Keith Telly Topping’s ‘The From The North TV Awards (2020)’

by Larry Brody

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping

The Most Honourable Keith Telly Topping His Very Self is the sole proprietor and writer of “From the North,” which is, hands down, my favorite blog written in the English language.

The blog might well be my fave written in any language, but inasmuch as I only read and understand English blogs, I guess I’ll never know. (At least I believe I understand them. Hard to be sure what one is ignorant of when one is, you know, ignorant.)

Anyway, Keith has this terrific blog that you all should be reading regularly, or to be more accurate, “irregularly” because that’s the interval at which it comes out.

For those who’ve missed the latest edition, in which KTT chooses the best television shows of the year 2020, I’m reprinting a few of the 30,000+ words devoted to his analyses of the various Best and Worst shows.

Mainly, I’m showing y’all the opening sections of each of the two categories in my attempt to garner as many new visitors to “From the North” as I can because, well, because I can.

Here goes:

From The North’s Fifty Extra-Primo-Rad Highlights Of Television In 2020
by keith telly topping

(NOTE FROM LB: In other words, we can be pretty sure he likes these)

1. A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote
‘Sam, you’re going to run for President one day. Don’t be scared. Checkmate.’ Though it came to an end in 2006, The West Wing – the greatest TV show in the history of the medium … that doesn’t have the words ‘Doctor’ and ‘Who’ in the title – never really ended in many people’s hearts. Fans of the award-winning US political drama have longed for some form of revival almost from the day that the final episode was broadcast (the entire Barack Obama presidency being, effectively, The West Wing series eight notwithstanding). This remains true for this blogger who once wrote a couple of books about the show. It was with considerable anticipation from the masses, therefore, that in August, it was announced Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney (plus, many of the supporting cast) would reprise their roles, for one night only. For a stage version of the well-remembered 2001 episode Hartsfield’s Landing, intended to raise awareness and support for When We All Vote, a non-profit organisation founded to increase participation in US erections. ‘Yes, we’ve gotten the band back together!’ Brad Whitford told the audience at the beginning of the broadcast. Production took place at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre and the episode was broadcast on 15 October on HBO Max. The role of Leo McGarry was played by Sterling Brown, John Spencer having, of course, sadly died in 2005. Emily Procter read the stage directions and Marlee Matlin and Elisabeth Moss also made appearances. The production included additional material written by creator Aaron Sorkin and Eli Attie, was directed by Thomas Schlamme and act-breaks featured guest appearances from When We All Vote co-founders Michelle Obama and Lin-Manuel Miranda, plus Bill Clinton and Samuel L Jackson. Perceptions that this might have been a case of didactic ‘preaching to the converted’ notwithstanding, reception was hugely positive from critics and viewers alike. CNN characterising the special as approximating ‘the experience of watching a stage play, only with a best-seat-in-the-house view,’ including ‘shooting the performers from behind and revealing the rows of empty seats,’ what they considered as ‘a poignant reminder of what’s been lost on the theatrical front since the pandemic began.’ The AV Club wrote it ‘always stays on the right side of being a Very Special Episode.’ IndieWire considered ‘[as] a reimagining of a strong television episode, the new version of Hartsfield’s Landing plays out beautifully.’ The Hollywood Reporter added it was ‘[a] solid recreation of a solid episode for a solid cause.’ Deadline said in a headline that the production was A Sobering Reminder Of When Presidents Were Presidential, At Least On TV. From this blogger’s viewpoint, watching this was both a welcome experience and a sad one. Welcome, obviously, because this was The West Wing and it was, frankly, stunning – indeed, the only way it could, possibly, have been any better would’ve been if Josh and Donna had got their kit(s) off and done The Sex right there on the stage for all to see. (That may, admittedly, be the ‘shipper-fan lurking within this blogger having, briefly, taken over the review. Sorry ’bout that.) But it was also sad because it was an, at times, awkward reminder of an era – not that long ago, either – when television made this kind of challenging, thoughtful, sincere, outspoken drama effortlessly. And now it doesn’t very much, if at all. The world has become a colder, harsher, more nasty and less inclusive place, dear blog reader (and this was before Coronavirus came along and made the situation many times worse). And – this is the real tragedy – we are all, to a greater or lesser degree, responsible for the critical and commercial conditions in which such a lack of ambition, empathy and, frankly, decency exists….

Thirty Programmes Which Were, Frankly, Neither Use[ful] Nor Flamin’ Ornament

(NOTE FROM LB: I think the above heading means Mr. Topping thinks these are as far from belonging in any listing of good shows as a show can get. I mean, there’s evidence in favor of that interpretation, but I have no sense of absolute certainty.)

1. Jack Whitehall’s Father’s Day/Jack Whitehall’s Sporting Nation
We’ve been here before, of course, dear blog reader. Many, many times previously. But, the question needs to be asked again. Just who, exactly, is it that keeps giving this odious, worthless, lanky streak of rancid, obnoxious piss, this waste of oxygen a portion of this blogger’s hard-earned licence fee to make television programmes which have no worth and even less likeability? This blogger is, frankly, flummoxed and would love an answer to that question, dear blog reader. Because whomsoever it is desperately needs a damned good talking to. As to what Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall needs, this blogger will refrain from further comment for fear of crossing the boundaries of acceptable criticism, taste and decency. Except to note that we have laws in this country which ought, in theory, to protect people from such cruel and unusual punishment as programmes featuring Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall. In the year that comedy geniuses like Terry Jones and Tim Brooke-Taylor sadly left us, the outrage that Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall is alive and getting paid as well is the final, necessary, proof that There Is No God….

Kelly’s post (did I mention that it is 30,000 + fucking words long?) also includes a few “”Television Curiosities of the Year,” which seem to me to be even worse shows than the thirty bad ones, but I’ll leave you to decide that by reading the remaining paragraphs of the 84 different reviews, all guaranteed by Yrs.Truly to amaze and astound you with their casually perfect verbiage HERE

Don’t forget to tell Mr. Topping that TVWriter™ sent you!

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.