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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SEASON IN REVIEW: 2016-17 New Dramas

Here is my look at the new dramas of the year! Tomorrow, check back for my final wrap-up of the 2016-17 season!

Past Seasons: 2015-16   2014-15   2013-14   2012-13   2011-12   2010-11

This is Us (NBC) - The biggest and buzziest new show of the year certainly earned the praise heaped on it. Tugging at the heart strings week after week, it could have easily veered into cheesy territory but real situations and struggles and dynamic performances across the board made it Must See TV even before it officially receives that label next season on Thursdays. The clever plot twist of the pilot was just the tip of the iceberg for a show that gave a completely fresh look at the family drama thanks to its generation-spanning look at one family. Broadcast TV needed This is Us in a big way and for someone who finally finished watching Parenthood last summer, it has filled the Parenthood sized hole in my heart.

RUNNER-UP: Designated Survivor (ABC) - I've had a complicated relationship with Designated Survivor this year and if I wasn't only halfway through Feud, it may have gotten bumped down to the "Worth Mentioning" category. But when Designated is good, it's very good. It's thrilling and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The problem is it just hasn't been able to figure out the kind of show it wants to be on a consistent basis. Of course it's had three showrunners with a fourth taking over in the fall, so that could be why.

Worth Mentioning: Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)/Pitch (FOX)

Milo Ventimiglia, This is Us (NBC) - As Jack Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia has found the role of a lifetime. He doesn't get to have his story in the present day, but his character permeates throughout the entire series. And that wouldn't work, the relationship and impact on the kids in the present day scenes, if it wasn't for Ventimiglia's dynamite performance. He is a flawed character yet ridiculously likable and easy to root for. His relationship with Mandy Moore and the kids might seem idealistic at times but also seems incredibly realistic.

RUNNER-UP: Sterling K. Brown, This is Us (NBC) - There are countless great performances in This is Us that they're pretty much taking runner-up spots to each other. Fresh off of his winning performance in American Crime Story, he was the heart of present-day This is Us in his role as Randall, the one who has it all together, until he doesn't. He elevates every scene he's in.

Worth Mentioning: Kiefer Sutherland, Designated Survivor (ABC)/Michael Weatherly, Bull (CBS)

Mandy Moore, This is Us (NBC) - Years after being a teen pop star and actress, Mandy Moore is back in a big way with her role in This is Us. Playing Rebecca in a variety of decades, she has perhaps the most to do in the show and she's eminently likable but complicated, like most This is Us characters. Moore was fantastic whether she was a wide-eyed young woman, a harried mom of triplets, or an older woman who lost her husband and has complicated relationships with her children. Moore effectively plays Rebecca at all ages, and that is no easy feat.

RUNNER-UP: Kylie Bunbury, Pitch (FOX) - I lament that Pitch is cancelled and also that it never quite became the show I hoped it would be. Otherwise, it may have been a star making performance for Kylie Bunbury, who was great in a demanding lead role. I hope she has something else in the near future.

Worth Mentioning: Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)/Abigail Spencer, Timeless (NBC)

Ron Cephas Jones, This is Us (NBC) - As the older William, who reunites with his biological son in the pilot of This is Us, and dies with two episodes remaining in the season, Ron Cephas Jones packed a whole lot into what was basically a recurring role. I'll write more about his death episode when it inevitably makes my end of year list, but I'll say now that throughout the season, Jones made William a character who may not have meant much such an integral part of the show that our hearts broke when he died.

RUNNER-UP: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Pitch (FOX) - Mark-Paul Gosselaar transformed himself physically and gave a very strong performance in Pitch as catcher Mike Lawson. His scenes with Kylie Bunbury were the scenes that worked best in the uneven but promising drama. For an actor best known for Saved by the Bell, he showed he has something more in him.

Worth Mentioning: Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)/Chris Sullivan, This is Us (NBC)


Maggie Q, Designated Survivor (ABC) - And we finally have a winner not from This is Us! While Kiefer Sutherland is relegated to not being Jack Bauer, the most action in Designated Survivor is coming from Maggie Q as FBI agent Hannah Wells. With a much better part than in the dreadful Stalker, Maggie Q has kept the show moving and I always pay a little more attention in her scenes because I know something big is likely to happen. She's the most consistent part of this inconsistent but promising drama.

RUNNER-UP: Helen Hunt, Shots Fired (FOX) - I didn't keep watching Shots Fired, but I really enjoyed Helen Hunt in every scene she was in. I wish she had been given to more, because she brought a level of class and veteran acting that made the drama seem more prestigious.

Worth Mentioning: Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)/Susan Kelechi Watson, This is Us (NBC)

Emerald City (NBC) - I know this wasn't a show for me, but I just didn't get it at all. Not to rehash my pilot review but this was such a silly way to reinvent a classic story. "Let's take The Wizard of Oz and make it like Game of Thrones. Except it's on NBC so we certainly can't have the sophistication of Game of Thrones." The Wizard of Oz is beloved and can be remade and retold in different ways, but this just didn't work at all.

RUNNER-UP: Notorious (ABC) - This was ABC's laughable attempt at trying to do a TGIT show without Shondaland's involvement. It was a show that tried way too hard to be steamy and hip and it just came off super lame.

Worth Mentioning: Time After Time (ABC)/Taken (NBC)

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