We apologize for the delay in this final part of the Spunky Awards. We thought we rented the space for Friday but apparently the deposit didn’t clear. It’s a whole thing. But now we’re ready to wrap it up with our Best Catchphrase, Best Episodes, and more. Plus…. Who will be our Entertainer of the Year?
Best Catchphrase – This is always a tough category because actual catchphrases don’t really exist anymore because they were always a cheap way to get a pop from a studio audience. So this year, we were lucky to get a catchphrase on BoJack Horseman’s show within the show, Philbert. In that self-consciously dark series, Mr. Peanutbutter’s character has the catchphrase “Barf me a river, fartbag”. Which just gets funnier the more you think about it.
The Gotham Award for Crimes Against Hands – Before we get into it, we should note that Gotham didn’t exactly end its war on hands in 2018. Lee Tompkins and a crime boss took turns destroying one another’s hands with hammers and Gordon ended up shooting Mad Hatter right through the hand. But Amazon’s Patriot featured a scene where both John and Dennis had two fingers shot off in about ten seconds. And after waiting as long as they possibly could, they finally went to the hospital and we learned later that Dennis swapped the fingers so the reattachment wouldn’t take but John would be able to get out of Paris. It’s a weird show and devastating to hands.
Cherubic German Figurines of the Year – Are you familiar with Hummel figurines? They seem to be kind of regional things, but one of us grew up in a part of the country populated by people of Dutch descent where every woman over forty owns dozens of Hummels. They are figurines of rosy-cheeked children doing stuff. Flying a kite, dropping ice cream, leaning against a tree. And they figured into two shows this year. On Good Girls, the gang thought that maybe selling Hummels on eBay was the best way to pay back the mob (their presentation was hysterical). Then on Better Call Saul, the Hummel storyline was actually a callback to one of Jimmy’s earliest elder law clients. When she passed, he learned that some of the figures she bequeathed were incredibly valuable, which encouraged him to attempt a truly boneheaded robbery. Wherever Hummels appeared, they made TV feel like Grandma’s house.
The David Tennant Award for Best Line Read – The series finale of The Americans was a stunner. Possibly the best finale of the year, if we wanted to make that a category. There were two absolute showstopper scenes, and it’s the first one we want to talk about here. When FBI Agent Stan finally put it together that his best friend and his family were actually Russian agents, he confronted the Jennings in a parking garage just as they were getting ready to make their final escape. And when he pulled a gun and demanded answers, Philip answered in the only way he could. “We had a job to do.” Matthew Rhys gave that line so much emotional weight as it played like a confession, an apology, and a dismissal all at the same time.
Literal Chekhov’s Pistol Award – If you show a gun in Act One, it has to go off in Act Three. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a gun. It can be anything. A pregnancy test, a mysterious phone call, a weird plant at Walter White’s house. But on Atlanta, it was very literal when Uncle Albert gave Earn a gold-plated handgun in the season premiere. Earn stashed the unwanted gift in his backpack and after all the wild events of the season, it would have been easy to forget. Earn certainly did, until he was in the TSA line at the airport with a hastily-packed bag. The way he dealt with it was clever and mean, but man, it’s good to see an actual pistol as a Chekhov’s pistol.
Best Non-Competitive Dance Number – This will take us some explanation. In a previous season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mac (Rob McElhenney) came out as gay. The thing is, a show like Sunny doesn’t really do relationships, so it mostly just meant they switched from jokes about Mac being in the closet to jokes about Mac being bad at being gay. So maybe it wasn’t great for representation. But in this season’s finale, Mac decided to tell his violent convict dad. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, and in an episode that was mostly notable for dumb jokes and grotesquerie, that seemed like the end of it. Instead, Mac staged a performance at the prison. The curtain came up on shirtless Mac on a darkened stage while fake rain poured down. And that’s a ridiculous setup, so you’re primed for something insane. But then he performed a lengthy and beautiful interpretive dance (with partner Kylie Shea). It goes on and on and you’re waiting for a joke and it only gradually sinks in that there isn’t a joke. This is a dumb guy on a show about dumb people finding a way to express himself and it’s actually beautiful. (McElhenney trained extensively for this dance.) There’s no joke at all. It’s the most honest expression of emotion this show has ever seen. And at one point, you can see Mac is crying and his partner comforts him and I can’t tell if Mac is crying in character or McElhenney is crying in person. But either way, it’s a thoughtful and beautiful scene in a show that’s known for not doing either.
Best Reunion – We enjoyed having former Doctor Who star David Tennant as the voice of Scrooge McDuck, but the season finale of DuckTales had former costars Tennant and Catherine Tate as Scrooge and Magica DeSpell, respectively. That’s right, Tate was the season’s Big Bad, waging a Shadow War on Duckburg. It was so much fun to hear the voices of the Doctor and Donna as eternal enemies. And as a bonus, this year brought news that the two were looking to do another project together. Donna really is the Doctor’s best friend!
Golden Pipes Award for Outstanding Vocal Performance – There was some great work from all corners this year, but only one voice delivered a 25 minute monologue, and that was Will Arnett in the “Free Churro” episode of BoJack Horseman. The entire episode was BoJack’s eulogy for his mother, and his emotions on that topic are… complicated. And Arnett’s performance was stunning, conveying all the exhaustion and confusion and guilt and grief, without ever being showy. BoJack’s not a guy who openly grieves, you know? Arnett told the story beautifully.
Outstanding Achievement in Playing Oneself – Technically, he played an imaginary version of himself, but Rob Corddry turned up on Wrecked to lead Todd through a spiritual journey through his past. Of course there’s nobody Todd respects more than the second lead of Ballers! (Though dream Rob insists it’s really a two-hander and he and the Rock have equal billing.) For the record, when Rob Corddry leads us on a spiritual journey, it’s because of Childrens’ Hospital.
Best Episode – Drama
EJ – Westworld “Kiksuya” – On a show as expansive and dense as Westworld, you can either devote an episode to answering mythology questions or you can spend an episode making us care about a minor character. You can’t do both. Unless you’re LOST and the episode in question is “The Constant”. Well, “Kiksuya” did just that, but even better. Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), a Host programmed as a Ghost Nation warrior (the show’s stand-in for actual Native American tribes), took the spotlight for the hour. We’d only seen glimpses of him previously, until he spent an episode telling Maeve’s daughter (and by extension, Maeve) about his time in the park. He was just a regular Host, consigned to fight and die and play out his storyline. But one day he broke free of the narrative and tested the boundaries of the park with his love, Kohana. They disappeared from their story and found happiness, until a maintenance team came across them and took them in to be serviced.
And then an updated narrative replaced his true love with another Host, and Akecheta was haunted by memories he shouldn’t have of the past. It’s a story about how Akecheta broke free of his narrative, learned the true nature of his existence, and even made it into the reprogramming facility where he found an inert Kohana. It was beautiful and devastating, even as it quietly answered so many viewer questions about the nature of Westworld. It’s a near perfect episode, told almost entirely in the language of the Lakota tribes. I honestly can’t keep it together when I think about “Take my heart with you when you go.” I know that Westworld isn’t for everyone and this season had some real missteps, but I’m not sure you need all that much context to watch this episode and just let it sit in your heart.
Myndi – The Handmaid’s Tale “Holly” – Most shows would save the birth of a long gestating child for the season finale, but most would agree this is not most shows! While our heroine June is stuck/hiding in a rural Massachusetts home where she’d just seen her daughter Hannah, she must hide when The Waterfords show up looking for her. While they fight about whose to blame for her second escape in under a year, things get intense, and June is nearly able to get a shot at her captors. But it’s obvious the stakes are too high–anything short of killing them both will have instant repurcussions for her. Heck, even killing them and not getting away would be bad. Once they leave, she tries to escape, but is thwarted by a locked garage door and a freaking dyer wolf in the yard. At least she gets to hear the voice of Oprah on a radio station that is likely broadcasting from Canada. When her water breaks, she is forced to labor alone in the dark and empty house. There are no nurses, no drugs, not even a bed. Just a roaring fire and towels to sop up the blood. It’s fierce and fearless of Elisabeth Moss, and it’s so raw, you almost can’t believe what you’re seeing. Baby Holly (named for June’s mother) is born perfectly healthy, and June promises to keep her safe; no easy task when you’re stuck in Gilead.
Best Episode – Comedy
EJ – Joe Pera Talks With You “Joe Pera Reads You the Church Announcements” – This Adult Swim show was a sweet-natured delight all season as Pera, a mild-mannered choir teacher in Marquette, MI tried to teach his viewers about iron or breakfast or fireworks. And then, in the middle of the season came this absolutely perfect gem. Pera was invited to read the announcements during an Advent church service. After announcing a toy drive, he went off script to tell the congregation about how he accidentally heard The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” for the first time.
This leads to a lengthy flashback of Joe hearing the song and experiencing pure joy. He calls the radio station fo find out what this song is, and then calls every radio station in town to have them play it. And the whole time he’s running around his house, eating ice cream with his hands, bouncing off furniture, making the pizza guy listen to it. For such a usually restrained character, Perea’s excitement is electric here. He’s practically vibrating with glee. Then he shares the song with this loved ones, decorating the Christmas tree with Grandma while the song plage. By the end, he’s led the entire congregation in a sing along before being dismissed by the minister. I know it doesn’t sound revolutionary or high-concept, but I laughed for eleven minutes straight. Every second is so goofy and joyous. And that ast line, delivered in Pera’s deliberate cadence, is the perfect capper. I wanted to play it for everybody I know, just like Joe Pera before me.
Myndi – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel “Midnight at the Concord” – Halfway through its second season, Mrs. Maisel stopped messing around an really hit its stride with this jammed packed hour. We spent some more time in the Catskills, where Susie is working tirelessly to get Midge a gig but must listen to a rundown of Midge’s day: from a waffle breakfast,to playing Simon Says and missing Pastels class. Susie’s response: “What are you, the lost Gabor sister?” Then, two big breaks for Midge: first, a chance to return to the L’Oreal counter at work, which gave her a chance to spend time with potential new suitor Benjamin, and the midnight spot at The Concord Hotel, which was a breakthrough for her career, but perhaps a bust for her life, when her father ended up in the audience. After this episode, things picked up steam with Midge’s secret out and the summer winding down. There was no choice but to forge ahead on all fronts, and the back half did not disappoint.
Best Episode – Animated
EJ – The Venture Bros. – “Arrears in Science” – I’ll acknowledge that this isn’t the episode you want to start with, but for longtime fans, this was huge. It was the end of the trilogy that opened the season and resolved the Blue Morpho storyline, as well as a direct tie-in to the second episode of Season One (which aired fourteen years ago!). Flashbacks answered on of the series’ biggest questions – How did Jonas Venture die? – while also asking Wait, is he actually even dead? (No spoilees, but at least by the end of the episode, the answer is emphatically yes.)
Meanwhile, we learned who Vendata is (and I was right!). And on some other level of reality, Jonas faced the family friend he betrayed long ago and added new twists to the Venture backstory. In the present, all hell broke loose, Billy made a giant beetle, a decade old setup earned its payoff, the Monarch tried to redeem his reputation and Hank worried about his sanity. It was an episode that felt like it ran extra-long but it was really just a very full half hour that still had plenty of time for jokes. And speaking of jokes, this episode included a villain with speed powers based on Freddy Mercury named “Mr. Fahrenheit the Supersonic Man”. And if you can come up with something that funny and then just leave him to die in the vacuum of space, you have more ideas than the rest of us combined.
Entertainer of the Year – We ran through a lot of nominees this year, but one name stood out as somebody who had a very good 2018. And it’s a man we’ve been cheering on ever since the Community days. That’s right, our Entertainer of the Year is Donald Glover. He could have won on his TV work alone – Season Two of Atlanta was such a towering achievement. Glover, wrote, directed, and starred in the show but also worked with collaborators in a way you don’t usually see in auteur-driven shows. There are a bunch of episodes where Glover doesn’t appear because he knows when to let his co-stars take the spotlight. That said, Glover kind of stole the season with a creepy (and heavily made up) turn as Teddy Perkins in the episode of the same name. And did we ever find out who appeared as Teddy Perkins in real life at the Emmys? Because if Glover was ever going to tulpa a character into the real world, we would have preferred Earn or Troy. Instead, we got Teddy.
As Childish Gambino, Glover released an EP this year, along with one of the year’s biggest singles, “This is America”. The video is stunning and so visually dense (it was directed by Atlanta collaborator Hiro Murai) and shows of Glover’s comedy chops even though it isn’t necessarily funny. And then, in a supremely cool bit of casting, Glover played Lando Calrissian in Solo. It wasn’t a blockbuster (though we love and support Solo in this house), but his take on Lando was so much fun. That man had a worrying number of capes. You just know that’s a role he dreamed of all his life.
Ever since the days of Community, we’ve been happy to see Donald Glover no matter what it is he’s doing and it’s long past time we name him Entertainer of the Year.
And that wraps up the Ninth Annual Spunky Awards. We’ll see you next year for the Tenth Anniversary! Actually, we’ll see you tomorrow. We’ve got other stuff to post in the time between awards shows.