Top 10 Best TV Specials for/about Youth from 2016 (Also, what is “Youth Media?”)

girl in the river

I have a relatively loose definition of “Youth Media.” Most people would describe it as any book, TV program, movie, music, etc. that’s created for and targeted towards children or teens (like any Newbery winner, Pixar movie, CW teen drama, or Nickelodeon program). Some would expand it to include “family viewing” (like 7th Heaven, the standard Hallmark romcom, or anything related to religion). Some books and their respective film adaptations like The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Secret Life of Bees weren’t originally advertised exclusively for “young people,” but young people, some time down the line, have created a strong connection with these stories. I’d include all those in my own personal definition of youth media…and go even one step further. I think youth media should also include any medium (within reason) that features youth characters, with the intention of offering some sort of profound and educational lesson or insight. So…Endless Love (I’m talking about the wonderful, original book by Scott Spencer), with its graphic sexual details? Youth media. Kids? That movie starring a young Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson with its unflinching, raw look into the AIDS epidemic? The movie that’s NC-17?Youth media. And, frankly, with supervision and guidance, I think it’s a movie that’s still relevant for older teens.

In any case, that opening is my way of preparing you for some of the unexpected choices I have on my list. I watched a lot of TV movies this year, a lot of it targeted towards kids and families. Everything from celebrity filled Sesame Street specials, to the Lifetime movies featuring rebellious daughters. But, frankly, it’s the unexpected choices that really makes me proud of this list, and excited for the future of youth television. We no longer have Afterschool specials anymore. HBO and Showtime no longer produce high quality dramatic content for young people. If you want truly profound television for the youth of America, sometimes you have to find it in unexpected places. So, read this list with an open mind, and realize there’s youth television beyond Disney Channel…

10. The Swap: Speaking of Disney Channel…the cable network, after a marathon featuring DCOMs from a better era, only released two original movies this year, both with record low ratings. One movie was a reboot of a still popular theatrical film from the 80’s. The other was this. The Swap is the better movie of the two, and, to my surprise, one of the best of the year. The storyline is pretty much Freaky Friday, except, this time, it is the girly rhythmic gymnast (Peyton List) who switches places with the stressed sensitive hockey player (Jacob Bertrand). Although the initial premise didn’t draw me in (not exactly original), the TV movie’s exploration into distant parents and high school pressures kept me from switching the dial. That and Naomi Snieckus’s hilarious performance as Coach Carol.

9. He Named Me Malala: This movie had an Oscar qualifying theatrical run before airing on Nat Geo last March. Although the movie failed to nab an Oscar nomination, it was nominated for several Emmys, including one for Davis Guggenheim’s direction. The documentary focuses on teen Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was gunned down by a member of the Taliban as a result of her activist work promoting education for girls. Although it’s not the most put together documentary, Malala is such a compelling and inspiring figure, that her story is enough for me to recommend this movie. And the animated sequences are gorgeous.

8. American Experience: The Perfect Crime: This PBS documentary discusses the famous murder of a 14 year old in the spring of 1924 by two wealthy, privileged college students: Leopold and Loeb. The two committed the “crime of the century” because…well…just because, really. It’s true that some rich people just think they can get away with anything they want. The documentary discusses their motivations, the buzzy trial, and the implications as a result of the verdict. Ultimately, what made the trial so fascinating is that it shattered the myth that young, rich, white people, with all the potential and opportunities in the world, can’t possibly be monsters inside.

7. Melody 1963: Love Has to Win: Amazon is currently the best producer of children’s television media. Between Gortimer Gibbon’s, Just Add Magic, and The Kicks, there’s no television network, online or traditional, that creates better original children’s series than Amazon. This year, with American Girl (another notable youth media producer), the streaming site essentially produced two dramatic specials, each under an hour (so, “Afterschool special” length). Their Christmas special starring Maryellen (featuring a memorable score by Sasha Gordon) is great in its own right, and is probably number 11 on this list. However, Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, a special starring Blackish’s Marsai Martin about life in Detroit during the Civil Rights Movement, is truly the kind of thing that’s missing from youth media nowadays (I know I am beating a dead horse about this, but still!). It’s not the most groundbreaking children’s special about racism (that title would go to The Color of Friendship thankyouverymuch), but it’s still certainly the kind of media we need in 2017.

6. 30 for 30: Fantastic Lies: There’s a lot I could say about the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape charges (charges that, after an intense court battle, were found to be completely false). Some people would probably find my thoughts on it controversial. So I won’t get into it (OK, I will say that I don’t particularly feel bad for the accused men, there I said it #sorrynotsorry!). But, this documentary is a compelling, fascinating and honest look at college sports culture, our thoroughly flawed American justice system, and our societal need to come to conclusions and get out our pitchforks as quickly as possible. The look into college life, in particular, is essentially what qualifies this ESPN special to make this list.

5. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness: This short documentary about an eighteen year old Pakistani girl who survives an honor killing by her own father aired on HBO right after it won an Oscar for best Documentary Short. It’s probably the most infuriating thing I watched all last year. USA is not in a great place right now, but at least this isn’t a country where killing your own daughter is not only accepted and nearly revered, but also as close as legal as possible. This girl is almost killed by her father, and literally everyone around her either excuses the act, or justifies it. It’s disgusting and wrong, and it’s one of those cultural norms that I would never accept or normalize. The film’s director, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who also won an earlier Oscar for a film on acid attacks in Pakistan, is simply one of the bravest filmmakers of today; and A Girl in the River is about a young woman who must realize that “honor” trumps love in her father’s eyes.

4. Grease Live!: Like everyone else in America, I came into this program with low expectations. This seemed like FOX’s way of trying to duplicate the success NBC had had with their live musicals. At one point, FOX even seemed to be having trouble finding a semi-high profile cast for the risky project. But, again, like everyone else in America, I was pleasantly surprised by how well this production turned out. The cast was perfect (particularly Keke Palmer, with her sultry rendition of “Freddy My Love”). The live audience, for the most part, actually worked. The sets were gorgeous, particularly the carnival themed final number. But the best thing about this live production was the photography. A part of me still thinks the gym dance scene was pre-shot using single camera. FOX really pushed the limits and changed the game with this production. The next two musicals (neither of them really “live”) FOX attempted afterwards last year were misfires, but hopefully soon they will return back to form and give us another memorable night.

3. Hairspray Live!: Technically, Grease Live! was better directed than NBC’s effort this year (Alex Rudzinski directed the FOX special with Hamilton‘s Thomas Kail, while he also directed the NBC musical with directing genius Kenny Leon); however, the truth is, Hairspray Live! gets more points from me because the original source is better than that of Grease’s. The songs are better. The story is better. The characters and costumes are quirkier. But the production itself is great in its own right. It’s a pleasure actually having Harvey Fierstein’s performance as protective mother Edna preserved on non-bootlegged video (I love John Travolta but this role simply belongs to Fierstein). Jennifer Hudson absolutely murdered “I Know Where I’ve Been.” And while the roles of Velma and Amber Von Tussle usually don’t give the actresses who play the characters much notice or praise, Broadway Quen Kristin Chenoweth and Disney Princess Dove Cameron practically breathed life into the roles. Like the Melody movie, a television special about prejudice in the 1960’s can still teach lessons for a 2016/17 audience.

2. Black Mirror: Shut Up and Dance: Black Mirror is an anthology series that streams on Netflix that features stories, usually metaphorical dystopian parables, centered on technology. This particular episode is unique because, unless I missed something when I first watched it, the story is set in the present and everything that happens in the episode could presumably happen in real life. It’s about a British teenager (The Imitation Game’s Alex Lawther) who is blackmailed into committing random, sometimes illegal, acts, after he is secretly filmed…well, doing something bad. Unless he follows the mysterious hacker’s directions, video of him committing the “bad” act will spread and he will be exposed. Black Mirror is an overall amazing series, but this episode, and the season three premiere “Nosedive” which couldn’t make my list here, are my two favorite episodes of the season. Hopefully the next season will feature another episode starring a young, confused character

1. American Crime (season 2): The first season of American Crime was incredible, but this second season gave me ten of the most thrilling, exciting, thought provoking weeks of watching television I had ever experienced. The second season of this anthology series focuses on a young teen boy (Connor Jessup) who accuses the popular basketball player (Joey Pollari) of raping him. Lili Taylor also gives an amazing, Emmy nominated performance as the young teen boy’s conflicted mother. The season reaches its climax when Jessup’s character obtains a gun and takes it to school, killing one of the members of the basketball team. There’s another plot involving a black principal and his complicated relationship with his racially diverse students. There are simply so many layers to this story. So many great performances. So many issues that are handled expertly, mostly regarding high school life: sex, drugs, rape, sexuality, sports, and depression. In the 80’s and 90’s, Afterschool Specials that covered all these topics, would have been produced by ABC. Those times are unfortunately behind us, but at least the topics can be thoughtfully acknowledged in this anthology series. Whether or not the third season can be considered “youth media,” even by my loose standards, I am still very much looking forward to it, because it is underrated television that will be regarded as landmark television in the years to come.

I mentioned a couple specials already that just missed the cut. I’m thoroughly confident with this top ten, but I am a little surprised that the new Anne of Green Gables (that aired on PBS here in America during Thanksgiving) couldn’t make the cut. The truth is, it’ll be hard for me to fully judge this adaptation until the full story is covered (it looks to me that only the first of three planned movies has aired). Right now, it’s just…no Megan Follows. No Kevin Sullivan. #sorrynotsorry. Although I believe Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day is one of the greatest picture books ever written, the new animated adaptation by Amazon was an unfortunate disappointment for me. (Peter’s excitement for mac and cheese was just…too much…and bordering stereotypical). On the other hand, I was this close to putting A Bad Lip Reading’s Disney approved interpretation of High School Musical on the list…but, as hilarious as I found it, it just didn’t seem right (and there are no proper credits for the special anyway).

Let’s hope this year pushes the limits for youth media even further.


Ranking the Newbery Medal Winners Since 2010


Matt De La Pena, 2016 Newbery winner

In about a week, the 2017 Youth Media Awards will be livestreamed. They are awards, sponsored by the ALA, that honors the best of children’s literature from the previous year. Honors like the Coretta Scott King Award, the Printz, and, of course, The Caldecotts, among others, are recognized here. The National Book Award (which was recently won by American Hero John Lewis) is a separate award with no ties to the ALA. The most prominent, famous and recognized children’s book award, the Newbery, is. While many YA bloggers and enthusiasts are busy with their final prediction ballots, not being too up to date with the newest books from 2016, I’ve decided to take a look back at the children’s books and their authors that have won the high honor since the start of the decade. While all seven of these books are fabulous and generally deserving of their awards, here is how I’d rank them if the ALAs wanted to create a new”SuperNewbery” medal.

7. Flora & Ulysses: The Illustrated Adventures (Kate DiCamillo) – 2015

Accompanied with funny comic drawings by KG Campbell, this quirky, somewhat endearingly irreverent book is about a girl named Flora who inherits a squirrel with superpowers, she names Ulysses. It’s funny, but with most Newbery winners, there’s some parental drama that really keeps the story grounded and relatable for readers.

6. Dead End in Norvelt (Jack Gantos) – 2012

This is the kind of book I’d like to publish, if I’m ever given the opportunity. It’s one part autobiography, it’s another part fiction. For a book from the perspective of a young boy, the writing is really impressive. It tells the story of twelve year old Jack Gantos, as he tries to uncover a murder mystery in his otherwise small humdrum Pennsylvanian town.

5. The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) – 2013

When I first decided to read this book, I didn’t think I’d like it; but I actually was surprised by how captivated I was by the story. The book, told from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla, is about his caged life in a mall/arcade zoo. After the death of his Elephant friend, who was also a performer for the shady zoo, he is determined to get him and his fellow animal friends out.

4. The Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena) – 2016

I wrote about this book in my last post where I reviewed some the Caldecott honor books. It’s very rare for a ~20 page picture book to win this award. Usually, novels win. But the story and message told here is so poignant, I can understand why voters felt compelled to choose it. It’s a story about a boy, his grandmother, and the lessons they learn on a bus ride from church.

3. Moon Over Manifest (Clare Vanderpool) – 2011

If Showtime still produced television movies for young people like did during the 90’s and early 2000’s, the channel probably would have adapted this book. The book tells two stories: one about a girl during the Great Depression, who is forced to live apart from her father during the summer in a small town called Manifest; and the other, which takes place two decades earlier in the same town, about two friends, one who goes abroad to fight in World War I, and the other who stays behind and attempts to save their town from being owned by greedy, morally evil mine owners. How the two stories are connected will amaze you.

2. When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead) – 2010

Some book critics have called this book the greatest children’s book of the new millennium. It’s hard to find fault with that subjective statement. This is a really clever, speculative-lite novel. It’s like…Inception for young people. Right? Anyway, the book takes place in New York during the 70’s, about an eleven year old girl who starts to receive these mysterious messages from an unknown source. She soon learns these messages are from the future, and that she’s supposed to prevent something bad from happening. It’s a thoroughly clever book. Newbery judges really like mystery books, apparently.

1. The Crossover (Kwame Alexander) – 2015

But my heart belongs to The Crossover, one of those life changing books that truly inspires me in all my creative endeavors. Who knew a book about middle school basketball could do that? Written in beautiful, electric free-verse, the book is about a star basketball player, his rivalry with his twin brother, and his complicated relationship with his former professional basketball player father. It’s a book I can read over and over again. In my opinion, The Crossover is one of the most refreshing choices a Newbery committee has ever made.

So, who’ll win the Newbery this year? We’ll find out next Monday at 8am EST. The award announcement will be livestreamed, with a proper gala ceremony occurring a few months afterwards.

Creeping Around the Picture Books #8 (Caldecott, Newbery, and Thanksgiving)

Note: I originally drafted this post last November, with the intention of publishing it before Thanksgiving. Things came up, and I ended up forgetting I had ever written this. Most of the books are general releases, but there is one Thanksgiving-themed book. I’m not the kind of person who likes to waste my words. So, I’m keeping up the review anyway. 

I’m surprised I haven’t done one of these since June. Although, I haven’t posted much since the summer anyway. I’ve been working two new jobs, so it’s difficult to post more often. It’d be nice to do this full time..but, really, very few people blog full time anyway. I just need to learn better time management skills. Heck! I watched like 10 Youtube videos (including Disney Channel wand outtakes) before I finally started typing this.

Y’know, every time I walk into the Youth section of my library, more kids are on the computers than at the couches actually reading. So, y’know, the three white women who work there should be excited that someone is interested in the books. Excited.

Also, uh, parents, you should, of course, be encouraging your kids to read more. They can start with these books…


Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena / Christian Robinson) – This book is about a boy and his grandmother and their Sunday bus trip to the soup kitchen where they volunteer. During this trip, the grandmother teaches the boy that even though they’re not wealthy, and they can’t afford to ride in a car and other luxuries, you can still find fun, music, and beauty wherever you go. I related to this book for two reasons. One, as someone who rides the bus to work every morning, I can definitely relate to the sort eccentricities one can find on a bus. And two, even though I certainly didn’t have as disadvantage a life as the characters in the book, we still were far from rich. There were moments my parents struggled to buy groceries. I certainly didn’t have the toys and gadgets that my wealthier friends had (I went from public elementary school to a private prep middle school so that was a tough transition in terms of realizing how “poor” I really was). So I had to use my imagination. I had to run around in my backyard and be creative and see fun in everything. This book is certainly idealistic, but there are enough bits of realism that it doesn’t alienate the readers who live in similar situations. The illustrations are beautifully rich, diverse and taken from the Keats bible. Earlier this year, this book received a Caldecott Honor and (shockeroo!) straight up won the Newbery, an award that’s usually reserved for chapter books. I wouldn’t say this is the best picture I’ve ever read. Sometimes, I think there should be a separate award for picture book writers (Caldecotts are only awarded to the illustrator of a book). But, I still admire this year’s committee for doing something different. It’s a shocking breath of fresh air. From where I am, this book is deserving of the Newbery. Published in 2015.

finding-winnieFinding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (Lindsay Mattick / Sophie Blackall) – I think the title of this book says it all. Apparently, another book about Winnie the Pooh came out the same year. I should’ve checked that one out too so I could compare them. Maybe another time. Anyway, the unique thing about this book is that it was written by a descendant of the army vet who first discovered the little bear that became the inspiration for the character, Winnie-the-Pooh. So it’s a unique perspective, and Mattick certainly takes advantage of that by centering the narration around her telling the story to her son. It’s a pretty big risk Mattick took, and it seemed like it paid off since the book won the Caldecott this year (which technically only went to the illustrator, Blackall, but it’s usually difficult for a book to win a Caldecott without an acclaimed story and/or text behind it). I appreciate the risk, but I think I would have preferred a more straight-forward telling of the book. The little interruptions involving Mattick and her son in the book were a little too cutesy and distracting for me. Otherwise, I’d still certainly recommend this book. The illustrations, although not genre-bending, are certainly big and bright and clear. It’s a very nice book, but I guess I just didn’t feel much reading it. Published in 2015.

trombone-shortyTrombone Shorty (Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews / Bryan Collier) – I think it’s very nice that the real Trombone Shorty was the one that told his story. And he does a very nice job of doing it. I kinda wish the story had a little more bite to it, maybe by mentioning Hurricane Katrina or delving deeper into the poverty in the New Orleans area (it’s touched on a little bit, but not much). But I can understand Mr. Andrews’ choice at keeping this book light and positive for the young readers he is trying to reach out to. The illustrations, which were Caldecott Honored earlier this year, are marvelous. Bryan Collier, who seriously needs to actually win a Caldecott at some point, paints beautiful pictures that are one part watercolor mural, and another part collage. It’s the kind of artwork one can spend hours gazing at. And it’s, of course, always great when a book makes you want to listen to the music being referenced after reading about it. Published in 2015.

follow-the-moon-homeFollow the Moon Home (Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson / Meilo So) – This book, co-written by environmental activist Philippe Cousteau, is the story of a girl who gets her community to turn off the lights at night so that the baby sea turtles on the beach can easily find their way to the ocean, as opposed to walking the opposite way and dying of dehydration. The book is essentially fiction, but it’s more of a “step by step” guide so kids reading it can get inspired to do the same thing. If anything, this book could also inspire kids to simply find a problem and use to determination to find a solution. I’d certainly recommend the book for the classroom. It’s an interesting way of getting kids inspired, and, of course, it brings to light the issue of sea turtle habitation. But, because it’s so instructional, and there’s very little “story,” it’s just not the sort of book I’d ever read again. But, the book does what it set out to do and that’s what matters the most. I didn’t particularly like the illustrations until the end where we see the sea turtles at night, being guided for the shiny moony. Those pages were as affecting as they were beautiful. But I found the pictures of the actual human beings to be a bit  bland (a quick Google search of So’s work shows she’s capable of better). Overall, a good read for a homework assignment. Published in 2016.

a-thanksgiving-wishA Thanksgiving Wish (Michael J. Rosen / John Thompson) – This book is about a family who attempts to recreate their Bubbe’s infamous Thanksgiving dinner a year after her death. They run into some electrical problems, and rely on the generosity of their new neighbors for help. The story also concerns Amanda, the youngest daughter, who always had a tradition with her Bubbe, which involved breaking wishbone and making a wish if she got the biggest piece. This book is essentially about Amanda coming to terms with her Bubbe’s death. This book, published almost 17 years ago, is pretty much a classic at this point. It’s a nice, heartwarming story about family, community, and the malleability of traditions. The illustrations are the type you’d really only see in picture books from the nineties: very detailed and scarily realistic. Overall, it was great rediscovering this book again. It was actually on display at my library before Thanksgiving, so there must still be relevant today. Published in 1999.

Road to Avonlea Review: Home Movie

home movie avonlea

“So…when you look around you, haunted hill, at the homestead lights, at the fields tilled by the dead and gone who loved you, you’ll say, ‘Why, I’ve come home to this life.’ We’re lucky enough to live each moment of everyday in which Jasper Dale has been fortuitous and ingenious enough to catch it. We and future generations might know it.”

Episode Summary: American millionaire HB Dunn (Battlestar Galactica, Fargo, and Teen Wolf’s Michael Hogan) comes to Avonlea in order to turn the town into one of his “cities of the future.” He plans on buying the townspeople out and changing the quiet idyllic little island town into a booming 20th century metropolis. While many of the townspeople show genuine interest, Hetty hates the idea of Avonlea changing. In her anger, she once again shuts out everyone close to her, including Olivia, Jasper, and Sara. Meanwhile, Jasper is interested in taking an Edison movie camera and fixing it to shoot with a higher frame rate. Excited by the idea and his passion, Sara decides to go against Hetty’s wishes, and use some money from her trust in order to buy the camera for Jasper. When Hetty finds out, she threatens to sell the camera back. However, after stern words from Sara, Hetty decides that maybe the footage Jasper shot of the town can be used in the next town hall meeting to convince everyone that selling the town to Dunn is a bad idea. After an impassioned speech and a movie that dazzles the audience, Hetty is able to keep Avonlea…Avonlea.

Directed by Don McBrearty, Written by Marlene Matthews, and Music by John Welsman

My Grade: This is the best episode Don McBrearty has directed for the show. This is the best episode Marlene Matthews has written for the show. This is my absolute favorite episode of the entire series. It’s even above “A Mother’s Love.” I love this episode so much, I was literally worried about how I’d write this post…because I don’t know what more there is to write. But I’ll try. And I’ll start with Hetty’s relationships with the three other primary characters in this episode. I’ve said it so many times before, but my favorite “relationship” on this show is the one between Hetty and her niece Sara. And I wrote about their relationship in length in other past episodes that have more focus on that than this one. However, I still feel like something significant happens in this episode between the two of them. For Sara, this season is about telling the world that she’s grown up. She’s no longer simply a cute matchmaker (although she does sort of play that role with Felicity and Gus). She wants to be taken seriously. She tries this early in the season with “Moving On.” Her definitely silly and shortsighted plans in that episode don’t exactly work out. Then in the last episode, her love of writing is finally established. In that episode, she also learns the power she can possess with her trust. This is the episode where she finally takes an active role in managing her money. And when Hetty tries to prevent her from further helping Jasper, Sara does the coolest thing she’s done at this point. She finally plays the “I’m leaving and moving back in with my Nanny Louisa” card. And to the surprise of no one: It works. Sara is still a kid, but between that and the earlier scene where she impersonates Hetty’s voice during her phone call to the bank, she cleverly and boldly uses her resources for, frankly, a greater good. And Hetty complies because their relationship has simply matured since the last season when Hetty wouldn’t even allow Sara to buy a nice dress.

But the prominent relationship at display in this episode is the one between Hetty and Olivia and Jasper. Let’s get this straight. Olivia could have married the whitest, most well behaved most reliable billionaire doctor, part time reverend, with no plans of ever leaving Avonlea because he’s afraid of the ocean…and Hetty would still have found a problem with him. If Hetty had her way, both Olivia and their deceased sister Rose would have stayed spinsters, like her, for the rest of their lives. Alec and the other brother who we all forget about can be in charge of preserving the King name. The point is, Hetty hates change. And Jasper is change. Jasper marrying Olivia and whisking her away has changed the dynamic of the King family. So, of course, Hetty spends most of the episode going after Jasper and his silly little ideas. While Hetty wanting to save Avonlea from becoming gentrified is totally justified, her utter disrespect for Olivia and Jasper and their family is not. And Hetty realizes that. She realizes that her malice towards Jasper is not only hurting Olivia, but it’s also affecting any emotional development she had with Sara. When Hetty goes to apologize to Jasper and to allow him to keep the camera, she realizes that he and Jasper have something in common: They want to preserve the memory of Avonlea and the memories and values the town holds dear to its heart. So, in the end, the two work together, create a film of the town to show to the people, so they can see that Avonlea is perfect the way it is.

This show can be cyclical. Does this episode mark the end of Hetty…well being Hetty? Towards Olivia? Towards Jasper? No. But I suppose that’s how life works. There are no clean conclusions. Up until the literal end of the series, Hetty will bash Jasper. But we can at least appreciate this moment: The moment when Hetty finally asks for Jasper’s help and takes him seriously. A big fat (A+)

Spotlight Performance and Favorite Scene: So, it goes without saying that this episode is this episode because of that last scene when Hetty showcases Jasper’s movie for the town. However, let’s talk about a few moments that pretty much lead us to that scene. This episode gives us four really wonderful performances, but, of course, only one actor can get their name boldened. Season four is Sarah Polley’s (and I’d say her character’s) peak. She was nominated for her last Gemini for her work on this show for “Moving On.” The producers made the right choice with that episode submission. However, she could have probably submitted this episode here because Polley has three great scenes. The first two are the ones when she is impersonating Hetty (she doesn’t really sound like Jackie Burroughs, but she gets like the mannerisms down and stuff) and the when Sara defends her actions for Hetty. However, the really great scene is the one where Sara and Olivia discuss Sara’s mother, and Sara tearfully admits she can barely remember what she looked like. It’s a surprisingly emotional and dramatic moment for an episode that, for the most part, doesn’t have the highest stakes (I mean, it’s not like someone is dying childbirth or something). It’s, of course, a poignant scene, considering Polley’s mother died right before the show aired its first season. And considering that a few decades later Polley would be releasing a documentary about her mother, with focuses on memories and home movies (many of them recreated for the documentary).

For the episode, itself, when Jasper overhears Sara crying over her mother, it’s that moment when he realizes that creating a better camera with a higher frame rate is more than just about the science and mechanics, it’s about preserving memories the best way possible so others with similar circumstances to Sara can have something to look back on. I have a confession…along with “hotel episodes”…I also think “Jasper invents something” episodes or, really, Jasper episodes as a whole, are pretty hit or miss. I mean, we all remember the “bats” episode, right? But, it goes without saying, this is the best Jasper episode of the series. And RH Thomson as Jasper is really great in this episode. He earned his only Gemini nomination for this role for this episode specifically; and I think it’s probably the scene towards the end when a dejected Jasper feeds Monty and tells him what he had hoped to accomplish with this new movie technology: to preserve a town’s legacy. But I think another strong moment is Jasper listening to Sara in that emotional scene, wordlessly realizing the potential importance of filmmaking. And, of course, Mag Ruffman as the faithful, yet strong headed wife of Jasper earns high marks.

jackie burroughs avonlea

But, again, this episode belongs to that last scene when Hetty presents the home movie to the town. It’s such a great scene. My favorite thing about the scene is the sound editing and mixing. John Welsman’s wonderful small town score overlaid with Hetty’s narration overlaid with the town’s laughter and “ooing and awing” is just perfect. It’s the scene that makes any fan of Avonlea tear up. It’s the one scene that truly represents the best and beautiful things about this small (sometimes closed-mindedjustsayin) town. I love scenes that feature a lot of the residents. From Hetty winning “Mother of the Year” to that season 2 finale hockey competition to Sara participating in that riding contest…the show is at its strongest when the town is fully engaged and present. And in the center of the town is Hetty, almost the town’s mother, certainly the town’s conscience, played by the incomparable Jackie Burroughs. Look at Burroughs’ eyes during her final plea to keep the town. It’s not the first time Hetty’s been vulnerable. She’s vulnerable a lot in the series. And Burroughs plays vulnerability so well, every single time. And this episode, that moment, is no different. Hetty’s unbending love of town and tradition will come through in deeper, darker ways in the next few seasons, but, right now, this is the episode that shows a more idyllic, more innocent view of Hetty’s love and dedication for Avonlea. In the end, I think this episode is about Hetty more than anyone else.

Final Thoughts: So I mentioned earlier that RH Thomson received a Gemini nomination for this episode. Marlene Matthews also received her second nomination for writing the episode. (Her first was for, I’m strongly assuming, “Aunt Hetty’s Ordeal.”) Season four was a strange season when the show didn’t receive a lot of award nominations (although they did win that Emmy for Children’s Programming). I don’t understand how the season that gave us this episode could be snubbed a Gemini nomination for Drama Series. Sometimes, I think Gemini voters thought they were a little too cool for this family show. It’s a shame, because it’s the show that most people still remember. Anyway…well deserved nominations.

John Welsman also deserved a nomination for his work here. Although, he was nominated for a Gemini that year, for his work in the Sullivan miniseries By Way of the Stars (which starred a few Avonlea cast members). He competed against fellow composer Don Gillis for “Moving On.” (Neither of them won.) Towards the latter half of Avonlea, it seems like Welsman had a lesser musical role on the show, while Gillis (and, later, newer various composers) was creating the new motifs, some which would be carried over to Wind at My Back and those Anne reunion movies. This might be one of Welsman’s last truly original scores for the series. And it’s one of the most memorable overall particularly during that scene. That motif is so simple, and…it just reminds me of home and family and community. It’s the kind of score that reminds me of farm work and baking pies for a Sunday picnic. During seasons five and six, the score will be used for Davey episodes. The score certainly fits the character, and will be particularly well used in “A Friend in Need.” But, I feel like despite that, this is the episode that truly defines what that score means.

I don’t know where I can confirm this. It might have been from one of the message boards on the official website or Avonlea Guide…but, apparently, for a short while, season four was considered the last, and this was a potential series finale. The show, during its time, was sort of at the mercy of Disney Channel. It had an unusually high budget and production value for a Canadian series, and Disney was very important to the show’s success. So, after every season, the show was usually in limbo until the cast and crew got the greenlight from Disney to make more episodes. So, every season finale (except season 6, really) has some sort of air of finality. We all know that the season 1 finale was intended to be the “finale finale.” We all know that, in the beginning of season 2, the producers had to cruelly kill Sara’s father and leave her an orphan to justify Sara living in Avonlea indefinitely. So, it’s possible this episode was written with, at least, a soft expectation that it would be the last. There’s actually one more season 4 episode after this…but, if need be, these last two episodes could have simply been switched, right? Anyway, what I’m getting at is…I’m so thankful the show got three more seasons. Some of the show’s best moments have yet to come. However…this would have made a very good, appropriate finale. And, y’know, some fans who aren’t terribly big fans of the last three seasons probably wish this had been the finale. But that’s crazy talk! Being taken aback by “new Cecily” is part of the Avonlea experience, whether you like it or not! Humph!

I have one last point. So, the other day, I watched Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk on opening night. It’s a fictional story about an American war hero who comes home for a two week victory tour in 2004. I mostly watched the movie because it was receiving Oscar buzz before the really mixed reviews came out. Overall, I still don’t know what to make of the movie. It’s a really strange movie, a lot of it having to do with how it was shot. Ang Lee pretty much used a super high frame right, almost five times what’s usually used. So, there are a lot of close-ups and two person scenes where the camera constantly switches back between the first speaker and the second. There are only a small number of theatres in the world that can truly accommodate this new technology. Most other people (including me) can only watch this movie on a normal screen. So…the cinematography (unlike Avonlea smiley face) doesn’t actually look all that great. I’m guessing you only notice anything if you watch the movie in one of the fancy special theatres.

The point is…the movie has received a lot of criticism for taking this HFR risk. Even I wondered why Ang Lee would attempt to try this, especially considering how difficult it was shoot the movie. And knowing that Lee probably won’t be winning any Oscars for the movie, I wondered if maybe the movie would have been better received if he had shot it like, well, a normal movie in the year 2016. However, after revisiting this episode, and seeing Jasper’s attempts at achieving HFR, and seeing the joy it gives the town (and himself) I now have a higher appreciation for what Ang Lee was trying to do. Did he fully succeed? I can’t answer that question myself. Many reviewers claimed that the HFR was jarring and straight up unsettling. But…isn’t that how people reacted to color? Or sound? Or even moving pictures as a whole? It will be a long time before 120 frames per second is the norm…but I admire that Ang Lee tried something new and took a risk.

And that’s one of the main themes in this episode: taking risks. Jasper, as an inventor, does that throughout the entire series. Sometimes he’s cheered. Most of time, he’s called a “kook.” But it’s encouraging to see characters like Sara and Olivia give their trust to Jasper and support his whims because everything we have right now, all the technological advances, from touch screen laptops to mechanical pencils, is because we are fortunate to live in a world of Jaspers, people who go the extra mile, when everyone else thinks life is perfect the way it is. Even Hetty realizes that if she wants to save her town from turning into a mini New York City (or worse…MONTREAL!!), then she has to embrace Jasper’s newfangled technology as well. Progress can serve all purposes, even a purpose that’s maybe counter to progress. It’s an interesting wormhole to think about. But that’s what makes this episode the best of the series. So many varied points of view, working together, as one.

Road to Avonlea Review: The Disappearance

Avonlea sarah polley

Episode Summary: Sara wants to write for the town’s newspaper, in order to prove to her cousins and Aunt Hetty that she’s capable of more than running her late father’s estate. She finds a story in Jonathan Blackwell (Robby Benson), who goes town to town pretending to be famed antique dealer Gerald McDougall Young so that his aunt (Diana Rigg), who wants him to run the family estate, won’t find out. Knowing what he’s going through, Sara agrees to keep Jonathan’s secret if she can write a story about Mr. Young. Jonathan is able to continue his secret passion of collecting art, while Sara gets some newfound respect from her aunts.

Directed by F. Harvey Frost, Written by Deborah Nathan, Music by John Welsman

My Grade: I don’t have much to say about this episode. If you’ve read every review of mine so far, you can probably guess how highly I regard this episode. This is just one of those Disney approved episodes, featuring the voice of Beast from Beauty and the Beast (for the kiddies, I guess? Even though they wouldn’t know) and Diana Rigg, because, I guess, she did stuff before Game of Thrones. The plot itself isn’t very interesting. It’s a B-minus, but it’s a relatively high B-minus because the stuff with Sara wanting to live out her passion and become a writer (oh look! Story Girl! See? She’s a Story Girl. Totally justifies naming that one episode “Story Girl”) gives us more insight into her. But, at the same time, it’s like not all that interesting seeing two privileged rich kids lament over having a lot of money and stuff. Anyway, (B-)

Spotlight Performance: I think Robby Benson is great here. Yeah, his face is like “woah!” Is his character supposed to be related to Jane Spry? I mean, I’m impressed by this dude. He sounds like this…but he also voiced Beast. He also directed episodes of Friends and Ellen, so he’s multi-talented. Anyway, he played “two” characters in this episode so he was snubbed an Emmy nomination, OK??

avonlea robby benson

Favorite Scene: I think what makes this episode more memorable than all the other “hotel episodes” this season is the scene between Jonathan and Sara, when he reveals who he really is and what he does. I guess I just like Sara’s realization that the two of them are actually kindred spirits. And I like the atmosphere. It’s dark. It’s cold and snowy. Their faces are red. Their breaths are seen. It’s just a scene that stands out in an otherwise “meh” episode.

Final Thoughts: Just that Hetty is the only other character I mention in this review, but she only appears in two short scenesbyeee.

Road to Avonlea Review: Felicity’s Perfect Beau

avonlea felicitys perfect beau

“Sometimes I think you were buttoning up your boots when the Lord handed out brains.”

Episode Summary: Felicity has two suitors: Her old friend Gus Pike, and the perfectly polished vet school student Arthur Pettibone. Felicity is having a tough time deciding between the two men, while Gus Pike has a tough time reconciling with the thought of losing Felicity. Meanwhile, Sara does everything she can to help Felicity come to a decision before finally slapping some sense into Felicity and her seemingly selfish ways. Felicity kisses Arthur, however, despite a falling out between her and Gus, she ultimately chooses Gus. Arthur leaves town heartbroken. When Gus asks for Felicity’s hand in marriage, she tells Gus that she wants to go to college first, and that he should propose again in two years. The episode ends with two racing to the lighthouse like old friends.

Directed by Don McBrearty, Written by Therese Beaupre, Music by Don Gillis

arthur pettibone

My Grade: Felicity and Gus…what can I say? They’re a match made in heaven. And, frankly, I feel like this show did an overall great job at taking their time with this pairing. I mean, these two met in the second episode of season two. And since then, they’re relationship has been slowly evolving to the point where Gus can (maybe impulsively) ask Felicity to marry to him. This episode is nearly perfect. Just a simple (that seems to be the key word in all my favorite episodes) story about a love triangle. What more can you expect? However, even though Arthur is nothing more than a recurring character, I like how he’s given his own scenes (very explosive scenes with his father). We learned more about his family history, his mother’s death. And I think seeing his parents’ marriage nearly fall apart before her death makes Arthur want to be the perfect beau and potential husband for Felicity. He’s also very competitive with his father, so he feels the need to be competitive with Gus. He knows full well that Gus and Felicity have history. That Felicity is closer to Gus than she is to Arthur. But he’s ready for the challenge. Gus may have the personality and the town’s respect. But Arthur has the education, and progressive ideas, and the more stable future. And he uses that to his advantage when trying to woo Felicity.

But, really, this episode boils down to Felicity and Gus. And this episode sort of reminds me of “Moving On.” In that episode, Sara attempts to grow up. She matures and learns a lot, but in the end, she realizes she still needs to stay home for a little while longer and be a kid. I feel like this is a similar dilemma to what Felicity’s going through. For the last few years, Felicity has dreamed of being a better mother and wife than her own mother. And Gus has finally given her the chance. Felicity, at the age of sixteen (which isn’t too crazy for 1906-1907) has to decide between continuing school, continuing being a kid, or growing up and starting a family. And, despite the actor playing him, Gus isn’t all that much older than Felicity. For a small moment, there’s that rush to grow up. However, Felicity realizes she isn’t ready. And that’s further emphasized in the end when the newly formed couple race to the lighthouse. Gus is still Gus. And even though these two are finally “official” (or at least more “official” than they were in the past), it doesn’t mean they’re too old to let their guards down. So…yah!…this is a great episode that, like “Moving On,” showcases the season four theme of “growing up, but not too fast” After this season, “things” will never be the same for Gus, Felicity, and Sara again. (A)

Spotlight Performance: This episode has a lot of great performances. Zachary Ansley as Arthur is obviously great, particularly his scenes with David Fox. Gema Zamprogna is perfect as always. And I was actually ready to give this one to Michael Mahonen. Buuuut…I have to say, many fans characterize Sara Stanley as a “matchmaker.” She does have a lot of “matchmaking” episodes and storylines. Off the top of my head, this episode is probably my favorite “Sara attempts matchmaking” episode. She’s just so prominent in this episode, going back and forth between Arthur and Gus. I literally cringe when Sara has to lie to Arthur about her injured horse, just to get Felicity and Gus alone. She is such a good friend. And, yes, she is the speaker of that wonderful quote up top (which will be repeated in an early episode of Sullivan’s other series Wind at My Back to lesser effec) Watching this episode again…I was impressed with Sarah Polley. So, I’m giving her another Spotlight Performance placement. Hey. She’ll only get, like, a couple more before she leaves. Sorry, Mickey!

Favorite Scene: Well, again, I like the scene where Sara lies about her horse to Arthur. It makes me so uncomfortable. And when Arthur is asking her a bunch of questions and Sara doesn’t know how to answer. I am dead. The biggest reason I initially wanted to bolden Michael Mahonen’s name above is because I also really liked the scene when Gus is angrily shining his boots and he’s like, “Oh! Arthur will never stay with Felicity. And she’ll come running back to me. And I won’t even accept her! Women love it when men are standoffish.” And then Gus gives Sara the douchiest wink ever. And then Sara admits that Arthur kissed Felicity and the dramatic Don Gillis trademark music plays and Gus rushes off to clobber Arthur. This episode actually has a couple nice scenes with just Sara and Gus. In all the Felicity/Gus hoopla, some people may forget that Sara and Gus were really great friends. And, I believe, after this episode, those two won’t share many (or even any, really) scenes by themselves together.

Final Thoughts: This was the first and only episode written by Therese Beaupre. However, she was a “story editor” for most of season four. She went on to write for Shirley Holmes, Flash Forward, Guinevere Jones, Dinosapien, and received two Emmy nominations for Strange Days at Blake Holsey High. She was also a story editor for Caitlin’s Way. She taught Writing for Children’s Entertainment at Centennial College and is currently writing young adult novels.

Last note: How they pronounce “schedule.” It’s like “sheh-joo-ul.” It’s funny. That is all. Bye. #WheresCecily?

2016 Emmys Review (TV Movie, Limited Series, and Variety Series)

american crime

Even though this blog is supposed to mostly be dedicated to youth media and programming, I just can’t resist talking about the Emmy nominees this year (despite the harsh feelings I had for Margo Martindale’s win for a two minute cameo last year.) So, I will be reviewing many of the categories this year, including all the important comedy, drama, TV Movie and limited series ones. I’ll even discuss some of the “less recognized” categories, like, of course, Children’s Programming, music, variety series, and more. So, stick around, TAKE MY OPINION SERIOUSLY!!…thank you.

PS…these are not “predictions.” These rankings are based on my own subjective personal preference. My actual objective predictions will most likely come closer to the actual ceremony date (although I suck at doing those…)

Finally, let’s end this journey with categories that very few people actually care about! Actually, that’s not really true. People vs. OJ Simpson was a huge hit – pretty much a cultural phenomenon. Unlike last year when Olive Kitteridge (deservedly) swept the miniseries categories, when People vs. OJ Simpson most likely achieves the same feat this year, viewers won’t be saying “What is this show?” And I know Confirmation made a big splash (at least on Twitter). So, maybe a few eyeballs will actually read this post. Anyway, let’s get on with this. I am 99.99% sure this will be my last Emmys review post since I’ve already dedicated too much of my life on this and summer vacation is almost over and I start work soon…

Episode Submissions Courtesy of Gold Derby

PS…this year (and last year) Goldderby posted “episode submissions” for the supporting acting nominees. However, I’ve decided not to acknowledge them in my reviews because 1.) I really think, if they do this, they should make the lead performers submit as well. And 2.) I’m pretty sure voters care less about the episode submissions in the limited series categories than they do the others so why bother? But, hey, maybe next year.

Casting For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special:


  1. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  2. Roots
  3. Grease: Live
  4. Fargo
  5. The Night Manager

I’m really happy Grease: Live got a nomination here. This is the first time a “live musical event” has received a nomination in this category. It definitely has to do with the fact that, objectively speaking, there wasn’t really a miscast. Most viewers seemed to like everyone in the cast equally. And the young cast really does a great job, particularly relative newcomer Elle McLemore as Patty. However, the casting on The People v. O.J. Simpson is thoroughly impressive. The show really did their research, and did a great job finding actors who looked exactly like their characters. I mean, Kenneth Choi looked exactly like Lance Ito. Show a picture of the two side by side, and I’d have to make a guess. Roots and Grease‘s casting is inspired since, for the most part, most of the cast members are newcomers and relative unknowns, and discovering those actors are always difficult. But, the casting directors for ACS really found perfect doppelgangers for most of the roles.

Worthy Snubbed Programs

American Crime, Descendants,  Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors, Flesh And Bone, Show Me A Hero, The Wiz Live!

Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special:


  1. D.V. DeVincentis – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”)
  2. Noah Hawley – Fargo (“Palindrome”)
  3. David Farr – The Night Manager 
  4. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“From The Ashes Of Tragedy”)
  5. Bob DeLaurentis – Fargo (“Loplop”)
  6. Joe Robert Cole – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“The Race Card”)

I don’t think there’s ever been a year where individual episodes of a limited series dominated so much. I think one of the great things about ACS is that each episode does sort of stand on its own. So, it’s nice that the individual writers and directors for the series are being called out (even if, let’s say, other television movies are snubbed in the process). In that case, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” is one of the most infuriating, yet invigorating, hours of television this season. Before this limited series premiered, most people considered how racism played a role in the OJ Simpson case (Rodney King). However, few actually looked at the case through a feminist lens. This is the episode that finally vindicated Marcia Clark. It’s the episode that does a great job of revealing how tough it is to be a professional woman in the workplace, and juggle that with a difficult family life. It’s unfair that Clark has to prove that OJ Simpson is guilty, while looking pretty and seeming approachable. There are different rules for men and women, and this episode displayed that so well. Otherwise, the finale of Fargo is also pretty great, particularly the scenes involving Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson. But “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” wins, from it’s episode title to the very last shot.

Worthy Snubbed Programs/Episodes (One per program)

American Crime (Episode 7), Confirmation, A Deadly Adoption, Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors, Roots (Night Two), 7 Days in Hell, Show Me A Hero (Part Six)

Directing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special:


  1. Anthony Hemingway – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“Manna From Heaven”)
  2. Noah Hawley – Fargo (“Before the Law”)
  3. Susanne Bier – The Night Manager
  4. Ryan Murphy – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“From The Ashes Of Tragedy”)
  5. John Singleton – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (“The Race Card”)
  6. Jay Roach – All The Way

If Ryan Murphy had submitted “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” for consideration instead, he would have been my top choice. He chose to submit the premiere instead, which obviously is a great way to start the show, but it’s not necessarily the best episode the series. The show gets better. And “Manna From Heaven” proves that. This is essentially the episode where the (disgustingly racist) Fuhrman tapes are revealed. This is the type of plot twist a fiction writer wouldn’t have been able to get away with! Such a crazy, yet maddening, hour of television that confused and angered so many viewers, including myself. It’s the second best episode of the series and certainly a highlight of the season. But, again, Fargo creator Noah Hawley could win either of these categories and it’d be great. His direction is generally great. As is Susanne Bier’s sultry and seductive direction for the spy thriller The Night Manager.

Worthy Snubbed Programs/Episodes (One per program)

American Crime (Episode Seven), Confirmation, A Deadly Adoption, Descendants, Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors, Roots (Night One), 7 Days in Hell, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, Show Me A Hero

Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie:


  1. Jesse Plemons – Fargo
  2. Sterling K. Brown – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  3. David Schwimmer –  The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  4. Hugh Laurie – The Night Manager
  5. Bokeem Woodbine – Fargo
  6. John Travolta – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

To be honest, I don’t quite understand why Jesse Plemons was pushed to the supporting category. If his onscreen wife, Dunst, is considered a lead, shouldn’t he be as well? They have the same impact/screen time. I mean, I know Patrick Wilson is sort of the protagonist, but I’m pretty sure a program can have two male leads (which we will see further down). So…I think Plemons being here is a bit of category fraud. Otherwise, I’m very happy Plemons finally has an Emmy nom for his work. Did anyone ever think Landry would walk away from Friday Night Lights as the most successful alum? Let’s be real here. But, yes, Plemons is really great as, well, the husband of an accidental, yet ruthless, murderer. It’s the perfect sort of role for Plemons. I mean, he even gained a bunch of weight (or at least maintained the weight from an earlier project). That is commitment! I’m also so happy Brown and Schwimmer got in, because I sort of thought both would be overshadowed by the usual Emmy favorites (like Nathan Lane, who’s good, but certainly wasn’t the highlight of the series). I liked Travolta’s performance more than most others, but there are a few other actors I probably would have nominated over him. But, still, Travolta hasn’t been this good in a while (and I liked his eyebrows!)

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Ted Danson (Fargo), Danny Deferrari (Madoff), Jeffrey Donovan (Fargo), Jordan Fisher (Grease: Live), Martin Freeman (Sherlock: The Abominable Bride), Matthew Goode (Roots), David Alan Grier (The Wiz Live!), Kit Harington (7 Days in Hell), Connor Jessup (American Crime), Elijah Kelley (The Wiz Live!), Norm Lewis (Kern & Hammerstein’s Show Boat), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Roots), Alfred Molina (Show Me a Hero), Ne-Yo (The Wiz Live!), Elvis Nolasco (American Crime), Wendell Pierce (Confirmation), Joey Pollari (American Crime), Ricky Schroder (Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors), Forest Whitaker (Roots)

Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie:


  1. Olivia Colman – The Night Manager
  2. Regina King – American Crime
  3. Jean Smart – Fargo
  4. Melissa Leo – All The Way
  5. Kathy Bates – American Horror Story: Hotel
  6. Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Hotel

First, I’d like to commend the voters for resisting the urge to give AHS the usual multitude of nominations since this season was literally terrible. Like, I quit on three or four different occasions, just to get back in because I like wasting the precious hours I have on Earth. So, go voters! But…did they have to waste two of the Supporting Actress spots on actresses from the show? I mean, Paulson was already a Lead Actress lock, while Bates…well, she doesn’t need to be nominated every year. Add in Melissa Leo’s nothing-wife performance and this is a pretty weak category. Regina King could win again as the conflicted mother of a closeted son caught in a basketball rape scandal. Jean Smart’s also memorable as the steely matriarch of an infamous family gang. However, my top choice would have to go to Olivia Colman. A smart, full fleshed out performance as the moral intelligence officer whose trying to take down an illegal arms dealer. It’s a solid performance from a usually solid actress. I’m not sure she’ll win though…

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Uzo Aduba (The Wiz Live!), Tina Benko (Flesh And Bone), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Belle), Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager), Vanessa Hudgens (Grease: Live), Jennifer Hudson (Confirmation), Catherine Keener (Show Me a Hero), Cristin Milioti (Fargo), Stephanie Mills (The Wiz Live!), Jennifer Nettles (Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors), Keke Palmer (Grease: Live), Anna Paquin (Roots), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Show Me a Hero), Anika Noni Rose (Roots)

Lead Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie:


  1. Courtney B. Vance – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  2. Cuba Gooding, Jr. – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  3. Tom Hiddleston – The Night Manager
  4. Idris Elba – Luther
  5. Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
  6. Bryan Cranston – All The Way

I think the biggest disappointment from the morning nominations announcement was Show Me a Hero not receiving a single nomination. Not for limited series, directing or writing. Not for costumes, makeup, or casting. But the most egregious snub was that of Oscar Isaac, who played Nick Wasicsko, who, in 1987 became the youngest big city mayor in the United States. The miniseries revolved around the controversy surrounding the building of integrated public house in Yonkers. After losing his bid for reelection and with corruption charges nipping at his shoulders, Wasicsko commits suicide at the age of 34. If you haven’t already watched, I would totally recommend this miniseries. It’s up there with the American Crimes and Fargo, maybe even better. But I can say with certainty that Oscar Isaac gave the best leading actor performance of the television season. Unfortunately, the limited series premiered last summer and got low ratings, thus its award chances were slim, once again proving that somemany times, the Emmys just aren’t fair. And it’s hard to take this category real seriously without the best performance among the nominees. I would usually never spend this space writing about a snub, but, in this case, I can’t even… This is my ranking. Make of it what you will.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Richard Dreyfuss (Madoff), Colin Farrell (True Detective), Will Ferrell (A Deadly Adoption), Timothy Hutton (American Crime), Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero), Malachi Kirby (Roots), Regé-Jean Page (Roots), Andy Samberg (7 Days In Hell), Aaron Tveit (Grease: Live)

Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie:


  1. Sarah Paulson – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  2. Lili Taylor – American Crime
  3. Audra McDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
  4. Kirsten Dunst – Fargo
  5. Kerry Washington – Confirmation
  6. Felicity Huffman – American Crime

This category is a BEAST! I’m not sure there’s anyone I’d even consider swapping out. I remember being pleasantly surprised that McDonald got in because I found her Tony winning performance as Billie Holliday so transformative. By the end of the program, I could not recognize McDonald. She’s literally lost in the character. I nearly wept when Lili Taylor got in. I came into nomination morning knowing that, despite the improvement, this second season of American Crime wouldn’t get as many nominations as the first season. I knew a lot of deserving actors (like the “teenagers”) would be snubbed. So Lili Taylor getting in against all odds and predictions is a victory in its own right (although, if any voters are reading this, don’t feel discouraged from choosing her). Maybe five minutes ago I thought Lili Taylor would be me top choice. BUT…ultimately, I think Sarah Paulson will and should win. Like I wrote earlier, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” is landmark feminist television, and Paulson’s performance in it as Marcia Clark is tall and shiny in its own right. Watch the scene when Marcia Clark walks into the courtroom with her new haircut. The way her face goes from confidence to “oh geez here we go again” to pure pain is just…Acting 799. Paulson’s a master. And she’s been “snubbed” so many times in the past. It’s her time to win. But, at least, if she loses, it’ll be to another actress who’s almost as deserving. Seriously, Kirsten Dunst just sinks her teeth in her role. Felicity Huffman is almost as “terrible” as Dunst, but you still feel a little sympathy for both characters since they’re constantly stuck between difficult positions. And Kerry Washington gave a better performance in Confirmation than she ever did in Scandal. Yes, that is saying a lot. But while she’s explosive and emotional on ScandalConfirmation proves she’s capable of handling subtlety. But Kerry Washington is such a great and supportive soul. I know, whichever actress wins, she’ll applaud excitedly for her, just like she did for Julianna Margulies a couple years back.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Blythe Danner (Madoff), Julianne Hough (Grease: Live), Alyvia Alyn Lind (Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors), Amber Riley (My One Christmas Wish), Kristen Wiig (A Deadly Adoption), Shanice Williams (The Wiz Live!)

Outstanding Television Movie:


  1. Confirmation (HBO)
  2. All The Way (HBO)
  3. A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)
  4. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
  5. Luther (BBC America)

As you can probably tell by now, I’m not the biggest fan of All The Way. I just feel like, between Selma and Path to War and countless other dramatizations, I’m not sure All the Way covers much new ground. But, of course, the movie is well made and it’ll probably win because HBO and Presidents. However, I’d much rather see the soapy and delicious Confirmation take it, which centered on the Anita Hill hearings and the miscarriage of justice that gave us a Supreme Court justice that justified slavery in order to  take away gay couples’ right to marry (my one political statement of these Emmy posts don’t stop reading!) Confirmation is pure Twitter-bait, but I was more entertained by it than any of the other movies on this list. I will say though that there is something refreshingly old fashioned about Sofia Coppola’s star filled Christmas special for Netflix, especially with its quick one hour run time.

Worthy Snubbed Programs

A Deadly Adoption, Descendants, Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors, The Dresser, 7 Days In Hell, Teen Beach 2

Outstanding Limited Series:


  1. American Crime (ABC)
  2. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
  3. Roots (HISTORY)
  4. Fargo (FX)
  5. The Night Manager (AMC)

Look, ACS will win, and it will deserve to win. Everyone wants it to win. And I’m pretty much part of that group. BUT…American Crime is such an underrated series. And this second season (which is a completely new story from the first) is so amazing. Watching it was an experience (especially if you watched it with the Twitter community). The second season revolved around a member of a school’s basketball team being accused of raping another high school student. The story takes us through the school’s attempted cover up, the victim’s issues with his mother, and the parents of the involved basketball players coming to terms (and failing at that) with their sons’ sexuality. And everything in between. Both American Crime and ACS pretty much aired at the same time. It was certainly an exciting few months of television. And both programs (along with Fargo, although that goes without saying) are contributing to this new renaissance of  limited television. Roots and The Night Manager are more traditional “miniseries” (there will be no “second seasons” of either shows). I can objectively appreciate how well made The Night Manager is, while admitting the story didn’t pull me in as much as the others. Reliving the story of Roots was a stronger experience for me. I support the series, but I do agree that there are other stories of the African American experience that need to be told. But, otherwise, this is a strong (diverse) list of nominations (even if “you know” is missing…)

Worthy Snubbed Program

Show Me A Hero (yes, this is the “you know”)

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series:


  1. Epic Rap Battles Of History (Youtube)
  2. Honest Trailers (Youtube)
  3. Gay Of Thrones (Funny or Die)
  4. Making A Scene With James Franco (AOL)
  5. Park Bench With Steve Buscemi (AOL)

I don’t particularly love any of the nominees here, but I’d much rather see Youtubers or people who have, y’know, made a career out of short form comedy programming win this Emmy, than already successful actors and their side projects. The two AOL programs are, IMO, unremarkable, and probably voted on because name recognition. So, any of the other three should win. Gay of Thrones and Honest Trailers are occasionally funny and clever, but it’s essentially people talking over other peoples’ footage. Not saying what these people do doesn’t take skill, but Epic Rap Battles should win because the content is 100% original (and, also, because the videos are occasionally funny and clever). Hopefully more real “Youtubers” (and good ones, not like Miranda Sings or Shane Dawson or Kids React) get nominated here in the future. College Humor (which didn’t submit for some reason) would fit right in.

Worthy Snubbed Series

Above Average Presents

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series:


  1. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
  2. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
  3. Inside Amy Schumer
  4. Key & Peele
  5. Portlandia
  6. Saturday Night Live

This is an easy one for me. I love all these shows. I’m glad that sketch series have dominated the category this year…but my top choices are the two “talk shows that aren’t really talk shows.” John Oliver is the first satirical/political late night comedy show that I watch regularly and love. The show continues to do a great job of highlighting the dire issues that seem to be overshadowed by Clinton’s Emails and Trump’s Trumpiness. This season isn’t as sharp as last year (and sometimes the jokes are a bit lazy), but you have to at least appreciate the writing staff for doing their research. BUT…Full Frontal With Samantha Bee is the sharpest, funniest, most compelling late night show of the year. It should have been nominated for more, but at least it got nominated here, and I expect the show to dominate next season. Admittedly, it’s easy for me to love this show because 99% of the time, I agree with Samantha Bee’s views. If you don’t, it can be a hard show to watch. The show (like Oliver’s) has a clear ideological position, and you can either take it or leave it. I take it wholeheartedly. Watch Samantha Bee’s blistering, painful, but still funny, remarks on the Orlando shooting. I love Samantha Bee’s anger and I love her outrage. And the writing on the show is so clever. It really doesn’t get the credit (or ratings) it deserves. Frankly, Samantha Bee is doing a better job at doing John Oliver’s schtick than Oliver himself. It’s a complete longshot here, but I’m glad it got nominated nonetheless.

Worthy Snubbed Programs

Documentary Now!, Late Night With Seth Meyers, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Nathan For You

Directing For A Variety Series:


  1. Ryan McFaul – Inside Amy Schumer (“Madonna/Whore”)
  2. Tim Mancinelli – The Late Late Show With James Corden (“Post-Super Bowl Episode”)
  3. Don Roy King – Saturday Night Live (“Tina Fey & Amy Poehler”)
  4. Paul Pennolino – Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (“Donald Trump”)
  5. Dave Diomedi – The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (“Episode 325”)

The Jimmy Fallon episode represented is the one from last September when Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon performed another edition of Hip Hop history, and then, later, Ellen Degeneres won a Lip Sync battle against Fallon. It’s a funny episode, but not enough spectacle for me to see the directorial achievement. Don Roy King is a master at what he does, but I don’t think the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler episode was great enough for him to deserve a seventh straight Emmy. The Post-Super Bowl episode of James Corden is a lot of fun, particularly the scene where Corden, Anna Kendrick, Zac Efron and Adam DeVine recreate different sports movies in rapid fire. I don’t think Inside Amy Schumer gets enough credit for its direction, but it is a really well directed show, and this episode in particular (featuring a kiddie parody version of The Knick and Amy and her friend going on a sucky Sex and the City tour) is aesthetically pleasing and craftily directed.

Worthy Snubbed Programs (One per program)

Documentary Now! (Sandy Passage), Nathan For You (Smokers Allowed)

Outstanding Variety Talk Series:


  1. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver – “Donald Trump” (HBO)
  2. The Late Late Show With James Corden – “Post-Super Bowl Episode” (CBS)
  3. Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – “Episode 325” (NBC)
  4. Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee – “Just Tell Them You’re the President” (Crackle)
  5. Real Time With Bill Maher – “1401” (HBO)
  6. Jimmy Kimmel Live – “After the Oscars 2016” (ABC)

If my new Canadian wife Samantha Bee couldn’t get a nomination here, then the next best “talk” show on television, John Oliver, should win. And the episode the show chose to submit for consideration perfectly represents how genius the show can get: an acidic takedown of Donald Trump. Even though the episode aired in February, considering how fast politics move in this country, it’s almost shocking how relevant this episode still is. It’s truly one of John Oliver’s finest moments, culminating with a #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain hashtag that gained a lot of traction for a premium cable show that attracts a little over a million viewers on a good week. The show, right now, is sort of the front runner here. However, I have to say, even though I think Trevor Noah seems to be doing a nice job, and even though I thoroughly enjoy watching Stephen Colbert from time to time, it’s admittedly refreshing seeing a category without the Daily Show or a Stephen Colbert show. Comedy Central has had a stranglehold on this category for so long. Regardless of what happens, it’ll be nice to see another show/person win for once.

Worthy Snubbed Programs

@midnight with Chris Hardwick,  Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Late Night With Seth Meyers, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series:


  1. Documentary Now! – “Sandy Passage” (IFC)
  2. Key & Peele – “Y’all Ready for This” (Comedy Central)
  3. Saturday Night Live – “Larry David” (NBC)
  4. Portlandia – “Going Gray” (IFC)
  5. Inside Amy Schumer – “Welcome to the Gun Show” (Comedy Ce
  6. Drunk History – “Spies” (Comedy Central)

I went back and forth between Documentary Now! and Key & Peele. I would love to see Key & Peele win this category, especially considering the show has never won an Emmy before. This is the show’s last chance (at least for all we know). Personally, I find the show a little inconsistent, even this episode, which also served as Key’s acting submission (the Angry Hillary Clinton sketch > Police Brutality Sketch > Car segments). But when the show hits, it hits. And I hope the show’s leading actors and creators can win SOMETHING this year. However…Documentary Now! was such a treat last summer. I’m flabbergasted that voters remembered the show enough to give it this nomination. And I’m glad TPTB chose “Sandy Passage” as a representative for the show. The show pretty much does a different parody of a popular documentary each episode. “Sandy Passages” is the show’s first episode, and it’s simply a hilarious homage to Grey Gardens. Even if you’ve only seen the HBO docudrama starring Drew Barrymore, I’d still watch the episode. It’s one of the best half hours of sketch comedy, and the shocking ending is so crazy perfect. I must have cracked up for a full ten minutes afterwards. I laugh just thinking about the episode. And the five other episodes afterwards (particularly the two part finale which pretty much makes fun of music documentaries) are just as genius. So my sentimental choice goes to Key & Peele. But in terms of who really rocked sketch comedy this season. It has to go to Nathan For You Documentary Now!

Worthy Snubbed Programs

Nathan For You, Whose Line Is It Anyway?