Readers’ Pick: Downton Abbey
My Pick: Downton Abbey
On paper, this sounded like another Gosford Park or Upstairs, Downstairs, but thanks to excellent writing, spectacular acting, and wonderful production design, it became so much more on both sides of the pond.
Worst Miniseries or Show
Readers’ Pick: Camelot
My Pick: Camelot
I see we’re all in agreement here: Camelot sucked. SUCKED. I mean, how do you screw up the Arthurian legend anyway? I didn’t think it was possible, but this sadly proved me wrong. Camelot ran away with the votes on this one, trailed by the terminally dull Mildred Pierce.
Readers’ Pick: Anna and Bates (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Anna and Bates (Downton Abbey)
This May/December romance was cute from the start, and quickly became a major reason to watch the show, despite the fact that Bates seemed determined to torpedo the romance at nearly every turn (more on that later). Nearly half of the votes went to this couple alone, which helped carry it well past Mary and Matthew and Jon Snow and Sam from Game of Thrones.
Readers’ Pick: Thomas and O’Brien (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Arthur and Guinevere (Camelot)
While not a couple per se, Thomas and O’Brien were undoubtedly a pair, and a dangerous pair at that. Apparently bored, they decided to focus their considerable free time on making Bates’s life unbearable, for absolutely no reason at all. A lesser man might have crumbled, but Bates stuck with it (and even he might have gone if Anna wasn’t around). Much as I hated these two, I loathed Arthur and Guinevere in Camelot. They were just a disgusting set of human beings who made me feel dirty. I was so appalled by their affair I refused to buy into it, and since they were both also incredibly stupid, I just gave up on them and started looking forward to the day Guinevere sluts around with Lancelot and gives Arthur a little taste of his own medicine.
Biggest WTF Moment
Readers’ Picks (Tie): Sex with Mary actually kills a guy (Downton Abbey) and Lysa breastfeeds her seven-year-old (Game of Thrones)
My Pick: Lysa breastfeeds her seven-year-old
Pamouk’s death was so completely random that even other characters on the show commented on it. Seriously, if the guy’s heart was so feeble that he died from having (probably fairly tame) sex with a virgin, I don’t know how he made it up the stairs alive. But just when you thought that was as crazy as things got, along came Game of Thrones, with its utterly creepy mother-son relationship in Lysa and her overgrown baby. Lysa’s clearly crazy, clingy, and poor at planning for the future. What’s this kid going to do when he grows up? Keep coming back to mommy at snacktime? I shudder to imagine it.
Most Shocking Moment
Readers’ Pick: O’Brien causes Cora’s miscarriage (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Ned Stark’s execution (Game of Thrones)
O’Brien had attitude, no doubt about that, but causing a pregnant woman to slip, fall, and miscarry entirely out of spite is taking things to a whole new level. Sure, she felt bad about it afterwards (and belatedly tried to prevent the accident), but the damage, as they say, was done. Still, for me, that didn’t even come close to Ned Stark’s execution a few episodes before the end of Game of Thrones’s first season. I know it was in the books and all, but books are often changed for the series based on them, especially when it comes to characters being played by recognizable actors. HBO, to their credit, pulled no punches and followed the story faithfully, having the hateful Joffrey off Ned in front of his daughters, kicking off a war that’s sure to engulf the whole damn country, and possibly some outlying areas as well. Way to go, Joffrey.
Readers’ Pick: Violet lets Mr. Molesley win the flower show (Downton Abbey)
My Picks: Bates and Anna admit how they feel about each other (Downton Abbey) and Ned arranges for Arya to have the fencing lessons she’s always wanted (Game of Thrones)
There were a lot of cute moments this year, with plenty of them coming from the unstoppable Downton Abbey. Readers loved the day Violet’s heart grew three sizes, while I preferred the quieter scene on the road between the show’s most popular couple. But Game of Thrones, despite its more martial tone, had some nice moments as well, with my favorite being the “good dad” scene where Ned peeks in on Arya finally learning to fight. Awww.
Most Valuable Player: Character who made a significant contribution in a small or thankless role
Readers’ Pick: Evelyn Napier (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Evelyn Napier (Downton Abbey)
Aww, I thought I was the only one who inexplicably loved Evelyn Napier, but apparently I’m not, because he ran off with a whopping 70% of the vote! This could have been a quick walk on walk off role in which all he did was introduce Pamouk to the house, but it was thankfully turned into so much more as he got a couple of nice scenes where he explained his views on marriage to Cora and later made a point of reassuring Mary that he was not the one who tattled to the Turkish ambassador. I liked him so much I was genuinely sad not to see him in series two. Oh well, best hopes for series three!
Best in Show: The reason we kept watching, even if the show sucked
Readers’ Pick: Eileen Atkins as Maude (Upstairs, Downstairs)
My Pick: Eileen Atkins as Maude (Upstairs, Downstairs)
I know some will disagree, but I hated Upstairs, Downstairs, and apparently so did a few of the readers. The show seriously suffered from being aired close to Downton Abbey, but I’m pretty sure I would have been frustrated by its silly tone and idiotic characters at the best of times. Thankfully, there were a couple of characters who made this bearable, one of whom was Maude, the family matriarch who came with an awesome Indian manservant and a cute pet monkey. And secrets, lots of secrets. She could have come across as obnoxiously overbearing (and, at times, she did a little) but mostly she was understandable and relatable, which can’t really be said for quite a few other characters on this show. Oh well.
Worst in Show: Characters who sucked at their job
Readers’ Picks (tie): Juan Borgia (The Borgias) and Arthur (Camelot)
My Pick: Arthur (Camelot)
Juan and Arthur are both proof why powerful people shouldn’t just get to pass important jobs on to their offspring. Both of them got their jobs because of daddy, and both of them were too weak and stupid to carry them out properly. Juan was placed at the head of the papal armies (as he was in real life) and promptly led them to annihilation in a battle against the French. The only reason he managed to get back in one piece was because his baby sister intervened. Arthur only managed to stay alive because he was surrounded by competent people who laid down their own lives to protect him. Also, his enemies were somehow even more feebleminded than he was.
Readers’ Picks (tie): Micheletto (The Borgias) and Daenerys (Game of Thrones)
My Pick: Micheletto
No matter how you may have felt about the characters or the shows, you can’t deny that these two had some serious balls and weren’t afraid to use them. Micheletto made himself Cesare Borgia’s enforcer and proved to be incredibly useful in that regard, killing indiscriminately and yet not becoming a completely unsympathetic character. He’s sort of like the Richard Harrow of The Borgias. Daenerys went from timid little blonde to self-assured asskicker in the course of a season, topping the whole thing off by climbing onto a massive funeral pyre and hatching herself some dragon babies. You have to admit, that’s pretty badass.
Most Badass Moment
Readers’ Pick: Cora and Anna help Mary carry a corpse clear across the house (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Micheletto fights his way out of the palace in Naples, wearing only a Speedo and armed only with his bare hands (The Borgias)
There were a surprising number of badass moments, but these two topped them all. Getting dragged out of sound sleep to schlep a corpse around and managing to do it without vomiting all over the place or fainting is pretty impressive. But if you ask me, that’s not nearly as impressive as infiltrating a palace in order to assassinate a cardinal, and then managing to fight your way out completely unarmed when everything goes pear shaped. With that one scene, Micheletto proved that he was a serious forced to be reckoned with.
Best Beatdown (Physical)
Readers’ Pick: Arya’s fencing instructor (armed only with a wooden practice sword) vs. six heavily armed knights (Game of Thrones)
My Pick: Arya’s fencing instructor (armed only with a wooden practice sword) vs. six heavily armed knights (Game of Thrones)
Although I found it amazingly cathartic when William beat the crap out of Thomas in the servants’ hall, I have to go with this one. That guy proved he was a serious badass in this one scene. He could have just given up, but that wasn’t his style. Talk about going out with a bang.
Best Beatdown (Verbal)
Readers’ Pick: Nearly every snippy scene with Violet and Isobel Crawley (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Kay lets Arthur have it on the eve of the Battle of Bardon Pass (Camelot)
Violet’s and Isobel’s scenes are like master classes in passive aggression, which make them really entertaining to watch. Still, I lean towards the scene with Arthur and Kay, because it was about time someone pointed out that Arthur’s behavior was inappropriate and selfish. Shame the lesson didn’t stick.
Readers’ Pick: Bates refuses to defend himself, even though by not doing so he’s risking his job and relationship with Anna (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: The leaders of a village near Camelot regularly go around raping young girls and nobody wants to report it, even when asked point-blank what’s going on (Camelot)
Bates’s martyrdom complex got pretty tiresome after a while, especially since he was protecting two hateful people (Thomas and O’Brien) and failing to reveal that Thomas was stealing, something that was taken very seriously in houses filled with priceless art, silver, and jewelry. Why the hell was he protecting this guy? Somehow, though, that paled in comparison to this episode from Camelot, in which Arthur comes across a village where it’s tradition for the men of the family in charge to go around raping young teenage girls. And when one of those girls’ fathers murderously objects, he refuses to defend himself or explain what’s going on to Arthur, who does actually have the power to do something about it. And when they figure it all out on their own, he still refuses to defend himself, virtually guaranteeing he’ll be hanged as a murderer and his daughter will be left entirely unprotected in the village o’rapists. Well done, dad! Throw in some weird incest angle, and the whole thing is totally and officially off the rails. You know something’s gone terribly wrong when Arthur’s no longer the dumbest person in the room.
Best Example of Suicidal Stupidity
Readers’ Picks (three-way tie): Bates fails to turn Thomas over for theft until it’s almost too late (Downton Abbey); Ned Stark tries to overthrow Joffrey, relying on a man he knows to be untrustworthy (Game of Thrones); and Edith tattles on Mary, then talks about her apparently impending marriage proposal right in front of her (Downton Abbey)
My Pick: Joffrey has Ned Stark executed, even after Ned accepts him as king (Game of Thrones)
I’ve already addressed the matter of Bates’s idiocy, so let’s move on from there. Ned, Ned, Ned, where do we begin? When you’re trying to overthrow someone, maybe you shouldn’t rely on a guy who has a massive crush on your wife. And whom you’ve never trusted. It seems like you had plenty of trustworthy people around you already—don’t go to the guy who would benefit from your death when you need help! And Edith—what were you thinking? You’ve already gone head-to-head with Mary and lost. You know what she’s capable of; play things close to the vest!
As dumb as Bates and Edith were, their actions didn’t end up kicking off a full-blown war, which Joffrey’s execution of Ned most certainly did (actually, his imprisonment of Ned started the whole thing, which then blew up after the execution). Plunging your kingdom into complete chaos, earning the enmity of a powerful family, and screwing up your relationship with your future wife, all within a few weeks of inheriting the throne? Stupid, and almost certainly likely to lead to your future death. We won’t miss you, Joffrey!
Thanks to everyone who voted. We’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2012, so I’m sure the Golden Armchair Awards will be back!