Once upon a time… working for television was labelled a "demotion," a professional death sentence for actors whose careers were considered on a no-way-back downward spiral.
Today, actors of all ages and experiences (especially women and actors of color) have found more opportunities to practice their craft and tell their stories (and be recognized for it) than ever before. While there are still many roads that need to be travelled in terms of fairness and equality on both sides of the camera, progress has been made – even as the film industry continues a slow descent into "event film haze" to remain relevant.
Once upon a time… it was thought for a show to succeed, it needed to start every September, end every April/May, and run at least 20 episodes per season.
Today, fans wait over a year for a half-season of Adult Swim's Rick and Morty, and have shown their willingness to embrace an 8-episode quality season over a 16-episode "padded" season.
Once upon a time… television meant "The Big Three," HBO went off-air at 11 p.m., and "water cooler" moments before the VCR could be a very select club at the work place.
Today, cable and streaming have turned "The Big Three" into "The Big 333" – with DVR, on-demand, and binge watching making any time a great time to watch.
With that said, it's hard to believe it's been a year since our last go-around – and as difficult as it was to choose only 10 shows last year, this year tripled the pressure. Once again, it felt like we were trying to find ten specific needles in a pile of needles – and this year, that pile was huge… and twice as painful when it came to cuts.
But we prevailed – and over the course of the next ten days, you'll see that our list represents the best in diverse thought and action that graced our screens this year. Following up on our two opening rounds (which you can check out for yourselves here and here), Bleeding Cool's Margo Staten offers her thoughts on why FOX's Michael Sheen–Tom Payne starrer deserved to make the cut (well… not that kind of cut):
#8 "Prodigal Son" (FOX)
Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) has a gift. He knows how killers think and how their minds work. Why? Back in the 1990s, his father was one of the worst, a notorious serial killer called "The Surgeon." So it makes sense Bright is the best criminal psychologist around; murder is the family business. He will use his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother, annoyingly normal sister, a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son, and his own constantly evolving neuroses.
Meet the happy family. Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) is intelligent, wealthy, charismatic and also happens to be a predatory sociopath who killed at least 23 people. Bright's mother, Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young), an elegant and WASPy New Yorker, wields sarcasm like a samurai sword and has an opinion on every aspect of Bright's life. Perhaps Bright's only ally is his sister, Ainsley Whitly (Halston Sage), a TV journalist who wishes her brother would "take a break from murder" and have a normal life.
Unfortunately for his sister, the only way Bright feels normal is by solving cases with the help of his longtime mentor, NYPD Detective Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips). Arroyo's one of the best detectives around, and he expects no less from his team – Detective Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau), a headstrong no-nonsense cop who quickly becomes impressed with Bright's work; and Detective JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), a born-and-bred New Yorker who questions whether Bright is a psychopath himself.
From Emmy Award-nominated executive producer Greg Berlanti, executive producer Sarah Schechter ("Riverdale," "You"), and executive producers/creators Chris Fedak ("Deception," "Chuck") and Sam Sklaver ("Deception," "Bored to Death").
Why "Prodigal Son"?
Who wouldn't love a police procedural about a dysfunctional family, a serial killer for a father, and a Tom Payne who has to sleep in chains and a mouth guard – and no, not out some sexual preference? With each episode being dramatically unpredictable with its bizarre and bloody plot twists, "Prodigal Son" continues keeping viewers grasping for their security blanket.
Most notable is Payine's Bright, our protagonist and a rogue ex-FBI profiler who can't keep himself out of trouble, desperately trying to maintain his sanity and a sense of normalcy as he looks to define the dynamic between himself and his father, Dr. Whitly aka "The Surgeon" (Michael Sheen). Can never get enough of Dr. Whitly's psychotic, manipulative presence – and Sheen's Whitly and Payne's Bright feel like two animals respectfully stalking each other every time they share screen time.
Throw in a killer ensemble cast delivering A-level performances and an overall vibe that makes even the commercials feel creepy, and I have to ask:
Why not "Prodigal Son"?
– Margo Staten