Sunday, April 30, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 59

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We're baaaaaaack, folks! I know that the series has been on hiatus for a little while, but we've returned and are prepared to celebrate some incredible performers on television this week. Joining me this week are:

Jenn's MVP: Britt Robertson as Sophia Marlowe (Girlboss)

Why she's the MVP: I love shows with incredibly complex, layered female characters. It's so easy these days for writers of television series to keep women in boxes, but that is becoming less and less the norm. What is really against the norm, however, is writing an unlikable female lead character and building your series around her journey of becoming relatable and likable. That's exactly what happened in the new Netflix series, Girlboss, penned by Pitch Perfect writer Kay Cannon. For the first few minutes of the pilot episode, we meet Sophia Marlowe, a young woman desperate to make a name and life for herself but unwilling to really try. She's being evicted, mouths off to her boss and gets fired, and steals a rug — all within the course of a few minutes. Sophia is supposed to rub us the wrong way; she's supposed to be difficult to tolerate because the real gut-punch is when Sophia is on the phone with her best friend in the episode, asks why she is such a terrible person, and then begins to cry (but hides it from her best friend).

And Britt Robertson, from that moment on, absolutely sold the character for me.

Sophia is layers of unlikable and likable and Robertson brings to life all of the most complex pieces of this character. We watch her journey from mouthy young woman to successful and self-assured — for lack of better word — girlboss. Robertson nails absolutely everything about Sophia. She's got an incredible sarcasm and wit, which makes her incredibly endearing. But there are also parts of Sophia that are sensitive and hurting. Her family life is dysfunctional and Sophia seeks out meaningful relationships. She guards her emotions really closely, pretending to be carefree when there are parts of her that truly desire stability. I can't overemphasize how incredible Britt Robertson is in conveying all of these emotions and unpacking them throughout the episodes. She is the main character of this series — if we don't believe her journey, everything falls apart. And we get to watch her progress and regress with every step. The most satisfying thing is watching Sophia learn who she is. It's almost as if Britt Robertson was slowly figuring out different elements of Sophia throughout the episodes, too.

The journey of Sophia feels real and earned. She doesn't always do or say the right thing. Sometimes we root for her, sometimes we know she's wrong. But watching Britt Robertson take a character who is seemingly so unlikable and extract the raw heart and pain that is buried within her, then make us -- as an audience — feel the depths of those emotions is just incredible. Girlboss is a must-watch if you enjoy really well-written female-fronted television shows (and really, you all should, right?). Please enjoy how incredibly versatile and talented Britt Robertson is. I know I did.


Erin’s MVP: Tony Hale as Gary Walsh (Veep)

Why he’s the MVP: Tony Hale as Gary is not only my TV MVP, but the highlight of my week overall. He ran the gamut from broad physical comedy to exuding so much in a single eyebrow raise. Selina calls him “the world’s bitchiest mime,” and that is incredibly accurate. A lot of the time, Gary doesn’t even have much dialogue, but you are highly aware of his presence. I find myself looking for Gary’s reactions to what is going on because I know they will be hilarious. And he never fails. Whether it’s a little chuckle when Selina lies about her age or a look of shock and disgust when Selina shares something that he would rather not hear, he nails it every time. Being the least horrible person out of the main characters, he more often than not represents the feelings of the viewer. And how lucky are we that Tony Hale is piloting this awkward, lovable dweeb.

From the beginning of “Library,” Hale delivers comedic gold. He and Julia Louis Dreyfus brilliantly execute a choreographed move. I am in awe at how flawlessly they pulled it off. I know it must have taken a lot of practice, but they made it look real and spontaneous and hysterical. Hale doesn’t end the physical comedy romps there. In “Library” we see him enthusiastically (and unnecessarily) run, twist Selina up in her billowy ball gown (twice), and attack Andrew in a moving vehicle.

There are moments that show his unwavering loyalty to Selina and others where he is seriously questioning her decision making. And all of it is funny. Hale makes it believable that Gary can go from blindly supporting Selina to thinking she is nuts within a scene or even a sentence. Over five seasons, Hale has made Gary his own person who lives entirely for another person. Now that Selina has been knocked down several pegs, Gary asserts his opinions a little bit more. He still thinks of her as his god and would die for her in a heartbeat, but he will get sassy with her over her poor choice in men. It’s like he’s testing the waters so they can move to the next stage of friendship. Too bad she still only looks at him as staff, despite the fact that he was by her side during her mental breakdown after the election, and defended her honor repeatedly to any and all that would listen.

Gary is as optimistic as he is loyal. That’s a big part of his charm. Hale has made Gary into a likable character that is infatuated with a very unlikable character. That’s why I will continue to root for him and his friendship with Selina, even if I know she will never be a good friend to him in return. Gary deserves the world and he’ll never get it, but at least Tony Hale can get the praise.


Chelsea’s MVP: Rita Moreno as Lydia Riera (One Day at a Time)

Why she’s the MVP: I know I’m very late to this reboot party, but One Day at a Time is really doing something fresh with this new iteration of the American family. The only thing this new version shares with the original is a title and a lot of heart in its characters. While the show has some of the cheese that comes with the laugh track, it manages to avoid the painful tone that plagues Fuller House with its portrayal of a loving family dealing with real issues. The glue holding this family unit together is the iconic Rita Moreno.

Moreno steals every moment of the show and keeps the cheesy family show in check. She plays a devout Catholic grandmother who doesn’t always see eye to eye with her daughter or grandchildren. In the third episode “No Mass,” she and her daughter get into a fight about skipping church and what religion means to the family. Almost any other show would make a joke about religion but this show respects Lydia, and the actors respect the tradition and heritage of the characters. The generational conflict grounds the show in reality and Moreno’s performance will make you want to hug your grandmother. If she’s not making you tear up, her unlikely friendship with the young landlord will make you cry with laughter.

Moreno is an icon and she uses that status in the show to great effect. Lydia is strong, beautiful, a talented dancer, and knows she’s the coolest person in the room. Without Moreno, the role just wouldn’t work. I’m slowly pacing myself through the thirteen episodes because I don’t want my time with her or the rest of the family to end. I cannot wait to see what mischief she gets into next, and that’s why she’s my MVP.

Megan's MVP: Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones (Riverdale)

Why he's the MVP: YOU GUYS. First and foremost, if you are not watching this show, how are you living your life? Probably well because I can't seem to wait between episodes week by week, so kudos. Jughead is one of the most interesting characters on Riverdale. He doesn't quite fit in with this crowd, but he and Archie have been best friends since before any of that mattered. And how do you just throw that away? He's also the most observant of the gang. He doesn't miss a beat and often has some of the most intense storyline.

Funny how that should be played by Cole Sprouse, someone we associate with making us laugh.

This week, Jughead had to deal with some heavy stuff and Cole brought his A game. He made me so sad and feel so deeply for his character, a fictional person, who I feel like I'm friends with. He brings the kind of depth to the character that is sometimes nonexistent on CW shows. (Sorry, it's true.) Sprouse takes what we know about him previously and turn it on its head. He demonstrates to us that he's multidimensional and a good actor beyond his cute child/early teenage years on the Disney Channel.

What Sprouse does week after week on Riverdale is truly some of the best acting I see on television that week. He's incredible as Jughead Jones and I'm excited to see his character grow.

Who was YOUR TV MVP this week? Sound off in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. My MVP is Freddie Highmore. He deserves an Emmy for his heartbreaking performance as Norman Bates in the final season of Bates Motel. My favorite example of it is the scene between Norman and Dylan in the finale. Highmore conveyed how truly broken his character has become to want his brother to put him out of his misery.