We’re a little late this time around, but awards season isn’t over until we say it is. And so, that means it’s time for the Tenth Annual Spunky Awards. Our celebration of the best and weirdest in television. In today’s part one, we’re going to look at categories like Best Villain, Best Fight, Supporting Player of the Year, and Best ‘Breve. So put on your formalwear and get ready for a bevy of awards.
Best Superhero – Batman. Some years we try to fake you out, but it’s always going to be Batman. This year, the ten-time Spunky Award winner wrapped up Gotham and thanks to a time jump, very briefly appeared in costume in the finale. It was rad. And even though the CW shows can’t technically use Batman, Kevin Conroy, who voiced him in Batman: The Animated Series and is the best Batman ever, got to play an alternate universe Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis” event. That was kind of a big deal.
Best Villain – There were a lot of good villains this year. Bad villains? You know what we mean. We could have picked the Homelander or absolutely anybody from Succession or Monroe Fuches or Mr. Nobody or Bad Janet, but this year we’re honoring a repeat winner who wrapped up his run. It’s Gotham’s Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin.
For five seasons, he was the highest point of a show with a lot of high points. From the very beginning, he and Jada Pinkett Smith figured out the tone of the show faster than even the writers did, and with anybody else as Oswald
Cobblepot, it would have been a very different show. Taylor gave us the best take on the Penguin in any medium ever with an incredible performance that swung from pathetic to terrifying to weirdly sympathetic without warning. From casual cruelty to operatic psychosis, Taylor’s Penguin defined Gotham and we can’t say enough good things about him.
Best Fight – This year’s winner is really two fights and then a third that’s a continuation of the first. That’s right, it’s “ronny/lilly” from Barry. Bill Hader’s retiring hitman was sent on the proverbial one last job, but he decided he was going to help Ronny get away and start a new life. But Ronny wasn’t having it and got the drop on Barry in a truly bonkers extended fight scene. (Barry was wearing a ski mask for most of it, presumably to allow a stunt man to step in, but Hader directed the episode so he still gets points.) Ronny just wasn’t going to stop, even after Barry cracked his windpipe. When Ronny finally managed to get away, his daughter Lilly came home. And Lilly just went at Barry like a feral child. It was amazing how they managed to make every beat of the fight feel so dangerous while still feeling
absurd. Lilly managed to do significant damage to Barry before running off. While looking for her, Barry ran into Ronny again and things picked up where they left off. It was an entire episode of fight scenes and it was beautiful.
Best Fight (Fratricide Division) – We all knew it was coming. The Hound vs. The Mountain. In fact, Game of Thrones named this fight “Clegane Bowl” years before it happened, and in the second to last episode, we finally got Sandor Clegane vs. Gregor Clegane. It only gets more awesome if you know that Gregor is maybe one step above a zombie at this point and he’s played by the actual strongest man in the world. These two giants went at it, and it was brutal. And while the Mountain had the advantage most of the time, even going in for his patented head crush, Sandor managed to maneuver him to the edge so they both fell to their fiery deaths. It was awesome.
The “Jon” from Delocated Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Abbreviating Words
(The Award Formerly Known as Best ‘Breve) – In a year where we got a new season of Jon Glaser Loves Gear, the man immortalized in the name of the award is a virtual shoo-in. And this year, the most notable was ‘thon, which is short for “marathon”. See, in real life, Glaser ran a marathon last year, which is an impressive achievement. But TV Glaser brought it up in literally every episode and whenever he did, there was a photo of him running and a voiceover announcing “Ran the ‘Thon!” All these years and the man still ‘breves with the best of them.
Most Inspired Casting – Say what you will about The Mandalorian, but that show is responsible for some weird-ass stunt casting. Amy Sedaris as a starship mechanic, Bill Burr as a guy from what I can only assume is Space Boston, Nick Nolte as an Ughnaut, Taika Waititi and Richard Ayoade as droid voices. Giancarlo Esposito, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Posehn, Gina Carano, Adam Pally, Horatio Sanz… it’s the weirdest assemblage of talent. And to top it all off, freaking Werner Herzog as the Client. First off, we’re certain Herzog has never seen a Star Wars thing and is only dimly aware of what it is. Second, we have him to thank for the practical effects Baby Yoda – he told the producers that
they would be “cowards” if they used CGI.
Scene Stealer of the Year – So you know how The Righteous Gemstones is really funny and has an amazing cast? Well, none of them are more amazing than Edi Patterson as Judy Gemstone. There were so many wonderful moments and weird turns of phrase and catchy songs all year, but just watch her monologue in the season finale. It’s beautiful and deranged and a perfect performance.
Most Surprisingly Affecting TV Episode About a Talking Boat – We loved The Tick very much and we will always be a little bit bitter about its cancellation. But for now, let’s focus on the season’s fourth episode “Blood and Cake”, which focused on the talking boat, Dangerboat. Dangerboat has long been more emotionally accessible than
your average sentient vehicle (he has a crush on Arthur and everything) and in this episode we learned about the PTSD he suffered after the death of his previous owner and confronting his grief put him in a lockdown that threatened the lives of the Tick and friends. Ultimately, they couldn’t stop him with force or wiles – it was down to Arthur to help Dangerboat to process his emotions and take those first steps toward recovering just by caring and being there to support his friend. As weird as everything about that sounds, it was genuinely thoughtful and, yeah, beautiful.
Best Jason Mantzoukas – It can be hard to pick a favorite Jason Mantzoukas. Every guest appearance is in theru nning, and it’s hard to beat Derek from The Good Place. But this year’s standout was Jason Mantzoukas as the Big Bad Wolf on Legion. In an episode set in a fantasy world or possibly entirely in Syd’s head, the Big Bad Wolf was both the Red Riding Hood wolf and the Three Little Pigs wolf and was also a human. He intruded on Syd’s idyllic life with that weird Mantzoukas energy. He actually demanded that somebody hand over a baby, which is kind of his thing at live How Did This Get Made shows. And in the scene that proves we’re in a Golden Age, Jason and Jemaine Clements have a rap battle that Jemaine won with kindness. It was so good, you guys.
Biggest Tearjerker – There were some great scenes this year. . We also considered Chidi and Eleanor’s last night before his memory wipe on The Good Place, Larry finding his lost love on Doom Patrol, Sheila burning her furs on GLOW, big hunks of BoJack Horseman, the moment when Fleabag realized Hot Priest could see her takes to camera. Brienne of Tarth’s reaction to Jaime Lannister’s betrayal. But maybe the most devastating was Legion’s Aubrey Plaza experiencing the entire life and death of her daughter in a minute. David’s meddling caused blips in time and one of them caused Lenny to watch her daughter (who hadn’t been born yet) live her entire live in a series of flashes that meant she had to watch her child grow old and die in a matter of seconds. Plaza, who really should have an Emmy for her work on this weird show, was phenomenal here.
Best Catchphrase – We love the weird phrasing choices on I Think You Should Leave, like the sketch where they keep referring to a “slice” of toilet paper. And the best one of those is ‘Tuna Can’, used in multiple episodes to describe anything wider than it is tall, from that rotten baby Harley Jarvis to, well, a dingus. It is so much fun to say! Try it!
The Gotham Award for Crimes Against Hands – This is kind of a retro award, but we have so few chances to talk
about Deadwood here, we’re going to have to honor Al Swearengen’s missing finger. George Hearst had it cut off in Season Three, and it was a kick to see old Al still wrapping up that hand. (Yes, there is a scene where they forgot the wrap but get off their backs, man.)
The David Tennant Award for Best Line Read – For some of us, the Deadwood movie was the story of the year. And it was so great to see everybody again. One of our favorites, Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran got the line of the year and the line read of the year. When asked if a patient’s bleeding would stop, Cochran blurts in what can only be called fatigued annoyance “All bleeding stops eventually”. Damn, that’s a good line. And knowing what we know now, that creator David Milch was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and this might well be the last thing he writes, well, it hits really hard.
Worst Rap – There’s no way anybody could have expected what would happen on Succession when Kendall Roy took the stage at an event to honor his father, Logan. Because Kendall busted out an original rap, “L to the OG”, that was absolutely glorious. Both as a thing we’re watching at home and a thing human people within the reality of the show are gathered around to watch, it was a cringe-y embarrassment that really drove home just how broken Kendall was. If you can get through the couplet “Bro, don’t get it twisted, I’ve been through hell / But since I stan Dad, I’m alive
and well” without shriek-laughing and then wanting to die, you’re stronger than we are.
Best Non-Competitive Musical Performance – Sure, it turned out to be a fantasy sequence, but it was hard not to get into Doom Patrol’s Larry Trainor and Maura Lee Karupt (Matt Bomer and Alan Mingo Jr.) busting out Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us”. Have some of us never heard a Kelly Clarkson song before? Yes. Did we get this version on iTunes? We sure did.
Best Redemption Arc – Maybe you remember Season Five of Amazing Race and specifically, Colin. He was a hyper-competitive guy with a bad temper who made you feel sorry for his teammate and girlfriend, Christie. He was nearly arrested for causing an incident at a traffic stop and there’s that immortal moment when he screamed “My ox is broken!” And usually the way we react to that is to hope Christie comes to her senses and leaves this maniac. But the pair returned for the most recent season, still together, and Colin was a whole different person. He had mellowed considerably and even when faced with adversity on the Race, he would take a second to collect himself and calm down
before proceeding. It was so impressive to see a person change that much since we last saw him, and a reminder that
these are real people who exist off-camera. It was so exciting to root for these two nice people and to watch them win the season.
Best Reunion – We usually reserve this for a reunion of actual people, maybe actors who haven’t worked together in a long time. But it was hard to beat the reunion of Sterling and Malory Archer. Archer finally woke up from a three-year coma to see his mother waiting for him, just like she’d been waiting the whole time. For a relationship that is… not
healthy, this was a genuinely sweet moment that felt very real. And that moment was teed up with what we have to
call the year’s Best Montage.
Supporting Player of the Year – We can agree that Preacher was wildly uneven, but there were a couple of people you could always count on. One of them was Julie Ann Emery as Grail acolyte Featherstone. As somebody totally committed to an insane plan and the increasingly less fit for leadership Starr, every time she showed up, you knew it was going to be good. Her ongoing hostility with Tulip (Ruth Negga) was one of the best things about the show and anytime those two got a chance to fight, we got a glimpse of how good this show could be. Emery also had a small role in Catch-22 where she was similarly great, and we all remember her as half-assed embezzler Betsy Kettlemen in the first season of Better Call Saul. She’s been awesome for years and it’s time to give her a lead role.
Next week we’ll wrap things up with Part Two including our Entertainer of the Year.