Guild Awards Recognize Children’s Television

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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.

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