2017 Guild Awards Honor Children’s Television

gortimer gibbons

It’s awards season! In terms of literature, the Youth Media Awards just announced the best YA books of the year. And the various guild awards, particularly the Writers Guild Awards, the Producers Guild Awards, and the Directors Guild Awards, have respective television categories dedicated to children’s television. The only major Guild award to not have a special category for children’s media is, of course, the relatively bare bones Screen Actors Guild Awards. Let’s take a quick at the nominees for each award group.

Compared to the other guild awards, the PGAs are relatively new at recognizing children’s television. I’m not exactly sure when the separate category for children’s television was inaugurated, but I’m pretty sure the category hasn’t been around for as long as the ones for the WGAs and the DGAs. Last year, I was pretty hard on the group’s nominations. This year, with the inclusion of Girl Meets World and School of Rock, the list is a little more promising although, as we will see, not nearly as exciting as the other two award groups. Rounding out the nominees are last year’s winner Sesame Street, Spongebob Squarepants (a show that’s been around since I was eight, but it is apparently only in its 10th season), and some show called Octonauts, which I’m guessing is about octopus astronauts. Am I right? Am I really correct here? It would be nice to see Girl Meets World get a goodbye hug here, but if the voters are as lazy choosing a winner as they are choosing the nominees, then Sesame Street will most likely win again (can they just have a separate category for preschool shows? How can a show for preschoolers be compared to a show written for the 10-16 age group?)

The WGAs are always a little weird. They have two separate categories: one for regular series and the other for one-off TV specials; however, the latter category has rarely been used the last decade or so. Sometimes, they are no winners or nominees in that category. Last year, the only nominee was Disney’s The Descendants. Presumably, that movie won. This year, however, in the longform category, there are three nominees. This category has not had competitive “nominees” since 2011, and at least three of them since 2009. Oh happy day! The actual nominees themselves are, overall, mediocre, in my opinion, however. Youtube Red’s Dance Camp (the summary of the movie is the title pretty much) would be my pick for the win. However, I think, clearly the Sesame Street Christmas special with the all star celebrity cast has the best chance at winning. Daytime Emmy winner RL Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls rounds out the nominees.

The WGAs also have a children’s television category for episodes of regular series. Last year, the WGAs (rightfully) filled the category with episodes of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. This year, the show has a chance at repeating with “Mel vs. The Night Mare of Normal Street;” an episode where Mel tries to come to terms with her mother’s death from last season. It is the best overall show in the category, and this episode is most deserving of the win. But, this is a very solid category. Amazon’s other series, Just Add Magic, is nominated for “Just Add Mom,” along with Sesame Street for “Mucko Polo, Grouch Explorer” and Girl Meets World’s “Girl Meets Commonism,” an episode that actually (gasps!) argues against communism. This is Girl Meets World’s third year being nominated here, and it’ll probably be its last (unless voters remember the cancelled show by December of this year). Again, like the PGAs, I could see voters wanting to honor an unrewarded show that’s ending; but, as I’ve learned, industry award voters aren’t usually very sentimental. Again: Mucko Polo, Grouch Explorer is nominated.

The DGAs, like the PGAs, only have one category devoted to Children’s television. Individual series episodes have to compete against TV Movies and Documentaries. When it comes to its nominations, the DGAs usually lean towards the movies. A “DCOM” is always guaranteed a slot. This time around, the channel’s 100th DCOM, Adventures in Babysitting, received a nod for its director John Schultz. He’s probably the favorite to win. Hallmark Channel’s A Nutcracker Christmas received a surprise nod here. I believe this is the first time a Hallmark movie has a received a nomination in this category (at least one that first aired on the channel). A Nutcracker Christmas is about a former ballerina (Amy Ackler) who reluctantly allows the daughter of her deceased sister join a prestigious dance troupe for their annual performance of The Nutcracker. It’s actually a really good family movie and I’m impressed that it got recognized here.

But I hope any one of the other nominees wins. I already wrote about American Girl’s Melody 1963: Love Has to Win. It’s one of the best specials of the year. The script is a bit half baked, but the period drama is certainly shot perfectly. Once again, Gortimer Gibbon’s received a nod here, this time for the season 3 premiere where Gortimer magically becomes skilled in every activity he tries. Every episode of that show has top notch direction that rivals any adult show out there. But…it is a little disappointing that Luke Matheny couldn’t also get a nomination for the touching series finale. But, the DGAs, unlike the WGAs, are pretty strict when it comes to the number of nominees; usually, there are no more than five. And it’s absolutely wonderful that the fifth spot went to the pilot episode of The Kicks, Amazon’s newest high quality children’s series about a struggling soccer team. Overall, I want Gortimer Gibbon’s to win a DGA, but the Amazon programs, as a whole, clearly rule this category. C’mon, voters! Think outside the box for once!

I also want to quickly mention that the Humanitas Prize announced its finalists for their “Live Action” children’s category. Once again, Melody 1963 received a nomination, along with Degrassi’s #TurntUp (an episode that deals with mental health) and Girl Meets World’s “The Forgiveness Project,” which would have been a better representation for its WGA nod. Truly, one of the more emotionally satisfying episodes of the series. Any of these programs could win.

Although, I have to say, it’s very disappointing that the Saturday morning CBS drama The Inspectors was snubbed across the board. Do voters even realize this show exists? That’s the only explanation I can think of for these snubs. At least a writing nod would have been appropriate. Well, hopefully, the Daytime Emmys will come through again!

The winners will be announced at various times. I will update this page when they are.

Advertisements

Guild Awards Recognize Children’s Television

gortimer gibbons.png

Here’s a pop quiz: What do the Writers Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Prize have in common? They all nominated Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street for their Children’s Program categories. It is the only show this year to gain this distinction. If you’ve watched the series, it’s very easy to see why. For all the recent bellyaching I’ve done about the current state of youth television, I did overlook a show that is pretty much doing everything right. Gortimer Gibbon’s, which is currently available through Amazon Video, is a show about three friends and their encounters with the strange stuff that happens in their community (“Normal Street”). The show is speculative (which has never been my favorite umbrella genre of fiction), but it’s also grounded and simple. The show features real issues that all teens go through, just with little touches of fantasy, mystery, and sci fi here and there. It’s similar to the unfairly cancelled Spooksville, but, admittedly, that was a show I admired and appreciated more than genuinely enjoyed. In my opinion, Gortimer Gibbon’s is my probably  favorite speculative children’s series since…Phil of the Future? (a two-season series that Disney cancelled for the awful Cory in the House almost ten years ago). The difference is that while Phil of the Future played for laughs, Gortimer Gibbon’s is never afraid of being dramatic and displaying raw emotion from the characters. Really, there are moments that straight up make me cry (yes, I’m talking about “Mel vs. the Future”).

Along with the stories, the writing, and the A+ performances, this show has terrific technical credits. I’ve made this point before, but it’s refreshing that while Disney and Nickelodeon are mostly filming their series with multi-camera to save money, children’s series like Gortimer Gibbon’s and CBS’s The Inspectors are taking advantage of the power of single camera. Single camera looks better, and gives more storytelling opportunities. The world doesn’t have a fourth wall inhabited by a live audience. Single camera just looks and feels more real, and I’m so glad Gortimer Gibbon‘s invests in that realness, while other shows that use visual effects like Liv and Maddie and The Haunted Hathaways inexplicably don’t. Along with the cinematography — the editing, the MUSICAL SCORE, and the animated sequences are all top notch. I can’t get enough of this show. It’s pretty much “hit or hit.”

The show was created by David Anaxagoras. Luke Matheny, who won an Oscar a few years ago for Short Film (I remember him for his hair during that Oscar ceremony) also executive-produces the show. It stars Sloane Morgan Siegel as Gortimer Gibbon, along with the Emmy nominated Robyn Lively as his mom, and Drew Justice and Ashley Boettcher, who play his best friends. The show premiered in 2014 and its second season premiered last fall. The final season will air spring of this year. I really wish this show wasn’t ending (couldn’t we follow the characters through high school?) But I trust that Amazon will continue to invest in high quality live-action children’s television.

Anyway, this post is really supposed to be about the children’s programs nominated for the WGA, DGA, PGA, and Humanitas. Let’s start with the PGA’s because that group is the lamest.

Producers Guild of America Nominees for Outstanding Children’s Program:

1. Doc McStuffins
2. The Fairly Oddparents
3. The Octonauts
4. Sesame Street
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
6. Toy Story That Time Forgot

Hm…it seems like the voters pretty much nominated shows their grandkids watch on Saturday morning. They seem to think children’s television only includes cartoons and preschool shows. I have all the respect in the world for Sesame Street. And any show that tells little black girls they can be doctors is tops in my book. But, really, I don’t care who wins here. I didn’t even realize Fairly OddParents was making new episodes. For the sake of fairness, I think I’d want Doc McStuffins to win, but Sesame Street will most likely win again. Winner will be announced Jan. 23.

Writers Guild of America Nominees for Children’s Episodic 

1. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Gortimer, Ranger and Mel vs. The Endless Night”) – Gretchen Enders and Aminta Goyel
2. Girl Meets World (“Girl Meets I am Farkle”)
3. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Gortimer and the Surprise Signature”) – Garrett Frawley and Brian Turner
4. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Gortimer vs The Relentless Rainbow of Joy”) – David Anaxagoras and Luke Matheny
5. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Ranger and The Fabled Flower of Normal Street”) – Laurie Parres

This is the second year in a row the writers have nominated one episode of Girl Meets World with multiple episodes of another show. Last year, Girl Meets World was beaten by Haunted Hathaways (a show Nickelodeon ended, probably because they realized that kid ghosts can’t age). This year, Girl Meets World might actually win, with a relatively profound episode that deals with the possibility of Farkle having Asperger’s. However, I think Gortimer Gibbon’s is the stronger show, and any of the episodes represented would be more deserving of the win. These episodes center around dealing with the death of a parent, “estranged” fathers, and respecting the earth. However, if I had a choice, I’d give it to “Gortimer and the Surprise Signature” because the episode’s astute comparisons between alienation and being a ghost are really refreshing and poignant, even if it’s not as emotional and gut wrenching as the others in this category. Winner will be announced Feb. 13.

The Writers Guild also has a separate category for “long form” television, which means “TV movies.” For some strange reason, the writer’s guild rarely finds television films worthy of this category. Last year, there were no nominees or winners. This year, only the Disney movie Descendants (Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott) received a nomination…which means it pretty much won…unless there’s something I don’t know. I feel like a year that gave us Bad Hair Day and Teen Beach 2 should be honored with more nominees. Oh well! Good for them!

Directors Guild of America Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs

1. Invisible Sister – Paul Hoen
2. Sesame Street (“The Cookie Thief”) – Joey Mazzarino
3. Descendants – Kenny Ortega
4. Saving My Tomorrow (“Part 3”) – Amy Schatz
5. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Gortimer and the Vengeful Violinist”) – Sasie Sealy

Once again, I am #teamGortimer. Gortimer Gibbon’s is beautifully directed, and this episode is no exception. It deals with Gortimer, haunted by the sounds of a daunting violin, finding the courage to tell his father the truth about his aspirations. Just watch it! It’s great. Sasie Sealy is the only first time nominee here. Paul Hoen and Amy Schatz are strong DGA favorites, having won multiple times before. Joey Mazzarino is nominated for the second year in a row for a clever and star filled Cookie Monster special. However, if I were making a prediction, I’d put my money on Ortega. Descendants was a big hit last year, and Ortega won his last DGA in this category for the first High School Musical movie. Winner will be announced Feb. 6.

Humanitas Prize Nominees for Children’s Live Action Television

1. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Gortimer and the Surprise Signature”) – Garrett Frawley and Brian Turner
2. Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (“Ranger and the Legend of Pendragon’s Gavel”) – Gretchen Enders
3. Liv and Maddie (“Rate-a-Rooney”) – Jennifer Keene

OK…I’ll stop salivating over Gortimer Gibbon’s. Earlier, I threw a little shade at Liv and Maddie; but the truth is, the show is occasionally well written with great performances, particularly from Dove Cameron who pulls a Hayley Mills here, and the always hilarious Kali Rocha, who plays the mom. This episode is about the senior boys at Liv and Maddie’s school who rate the girls in school online. It’s not the most unique story line, but the episode ends with an original song that freshens things up a bit. Meanwhile, “Ranger and the Legend of Pendragon’s Gavel” is a political allegory that will probably be written about in college students’ theses for years to come. Once again, “Gortimer and the Surprise Signature” should win, and this time I actually think the show has a chance…unless the show splits votes. I don’t know. I don’t know how voting works here. Winner will be announced Feb. 11.