Sunday, January 28, 2018

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 66

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Wow, it's been a while since we've done this, hasn't it? Apologies for being a little MIA and scatterbrained with this series — life got busy toward the end of the year and I dropped the series as a result. But primetime television has made its midseason debut, and it's time to celebrate some of the best performers on TV this week. Joining me this week are:

Let's do this!

Jenn's MVP: Rita Moreno as Lydia Riera (One Day At a Time)

Why she's the MVP: Let me just start off by saying that Chelsea convinced me to binge-watch One Day At a Time last year by saying, "This show will make you cry." For some reason, the thought of crying at a comedy appealed to me and I binge-watched season one in a day. When season two came out this past week (on my birthday, no less) I knew I would take time to sit down and watch the show in a day and a half. As much as I wanted to savor the series' 13 episodes and draw them out longer, I simply couldn't. This show is incredibly endearing, funny, charming, and poignant. It made me bawl and I could choose any cast member of the show to highlight, because they're all astounding. But today, I am going to talk about Rita Moreno as Lydia, the outspoken and hilarious Cuban grandmother. Moreno is incredibly talented in this series and has perfected the comedic art of the eyebrow raise. Her physical comedy and one-liners are so fantastic (I don't know why it was so hilarious to me, but her one line walking away when asking Elena's friend about what lipstick she wore was so perfect), but what Moreno really brought to the second season was heart and tears.

There are quite a few moments in season two that made me cry, but the one in the GIF above is one of the most powerful. Moreno's character doesn't understand her daughter's depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She's elated when Penelope stops attending group therapy. But when she realizes that Penelope is in worse shape without the things that help her cope, Lydia goes to the priest — a priest who tells Lydia that even if she has never experienced depression, it doesn't invalidate Penelope's experiences and reality. Moreno breaks your heart with Lydia's response of wanting to take away pain because that's what mothers do. There is such a depth that Lydia has, and I think the stark contrast between her lighter, funnier moments and these intensely emotional ones reminds us that people aren't just ONE thing — Lydia is a woman of faith, who accepts Elena as she is and for who she loves, but still has difficulty figuring out how to navigate her relationship with Penelope. Season two was an exploration of what causes friction between the mother and daughter duo, and Rita Moreno (as well as Justina Machado) absolutely knocked the performances out of the park.

Moreno deserves all of the awards for the way she makes you laugh and sob in One Day At a Time. She's brilliant and the funniest character on television, in my opinion. Get to Netflix and binge-watch this show if you haven't already.

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Megan's MVP: J.K. Simmons as Howard Silk (Counterpart)

Why he's the MVP: Holy crap, guys. The words I have for this performance are escaping me because this show and J.K. Simmons are so off the charts incredible that I don't even know where to start. But let me try: Counterpart is a show about a man who has been going through his mediocre life hoping for more, but never seeking it. After finding out that he's lost a promotion yet again despite his dedication to the company, he's called in and finds out that the life he was living wasn't exactly only his. During the Cold War, something went wrong and there are now two worlds — two realities that are divided. The two rarely collide and to meet your double is rarer. But something is going on — something that Howard needs to help his double with.

I'm intentionally being vague since this is a show that I highly recommend, but the focus is on J.K. Simmons. I mean, the guy is one heck of an actor. He's unbelievable, actually. He's so underrated and I'm not exactly sure why. I mean, he's got basically every award under the sun. Is that not enough to show people that he's incredible?

But this foray into being the lead of a television series is really what proves his insane ability. He's not just playing one character, but two. He has two personas to cultivate and the show rides heavily on the believability of his duality. One character is a ton of work. Can you imagine two? Especially two so vastly different?

My personal favorite scene where I think he truly shone in the pilot was the scene with the two personas in Howard's apartment. It's just Simmons against Simmons. He can't play it the same way; they're two different people in two different worlds, but they share so much. It's some of the best acting I've seen on television in months now. 

If this first episode blew me away, I can only imagine what the rest of the season holds. Halfway through the debut I said, "He's absolutely getting a Golden Globe nom next year and an Emmy nod this fall. Count on it." So, here's to me being right!

Stephanie’s MVP: Chloe Bennet as Daisy Johnson (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Why she's the MVP: Every week, someone on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers an outstanding performance and this week it was Chloe Bennet. As her character, Daisy, has settled back into her role within S.HI.E.L.D., Bennet has showcased her humor and her ever-growing combat skills. 

The former was on full display with the running joke about Melinda May as a mom — which she has always been, figuratively speaking, to the team, especially Daisy. So it was no surprise that Daisy piped up to point out each time May did something mom-like in the episode. I couldn’t help but feel like this was Bennet teasing her friend and co-star Ming-Na Wen as much as it was a younger agent teasing her superior officer and the woman who trained her. It was a nice touch of lightness in an overall slow-building and slightly bleak season. 

Now, about those combat skills. In just eight episodes, Daisy has been pitted against several huge Kree guards and the greatest Kree warrior available, Sinara. This week their rematch was hands down the episode’s highlight. Bennet has always excelled in fight scenes, whether she’s been asked to use Daisy’s Inhuman powers or rely solely on hand-to-hand. To take a rematch and make it fresh and interesting can be difficult but she pulled it off with ease. Like the best action stars, Bennet understands the acting does not stop when the fighting starts. She conveyed Daisy’s struggle, her weakness due to her healing injury, and her irritation at being without her powers, all while throwing every kick and punch in her arsenal. 

Then things got crazy. The fight went into zero-G as the plane they were in was lifted up by a gravity storm. There was a perfect look of fright and glee on Bennet’s face. She was geeking out just as much as I was. This week’s episode was a little slow but Bennet elevated it to something unforgettable with her performance. 

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


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