Sunday, March 1, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 2

Last week, we kicked off our first installment of a new weekly series titled "This Week's TV MVPs," where every week a bunch of distinguished blogger friends of mine and I will examine the performances on television and write about who made our "most valuable performers" list. This week is a bit unique because it was the week in which the seven-year series Parks and Recreation drew to a close in one of the most sentimental, sweet, lovely ways possible. We loved "One Last Ride" and thought everyone in the cast was so exceptional that this week, those of us who are fans of the series picked TWO MVPs: one from Parks and Recreation and one from another television series in order to honor the NBC comedy's final episode.

Joining me this week are:
So let's get to it, then! Here are some of the best performers on television this week!

Jenn's MVP: Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate (Parks and Recreation)

Why she's the MVP: Parks and Recreation drew to a close this week and left us with plenty of laughs, flash-forwards, and tears. Out of all of the cast members throughout the series, one of those who I've loved seeing grow is Aubrey Plaza, who played April Ludgate. This is a young woman who began the series hiding the fact that she was compassionate and had a heart (and was actually quite soft) by pretending to not care about people or things. But slowly, we got the opportunity to watch April not just grow closer to people but also grow more as a young woman.

In "One Last Ride," we get the opportunity to see flash-forwards of Andy and April's married life and their struggle over whether or not they want to have kids. I love how Aubrey Plaza plays April: this frantic, wild energy and desire to remain in adolescence and uncaring paralleled with her actual compassion and heart for the world. We had the opportunity, in the final season, to see that April's eventual goal was to be in a position in authority where she could help place others in the careers they should be in. In the flash-forwards, we see her and Andy as successful adults and that burden of adulthood and desire to remain carefree as long as possible prevents April from wanting to have children. So she turns to Leslie for advice (which I love because how great is the progression of their friendship/relationship really?) and Leslie tells her that she will always root for her and Andy's team -- whether that's a team of just them or a team with children.

April does get pregnant and has a baby, which she and Andy name Jack. And the beautiful moment above is such an amazing example of how Aubrey Plaza brought April Ludgate so much depth. She pretends to think people and children are gross and that being emotional and vulnerable and normal is weird. But she loves people. She needs them. And that tender smile and glance up at Leslie is such a wonderful example of what a perfect job Aubrey did and how well she really understood the depth of April's emotions. For that, I am eternally thankful and she earns my Parks and Recreation MVP spot.

Jenn's (other) MVP: Sarah Rafferty as Donna Paulsen (Suits)

Why she's the MVP: I absolutely love Donna Paulsen as a character. She's one of the fiercest, funniest, smartest, most inventive and honest characters on television. She's bold and she's unabashedly dramatic. Donna knows exactly who she is and what she wants. This week's episode "Intent," though, saw an extremely vulnerable, scared side to Donna's character and Sarah Rafferty absolutely knocked that performance out of the park. In the episode, Donna is charged with felony fraud and Harvey spends the entire episode doing everything within his power to save her (because, as he finally admits at the end of the episode, he loves her.) In the scene GIF'd above, Donna finally tells Harvey why she lied to him earlier in the episode: she was ashamed. We're not used to seeing this Donna -- this vulnerable, scared, self-conscious woman. And Sarah played that with such raw emotional prowess that it knocked the wind out of me. To hear her confess that for once in her career, she actually felt of  value to the team because SHE was the one to save the Liberty Rail case... it made me feel such compassion toward her and such empathy.

The rest of "Intent" is one giant stunning performance from Sarah Rafferty, whose scenes with Gabriel Macht were absolutely stellar. She snaps at Harvey, wanting him to treat her like a person and not a case and to comfort her because she's terrified of going to prison and she feels like he is cold and distant to that reality and to her. The final scene of the episode was beautiful, too, as Donna asks why Harvey feels like she's so different and he then tells her (for the first time): "You know I love you, Donna." Sarah Rafferty played Donna's stunned reaction so palpably that it made my own jaw drop, too. Basically, she was outstanding in "Intent" and I love the way that she plays Donna Paulsen every week, but especially this one.

Jaime's MVP: Jim O'Heir as Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry Gergich (Parks and Recreation)

Why he's the MVP: It goes without saying, but Jerry Gergich is the worst.  I mean…come on.  He knocks things over, he rips his pants at inopportune moments, he tries to make meaningful connections with people…just ugh all around.  But in Parks’ farewell season, each episode has taken the time to give some kind of meaningful episode to the characters, so that the audience had a few more opportunities to say goodbye to the characters we’ve come to love so much over the past seven seasons.  And, as it turns out, that includes Jerry – and, surprisingly, they were able to create quite a few emotional moments for everyone’s least favorite Pawneean.  It started with Donna getting everyone to call him by his real name, then picked up with his appointment as interim mayor.  But it was really his sequence in the series finale that served as the truest ode to his character: after years of domestic bliss with his wife and their daughters, Jerry went on to further happiness as an incredibly successful mayor.  In fact, he keeps getting reelected, until eventually he dies peacefully in his sleep – at age 100.  His life is quiet, but full; he blunders his way through, but he earns the respect of his co-workers and his family, and eventually, of Pawnee.  I don’t think I realized just until this final episode just how much I would miss Jerry, due in large part to Jim O’Heir’s wonderful, gleeful portrayal of a man oblivious to the opposition he faces on a daily basis.  Jerry never had a problem with how his friends treated him because he knew that they loved him, and that no matter what, they’d be there for him.  Finally, in the finale, the audience got to see Jerry receive some of the love he’s been sending out his whole life.

Jaime's (other) MVP: Neil Patrick Harris (The Oscars)

Why he's the MVP: There’s only one thing I love more than Christmas, and that’s Oscar night.  No matter what, the Academy Awards are a huge deal for me, and the four-hour telecast always receives my undivided attention.  For a lot of people, the host of the Oscars is a huge factor in their overall enjoyment of the night – if they’re not funny enough, the show is remembered as being boring.  If they’re too awkward, it’s remembered as a failed experiment.  So no matter what, there’s a ton of pressure on the host to ensure that the night goes as smoothly as possible – so it seemed like a natural choice for America’s favorite host, Neil Patrick Harris, to take over this year.  And overall, he was a great host: he sang, he danced, he performed magic…what’s not to love?  But the most successful part of his performance was how present he was.  Neil Patrick Harris has been an entertainer since he was a child, and you could see how easy and natural it was for him to read the room and seek out the energy.  So he could draw out some moments, or create rapport with someone in the audience, or even a viewer at home – continually talking to Octavia Spencer, for example, and clearly lingering on the moment beyond what had been scripted to banter with her.  Hosting the Oscars is difficult, no matter who the host is and how funny or charismatic they are.  Neil Patrick Harris was the perfect choice, and hopefully gets asked to return so he can deliver another solid Academy Awards.

Laura's MVP: Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation)

Why he's the MVP: Even though I’m still in denial that Parks and Recreation is actually done, it’s hard to deny that their (for now) series finale was absolutely perfect. Every member of that cast is an MVP in my book but I could only pick one to write about, so I went with Adam Scott. Although he didn’t become a part of the show until the end of season two, there’s no doubt that Parks and Rec would not have been the same show without Ben. So many fans identified with his nerdy side and Adam Scott embraced this (even if he still doesn’t know how Cones of Dunshire works). At the same time, we saw him fall in love with Leslie, many wishing we could find someone as perfect as Ben Wyatt to marry. Adam Scott took us on a journey with this character, making us laugh and cry along the way (I don’t believe anyone who says they didn’t cry during Ben and Leslie’s wedding).

In the finale, when both Ben and Leslie were considering running for governor, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ben was going to give it to Leslie. I don’t know what it is, possibly the natural chemistry between Scott and Poehler or maybe how incredible they both are as actors or most likely a combination of the two, but these moments between Ben and Leslie are devastating in the best way possible. The sincerity with which Scott portrays Ben’s love for Leslie is beautiful to watch, which is probably why so many people want their own Ben Wyatt. I picked Adam Scott as my Parks and Rec MVP because of these emotions that he was constantly evoking. Parks and Rec is a show that has always had heart but it was Adam Scott who made me the most emotional throughout the run of the show. The world will be a sadder, less nerdy place without Ben Wyatt on our screens every week.

Laura's (other) MVP: Jake Johnson as Nick Miller (New Girl)

Why he's the MVP: Let’s be honest, Jake Johnson has always been the best part of New Girl. In a cast full of talent, he’s been the one who has made us laugh the hardest and most consistently through his portrayal of Nick Miller. This week Jake spent almost the whole episode standing behind a counter, stirring a pot of sauce and he still managed to get the most laughs from me. When Jess came to Nick, thinking that Cece had feelings for him, it was Jake’s convincing portrayal of Nick thinking that she was talking about a popcorn machine that really sold the scene. While we knew that Nick was talking about the popcorn machine when he described the awful smell and need to clean it, it was hilariously believable that Jess could be thinking he was talking about Cece.

At the same time, we also saw that Nick still cares a lot about Jess, as he was only willing to consider getting the popcorn machine after her passionate plea. Like all great actors, Jake is subtle about how he shows Nick’s feelings for Jess. Despite the fact that Nick and Jess are no longer together romantically, there’s no question that they both still care about each other, even if for now it’s just manifesting in friendship. However, the little looks and small actions such as the one in this week’s episode, give us hope for them to find their way back to each other in the future.

Connie's MVP: Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer (Parks and Recreation)

Why he's the MVP: Of all the futures presented in the Parks and Recreation finale, I think Andy's was the one I was looking forward to the most (aside from President Leslie of course). I've been wanting Andy to have kids for a few seasons now and I am so glad that they were in his future. I love how understanding he was and patient he was with April, who of course had her reservations. But he also explained his position and showed that he would support her. Chris Pratt's performance as Andy over the series has been amazing to see, because when Parks started, I didn't like his character at all. He was lazy and a jerk to Ann and incredibly selfish. But over time they mellowed out the negative traits and made him a big teddy bear with an awesome, catchy song in honor of a tiny horse. It was wonderful to see Pratt, who is now one of the biggest stars in the world, remain true to this character. He may be Star Lord and potentially Indiana Jones to some, but he will always be Andy to me.

Connie's (other) MVP: Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter (Agent Carter)

Why she's the MVP: I wanted to acknowledge Agent Carter in this week's TV MVP column because it needs as much recognition as possible so it comes back for a second season. I wasn't always interested in the case-of-the-week plots on the show, but tuned in every week because of the amazingness that is Hayley Atwell. She carries that show so strongly that I want her in every scene, even if she's just eating a muffin. In this week's finale, she showcased why she's so worthy of our attention. She showed off her tough action girl fighting moves, but then made us cry with emotion as she tried to talk Howard Stark pit of flying to his death the same way Steve did. Hayley Atwell did a fabulous job of bringing Peggy to life. I really hope we get a second season of Agent Carter.

Jen's MVP: Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter (Suits)

Why he's the MVP: My pick for MVP this week is Gabriel Macht aka Harvey Specter from Suits. To convey a sense of attorney immortality, Macht plays Harvey as cool & aloof - seldom rattled and always in control. Harvey glides into a scene and is a commanding & intimidating force of nature, which is sort of the point. Opponents & audience members are suppose to believe that Harvey's tough exterior makes him unbeatable...untouchable.  It's an arrogance that would otherwise be annoying on any other actor, but Macht makes Harvey charming & endearing because underneath the cool & aloof exterior is a man with a heart of gold. Deeply loyal and fiercely protective.  Harvey's softer side is rarely glimpsed, so when it shines through an episode it is a gift.  One person in particular always brings out the sweetness in Harvey - his secretary Donna. For whatever reason, Harvey is incapable of a real commitment but it is obvious that he's in love with Donna.  In an effort to help Harvey's protégé Mike, Donna lands herself into some very real hot water.  And...Harvey doesn't know how to get her out of it. Whether he was shouting at Donna in a furious rage, thundering against Mike for ever risking Donna in the first place, threatening witnesses or bending the law to an illegal breaking point, Macht conveyed Harvey's anger stemmed from pure & honest fear.  Harvey was absolutely terrified he was going to lose Donna. The fear drove Harvey to make statements that as an audience member I never dreamed I'd hear.

"Because she's different."

"The thought of you going to prison makes me want to drop to my knees."

"Donna, you of all people should understand by now that to me, they are the same thing."

"I care about this woman."

Fairly grand statements from the emotionally stunted Harvey Specter.  But it's not until the final scene, while celebrating quietly with Donna after successfully saving her, that Macht brings Harvey's deepest emotions to light. Macht is quiet, soft, gentle...and completely vulnerable.

"I told you I'd never let anything happen to you. And I won't ever. So you don't have to feel scared like that again....If anyone else ever loses faith in me it doesn't matter. But with you it's different." 

It's enough to make a girl faint.  After, Donna & Harvey share a charged look he gets up to leave- breaking the spell.  In a series that has moved this pairing at a snail's pace it was easy to think that this was simply yet another moment of "if only" between Harvey and Donna. But Donna questions why Harvey is leaving and Macht turns to her. He is confident, strong, cool and aloof again.  The Harvey Specter who is untouchable - as a lawyer and a man. Macht replies in his most matter of fact voice, "You know I love you Donna." And then, leaving a stunned Donna behind, shuts the door behind him. Macht's reading of that line was nothing short of genius...the entire episode his performance was nothing short of genius. Macht played Harvey as perfectly Harvey but plainly in love with Donna in every move he made.  Which is the point.  No matter how tough he is, no matter how angry, no matter how aloof...Donna is always there by his side and in his heart. Harvey cannot be Harvey without her. It's simply a fact of his existence. A fact that Harvey is as certain of as he is the law. And nobody understand that better than the man who brings the character to life - Gabriel Macht.

There you have it, friends and readers! These are our television MVPs this week. Who made YOUR list? Hit up the comments below and let us know. Until then. :)


  1. First I want to say how much I love this series. It's is wonderful seeing the varying of the different series.

    Now I want to say my MVP this week is Nikki Beharie and Tom Mison from Sleepy Hollow season finale.

    One complaint this season was how underused the partnership of Ichabod and Abbie was. Well it was nice to see them back together as (SPOILERS SPOILERS) when Abbie was in jail back in the past, she still had faith in Ichabod that he would be there and believe her.

    (Which led to a great scene of Ichabod trying to figure out how to work Abbie's phone and their selfie video. *Her password is his birthday!!)

    But I loved the episode for those reasons and many more which showed how badass Abigail Mills is and how she and Ichabod are much stronger together than apart.

    I will say this was a very good episode and it was good to see Tom and Nikki as their chemistry was in full effect and it led to a much better season 2 finale than I was expecting.

    1. Thanks for the comment Charles! I love this series so much already because it's so much fun to see how varied our TV habits are and what we really love.

      I haven't watched Sleepy Hollow in like, weeks, but I do love Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie and they always seem to knock whatever they do out of the park. :)