These TV MVPs were awesome in a year that almost broke us


It’s no secret that 2021 could have gone better. . . much better. Our hopes, which were only provisionally lifted on January 1, were dashed five days later. Is it any wonder that we have once again retired to the relative comfort of our televisions?

As the second year of quarantine raged, escape was still on the menu (“FBoy Island” anyone?). However, our viewing habits have diversified a bit more, thanks to actors who haven’t let a pandemic slow them down.

Never underestimate the power of a familiar face, especially on TV. Just look at the undiminished popularity of soap operas, not only for their addictive storytelling, but for the actors who come to us regularly and build a relationship and trust with us.

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That’s why so many actors we haven’t seen in a long time are making a comeback in heartwarming holiday movies, to better delight us with their comfortable presence. Where they go, we will follow them.

Add to this list these four actors, who already have a solid CV and did not need any breakthrough to win us over. And yet, they continued to deliver, surprising us with new sides that we had never seen before. . . and many of them were delivered again in the same year.

Here, Salon presents our TV MVPs of the year:

Catherine hahn

Kathryn Hahn in “The Shrink Next Door” (Apple)It was Kathryn Hahn’s year from the start. But when is it not true? Hahn is an eternal thief of scenes, always capturing our attention with always biting and uplifting performances that are impossible to ignore. Hahn consistently scores her place as one of the best reasons to watch every show she’s on, which is no surprise that she’s the reason we even remember “WandaVision” this year.

Her affinity for stage chewing has served her well as the curious classic sitcom neighbor Agnes, a woman who has a knack for showing up at precisely the wrong time, enough to make us wonder what her contract was. Other performers may have hinted that she was, in fact, Agatha Harkness, a witch fierce enough to take over the show. Not Hahn, who makes what could have been a condiment role the star of the sandwich thanks to simple changes in his physique or his shiny brass delivery.

Months later, she turns around and dives into the role of a protective sister in “The Shrink Next Door”, the Apple TV + drama starring Paul Rudd as a therapist who manipulates the anxious businessman from Will Ferrell to throw her aside.

Hahn sets off the plot as Phyllis, who brings Rudd’s monster into her brother’s life, and disappears for a few episodes. Again, we never forget her, and when she returns to the end of the story with hilariously vindictive fury, it cleanses the palace, restoring light and mercy to a story that turns relentlessly dark and swiftly.

Naturally, she follows it up with a spin in the ABC performance “Live in front of a studio audience” of “The Fact of Life” as Jo Polniaczek, another spicy mustard role that makes the meal worth having. consumes. On the horizon is Hahn’s return as a wonderfully wicked, fat cheesy witch in Marvel’s “Agatha: House of Harkness”. No date has been set, but we are already convinced that whatever she has in motion has to be good. – Melanie McFarland

William Jackson Harper

Love lifeLove life (Sarah Shatz / HBO Max)

William Jackson Harper already had a place in our hearts before he toppled us again in two very specific projects, each making him a romantic hero. In “The Underground Railroad”, he plays Royal, a free black man who saves a slave woman, Cora, from a heartless bounty hunter who keeps chasing her. Royal brings Cora into her community and offers her support, friendship, and eventually her heart, but only when she’s ready.

And through Barry Jenkins’ interpretation of Colson Whitehead’s novel, Harper realizes that Royal is a man with a lion’s heart who exercises patience and contentment like the golden virtues they are meant to be without ever giving up his strength.

It’s such a delicate and fierce performance that it’s almost like a boost to see Harper follow Royal with Marcus, an “off-mark Hugh Grant” dragging us into his romantic misadventures in HBO Max’s “Love Life”. In Marcus, a man who ruins his marriage to run after a “what if”, Harper resuscitates the nervous uncertainty that quivered in the veins of his philosophy teacher Chidi Anagonye from “The Good Place”, only with a fraction of the wisdom .

But her performance also quietly transforms Marcus into a gentle, avant-garde role making room for the vulnerability of black men in a genre typically centered around the experience of white women. As disparate in tone and theme as these two projects each underscore Harper’s unique appeal, a gentlemanly masculinity that is crisp and moving, a calming anchor regardless of all that explodes around him. Hoping he gets a lot more dates to romanticize us in the near future. – MM

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez in “Selena + Chef” (HBO Max)During the pandemic, the world began to see Selena Gomez, 29, differently. While most of us were stuck in our homes, the veteran of “The Wizards of Waverly Place” decided to film an unscripted show in his kitchen about his attempts to use lonely time to learn how to cook, with help. by professional chefs who coach her virtually via screens. : “mak[ing] a meal together, apart. As her two little dogs sneak around her ankles and her black hair falls over her eyes, Gomez, who also produces the show, shocks a French chef with her love of fried Oreos, accidentally lights parchment paper on fire. and turns out to be genuine, good-humored company.

Social media can allow for a carefully curated glimpse into celebrity lives, but on “Selena + Chef,” airing on HBO Max, Gomez – who does not use her Instagram feed herself – appears as raw as the octopus which makes it gag while cutting. She’s real, really funny (“This is what I’m burning today”), and really does her best. “I try, I try “she sings in the theme song.

This year also saw the Gomez star appear on “Only Murders in the Building”, the Hulu show that pairs her with Steve Martin and Martin Short as New York apartment dwellers who end up creating a true podcast. on the crime on their attempts to solve a murder near their home. . Not only does Gomez stand out among the legends of acting, but his straightforward interpretation and soulful looks are reminiscent of the performances of classic movie comedians. She is “His Girl Friday” but with more agency and “cool boots”.

Gomez has been open about her disabilities – she was diagnosed with lupus and received a kidney transplant – and her mental health, and remains a a strong advocate of these and other issues. Just one more Disney pop princessMuch more than a famous man’s ex, misogynistic labels often attached to young women who are powerhouses of talent, Gomez has always been a force, but 2021 has seen her take control. – Alison Stine

Michael Greyeyes

Jesse Leigh and Michael Greyeyes in “Rutherford Falls” (Peacock)The 54-year-old actor has been performing since the early 90s and has grown steadily since, playing recent recurring roles in “True Detective” and “Fear the Walking Dead,” among others. It almost always portrays Aboriginal characters, and they are increasingly varied and insightful.

Take 2021, which he stylishly kicked off in Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s feature debut “Wild Indian,” playing a man who has endured but also perpetuates trauma. As a child, Mawka was embroiled in a shocking crime, and as an adult he posed as Michael, a successful man with a white woman. The film explores soul sickness and repression, which the nuanced Greyeyes deliver with tension and a sense of moral ambiguity in every scene. It’s the kind of role that Greyeyes shines in, bringing with his performance an understanding of the many ways people try to struggle or reject their pasts.

Greyeyes didn’t stop there, appearing in the two-spirit film “Wildhood”, an episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” and reprising her role in Apple TV + ‘s “Home Before Dark”. But it was her hilarious and captivating turn in Peacock’s comedy “Rutherford Falls” that seemed like a revelation. Greyeyes, with his rich voice and imposing demeanor, tends to play serious and serious roles as he can carry their weight while transmitting emotion. Here he does the same thing but with so much charm, humor and a naughty glint in his eyes that it’s clear he’s having as much fun playing the part as he is watching.


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In the comedy co-created by Mike Schur (“The Good Place”), Sierra Teller Ornelas (“Superstore”) and Ed Helms (“The Office”), Greyeyes plays Terry Thomas, the CEO of the small town Minishonka Casino. which bears the name and still houses the descendant of its colonizers. Terry has big plans and an even bigger smile, and you can’t help but get carried away by his vision to take back what is his nation, all while yelling at everyone about their bulls ** t. Greyeyes makes Terry more than his ambition, balancing pride and intense motivation with a lot of wacky humanity. He doesn’t quite know how to deal with his anti-capitalist daughter, has a good dose of vanity and tries to reassure himself with his wife: “I’m fine, aren’t I? “

Sure, Greyeyes has always been funny, but we just haven’t allowed him to be on a big enough platform until now. In a way, his flourishing as a comedic powerhouse mirrors the change that has taken place in Hollywood when it suddenly embraces aboriginal comedy. After “Rutherford Falls,” FX on Hulu’s evil and insightful “Reservation Dogs” and even journalist Kliph Nesteroff’s book, “We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy”. The future of Indigenous entertainment is not only long overdue; it promises to be happy too. – Hanh Nguyen

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Karl M. Bailey