Sunday, February 5, 2017

Series: This Week's TV MVPs -- Week 51

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Welcome back to another edition of the TV MVP Series, my friends! This week on television, new shows continued to debut while favorites returned with fresh episodes. If you've been around this series for a while now, you pretty much know the drill: we honor incredible actors and actresses for their performances each week. It's dang-near impossible to cover all of the great television each week. (It's impossible to even WATCH all the good television out there — I'm sufficiently behind on The Crown and haven't caught the last two weeks of Legends of Tomorrow.)

This week, we're honoring the emotional and funny performances that touched us. Joining me are:

Let's get started!


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

Why he's the MVP: When I got the screener for "The Painting" a week ago, I reached for the tissue box. This episode was, perhaps, my favorite of the entire series of Suits. It was incredibly written, well-acted, and emotional. But most powerfully of all, it focused on Harvey and his journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Gabriel Macht was a force of nature throughout the entire episode. Not only did he manage to nail Harvey's emotional state in the present-day, but he also navigated the same character's emotions in flashbacks. Macht gets the chance to shine a lot in the series — comedically and dramatically. But this episode he pulled out all of the stops and pulled at our heartstrings, too.

Normally, Macht gets the chance to display his full range of anger whenever he's playing opposite of Rick Hoffman's Louis. But this week, we saw Harvey unleash years of pent-up aggression and emotion on his mother, Lily. Harvey didn't spend the entire episode angry, however. We got the chance to witness Harvey's grief during his father's funeral — especially when his mother gave a brief eulogy. In the present-day, Harvey is softer and happier. Macht gets the chance to weave these two versions of Harvey together, and it's beautiful. In the scene where Harvey finally confronts his mother about his feelings — and when he finally admits to being so angry and not wanting those emotions anymore — Macht is nothing short of stellar. He begins to openly weep, and tells his mother that he loves her. This is the most vulnerable we've ever seen Harvey, but it's also the most whole we've ever seen him. Harvey stopped running from his feelings long enough to confront them, however messy. And the precision with which those emotions were navigated is all thanks to Gabriel Macht. He has always impressed me in Suits, as he's one of the show's pillars.

But "The Painting" allowed Macht the chance to explore the depth of Harvey's emotions, and nothing was more satisfying or more incredible for me to witness this week on television than that. Bravo, Gabriel Macht. Bravo.

Bonus MVP: Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

Hooooooooooooly crap, y'all. That is the way to do a finale.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wrapped up its second season with a wedding. ... Kind of. As my good friend and Just About Write staffer, Anne, was tweeting, this episode was painful to watch. Why? Because Rebecca's desperation to be loved by the men in her life was on full display. And  was GLORIOUS. Rebecca is an incredibly complex character. One moment, you're rooting for her to succeed. The next, you want to shake her a bit for her choices. "Can Josh Take a Leap of Faith?" was an incredible acting showcase by Rachel Bloom who deserves every award possible for playing Rebecca. As her wedding day approaches, Rebecca's mental state begins to deteriorate and she lets a name slip to Josh: Robert. We don't know anything about this mysterious person, of course, but the gaps are filled in as the episode progresses. And when her father reappears, Rebecca only becomes more and more convinced that marrying Josh and having her father walk her down the aisle will solve all of her problems.

Rachel Bloom has a difficult job in this finale, though. Because while we get the chance to see manic side of Rebecca, we also see her deepest vulnerabilities. As we learn what happened to her in flashbacks and what she did to Robert, we understand more about why she is the way she is — so desperate for men to love her and stay in her life. As the finale draws to a close, Bloom has an incredibly tense, amazingly-acted scene on the edge of a cliff at her wedding site. With Josh abandoning her on her wedding day, Rebecca has had enough. Her dad left her. Josh left her. Greg left her. Robert left her. Every man Rebecca has ever loved just LEAVES. And she doesn't understand why. But rather than remain a victim for long, Rebecca steels herself — with her girl squad beside her — and vows revenge on Josh Chan.

That whole scene had me glued to the screen. Rachel Bloom has this amazing way of quickly transitioning from Rebecca's manic-happy to depression or straight-up rage. It was such a powerful scene, especially when Rebecca's father called her "crazy," and her response was: "Lil' bit." The finale was a tour de force for Bloom, who constantly knocks every scene out of the park. I can't say enough about how incredibly nuanced and talented she is. If you haven't watched or caught up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend yet, do it. Do it now.


Erin’s MVP: Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper (Riverdale)

Why she’s the MVP: I love a good bad girl. They have edge and they have faults and that is much more interesting than a squeaky clean people pleaser. I liked Brenda and Valerie way more than I liked Kelly. In fact, Kelly was my least favorite character from Beverly Hills 90210. I was fully expecting to love Veronica and be annoyed by Betty. Now, I do love Veronica, but I am more than pleasantly surprised at how much I love Betty, too.

Lili Reinhart is the reason this character is not just another irritating goodie two-shoes. Actually, I think she is breaking that mold with her portrayal of Betty. She recognizes that she is the “good girl,” but doesn’t play into that stereotype. She wants to see the good in people, but she will also stand up for herself. It’s nice to see a character that can be kind and generous, but won’t let people walk all over her. Her goodness doesn’t blind her. 

Everyone is trying to control her in some way and she keeps looking inward to see what it is that she wants and needs. It’s a very grown-up thing to do. I’m not even that mature most of the time. But, we also know that she is still a teenager, prone to maudlin feelings and angst. Reinhardt is able to balance the two, earnestly.

In “A Touch of Evil,” she shows the difficulty in being the good girl and it means that her character is flawed. Thank goodness. She wants to forgive her friends, but is real about how hard that can be. She wants to behave like her unrequited love doesn’t bother her, but she’s human and it does. I love the scene where her resolve crumbles and she tells Archie she can’t pretend that she’s not sad. Reinhart’s performance is honest and heartbreaking. Archie asks her if she’s okay and she responds, “I’m supposed to say ‘yes.’ That’s what the nice girl always says, but, no, I’m not. I want to be. I thought I could be, but it’s too much too fast.” I mean, how many honest conversations like this did you have with your friends in high school? Even though it seems out of place because of her young age, it works because we know Betty is sincere and genuine. Reinhart has confirmed that in just two episodes. 

I’m excited to see a strong female teenage character that is good-hearted, but not perfect. Reinhart gives a really solid performance amidst the gloss and glam of this sexy teen drama. Most of the actors are doing a great job of handling the sometimes cheesy dialogue and angst hype, but Reinhart as Betty really stood out, and that’s why she’s my MVP this week. 

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Megan's MVP: Timothy Olyphant as Joel (Santa Clarita Diet)

Why he's the MVP: I love Timothy Olyphant. Like, a lot. Justified is my second favorite television show of all time (only falling behind Sons of Anarchy), and I just think he's great. But he's also a very serious actor.

Not so much here. In Santa Clarita Diet, Olyphant plays Joel. He is married to Sheila (played by Drew Barrymore), and they're real estate agents in a normal suburb. That is, until Sheila complains about stomach pain and then pukes so much that she dies. But then, something happens — she becomes a member of the undead. Well, that's going to change things a little bit, don't you think?

This sends Joel into a bit of a tailspin. He doesn't know what to do or where they go from here as a couple and parents. All he wants to do is have a toaster oven that works, sell a couple of houses, and maybe smoke a bit of weed. No one told him that murder was on the menu!

What I love about Timothy Olyphant in this role is that it's so different from what we normally see him do. He provides so many of the jokes in Santa Clarita Diet that you just look at him and want to squeeze him. Joel is so earnest in his hopes that things stay normal despite his wife now wanting to eat people that he's almost like a puppy. It's adorable, really!

And it's nice to see such a serious actor in an entirely comedic role. Joel's a doting husband thrust into the most bizarre circumstances who is just trying to figure out how to come to terms with it all. It's equal parts hysterical as he tries to figure it out and adorable as he tries to pretend it's all okay.

I absolutely adore Timothy Olyphant in this role and show. I would definitely recommend it!

Who were YOUR TV MVPs this week? Sound off in the comments below!


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