2020 Calvin Awards: Best TV Show
By David Mumpower
February 12, 2020
We live in the golden age of television, a statement that’s been true for several years now. Over this timeframe, BOP has chronicled the ascension of first pay cable programming and now streaming services. Both options have disrupted network television to an incomprehensible degree.
During the earliest days of this category, the network channels supplied 80 percent of our selections, and the number was even more significant once we factor in titles that narrowly missed a nomination. Network television wasn't the only game in town, but those channels claimed a virtual monopoly.
Fast forward to now. A trend that I’ve discussed for years now has almost come to fruition. For the first time ever, only one network program has earned a nomination this year. And that show just ended a few days ago. Technically, no active program from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, or The CW is worthy of selection this year.
Fittingly, the online vendor that changed everything is also the business that has produced the Best Television Show this year. Yes, Amazon’s Fleabag has claimed the title, presumably in the smuttiest, horniest way possible.
Fleabag's on a hot streak right now, as even former POTUS Barack Obama recently praised the series. Fans of the series understand why this is hysterical, as the main character once…*ahem* liked an Obama speech to completion.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge's ascension from obscurity to the queen of television has stunned pretty much everyone. When this show debuted on BBC Three, she was a fringe actress. Today, the woman can claim both Fleabag and Killing Eve on her resume. That’s twice as many hits as most people have in their entire careers. Waller-Bridge has managed them almost simultaneously.
In this category, Fleabag won the war despite losing the battle rather badly. This show earned barely five percent of first-place votes for Best Television Show. It tied for fifth with a dozen other shows, while four titles received multiple first-place votes. Fleabag emerged victorious due to its consistent placement on ballots. And that sucks for…
The Good Place couldn’t quite duplicate its success last year. The previous winner fell less than one ballot short of winning two straight times. In an odd quirk, the now-defunct series could technically qualify again next year. I have no idea how our staff will handle that situation, as our favorite series in recent memory aired only four (arguably five) episodes in 2020.
Honestly, we’re all still in tears over our loss. In three years and four months, the show leveled up from a curiosity into one of the most important works of fiction in the history of television. It’s a philosophical treatise regarding the social contract that throws in a ton of Florida Man jokes for good measure.
I’ve watched more episodes of this program than anything else on television since it debuted in 2016. I have several episodes memorized, and I was one of the 25 percent of voters who selected it as the category winner.
Alas, The Good Place didn’t carry the same cross-ballot support as in previous years. I suspect that the enigmatic nature of the series finale timed poorly with our voting deadline. Ah well. We’ll always have fond memories of Tahani name-dropping her way through the afterlife.
While HBO seems headed for a sharp decline now that Game of Thrones has ended, something surprising happened this year. That series, a former category winner, failed to earn a nomination. In fact, it only received a smattering of votes and finished outside the top 35! So, our staff quietly voted with the majority on the lackluster quality of the final season.
Meanwhile, two other HBO series overachieved. Chernobyl and Watchmen are similarly grim in tone, although one is dystopian fiction while the other is sadly science fact, even if it's dramatized. Watchmen actually compiled the second-largest total of first-place votes. However, Chernobyl narrowly edged it out as our third overall selection.
HBO also joins a pair of streaming services in the next grouping. The fifth, sixth, and seventh nominations this year are Stranger Things, Barry, and The Boys. I'm frankly a bit surprised that a very strong season of Stranger Things didn't do better, as its takedown of Russian bogeymen in 1980s cinema was stellar. As for Barry and The Boys, they're two different kinds of killer, neither of which you would expect to do evil based on appearance.
The rest of our top ten consists of two more streaming titles plus the lone basic cable program we lauded this year. The Mandalorian quickly cemented Disney+ as a major new player in the over-the-top video business, while Umbrella Academy proved that even the most oddball comic book adaptations are adaptable as television shows. Finally, The Magicians did something legitimately shocking this year and deserved selection for that aspect alone.
As always, Best Television Show proved brutally competitive this year. More than 50 programs earned votes. Narrowly missing selection but totally worthy of your time are Mindhunters, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I Think You Should Leave, Russian Doll, Killing Eve, Cobra Kai, Star Trek: Discovery, The Crown, GLOW, Veronica Mars, and Evil.
Seriously, load up all the television shows that you can for your next trip to the gym. You can’t go wrong with anything we’ve discussed here.
2020 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
||Good Place, The
||Umbrella Academy, The