Sunday, October 15, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 63

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I can't believe it's time for another round of fall television, but here we are. (Perhaps my doubts would be handled better if Florida wasn't currently still 90 degrees during the day. Is sweater weather too much to ask for, universe?) With the return of old favorites and debuts of new shows, it's more difficult than ever to keep up with all that there is to see. And that's precisely why we're here! If you're new to the series, welcome! Each week during peak television season, we celebrate outstanding performers — the MVPs of whatever shows they're in. And this week, the writers joining me to talk about their MVPs are:

Let's begin!

Jenn's MVP: Justin Hartley as Kevin Pearson (This Is Us)

Why he's the MVP: Unless you lived under a rock last year (and with the horrific election, maybe it's best if you DID), you know that NBC's This Is Us was one of the most talked about shows of the television season. Initially compared to its predecessor, Parenthood, This Is Us managed to break the mold (and our banks as we invested in more and more tissues per week) for family-centric television dramas. I love both NBC shows for how they portray complexities within family units, while maintaining hope and depth. This week, Justin Hartley shone as we focused on something that Kevin rarely does — the death of his father.

Kate, until recently, couldn't even talk about Jack's death. But since she's gotten help, she's been able to talk about her father and does so freely with Sylvester Stallone. But Kevin refuses to discuss their father, and memories of his life prevent Kevin, initially, from being able to get through a scene on the set of his movie. He blows up at Kate, and later apologizes. But the truth is that Kevin still has a long way to go until he's able to fully heal from Jack's death. Randall got some closure during his hallucination; Kate has therapy. But Kevin is adamant that there is nothing left to deal with. Justin Hartley absolutely nailed this episode, and painfully conveyed the grief that Kevin has suppressed for years. Grief manifests itself in a lot of ways — anger, distractions, addictions — and we watch Kevin tackle a few of these side effects, head-on. The most troubling, of course, is when he pops pain pills at the end of the episode, leaving us to wonder if Kevin has inherited Jack's addiction.

Hartley is often utilized on This Is Us as the show's comedic relief. And he's awesome for that — whether a hilarious physical tic or gesture, or a perfect one-liner, Justin Hartley is always able to make me chuckle. But this week, I ached for Kevin. I know what grief — unresolved grief — can do to a person. My grandfather passed away ten years ago and there are still members of my family with unresolved issues about his death. Kevin's response to Kate was heartbreaking and so realistic. Justin Hartley managed to understand the layers of Kevin's grief without over-dramatizing them, and it was so poignant and beautiful and heartbreaking that I had to make him my MVP this week.


Mer’s MVP: Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place)

Why she’s the MVP: I’m so grateful to good friends who convinced me to catch up on the two best comedies on TV — The Good Place and Superstore. My Thursday nights are infinitely better as a result. And while Superstore is as hilarious as the first episode, always, The Good Place has really very quickly become my very favorite thing to watch, period. In a time when some levity and laughter is vital, this show is almost a necessity. And while every single cast member is perfection (and will likely get some love from me over the course of the season here), the leading lady just deserves all the accolades. 

Most people know Bell as Veronica Mars and Princess Anna and any number of fun, romantic comedy roles. In recent years, Bell has pretty consistently played characters who are sweet and easy to love and admire. Not since Veronica has she really showcased her range as much as she does playing Eleanor. Eleanor is not nice. She is not good. But she’s learning to be. She’s trying to be — sometimes. And the realness and authenticity and absolute hilarity that Bell brings to Eleanor’s journey is unmatched. Eleanor is edgy, and largely unapologetic. She’s sexual and loud and sarcastic. And she is SO MUCH FUN. She has chemistry with literally every other character on screen, thanks to Bell’s natural ability to connect with her acting partners. Whether sparring with Chidi, trying to one-up Tahani, babysitting Jason, plotting against Michael, or poking subtle fun at Janet, there is never a time where the viewer is bored or unengaged watching Bell’s Eleanor. 

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Jon's MVP: Bobby Moynihan as Alex Riley (Me, Myself, and I)

Why he's the MVP: Me, Myself, and I might be one of the most delightful underdogs of the new season. The show, which chronicles the life of inventor Alex Riley (played by Jack Dylan Grazer
at the age of 14, Bobby Moynihan at the age of 40, and John Larroquette at the age of 65), plays like a comedic version of This Is Us (minus the unexpected tissues sessions that show provides). The show is ambitious, especially for a half-hour sitcom. Yet it achieves its ambition through the performances of its three charismatic and charming leads. So while technically there is one single character on the show, I'm focusing on one actor's performance. In this case, it's Bobby Moynihan.

Throughout the show, seeing Jack at the age of 40, struggling to be the inventor he's destined to be, has perhaps resonated the most with me. I'm only 24, but I can relate to Alex persisting in achieving his goals with optimism. It makes for an extremely enjoyable aspect of an already entertaining show. Moynihan has an extremely likable, Average Joe personality that he plays to great effect here. Seeing his struggles and to come out positive on the other side of it only makes his performance even more likable.

If you have not seen Me, Myself, and I, it truly is one of the most underrated hits of the season thus far. From its ambitious premise to extremely likable main character (and three actors playing that character), the show deserves more attention.

Megan's MVP: Frankie Muniz (Dancing With the Stars)

Why he's the MVP: Look, when they announced that Frankie Muniz was going to be on this season of Dancing With the Stars, I was super skeptical. I figured he would be stiff, wouldn't know what he was doing, and was just looking to have some sort of spotlight back on him. Allow me to fully apologize for those assumptions and admit just how wrong I was.

This week was the always incredibly emotional week, "My Most Memorable Year" where contestants let the viewers know what year really and truly changed their lives. This episode always gets me super emotional and this season, Frankie's story was no different. I was in tears.

For those of you who don't know, Muniz left Hollywood to race cars and it was there that he suffered many concussions and a horrible back injury. This has caused his memory to fade and force him to work overtime to remember the important things. He's in pain and struggles to get the dancing right. 

He wants to be on this show so badly. He wants to dance, and dance well. He wants to persevere beyond his injuries and his memory loss and succeed. He works so hard every week to bring his A-game to the ballroom and he succeeds. He's a truly special contestant who knows that he's not the best dancer, but he's certainly got one of the biggest hearts.

You've got my vote, Cody Banks.


Ashvini’s MVP: Daniel Levy as David Rose (Schitt’s Creek)

Why he’s the MVP: I never thought there would ever be another television character quite as dramatic as Titus Andromedon. Enter David Rose. As the eldest of the grand, wealthy Rose children, banished to a life of simpleness and dreary reality in the small, titular town of Schitt’s Creek, somehow David thrives. Daniel Levy manages to turn his seemingly redundant character into a very unique television character that hits punchlines non-stop and always has a profoundly witty comeback just sitting on the tip of his tongue. But he manages to retain a charm and humbleness — while wearing expensive cashmere and judging you. It makes you invest in him and his story. Frankly, if it wasn’t for Daniel Levy I wouldn’t have been as compelled to keep watching this show as I am.

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


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