Golden Armchair Awards 2013

golden-armchairBest New Miniseries/Show

Readers’ Choice: The White Queen

Philippa Gregory’s tale of palace intrigue amongst the Plantagenets is so insane it’s hard to believe it’s based on actual history. This one blew the rest of the competition out of the water.

My Choice: Ripper Street

Yes, it had its anachronisms and fairly absurd plotlines, but it was also gritty, atmospheric, unafraid to show just how awful Victorian life could be, and boasted a great cast of regulars and guest stars. This is a show that I will sorely miss.

Worst New Miniseries/Show

Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Mr Selfridge

Dear God. I had high hopes for this, after hearing that Andrew Pride and Prejudice Davies was doing the screenplay, but this show was a hot mess from beginning to end. Jeremy Piven played Harry Gordon Selfridge—a complex and fascinating man—as a manic cartoon, and the show couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be bleak or buffoonish. It was also hard to care about anyone or anything that was going on. This doesn’t do the addictive book it was based on, or the actual people whose story it claims to tell, justice.

Best Couple

Readers’ Choice: Jon Snow and Ygritte (Game of Thrones)

Hot, hot, hot! Our brooding northerner and straight-talking wildling made for a crackling couple.

My Choice: Richard and Julia (Boardwalk Empire)

I know Richard isn’t a lot of people’s favourite character, but he was one of mine, so I might be a little biased here. I thought this incredibly damaged man’s relationship with Julia Sagorsky—another straight-talking woman—was sweet and touching, and it was sad that just when it seemed things were going to go a bit right for him and he had a chance to establish a family of his own, it all got shot to hell.

Worst Couple

Readers’ Choice: Roddy Turner and Rose Selfridge (Mr Selfridge)

This was a seriously toxic relationship, and the disturbing thing was the show didn’t seem to fully realise it. Roddy’s notion of a romantic gesture was to stalk the object of his affection, and when that didn’t work, he started using her daughter to get close to her. He was a creepster of the first magnitude, which made it eminently satisfying when Harry finally tossed him out on his ear. If only Rose herself had managed as much.

My Choice: Denise and Moray (The Paradise)

Another toxic pairing, and another show that seemed unaware of it, though in Mr Selfridge’s defence, Rose and Harry did eventually clue in to Roddy’s creepiness. Denise, however, mooned over Moray no matter what he did. Even when she finally stood up for herself she spent the next episode making sad faces while everyone told her to get back together with the guy. Moray hates most women, as his past behaviour has shown, and I really can’t see this one working out and being healthy for either one of them.

Best Team

Readers’ Choice: Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)

Awww, yeah! These two managed to go, believably, from bickering reluctant travel companions to genuine friends over the course of just one season. He saved her life, and she stuck by him and was rewarded by becoming his confidante. The fact that they’re both pretty badass makes this all the more fun, and both actors have a great brother/sister-type chemistry (but, you know, not a Jaime/Cersei brother/sister chemistry). It’ll be interesting to see how this relationship shapes up, now Jaime’s home in King’s Landing.

My Choice: Reid, Jackson, and Drake (Ripper Street)

I can’t help but doff my cap to this threesome, which also boasted great chemistry. The three actors played wonderfully off of each other, especially Jackson and Drake, with their constant needling of each other. It was a pleasure to watch them bounce ideas around and then go racing through Victorian London to save Rose yet again. Well done, gentlemen.

Best New Character

Readers’ Choice: Lady Oleanna (Game of Thrones)

The Dowager Countess of the fantasy world was a welcome addition to this season, which probably would have ended up being rather bleak without her acid-tongued observations. No wonder Margaery’s such a good player, if this is who she learned from.

My Choice: Aunt Polly (Peaky Blinders)

Aunt Polly was probably my favourite bit of this show. Tough as nails but also nurturing when necessary, she told it like it is and kept all the boys in line. Not an easy thing to do, in a family of thugs.

Worst New Character

Readers’ Choice: Edna (Downton Abbey)

Man, everyone really, really hated Edna. And, to be fair, she is a horrible, sly, manipulative person with no redeeming characteristics as far as we can tell. It’s a testament to the actress’s skill, though, that she can be so despicable here, but so interesting over on Ripper Street as Long Susan.

My Choice: Caroline’s Doctor (The Village)

I hated Edna too, believe me, but as dreadful as she was, she didn’t hold a candle to this despicable beast, who mentally and physically abused and raped his own patient before somehow managing to convince her that he was the love of her life. Par for the course in the horrible world of The Village, but all the same—yeesh.

Character Who Needs a Good Slapping

Readers’ Choice: Robert Crawley (Downton Abbey)

Robert has gone from being a noble and committed landlord and all-around decent guy in season one to being a completely useless horse’s ass. He’s run Downton into the ground and lost all the family’s money through an investment so stupid even Mary can’t believe it, and then compounds that by refusing to believe anything he’s done is wrong. He’s a perfect illustration of why the British aristocracy started to crumble big time in the 1920s.

My Choice: The Young Doctor (A Young Doctor’s Notebook)

As dreadful as Robert is, at least his decisions haven’t led to anyone dying horribly in immense pain. Can’t say the same for the Young Doctor, who managed to use up nearly all the morphine in his whole hospital right before a squad of injured soldiers descended, needing treatment. His solution? Just refill the bottles with water. Nobody will notice! Things just got worse from there, as his callous behaviour towards the dying Pelagaya and grieving Natasha disgusted his co-workers and even his elder self, and culminated in him allowing a woman to burn to death horribly while he sought a fix. He doesn’t deserve a slap so much as several punches, and a few kicks to the balls.

Character We’ll Miss the Most

Readers’ Choice: Lady Sybil Branson (Downton Abbey)

Downton’s resident rebel did not go quietly into that good night, leaving a considerable hole in the lives of the characters and in the narrative. Even Thomas cried. Farewell, Sybil. You were so amazingly sweet it was hard to believe you came from the same family as Mary and Edith. You’ll be sorely missed.

My Choice: Richard Harrow (Boardwalk Empire)

Again, a lot of people thought he’d outlived his usefulness, but I wasn’t one of them. I thought there was still a great deal to be mined from a man steeped in violence trying to make a go of it with a family, but the powers that be thought otherwise and he ended up dying under the boardwalk, while his new family awaited his arrival at his sister’s. A character who managed to be both brutal and touching, I’ll miss the touch of humanity he brought to the show. Richard, you deserve a 21-gun salute, and then some.

Most Improved Character

Readers’ Choice: Tom Branson (Downton Abbey)

Remember what a dick Tom was for a while there? Mocking Sybil for working as a war nurse while he polished the car, and then showing up for family dinner acting like the most obnoxious type of self-righteous douchebag and basically ordering his wife to back him up? He was repellent, but then he started to pull himself together and acted more like someone who wasn’t raised by wolves. Yes, it’s a little hard to find it credible that he’s bought into the establishment this much and this quickly, but he has shown moments of doubt and is clearly still finding his way and making mistakes. His grief over Sybil’s death was heartbreaking, and the scenes with him and little Siblit are crazy adorable. He’s now one of my favourite characters. Who’d have guessed?

My Choice: Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Jaime started off an arrogant thug who thought nothing of tossing a child out of a very high window, and I just spent pretty much an entire season wanting to give him a hug. Go figure. His imprisonment by Robb Stark and the loss of his hand have humbled him considerably and made him more of an actual person—could you imagine Jaime of season 1 going back and rescuing Brienne from the bear pit?—and his confession of why he actually killed the Targaryen king went a long way towards rehabilitating him, at least in my eyes.

Most Badass Moment

Readers’ Choice: Arya kills the Frey bannerman boasting about Robb’s death (Game of Thrones)

Little Arya’s really grown up, hasn’t she? Let this be a lesson to others: don’t go killing Starks and then bragging about it in the most horrible way imaginable. This kid’s not messing around.

My Choice: Dany plays the Unsullied merchant in Astapor and has her dragons and new army destroy the place (Game of Thrones)

This was just awesome. Talk about someone who’s grown up. Dany’s not taking shit from anyone anymore; certainly not from some asshole slave trader who tries to make a deal to take away one of her babies. While the man insulted her, ignorant of the fact that she could understand every word he said, she patiently bided her time, learned what she could, and took her revenge with a single word: Drakaris.

Best Hell, Yeah! Moment

Readers’ Choice: Bates blackmails O’Brien with The Soap Incident (Downton Abbey)

It was so incredibly satisfying to see this actually come up again, because I think most of us honestly thought we were supposed to forget it ever happened. Bates went above and beyond to save Thomas’s job, and it worked. Now he knows what it takes to bring O’Brien to heel, and that’s some dangerous knowledge.

My Choice (tie): Dany has her dragons destroy Astapor/Jaime rescues Brienne from the bear pit (Game of Thrones)

The first one I’ve already discussed (see above). The bear pit rescue was both awesome and a crowning moment of heartwarming. Jaime could have just put Brienne behind him and continued on his merry way to King’s Landing, but he’s a different man now, so instead he turned back and, despite only having one hand (and it’s not his sword hand, either), he helped save her from a bear and a huge crowd of bloodthirsty men. That’s some serious loyalty right there.

WTF Moment

Readers’ Choice: Despite his spotty history and the fact that he actually committed an illegal act by hitting on Jimmy, Thomas is allowed to stay at Downton and is promoted, because he’s good at cricket (Downton Abbey)

What the hell does it take to get fired from this place? Unless you’re a maid, that is, in which case being in any way sexualised will get you tossed out on your ass before you can say ‘discrimination.’ Thomas as a character seems to have outlived his usefulness—though the homosexual angle held some promise, he’s completely reverted in the most recent season, rendering the whole thing pointless. And yet, he stays on. This is a man who’s stolen from his employers, created discord amongst the servants on numerous occasions, has plotted endlessly, and finally molested a co-worker. But he’s kept on and promoted to a position of power over the others (over the footmen, no less) because he’s a good cricket player? Not even Robert Crawley would have been that stupid in real life.

My Choice: Lord Allingham slices up his cows and then commits suicide (The Village)

This one wins for me because it was a pure WTF moment. It’s never in any way explained, it never makes any sense. It comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. The Village was good, but moments like this seriously weakened it. Yes, in real life people sometimes do insane things that can’t be explained, but in a scripted drama, that just feels like lazy writing. If you can’t think of a reason for a character to do something, then they shouldn’t be doing it.

Most Shocking Moment

Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Sybil dies (Downton Abbey)

I thought the Red Wedding would take this one, but I guess that wasn’t too shocking if you’ve read the book. But I don’t think any of us expected Julian Fellowes to have the guts to kill off such a well-liked character as Sybil. And he managed to do it in a really horrific way that left the other characters and the viewers emotionally raw and grieving with the Crawley family. Too bad he couldn’t manage to replicate that in any way when Matthew died.

Best Example of Suicidal Stupidity

Readers’ Choice: Even though the place is running through money at an unsustainable rate, Robert refuses to consider modernising or changing in any way (Downton Abbey)

Robert is a prime example of why wealth inherited through primogeniture is often a terrible idea. If Rosamond was running Downton, that place’d be running like clockwork, but with this dolt at the helm it’s no wonder it was a sinking ship. Matthew’s and Branson’s exasperation with their father-in-law was entirely understandable.

My Choice (tie): Warwick and George rebel against Edward repeatedly after having already been forgiven (The White Queen)

All the more shocking because it actually happened in history. These two men just didn’t know when to stop. They rebelled, and Edward defeated them, welcomed them back, and showered them with titles and riches (which sort of makes him an idiot too). Their response? Rebel again. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. Warwick ended up dead, and George, well, George managed to pull his ass out of the fire once more. Only to thrust it right back in a few years later, earning him a fatal ducking in a barrel of Malmsey wine. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you’re the king’s brother.

Sweetest Moment

Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Dr Turner proposes to Sister Bernadette (Call the Midwife)

We all love a lovey ending, don’t we? The slow burn relationship between the resident doctor and a conflicted nun turned out (unexpectedly, for me) to be one of the highlights of the last season of Call the Midwife, and it culminated in him racing off into the fog with his incredibly supportive son to finally propose. And we all sighed, ‘Awwwww!’

Saddest Moment

Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Sybil’s death

We all cried, right? At least a little. It’s ok, there’s no shame in it. It was awful to watch, scary as hell, and heartwrenching.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

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