Sunday, November 8, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 20

For those of you who aren't writers on my staff and don't have the pleasure of engaging with our weekly email threads, let me fill you in on what happens. Every Friday morning, I send out an email to all of the writers with a Google doc so they can add in their MVPs. Once the email gets sent (and I've chosen my MVPs), it's an all-out brawl to see who can reply the fastest with their choice.

Every week, without fail, I'm amused to see those emails roll in. Why? Well, because no one has beaten Mer to the punch yet in staking claims on an MVP. But more than just that, I love seeing the emails come in because it means that the writers are passionate about television and passionate about the performers and — most of all — are passionate about writing why they care about both of these things. I love their enthusiasm. I love that they WANT to participate.

And I love that, each week, we get to share that participation with you! So let's begin, shall we? The writers joining me this week are:

  • The best person to talk about shipping with, Lizzie
  • A most marvelous person, Megan
  • The sass master herself and my favorite mama bear, Mer
  • My own personal stylist, Maddie
  • The sweetest and cutest human, Lynnie
  • My soul sister, name twin, platonic life partner, and the Damien to my Red, Jen!

Jenn's MVP: Peter Capaldi as The Doctor (Doctor Who)

Why he's the MVP: It shouldn't be a surprise to any of you who follow me on social media that I really haven't cared for the writing of the past two seasons on Doctor Who — mainly as it pertains to Clara Oswald as a character — but the one consistent among all of this muddiness has been Peter Capaldi's performance as The Doctor. I admit that I was rather distraught to see Matt Smith leave, especially because Eleven/Clara's relationship was so wonderful and so fundamental to the series. Being a fan of Doctor Who for as long as I have been, change is just part of the viewing experience and I was interested to see what Capaldi, specifically, would bring to this role that others did not bring. Because each actor who has played The Doctor has found his niche after a time. Eccleston was powerful because he could switch from goofy to menacing and dark in the span of a few seconds. Tennant — arguably one of the most beloved Doctors — had the sort of frantic energy and giddiness that drew you in, and the emotional depth that punched you in the gut. And Smith's most impressive scenes as The Doctor were always in the quiet moments, the intimate gestures.

So what does Capaldi bring to The Doctor? My best friend, Simi, and I discussed this last night while "The Zygon Inversion" concluded. She noted that when Capaldi delivers lines... he really delivers them. That's not a slight to any of the previous actors, by any means. But I understood what she was saying. When Capaldi speaks as The Doctor, you feel everything. His words MEAN something and, in fact, most times they mean everything. There is no better example of this than the speech he gave in Saturday's episode. Honestly, I wish I could give Capaldi an award for that speech because I was transfixed by it. The emotion and pain are so evident in the way he raises his voice and especially in the pleading moments where he uses more hushed tones.

Capaldi is a force as The Doctor — as unpredictable and wild as a hurricane, but also as precise. The way that The Doctor told Bonnie he forgave her was so beautiful and that is all thanks to Capaldi, who takes good words and elevates them into believable ones. Capaldi's performance is moving and powerful — I found myself getting a bit misty-eyed. And he balances the playful little accents and movements with the gravitas so well. Truly, I loved Matt Smith but I think that Capaldi's monologues pack a bit more of a punch. Because Capaldi does everything with purpose. No gesture is wasted. No moment feels unearned. No shout feels remotely out of place. This speech was an absolute tour de force and it will go down as one of my favorites (in the company of such things as the monologue from "The Rings of Akhaten").

That is what Peter Capaldi does as The Doctor. He makes you feel. He moves you closer to understanding every complexity of his character. And he does it all so effortlessly.


Lizzie’s MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: This week, Oliver displayed immense emotional maturity. I mean, he has reached a point where even I, a fully functional adult (or so they say), watching a TV show can stare at the screen and ask: "CAN YOU PLEASE YELL A LITTLE, OR SOMETHING?" And the only reason why this character development even works is because Stephen Amell is a wonderful and underrated actor who is very adept at nonverbal communication.

We often ask our favorite characters to show the exact level of growth that Oliver Queen is displaying this season. And yet, we get to experience this so rarely that to see the character I’ve been following for years evolve is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And while part of the success of this can be attributed to the writers, the larger piece of this accomplishment goes to wonderful actor who plays him. Stephen Amell hardly ever gets credit for anything other than the stuntwork and physicality of playing a superhero. But his work without the mask is what has really made viewers fall in love with Arrow.

Think  about it this way: after months of happiness with Felicity, the Oliver that we see in season four is self-aware enough to realize that he, the man who’s kept so many secrets, doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to chiding others for keeping them. Not only that, but Stephen’s performance in that particular moment with Thea proves what a show can do when it has an actor who truly understands the character he’s playing. In that moment, Oliver is being the big brother that he’s never really had a chance to be, putting Thea and THEIR relationship above any hurt that he may feel.

And the scene with Laurel in "Haunted"... oh, the scene with Laurel. Katie Cassidy gets to yell in that moment, but what Stephen emotes with much less anger is just as powerful. Laurel was unfair and more than a bit hypocritical; and Oliver could and maybe should have called her out on it, yet he didn’t. You know why? Because Oliver chose to be the bigger man. Knowing that Laurel is wrong doesn’t make the situation better, and pointing out how wrong she is won’t change her attitude, either. Oliver is ready to move on –– he no longer wants to be stuck in the same dynamic with Laurel like he has been for years. He doesn’t need to. Before, he might have let Laurel get a few free shots because he cared too much about her. Now, he does it because she can’t really hurt him, regardless of what she says. And so he takes the high road.

You want to know how I garnered all of this from the scene? Because of Stephen Amell. Because he's the master at emoting without using words, because he studies and thinks and understands Oliver Queen better than anyone.

It sounds cliché to say that I’m proud of a fictional character, but I’m proud of you, Oliver Queen. For three years you’ve looked to Quentin, Laurel, Diggle, Felicity... everyone else to be the moral compass you used to guide your life –– and now YOU are the moral compass of your own life. You are the man others should look to for guidance. And it’s brilliant to see an actor grow and develop a character well enough for me to be able to say that with confidence.


Megan’s MVP: John Stamos as Jimmy Martino (Grandfathered)

Why he’s the MVP: Like most of females in America, I think John Stamos is a national treasure. His hair is a masterpiece, his olive skin is so youthful. And, I mean, he’s not totally the reason I eat Greek yogurt but like... you know, maybe he is.

But I was skeptical when I learned that he was going to be on a new TV comedy on FOX. Would he have another hit on his hands? Or would the show totally disappoint? Thankfully, Grandfathered seems to be the former. It is actually a really good show about a restaurateur and perpetual bachelor who discovers that not only does he have a son (played so fantastically by Josh Peck, might I add) that he had no idea about, but he also has a granddaughter as well. Talk about a plot twist in life.

In this week’s episode, Gerald (Josh Peck) wants to get Edie into an elite preschool but can’t make the open house, so he asks Jimmy (John Stamos) to take her. When Jimmy meets a beautiful admissions woman, he lies and says that Edie is his daughter so that she wouldn’t know how old he was. When Gerald finally makes it and says he’s also Edie’s dad, it’s assumed by the admissions woman they’re a gay couple. This leads to an at-home interview in which Jimmy comes on to the woman and she questions the validity. Of course, the interview falls apart.

What I thought was great about this episode was that it felt like a turning point for Jimmy as a character. He’s been struggling with the idea of having to go from being a solo act to now being part of an actual family. He can’t reconcile the two sides of his life and is learning that he doesn’t have to; they can collide in a good way. He realizes how much he missed in Gerald’s life and he wants to make up for it and help Edie as much as he can. He was humorous and vulnerable in a way that is believable for a man in such a situation. He wasn’t dripping with emotion or promises for a better, more unified future, but he had small moments that proved he was changing. I thought it was great and really funny.

God Bless John Stamos.


Lynnie’s MVP: Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: There is a reason Echo Kellum has been featured every week on Just About Write’s MVP list since stepping on the screen on Arrow. It’s because he is unwavering in his consistency. He is present in every scene; his enthusiasm for being exactly where he is at the moment is matched only by his ability to balance funny moments, babbling monologues, and serious confessions. It’s clear that he likes what he does. It resonates. His hard work breathes in every scene, and you really believe that there is this wonderfully weird, Olympic medalist, inventor of T-spheres out there in the world who is out-babbling Felicity Smoak.

His moments were small in "Haunted," but he stole every second of every scene in which he appeared. His admission of being a bronze medalist was beautifully deadpan, his return to help Felicity unravel Ray Palmer’s last message who is –– surprise! –– still alive and haunting Felicity’s phone was sweet and a great character moment that Echo played with so much resonating goodness. (Palmer’s hijinks through her phone is totally the reason for the episode name, right? Ghosts in your tech is no laughing matter.)

But it’s the scene where Curtis is hopped up on energy drinks where I feel like A) he’s seen me gaming before and just gets it, B) we need about thirty more minutes of hyper monologue from Curtis, and C) Echo is seriously funny. The writers once said that Ray Palmer would revolutionize Arrow. I think they got it wrong. Curtis Holt is a game changer, and I think no one less than Echo would have been able to handle the character so beautifully.


Mer’s MVP: Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon (The Flash)

Why he’s the MVP: True facts: I would like my own Cisco/Carlos Valdes. He is absolutely, undeniably, without a doubt the member of The Flash cast (and possibly of the Flarrow universe –– yes including Felicity Smoak) with whom I most want to hang out.

The great thing about Cisco Ramon, is that he says what everyone is thinking –– and he says it with style. And that is, of course, mostly due to the excellent comedic timing and instincts of his portrayer, Carlos Valdes. A relative newcomer to show business, Valdes has taken a supporting character and turned him into perhaps the sole person in the Flarrow ‘verse who is loved by the entire audience. I have come across hardcore fans who love and hate passionately in my time in the Flarrow fandoms, but I have never come across anyone who dislikes Cisco. And that has everything to do with Valdes.

This week’s episode of The Flash highlighted everything that is great about Cisco, allowing Valdes a unique opportunity to shine both comedically and dramatically. Cisco was hilarious as Barry’s eyes while on his date with Patty after an attack left him temporarily blind. Valdes-as-Cisco delivered some amazing quips and one-liners, using his body language and facial expressions to further add to the comedy.

But we also got to see a little bit of the dramatic side of Cisco, as he struggled with his emerging powers and faced some hard truths, delivered by #ParaWells (the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells... yeah, it’s okay, I don’t really get it either.) And even more so, we saw a uniquely vulnerable side of Cisco, as he opened himself up and put himself out there in an attempt to get to know the cute new barista at Jitters.


Week after week, Cisco (and Valdes) remains the bright spot on The Flash. I’ll be honest and say that this season has been uneven and less engaging for me as a viewer, but the one constant, the one thing I know I can rely on, is Valdes’ portrayal of Cisco as funny yet layered, outspoken and honest, vulnerable and strong. Kudos to Carlos Valdes for taking what could have been a one-note side character, and creating a rich and dynamic, invaluable member of the Flash team. The show would simply not be the same without him.

Maddie’s MVP: Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: Arrow’s villains have ranged from phenomenal to meh, but the "big bad" of season four is definitely leaning towards the former. The audience has only gotten glimpses of Damien Darhk each episode, but so far he has stolen every scene he has been in. McDonough plays Darhk with nuance, sophistication, and a calm charisma that is both captivating and terrifying.The way that McDonough keeps so much under the surface in his performance brings an air of mystery that leaves audiences with no clue what his character is going to do or say next. In previous seasons, there have been times where the scenes with the villains slowed down the story being told, causing it to drag on and on. This is not the case with any scene featuring Darhk. He is magnetic on screen as he enhances and ups the stakes in every moment.

However, underneath all the threats, intimidation, and evil there is still a human element to how McDonough plays Darhk. He talks to Lance like an equal and you can hear the centuries of experience in his voice. He has a sense of humor. McDonough possesses the ability to deliver a line that will make you laugh out loud, yet also has the ability to convey power and malevolence when threatening to kill a man’s daughters.

In the hands of a different actor, Darhk’s wittier lines like the one in the above GIF would come off as nothing but sheer camp. However, McDonough uses all the different shades of his character to paint the picture of a villain that is both  mesmerizing and menacing. The audience is able to believe his performance. He is an elegant man who enjoys a good Merlot but also truly evil as his very presence sends chills down the audience’s spine.

Jen’s MVP: Matt Ryan as John Constantine (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: Confession time. I didn’t watch Constantine (I am about to duck in order to avoid the projectiles being thrown in my direction). Settle down, though. It's not like I’m a Nielsen family anyway so it wouldn’t have made a difference.

After Matt Ryan’s guest spot on Arrow, though, I wish I had watched Constantine. Nevertheless, I was a bit skeptical over Marc Guggenheim and Stephen Amell’s excitement about introducing the character on Arrow. But after watching Matt in action, I will agree that he really is fantastic. I’m sorry fearless leaders of this show. I shall never doubt you again.

Matt’s Constantine is sardonic and witty. He fit seamlessly into the Arrow universe... and this was an episode where they restored a fan favorite character’s soul so being able to be integrated well in that serious of a plot is quite a feat. This show isn’t known for being a safe haven for magic spells, but Constantine made everything about magic and mysticism feel earned and real. Matt Ryan’s brand of humor, edge, and heroism gave the mysticism that he performed the gravity it required. I bought into the story because Matt Ryan sold it.

Ryan’s natural chemistry and rhythm with Stephen Amell made the tenuous friendship believable as well. Constantine’s biting wit occasionally drives oh-so-serious Oliver Queen up the wall, so you can understand why they might not hang out every day. Still, underneath the hardened exterior, there’s an innate kindness to Ryan’s performance. He exudes warmth. Oliver isn’t known for trusting people, but through Matt’s performance, we could immediately see why Oliver knew he could depend on Constantine for a favor... and maybe even why they might be inclined to share a beer together afterwards.

Constantine swooped in, tattoed Flashback Oliver and saved Sara’s soul and swooped out. Meanwhile, I’m dying for more of him, and hoping against hope Matt Ryan returns for another guest spot. I too now join the brigade of Constantine viewers shaking their might fists at NBC.

There are our MVPs for the week, y'all! Who made YOUR cut? Hit us up on social media or in the comments below and let us know. Until then. :)


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