ favorite sport was brainstorming theories about why FX’s excellent Terriers wasn’t getting the audience it deserved. Perhaps the name? The protagonists’ economic class? Was it poor fit with FX’s brand? Nah, try this: The show didn’t use its earworm of a theme song enough in promotions. “Gunfight Epiphany,” by the series’ composer Robert Duncan, is everything a Terriers theme needs to be, capturing the charming surface and dark underbelly of the series in a few seconds. And it’s catchy as hell.
Best Theme Song Fucking Ever (Hawaii Five-0 Division): Hawaii Five-0
CBS sent out a version of the new Hawaii Five-0 pilot that attempted to modernize propulsive, instantly identifiable theme Morton Stevens composed for the original version of the show. It went over poorly with critics, and the network then re-recorded the original with as many of the original musicians as it could scrounge up, creating a sense of excitement the new series didn’t really deserve. Still, it’s fun to hear the timpani rumble and the horns go, “Bah bah bah bah BAH BAH. Bah bah bah bah BAH!”
Most … Only Sexually Provocative Use Of NPR: The Good Wife
The Good Wife is dedicated to staying on top of current events, so the presence of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered in its season premiere was pretty standard fare. That it soundtracked Chris Noth’s character performing oral sex on his wife (Julianna Margulies), though? That was, er, somewhat unexpected—and, yeah, kinda hot.
The “She’s Everywhere” Award: Kate Micucci
The throughline of this year’s quirkiest shows: an appearance by pixieish actress Kate Micucci, also known as half of the breakout comedy-folk duo Garfunkel And Oates. Although capable of imbuing even background parts with personality simply by virtue of her odd presence—like her spaced-out waitress on Weeds—Micucci’s naturally elfin features served her especially well during her turn on Bored To Death, for which she played a fan of Zach Galifianakis’ comic-book artist who actually self-identifies as an elf and wears pointy ears in public. That lack of vanity, and her musical skills, lent themselves to a role on Raising Hope, where Micucci played a dead-toothed composer of off-kilter children’s songs. Micucci’s strangest moment in an unusually busy year: Becoming the fourth actress to assume the role of Joely Fisher and Brad Garrett’s daughter on the bizarre final season of ’Til Death. Runner-up: Zosia Mamet, daughter of playwright David Mamet, who had ended up on Parenthood, United States Of Tara, and Mad Men this year.
Most Obvious Case Of Senioritis: Simon Cowell, American Idol
To be fair, Simon Cowell has been coasting for the past couple of years, falling back on the same store of insults while showing little real interest in whether the contestants on American Idol improve or not. But this past season, with his contract just about up, Cowell seemed actively working to sandbag the show. At times, he’d even watch a horrific performance and then just smile and throw his hands in the air, essentially saying, “Who cares what I think? Do what you gotta do, America.”
Best Excuse To Bring Your Dog On An Overseas Flight: The final scene of Lost
It’ll run you a chunk of change to bring your yellow lab from Australia to the U.S., but look at it this way: There’s always a chance your plane might crash on an island, and you’ll become part of a centuries-long struggle between good and evil, and that struggle may end up with you giving your life to save your friends and prevent the destruction of all life on this planet. And when that happens, as you lay dying in a forest of bamboo, leaking blood out of your stomach, far away from anyone who’s ever loved you, well, it’ll be nice to go out looking at a friendly face.
Most Improved Late-Night Host: Jimmy Fallon
Early in his show’s run, Fallon muttered nervously when he talked to guests and delivered monologues without much conviction. But Late Night in the Fallon era has developed into a lively hour of casual chat, clever skits, and some of the best musical performances around. Fallon may not be as razor-sharp and exuberant as Conan O’Brien, but in some ways, he’s much, much hipper.
The “Holy Shit, He Can Act!” Award: Dax Shepard, Parenthood
The former Punk’d “field agent” and star of Let’s Go To Prison was well on his way to becoming this generation’s Joey Lawrence. But he’s actually quite good as delightful, dopey Crosby Braverman on NBC’s Parenthood. Will the future hold more quality roles? Hey, it worked for Keanu Reeves, who became a star after playing a dippy dad in the 1989 film on which the series is based. Whoa.
Most Unexpected Genies: The agents of State Farm Insurance
If you need auto insurance or renters’ insurance or, hell, alien-abduction insurance, State Farm’s ads have always offered a forced gravitas to make you feel more comfortable. Until this year, that is, when the ads abruptly turned into short films about people who whispered the magical incantation of the company’s jingle, only to find their agent popping into existence before their eyes, ready to submit to their every whim, even bringing up the cute neighbor from downstairs for what we can only assume to be horrifying purposes.
Worst Forced Retirement: Caprica
Caprica fans saw the writing on the wall when the powers-that-be at SyFy greenlit Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, a sleeker Galactica spinoff offering more exciting space battles and presumably much less in the way of philosophical rumination on the nature of religion and identity. Still, no one could have foreseen such a shabby sendoff for the Cylon creation drama, which was pulled from the schedule in mid-season (a rarity for a cable series), only to see its final five episodes slated to be burned off on one night—January 4, 2011.
Most Ignominious Farewell: Law & Order
The downside to being a dogged procedural with few ongoing stories is that when you go off the air after a record 20 straight years, no one makes much of a fuss. The best tribute Law & Order received from its own network was a shout-out from 30 Rock, which noted that with the cancellation of L&O, NBC had lost most of its minority employees.
Best Game-Show Moment On A Program That’s Not (Technically) A Game Show: The last five minutes of any Antiques Roadshow
This PBS mainstay used to at least pretend that big dollar figures weren’t its main draw. Lately, though, the final appraisal of each episode has been an unofficial Jackpot Round. Eight people have had their old junk appraised at more than $100,000, including the show’s first million-dollar moment. Watching a flamboyant lithography expert do his best Rod Roddy impression is a surprisingly adequate substitute for the real thing.
Most Flagrant Product Placement: Bing
Microsoft wins this category hands down with their yearlong campaign to make Bing a, uh, thing. From the extremely unsubtle in-episode placements in Gossip Girl, Hawaii Five-0, and a million other shows to the “Gosh, Rodger. Where should we stay in Paris?” advertorials during The Rachel Zoe Project, the computer giant really tried to hammer its new search engine home, especially among the elusive hip, young television watcher. Whether the campaign worked or not is anyone’s guess—we haven’t notices a substantial uptick in the phrase “Bing it”—but, damn, was it annoying.
The Scott Caan Award For Continued Excellence In Mediocre Television: Scott Caan (Entourage, Hawaii Five-0)
When you’re hired to out-Napoleon complex Kevin Connolly then move on to extract humanity from Alex O’Loughlin, you should be doomed to failure. Instead, Caan is this year’s television folk hero, taking both projects seriously enough to show them respect and lightly enough to gain ours.
Best Brit Doing An American Accent: Stephen Graham, Boardwalk Empire
Graham has been playing Americans for years, but it’s still stunning that a Liverpudlian best known for playing a racist skinhead in This Is England could take the quintessentially American role of Al Capone and make viewers think he’d walked onto the studio lot directly from a Chicago stockyard. He’s one of many you’d never guess was from over the pond, but it’s not an unblemished list…
Worst Brit Doing An American Accent: Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead
Lincoln is a fine actor who anchors The Walking Dead well in his Jack Shephard-like role. But he routinely murders his character’s Kentucky accent, often threatening to take audiences out of the scene. (In Lincoln’s defense, it’s not like many of his American co-stars sound terribly authentic either.)
The “You’ve Already Forgotten You Cared So Much About This” Award: LeBron James’ The Decision
Those of us who watched LeBron James hem and haw over which of several NBA teams he would humbly accept millions upon millions of dollars from wondered aloud, “Why are we watching this?” and then, 30 seconds later, “Why did we watch that?”
Saddest Character Death, Inanimate Objects Division: Big Joe, Cougar Town
Maybe instead of all those lame “We’re sorry for the title, we truly are” superscript headers they’ve been putting above the title lately, the producers of Cougar Town should just call the show Drunks, because that’s what most of its characters are—unrepentantly and entertainingly so. What other show would dedicate an entire credits coda to the “death” of a giant wine glass? “He was always there when I needed him,” Courtney Cox’s Jules stammers out. “See you at the crossroads, homie,” says Busy Phillips’ Laurie. On a show where jokes-jokes-jokes are king, this was one of the sweetest.
Best Shows To Inspire Depression And Awe In Equal Measure: Teen Mom, 16 And Pregnant
While the first season of MTV’s 16 And Pregnant made it painfully clear that sex has consequences (namely, babies), the Teen Mom spin-off became a different sort of phenomenon, with the four troubled stars appearing on the cover of just about every trashy magazine out there and garnering millions of viewers for the show every week. Enter a whole new season of 16 And Pregnant, chock full of more condomless kids trying to raise a baby and take the GED. Talk about mixed messages. Why is having a baby a bad idea if it gets you the cover of OK! Magazine?
Best Use Of Stephen King In A Visual Medium: Sons Of Anarchy
As anyone who’s seen Creepshow could tell you, Stephen King isn’t much of an actor. Thankfully, the third season of Sons Of Anarchy focused on his assets; playing a body disposal expert named Bachman (a cute nod to King’s most famous pen-name), King looked tall, skeletal, and hilariously creepy. Fingers crossed for a spin-off.
Most Sympathetic Leader Of A New World Order-like Conspiracy/Cabal: Truxton Spangler on Rubicon
As played by Michael Cristofer, wily, wheezy ol’ Truxton Spanger was at first a looming, fear-inducing figure. As Rubicon went on and viewers learned just what he was up to, he should have gotten scarier and scarier. Instead, he became easier to root for, if just a little. Spangler’s darkly funny, world-weary outlook suggested informed—if misanthropic—consideration and intellect behind all his secret evil machinations. And, in one episode’s magnificent monologue, he essentially brings the U.S. Congress to its knees by talking about their neckties.
Best Title Sequence: How To Make It In America
It doesn’t matter that this evocative title sequence sells How To Make It In America as something other than an alternate universe series wherein Entourage’s Vincent Chase decided to make jeans instead of becoming an actor. Any possible enjoyment of this show comes almost entirely from the way the title sequence merges stylized images of New York with Aloe Blacc’s infectious “I Need A Dollar.” That Nurse Jackie’s lifeless opening credits won an Emmy while these weren’t even nominated is history’s greatest injustice.
Best Portrayal Of A Teenage Girl: Dean Winters for Allstate
As if willing to follow State Farm’s insurance-agent-as-genie-ads off the quirkiness cliff, Allstate introduced a series of ads starring gruff ol’ Dean Winters (best known as 30 Rock’s “Beeper King”) as “Mayhem,” taking the form of assorted potential damage-dealers, including a female jogger, the wind, and, impressively, a teenage girl. The sight of Winters dolled up in big pink sunglasses and texting his BFFs is so bizarre we’re eagerly awaiting the inevitable spinoff sitcom: Dean Winters IS Teen Princess.
Worst Portrayal Of A Teenage Girl: The female cast of The Secret Life Of The American Teenager
ABC Family’s super-hit Secret Life often seems like a bunch of aliens landed on Earth, went to a high school, then came up with a dramatic presentation to report their findings to the folks back home. Most alien of all is the show’s female cast, where even the occasionally winning Shailene Woodley has succumbed by a creeping blandness. Worst of all? Bristol Palin, who appeared in a 30-second cameo that made her sound like she’d learned English phonetically.
Best Hacker On An Action Drama: Christopher Gorham, Covert Affairs
Hacker characters are de rigueur on primetime action shows these days. They’re chained to a laptop at HQ, talking into the undercover hero’s earpiece. The hero hears it but no one else does, despite it being the loudest thing in the scene; even better, the hero talks back, but no one realizes who or what he’s talking to. Gorham, the charmingly befuddled Henry from Ugly Betty, gets to play extra business on Covert Affairs, because his character is blind. He isn’t remotely convincing, but that’s part of his (and the show’s) charm.
Best/Worst Consecutive Twists, Spoiler Division (Seriously, contains spoilers): Dollhouse, “Getting Closer”
As Dollhouse hurtled towards its cancellation, its writers raised and re-raised the stakes like a drunken poker player on tilt. The best examples of this weren’t just plot twists but also worked on thematic and characterization levels. Sociopathic nerds Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) and Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau) each had a long, slow development toward humanity and redemption, accelerated by their romance. Just after the two first kiss, that romance is shattered as a sleeper agent puts a bullet in Bennett’s brainpan, preventing her from fully joining the good guys. That twist was shocking enough, but Dollhouse was simultaneously building toward a final reveal of its primary antagonist, the CEO of the evil Rossum corporation, revealed, just five minutes later, as Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix), the head of the house’s security and arguably the hero of the show’s first season. This retcon made no sense in terms of plot, offered nothing thematically, and betrayed some of the best characterization the show had done, weakening the final two episodes.
Best Civics Lesson That Consists Solely Of Made-Up Facts: Plastic Man on Batman Brave And The Bold
When Batman and the Freedom Fighters get captured on an alien world, it’s up to ex-con-turned-hero Plastic Man to save them. Uncle Sam tells the reformed rubbery reprobate that “the spirit of freedom is all around,” so Plastic Man rallies the aliens with a truth-stretching speech about American values. (“I, like George Jefferson before me, cannot tell a lie.”) Because his heart is pure and this is a cartoon, it works. Just make sure your kids don’t use the show as a study aid.
Reality Show Most Likely To Inspire Suicidal Thoughts: Toddlers & Tiaras
What’s the biggest problem with Toddlers & Tiaras? That it gives a platform to stage mothers who shove their daughters into the spotlight in order to live out their failed dreams? That it normalizes little girls who behave like grown-up women? That it feeds the fire of a sexist, lookist society? No, the problem is you, for watching it, sicko.
Best Late-Night Puppets: The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson
Okay, so there’s not a lot of competition, but Ferguson’s bunny and alligator hand puppets would probably win this award even if there were. Ferguson’s occasional episode-opening song-and-dance numbers are immeasurably improved by the woodland critters rocking back and forth in front of the camera. Can we suggest they be added to every show?
Live News Gaffe Of The Year: Russell in True Blood ripping out an anchorman’s spine on-air
Mad Vampire King Russell (Denis O’Hare) may have set vampire rights back a few years with this stunt. And rantings like “Why would we seek equal rights? You are not our equals. We will eat you after we eat your children!” certainly couldn’t have helped. It was still worth it, if only to create the fictional viral video of the year. Considering how excited we in the real world get over things like someone saying “keep fucking that chicken,” you can imagine the stir this mishap would create.
Best Expected TV Couple: Chuck and Blair, Gossip Girl
As Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester have chemistry to burn, and burn they do. Watching the two smolder through their on-again, off-again romance makes for sheer agonizing pleasure as they jet around a parallel universe New York where everyone wears really nice suits and expensive lingerie. Gossip Girl also deserves bonus points for writing “Chair” into some of broadcast television’s smuttiest situations.
Funniest Pratfall In An NBC Comedy, Non-Chevy Chase Division: Nick Offerman in the season finale of Park And Recreation
Comedy equals surprise, and nothing’s more surprising (and therefore funnier) than seeing Pawnee’s mustachioed paragon of manly composure panic and then bite it on a patch of particularly slick grass.
Most Welcome Mercy-Killing: ESPN dismissing Joe Morgan from Sunday Night Baseball
It’s hard to say what we’ll miss the least about the man who inspired Parks And Recreation creator Michael Schur (a.k.a. @kentremendous) and friends to create the much-missed—but mercifully no longer necessary—Fire Joe Morgan. The arrogant dismissal of modern statistical analysis in favor of tired “back in my day” bloviating? The careless butchery of the English language? The complete absence of a discernible sense of humor? He may have been a five-tool player for The Big Red Machine of the ’70s, but by the end of his broadcasting career, he was only a tool.
The “No One I Know Voted For Nixon” Award For Top-20 Nielsen Staple You Never Watch: Undercover Boss
CBS’ “Hooray for product placement!” reality show Undercover Boss debuted after the Super Bowl to predictably huge numbers, but many shows that have debuted after the big game have faded in the ratings in subsequent weeks. Not so with Undercover Boss, which isn’t a huge hit but has become a constant presence in the Nielsen top 20 anyway, despite its target audience appearing to consist solely of embattled CEOs.
“Stop This Show, I Want To Get Off” Award: Swoosie Kurtz, Mike & Molly
While it is unfortunate that the charming Melissa McCarthy and the legitimately funny Billy Gardell are trapped on this oft-heinous show, the wonderful Swoosie Kurtz is its greatest victim. While the leads are the butt of the terrible weight-related and incredibly horrifying sex-related humor, Kurtz actually has to deliver those jokes, an innocent victim of deplorable writing. Would you buy “FREE SWOOSIE” buttons if we made them?
Best Violent Mini-Trend: Attractive, funny women with guns
Comely actresses like Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) and Alison Brie (Community) have been running away with their comedies more and more this season, despite being the “pretty face” in their ensemble shows. Just in case their jokes weren’t weaponry enough, both actresses sported firearms in episodes aired on consecutive nights last month.
Best You-Can't-Be-Serious TV Ad: Shake Weight
It’s not like Saturday Night Live—or anybody—had to bother making fun of this. You don’t even have to see it to get the joke, thanks to the announcer’s verbiage: “Ordinary weights isolate one muscle in one direction.” Indeed. But when the lead shaker practically throws his weight to the floor when he’s finished, with a relieved, “Boy, that’s good,” it should be clear to anyone that the Shake Weight “succeeds” largely because it simulates another one-handed activity intimately known to the majority of American males.
Best TV Club-Approved Sports Announcers: Don Duguid and Colleen Jones, NBC Olympic curling
All we’re really looking for from our sportscasters is expertise and enthusiasm, and we get ample supplies of both from Duguid and Jones, who are spirited in their opinions and analysis, making an unfamiliar game (at least to those south of the 49th parallel) easier to understand. That they do so in chirpy Canadian accents is a bonus.
Best Drunken Dancing Fairy Princess: Treme
Treme was filled with fantastic images and indelible characters, and Kim Dickens’ Jeanette may have been the best of both. In the series’ Mardi Gras episode, the failed restaurateur spends the day flitting around in a fairy-princess costume. A drunken Jeanette dances and sings, waving her wand at a parked car in order to turn it into a taxi. When that effort fails, she leads a group of passers-by in a tipsy a capella version of “Iko Iko.” It’s beautiful, charming, and tinged with regret, all at once.
The “Prematurely Nostalgic For The TV Of The Mid-’00s” Award: The Event
Hey, remember when television was full of densely serialized stories littered with mysterious teases, cardboard characters, frequent flashbacks, and questions upon questions with no answers in sight? Didn’t we all miss that? Aren’t we glad to have something to roll our eyes at on NBC on Monday nights again?
Best Parody Ad Within A Real Ad: “Rapunzhair”
A mock-shampoo spot to promote Tangled, a movie about Rapunzel, is a fairly obvious gambit. (In fact, the film as a real tie-in ad with Pantene.) Nevertheless, “Rapunzhair” offers a spot-on satire of the claims made for real shampoo, from the small-type “blondetine rejuvenous” beneath the big name to side effects that—accompanied by images of the hero slamming body-first into a plank hanging off the side of a mountain—include “mild chest pain.”
The “Give Them The Superpowers And Spin Them The Hell Off” Award: Autumn Reeser and Romany Malco of No Ordinary Family
While the family on No Ordinary Family has struggled against mundanity more than any particular supervillain, the sidekicks played by Autumn Reeser and Romany Malco have consistently upstaged the stars. They’re smart, funny, genre-savvy, and charismatic in all the ways that that the family members aren’t allowed to be. They’re already driving the show, so why not just give them keys?
Most Overused Song Award: “The Dog Days Are Over,” Florence And The Machine
Florence And The Machine broke through in a big way in 2010, and that meant the group’s music got used frequently on television. And by “music,” we mean “that one big song,” which popped up in live performances by the band, sure, but also in commercials, as a part of opening credits sequences, and, in a sure sign the song’s time had come and gone, as a chirpy anthem for the chipper kids on Glee.
The “Jesus, People, It’s Just Fucking Dessert” Award: The cast of Top Chef: Just Desserts
Ever wondered why the contestants on Top Chef are so hesitant to tackle something as simple as baking a cake? Judging by the collection of divas, bigots, paranoiacs, and depressives who competed on the series’ Just Desserts spin-off, the answer is obvious: Working with sugar, flour, and chocolate all day makes you lose your goddamn mind.