Welcome to the fourth installment of the 2014 Bobby James Awards. This edition will celebrate the characters, actors/actresses, people and shows that made for compelling television. I’m interested to know your reactions. Please, leave your comments below.
Now, may I have the imaginary envelopes please:
Reality Television Personality or Host:
Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Olympians
American figure skater Meryl Davis was far and away the most lovable, humble and real person – as seen throughout her appearance in the Sochi Olympic Games – on television in 2014. She was arguably America’s princess for a two week period, and the most beautiful and graceful figure skater since Michelle Kwan. Davis epitomized what it meant to be an Olympian – and in her smile and athleticism, Davis made a country proud.
Like Davis, Charlie White came off as a perfect gentleman and a great Olympian. What was there not to love about him? He complimented his partner and appeared humble all the while. Together, Davis and White brought the first Ice Dancing gold medal home to the United States, while setting a new world record score!
Runner Up: Nikki Bella – E! Total Divas
Television Series – Reality or Informational:
Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey (National Geographic/Fox)
Narrated by legendary astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos offered an intimate, yet unknown – and unparalleled look at our universe. The reenactments and digital animations made science fun again – and surely inspired generations future scientists while posing questions about our existence, the unknown and how life all began.
Cosmos was an unrivaled 13-part documentary series that took viewers on a journey through space and time.
Runner Up: Kingdom of the Apes
Television Series – Reality Competition:
The Sochi Winter Olympics (NBC)
Despite the controversy surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Sochi Winter Olympics were beautifully executed. The opening and closing ceremonies celebrated Russian culture and worldwide sportsmanship. Even better? Several athletes used the Olympiad to send messages of hope and to promote human rights (in the face of oppressive Russian policies, ex. anti-gay legislation). This was reality competition at its finest, celebrating the greatest athletes the world has to offer.
Runner Up: Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network)
Television Series – Talk Show:
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Maybe I have a built-in bias towards Jimmy Kimmel Live! After all, I did work as an extra on a skit for the show (when I was in Los Angeles, I was used in a “MUCHO” segment)! Or maybe it’s just because his shows are always full of genuine fun. Or maybe it’s because of all the Scandal tie-ins? Who knows – could be the “Mean Tweets” segments. What I can say for certain is that when it came to compelling comedy and intriguing guests, Jimmy Kimmel Live! brought me to late-night television on several occasions.
Runner Up: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Score for a Television Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie:
The Americans – Nathan Barr
Composer Nathan Barr has scored over 25 feature films and composed and performed the music for HBO’s four-season series True Blood. He’s frequently collaborated with Eli Roth (on the Hostel franchise, Cabin Fever and The Last Exorcism) and most recently, he’s lent his abilities to FX’s The Americans.
Barr’s score for The Americans elicits thoughts of danger and beauty. It’s a perfect way to introduce the Cold War spy drama and the music compliments the credits nicely with intrigue. The opening sequence is as much of a character as it is a tone setter.
Runner Up: Da Vinci’s Demons – Bear McCreary
Costume Design for a Television Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie:
Scandal – Lyn Paolo
Without question, Olivia Pope (as portrayed by Kerry Washington) is television’s best dressed character. In a time when Hollywood is obsessed with flaunting actors’ bodies, Scandal clothing designer Lyn Paolo is more concerned with covering them up and inspiring contemporary fashion trends. At least, that’s what happened anyway. Clothing retailer The Limited, manufactured a line of clothing “inspired by” Olivia Pope – so all the Scandal-ous “gladiators” could watch things be “handled,” in style.
Runner Up: American Horror Story: Freak Show
Guest Star in a Series or Mini-Series:
John Carrol Lynch – “Twisty the Clown” – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Hyped as the most fearsome clown since “Pennywise” in It (1990), John Carrol Lynch had to fill a tall order when bringing “Twisty the Clown” to life. Oddly enough, “Twisty” was scary in a different kind of way. Dare I say, in a way less flamboyant(?) than “Pennywise?” The subtle head turns, eye movements and mannerisms were fearsome.
…and those scenes featuring the children locked in his trailer were unnerving to say the least. He was murderous and frightening – for laughter? That’s twisted – and it was scary, but John Carrol Lynch was physically great (considering the character had no dialogue!).
Runner Up: Portia de Rossi – “Elizabeth North/Lizzie Bear” – Scandal
Supporting Actress in a Television Series:
Kari Matchett – “Joan Campbell” – Covert Affairs
“Joan Campbell,” in the fifth season of USA’s Covert Affairs, was scripted as one of the strongest, most assertive women on television. She was cautiously ambitious and she stood up for herself and those who mattered most – against one of the most powerful government agencies (and her employer) – the CIA.
Kari Matchett conveyed each of “Joan’s” messages exquisitely – and watching her transform into this character was a joy. Even after five seasons, the portrayal was perfect. She played a woman conquering a male-dominated world – and the best part? She relied on her skills – not sexuality – to politically maneuver herself throughout the agency. At the end of season five, her assertiveness had her poised for payoff and Matchett’s style was dignified and subtly confident.
Runner Up: Darby Stanchfield – “Abby Whelan” – Scandal
Supporting Actor in a Television Series:
Kevin Bigley – “Brian” – Sirens
Sirens’ “Brian,” as played by Kevin Bigley has to be one of the funnest and funniest characters on television right now. Bigley’s timing and innocent charm add to this role immensely. He plays the naive new guy perfectly. Whenever he’s on-screen, he steals the show – and maybe a Twix or two, but who’s counting? He’s had more than his fair share of memorable moments. Bigley honestly has the chops to become a comedy great – whether that’s in a multiple season run on Sirens or a different TV comedy.
I’d love to see a scene featuring him and Betty White…!
Runner Up: Sam Underwood – “Luke/Mark” – The Following
Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie:
Ellen Burstyn – “Grandmother/Olivia Foxworth” – Flowers in the Attic
A villainous turn by Ellen Burstyn ensured that she was the most evil grandmother ever. She was frightening – in a classic horror kind of way. Much of that can be attributed to her skill of the craft. She was domineering, her voice and actions were cold – and what she did ranks her among some of the screen’s most sinister women. Far and away the best part of Lifetime’s mediocre literary adaptation, Burstyn savored her time on the screen – and her screen-time ended up being worth the work.
Burstyn was … cruel, there’s really no other word to better represent her performance.
Runner Up: Frances Conroy – “Gloria Mott” – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie:
Matt Bomer – “Felix Turner” – The Normal Heart
Matt Bomer’s career took a positive turn during the runtime of Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart, a story centered on two lovers at the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Bomer’s transformation for the role required serious dedication (he lost a reported 35 pounds!) and the portrayal was absolutely heartbreaking. He’d gone from playing “Neal Caffrey” in USA’s original series White Collar to playing “Ken” in Magic Mike – very generic roles, at best. Felix Turner though earned him his first Golden Globe Award. Set to reprise his role as “Ken” in Magic Mike XXL, Bomer will counter with a dramatic biopic title Monty Clift, about the late screen legend, Montgomery Clift (Bomer is the title role).
Runner Up: Finn Wittrock – “Dandy Mott” – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Leading Actress in a Television Series:
Viola Davis – “Annalise Keating” – How to Get Away with Murder
Keri Russell – “Elizabeth Jennings” – The Americans
Sometimes there are too many outstanding performances to recognize just one. This past year gave us a wondrous look at Kerri Russell in FX’s period-Russian spy drama The Americans and Viola Davis made a huge splash upon her television return on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder.
For her part as “Annalise Keating,” Viola Davis delivers a knockout performance as an attorney/law school professor. She’s a vulnerable and uncertain woman beneath her hardened, winning and confident façade. She’s human – and the grace and ferocity Davis combines to tackle the role either leaves your heart pounding with triumph or breaking with sorrow. It’s a dynamism Davis captures brilliantly.
Then, there’s Kerri Russell, who continues to impress with her emotional depth as “Elizabeth Jennings.” In season one of The Americans, Russell gave us a bad-ass KGB agent who was more than capable of holding her own in the political climate of Cold War-era America. By the end of season two, cracks in her “wall” were starting to show. She appeared vulnerable and began to struggle internally as “The Center” made a play to recruit her daughter, as her friends begin to die and as the drama became more cold. Russell’s performance is riveting, to say the least.
Runner Up: Kerry Washington – “Olivia Pope” – Scandal
Leading Actor in a Television Series:
James Spader – “Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington” – The Blacklist
James Spader makes NBC’s The Blacklist, that goes without question – but season two of the hit drama gave Red more opportunities to be secretive and suave. James Spader is a bad ass and the way he approached the role in season two made him the coolest villain(?) on television. He tempers his laid back character with a scary, almost sinister authority. As viewers, we’re always unsure of whether to trust him or not … what is his secret – and how does Spader keep it so well hidden?
Runner Up: Matthew Rhys – “Phillip Jennings” – The Americans
Leading Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie:
Eva Green – “Vanessa Ives” – Penny Dreadful
Eva Green was everywhere in 2014. Whether she was playing Artemisia, the formidable foe – and one of the strongest female characters in 2014, in 300: Rise of an Empire or starring in Penny Dreadful as “Vanessa Ives,” in Victorian-era London, Green kept turning out stellar performances.
As “Vanessa Ives,” Green contorted physically for the role (when possessed by a demon) and the vocal intonation/rang required of her was ridiculous! She delivered on all fronts – and soared quite high when carrying an entire episode of the show on her shoulders (Vanessa’ back story).
Runner Up: Jessica Lange – “Elsa Mars” – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Leading Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie:
Mark Ruffalo – “Ned Weeks” – The Normal Heart
Mark Ruffalo is an accomplished and versatile actor. He’s also an outspoken environmentalist and human rights activist. So it came as no surprise to see him attached to Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart. What was surprising was his incredibly heartbreaking performance. He offered viewers a frustrated and three-dimensional gay character – a human that felt happy and sad. His reactions – as he watched his partner dying – were incredibly tough to watch and viewers most likely cried with him, while empathizing with his frustration. What Ruffalo did for The Normal Heart was one of his many career defining moments and “Ned Weeks” will survive as one of the most memorable characters in a crowded year.
Runner Up: Jonathan Groff – “Patrick” – Looking
Television Series – Comedy:
From producers Denis Leary and Bob Fisher comes USA’s original series Sirens, a show that’s without question one of the best buddy comedies on television. The camaraderie these characters have is unparalleled and their fan interactions on various platforms of social media is commendable. The dialogue is witty – and the situational comedy is brilliant. We follow a group of EMTs on their day-to-day calls – and the things we see…can never be forgotten. The timing is spot on and the cast just really gets it, comedy that is. Johnny (Michael Mosely), Hank (Kevin Daniels) and Brian (Kevin Bigley) are ridiculously great together – nobody should be having that much fun!
…and how could I not mention the hilarious duo of police officers Theresa (Jessica McNamee) and Billy (Josh Segarra). Billy’s a hoot – and Theresa’s reactions are perfect!
Runner Up: Surviving Jack (Fox)
Television Series – Animated:
WWE Slam City (WWE/Hulu)
I’m always open to new ideas – and imaging a clay-mation world where WWE Superstars and Divas are no longer wrestlers, but “everyday” people is intriguing (I think). WWE Slam City was a web-series composing of short (3-5 minute) episodes. It was like Celebrity Death Match meets WWE meets a comedy club. There were many instances of good humor – and situational comedy – that had several nice little story arcs.
Runner Up: Archer
Mini-Series or TV Movie:
The Normal Heart (HBO)
The Normal Heart, based on Larry Kramer’s stage play of the same title, premiered on HBO in May 2014. Set in 1980s New York City, the film explores the onset of HIV-AIDS, the political climate toward the disease, rampant homophobia and the medical community’s denial of an epidemic. We follow a group of gay activists and their allies as we experience their love and heartache, triumph and tragedy. The Normal Heart is a socially important experience, as well as a key title in the representation of gay cinema.
Runner Up: Klondike
Favorite Television Character (fan-voted):
Your votes were counted and… there’s a three-way tie! With 17.65% of the vote each, here are your favorite television characters (there’s a write-in surprise, too, that wasn’t an original option!).
“Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington” – James Spader – The Blacklist
“Ichabod Crane” – Tom Mison – Sleepy Hollow
“Frank Underwood” – Kevin Spacey – House of Cards
Runners Up: Each with 11.76% of the votes, you selected Olivia Pope (Scandal), Annie Walker (Covert Affairs) and Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU) as the second place finishers.
Favorite Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie (fan-voted):
Your votes are in – and in the closest poll, you’ve selected your champion TV series, mini-series or movie. The winner is – by one vote – with 16.76%…
The Blacklist (NBC)
Television Series – Drama:
The Americans (FX)
FX’s hit series and critically-acclaimed Cold War drama, The Americans, is easily one of the best shows on television. The series is fully committed to its genre and features some really, really great writing and production value. The actors are fantastic and the arcs are dark and mysterious.
Fans of the series constantly wonder “will they or won’t they,” and we develop a deeper level of empathy with each passing episode. Pulses are sent racing as we wonder how the Jennings’ will navigate the increasingly violent world.
Lead actors Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys give dynamic performances as they play various roles throughout the show – and as the cracks begin to form in their cold, hard exteriors.
Runner Up: How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
The Icon Award:
Betty White is one of the greatest legends in television history. Her comedic timing is unrivaled and she has brought to life some of television’s most memorable characters. Known primarily for her roles as “Rose Nylund” in The Golden Girls (1985-1992) and “Sue Ann Nivens” in Mary Tyler Moore (1973-1977), White has amassed an incredible resume spanning eight decades!
For her work, Betty White has been nominated for 21 Primetime Emmy Awards (won a total of five) and 4 Golden Globes. She’s recognized as a comedy and television icon and has reached various milestones in her career – including being awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1988) and being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (1995). She’s the recipient of the “Choice TV Icon” Award (through the People’s Choice Award) for 2015 and she’s still working, and experiencing cross-over success.
In the last decade alone, Betty White’s proven (at the age of 93) to be one of the hardest working women. She’s been part of film – The Proposal (2009), You Again (2010) and The Lorax (2012) – and television simultaneously. She’s produced her own Emmy Award-winning show Off Their Rockers (2012-2014) and gained critical acclaim as an actress on Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015). In her downtime? She’s guest-starred in long-running variety series like Saturday Night Live (in 2010) and WWE RAW (in 2014) – where she notably exclaimed, “I’m gonna kick some ass!”
It appears Betty White has been doing just that since her television debut in 1949. Since then, she’s made her love of comedy, animals and memorable roles known.
I’m proud to recognize Betty White as my first Television Icon Award recipient!
“I eat raw cookie dough. And occasionally, I run through the sprinklers and don’t wear a bathing cap. And at Christmas, I’ve been known to put away more than one eggnog.” – Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls, 1986)
Rose: “I had the strangest dream last night. I was at a baseball game. Charlie Brown was pitching, Shroeder was behind the plate, Lucy and Snoopy were in center field, and they wouldn’t let me play. When I woke up, I was crying. What do you think it is?”
Dorothy: Peanuts envy?” (The Golden Girls, 1990)
“I shouldn’t complain; I mean, four nights is nothing compared to Elsie Uteruden back in St. Olaf. She stayed away for 17 straight days in a rocking chair marathon. Course she couldn’t have done it without the moral support of her children… and her husband… and his cattle prod.” (The Golden Girls, 1987)
“I used every one of mine [condoms]! Late at night, I filled ’em with water and threw ’em at people in the limbo line!” – Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls)