Monday, May 29, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 62

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Welcome back to the final installment of our TV MVP Series this year! In a few weeks, we'll be kicking off our Summer Lovin' Series again, where we will have the opportunity to talk about all of the things we're loving this summer — blockbusters, books, and binge-watching included.

But for now, let's pay tribute to some of the best performers on television this week. Joining me are:

Jenn's MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: In spite of its rocky season, Arrow went out strong this past week with its season finale, and that was thanks in large part to Stephen Amell's performance. Between the flashbacks and present-day stories, Amell gets the chance to demonstrate his range of abilities. We, as the audience, get to watch his rage and emotions on full display. In the present-day, Oliver nearly breaks down upon hearing from Adrian Chase that William has been killed. Amell does an incredible job displaying the subtle emotional nuances on his face. He comes close to killing Adrian but refrains. And then there's the final scene on the boat in which Amell gets the opportunity to interact with a child. There's something so natural that shines through whenever he does this, probably because Amell himself is a father. We get the chance to see the nurturing, yet terrified side of Oliver.

But perhaps the greatest display of Amell's talent this week came in a flashback scene between Oliver and Moira Queen. The young man calls his mother as he departs Lian Yu. It's an incredible performance by Susanna Thompson, who breaks down upon hearing her presumed-dead son's voice. But Amell is just as powerful in this scene, displaying the depth of Oliver's longing. After so many years, he was finally going home — scarred, both physically and mentally, but going home to his family no less.

In addition to the incredible performance he gave in the Arrow finale, Stephen Amell also shone on this week's American Ninja Warrior. He not only dominated the course, but went above and beyond (the salmon ladder, baby!) to raise money for charity. As it turns out, Amell isn't just a superhero on television — he's one in real life as well. And that's why he's my MVP this week.


Erin’s MVP: Matthew Lillard as Bill Hastings (Twin Peaks: The Return)

Why he’s the MVP: When that uber long cast list for the return of Twin Peaks came out, I was skeptical about more than a few of the names. Matthew Lillard was one of them. He is always so goofy that I didn’t think he had any right being on my precious Twin Peaks. But, wow, did he change my mind.

His performance as Bill Hastings is fantastic, and brings so much intrigue to a show that is already chock-full of intrigue. Bill is a seemingly benign character on the surface. He is the school principal, and is friendly with his old friend who comes to call on him. When he finds out he is under suspicion for the murder of the school librarian, Ruth Davenport, he starts to get scared. Not nervous — scared. Lillard plays it in such a way that I jump back and forth on whether or not I think he did it.

He does have some secrets, though. He mentions that he gave his secretary a ride home, and then later doesn’t deny that he’s having an affair when his wife accuses him of it. But, was he having an affair with Ruth? He, pretty convincingly, tells his wife, Phyllis that he has never been in Ruth’s apartment, but he dreamt he was there. This makes me think that maybe he was possessed by the demon, BOB. Once Lillard’s performance gets that thought in my head, I see resemblances to the Leland Palmer character from the original Twin Peaks. He was an upstanding member of the community, and had no idea of the evil deeds that BOB did while inhabiting his body.

But, still, Lillard doesn’t play it exactly like Ray Wise played Leland, which is good. I like the hints of it, though. He drops the nice guy act when Phyllis provokes him. This scene between the two of them in the jail cell is remarkable. Both performances are so strong. I was quickly warming up to Lillard being in the Twin Peaks universe since his first appearance, and this scene just cements my opinion of this being perfect casting. The way he venomously responds to her taunts was chilling and surprising, but still felt totally in character even though we haven’t spent a lot of time with this character. Lillard is managing to show character development in a short amount of screentime and in this strange Lynchian environment.

Before I saw his performance nothing about Matthew Lillard indicated that he would fit in naturally in this world. That he does so flawlessly is really a testament to his ability and talent. It is unexpected, but an entirely welcome revelation, and that is why he is my MVP.

Megan's MVP: Rashad Jennings as himself (Dancing With the Stars)

Why he's the MVP: This week was the finale of this season of Dancing With the Stars and boy, was I emotional. I mean, I've been emotional all season but within probably five minutes of both nights of this two night finale, I was already crying. Sure, Simone Biles has made me cry and Papa Rossy has had me crying quite a lot, but it was Rashad Jennings who had me the most emotional this entire season.

Jennings, a former running back for the New York Giants and now a free agent, has crushed it every week. He has taken what is so special about this show — turning a celebrity into a bona fide dancer — to heart. He has proven that you can come from any background and crush the dance floor.

On Monday, dancers were asked to do a redemption dance of their worst number from the season and the long-awaited freestyle dance. After crushing his Rumba and getting a perfect score, Rashad and his partner Emma Slater came the freestyle. It was a fun, over-the-top romp that was infused with the happiness, light, and positivity that the couple has exuded the entire season and it was just so magical. It featured stepping and jazz and ballroom and it was just so much fun to watch.

By the second night, he instantly had me in tears when he was talking about what it was like being on the show, what the experience was like and how it was working with Emma. Host Erin Andrews said that he worked a collective 352 hours, a hundred more hours than any other contestant this season, in rehearsal! I mean, if that's not MVP worthy, I don't know what is!

As he danced through the night, first in his week one number, then in his Cha Cha/Tango 24-hour fusion number, he was so happy and had so much fun, something that a lot of contestants forget to have as the competition tears on, that it was impossible not to smile. I cried my way through his segments and was sad to know that the season that he (and runner-up David Ross) had made so fun was coming to an end.

But when they called his name and he and Emma raised that mirror ball trophy together, I was thrilled. I was so happy that someone who had taken what was so great about the show and who had made the competition enjoyable to watch had won. He more than deserved it and I cannot wait to plop down into a seat this July and watch him do his thing on the tour. Congratulations for FINALLY winning, Emma Slater, and congrats to you, Rashad Jennings. You were one of the reasons this show was so magical this season.


Maddie's MVP: Emily Osment as Gabi Diamond (Young & Hungry)

Why she's the MVP: I started watching Young & Hungry earlier this year as a Netflix binge and it soon became my happy show. I've often compared the show to my first TV love, The Nanny, and not just for the many parallels these two shows possess. The consistently delightfulness of both shows is largely due to the effervescence, charm, and comedic timing of its leads. This week’s mid-season finale once again proved why Emily Osment’s portrayal of Gabi Diamond is in the same league as Drescher’s Fran Fine.

In this episode, Josh’s amnesia made way for some really fun callbacks to the pilot as well as highlighting what is truly great about this show. Osment was able to shine in her performance, highlighted by the great comedic and emotional chemistry she has with Aimee Cordero and Jonathan Sadowski. Osment was able play Gabi’s emotional spiral in a way that drew just as much sympathy as laughs. Osment’s earnest performance makes Gabi’s quirks as real as her heartbreak. This made the moment where Gabi and Josh finally both admit that they love each other all the more satisfying. The “ will they, won't they” journey both of these characters have been on wouldn't be nearly as satisfying without Osment’s endearing performance.

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


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