Sunday, March 26, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 57

Image result for applause gif new girl

It's hard to believe that it's almost the beginning of April and soon, the TV MVP Series will cease to make way for our Summer Lovin' series. (SUMMER is approaching. Isn't that crazy?!) But for now, we are still celebrating some incredible performers this week who impressed us with their acting skills. Whether they're making us laugh until we cry, or just straight-up cry, they're all deserving of the title of "MVP." Nora joins me this week as we talk about performers that moved us.

Let's get started!

Jenn's MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: Like a lot of people, I was first introduced to Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist because of Glee. Back in the day, Gustin played a smarmy villain with a singing voice of gold. His rendition of "Smooth Criminal" with Naya Rivera remains one of my favorite Glee covers ever. So when Grant Gustin popped up on my screen in Arrow as Barry Allen, I was excited. Frequently around here, we'll refer to Barry Allen as a "puppy" — an endearing way to explain the kind of charm and charisma that Gustin possesses and displays in this role. During this week's musical crossover with The Flash and Supergirl, that puppy-like quality was only intensified. 

Beyond the fact that Grant Gustin is an incredibly talented human being who can extract emotion from the audience with a look or a single tear. That's why this week, he's my TV MVP. "Duet" marked my return to watching The Flash, having dropped off somewhere around season two. When I heard that there would be a musical crossover with Supergirl and that Darren Criss (a mini-Glee reunion was had) would be playing the episode's villain, I knew that I had to tune in. And I wasn't disappointed. Thanks to Deb's awesome reviews of both shows, I felt caught up and got the chance to watch some of my favorite characters sing and dance. And while everyone else, including Melissa Benoist, was entertaining, it was truly Grant Gustin's chance to shine.

Gustin's incredibly versatile and nuanced in both his comedy and drama. As evidenced in the GIF above, one of the funniest running threads in this week's episode was Barry's investment in the musical world that he and Kara were trapped in. He was delighted by everything — choreography and random characters bursting out into song. While it would have been easy for the show to make Barry the "straight man" in an odd situation, they did something more true to his character: they made him absolutely delighted by everything that was happening around him. Gustin's subtle comedy (especially in that delivery of "I love musicals, so...") was on-point. He's wildly talented at eliciting giggles from me with his facial expressions and one-liners. And it would have been awesome if that was all Gustin did in this episode.

But then he sung, he danced, and he made jokes. You can honestly tell how much fun Gustin had in this episode and that shone through. It made me enjoy the episode more because I knew he cared about everything that was happening. I've mentioned how much I love Grant Gustin's voice, but it bears repeating. One of my favorite old videos is of him singing "Run Away With Me," and this week's episode ends with something even more incredible than that: Gustin singing "Running Home to You." I legitimately began crying. Because as expressive and emotive as Grant Gustin is when he's acting, he's even more so when he's singing. Gustin is a performer, and every number in "Duet" allowed him to be just that. None more so than the scene of him singing "Running Home to You." Gustin absolutely sold me on Barry and Iris' love story, and the depth of his feelings for her. The little smiles, the slight tears in his eyes, and the beautiful falsetto (Grant Gustin has an incredibly dynamic yet very sweet and earnest falsetto) all elevated a scene that would have been good on its own. But Gustin's expressions and singing elevated the scene even further.

The bottom line is that everything that Grant Gustin did in this episode — whether singing or acting or dancing — was MVP-worthy.

(P.S. Shout-out to John Barrowman, Victor Garber, and Jesse L. Martin for their wonderful rendition of "More I Cannot Wish You".)

Bonus MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)

Sticking with the theme of the Arrow-verse for a moment, I have to give a shout-out to Stephen Amell who absolutely slayed it in this week's episode. "Kapiushon" was one of the most emotionally-demanding episodes for Amell (and I would imagine it took a toll on him physically, too) as his character was literally and metaphorically broken down by Adrian Chase's mind games. It's not easy to make such a storyline believable — to make Oliver incredibly humanized while also preserving the bits of the vigilante that are left in him — but Amell delivered in spades. This episode was all on his shoulders, as he was in all of the flashbacks and every scene in the present-day, too. As I expressed in my review of the episode, I'm a bit conflicted on the hero/villain central conflict and what Adrian wanted (and what I'm supposed to believe as a viewer), but Amell brought his A-game. He retained the subtle nuances in Oliver's character, even as he was being broken down bit by bit. The immense compassion he showed in the scene with Evelyn was evidence of the fact that Oliver still wants to believe the good in people. And then, Amell got to get angry and ruthlessly so. The scene represented in the GIF above was incredibly powerful and scary, as an unhinged Oliver is not one we're accustomed to seeing.

Everything that Stephen Amell did in this episode was pretty much on-point. He showed us a totally different side of Oliver than we've seen in the five years this show has been on the air. And I believed every heartbreaking, scary, insane moment because of the way he delivered this performance. For that and more, he deserves recognition this week.


Nora’s MVP: Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets (Baskets)

Why he's the MVP: My MVP of the week has to be Louie Anderson from Baskets. Not only did Anderson do a fantastic job as Christine Baskets in the season two finale, but throughout the whole season. I was ecstatic when Louie Anderson won the Emmy for season one of Baskets, because his portrayal of Christine is magnificent. It never crosses my mind that Christine is being played by a well-known, male comedian.

For the second season of Baskets, Christine took the spotlight, and really emerged as a main character. There are many sides to Christine, and Louie Anderson plays them earnestly. Never do I feel that Anderson is simply “acting” or playing a caricature.

Throughout season two, we see Christine struggle with her sons and feeling that she isn’t a good mother. At the same time, we get a better insight into Christine’s life and childhood, which makes her character all that more sympathetic and compelling. Christine has the enthusiasm of a child about the smallest of things (like a Denver omelette) and tends to share her troubles with strangers who will listen. But she also can be passive-aggressive, pushy, and bad about sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.

The range of emotions Anderson brings to each episode is impressive. Christine can be joyful one moment, and disappointed and defeated in the next. She is also wickedly funny. You can’t help but watch Anderson when he’s onscreen, and so many times this season, I was smiling at the TV as Christine stood up for herself, started getting healthy, and found a romantic friend. “Ronald Reagan Library” is definitely one of the best episodes of the season.

Christine is such a flawed, complicated, interesting, and funny woman and Louie Anderson does an amazing job at portraying her. Considering the work Anderson did this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins another Emmy.

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


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