The best TV performances of 2020

The best TV performances of 2020

Clockwise from upper left: Antony Starr in The Boys (Photo: Panagiotis Pantazidis), Da’Vine Joy Randolph in HIgh Fidelity (Photo: Phillip Caruso/Hulu), Melissa Barrera in Vida (Photo: Starz), Sonoya Mizuno in Devs (Photo Miya Mizuno/FX), Hugh Grant in The Undoing (Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO)
Clockwise from upper left: Antony Starr in The Boys (Photo: Panagiotis Pantazidis), Da’Vine Joy Randolph in HIgh Fidelity (Photo: Phillip Caruso/Hulu), Melissa Barrera in Vida (Photo: Starz), Sonoya Mizuno in Devs (Photo Miya Mizuno/FX), Hugh Grant in The Undoing (Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

As our feature on the best television of 2020 amply demonstrates, the current TV landscape is replete with excellent ensembles that make stumping for your favorites during awards season a nigh-impossible task. And yet, though our annual compilation of the best TV performances typically includes dynamic duos and other group nominations, 2020 seems to be the year of the standout or soloist. Maybe it’s the continued migration of big-screen stars to premium-cable and streaming dramas, or perhaps it’s the feelings of isolation prompted by quarantine, but this year’s list honors more individual performances than ever before. The lead of a star-studded period drama, a couple of scene stealers, and an actor who puts the “support” in “supporting role” have been singled out for praise along with a witty newcomer, a late-night host with the most innovative sketches, and a rom-com icon who’s gone full (murderous) rogue.

A quick note on nominations: Though we once again sought to highlight performers who hadn’t graced this list in the past, there were some incumbents who just couldn’t be denied.

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2 / 25

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, High Fidelity

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, High Fidelity

Da’Vine Joy Randolph refused to watch the prototype for her High Fidelity character—Jack Black’s Barry in the 2000 movie—thereby becoming a scene-stealer from a scene-stealer. Her Cherise was as unbelievably fun to watch as Barry was: fiercely opinionated, convinced that the whole world was wrong when she was right, blessed with unwavering self-confidence that compelled her toward a music career even before she could actually play anything. Heaven help you if you crossed paths with Cherise whilst buying a Michael Jackson record, dissing Lauryn Hill, or refusing to recognize the greatness of “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Randolph didn’t draw attention as much as demand it, daring the viewer to take their eyes off of her for a nanosecond. It couldn’t be done, because Cherise was bound to offer even more outrageously funny patter, often matched with a dynamic dance move. The second season of High Fidelity was reportedly going to concentrate on Cherise’s journey, which just makes it even more of a damn shame that Hulu couldn’t find a way to give the show another season. But we’ll gladly follow Da’Vine Joy Randolph to wherever she winds up next (like we could even help it). [Gwen Ihnat]

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3 / 25

Jane Fonda, the 92nd Academy Awards

Jane Fonda, the 92nd Academy Awards

It may seem a lifetime ago, but this year’s Oscars were a last gasp for the pageantry of a theater full of celebrities a month before COVID-19 shut down the country. But even without the notoriety of being the last award show without jokes about masks and hand sanitizer, this year’s ceremony had an unmistakable energy as Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite gained momentum throughout the night, leading up to the announcement of Best Picture. And only three years removed from the Moonlight/La La Land debacle, presenter Jane Fonda gave one of the best performances of the year by fully understanding both the gravity of the moment—Parasite becoming the first foreign film to win Best Picture—and the energy of the crowd in the Nokia Theatre. She opens the envelope and immediately recognizes the responsibility she carries, pausing just the right length of time before delivering a reading of “Parasite” that perfectly transitioned into the un-Oscars-like explosion from the audience. With perfect inflection, Fonda helped generate one of the most compulsively rewatchable television moments of the year, a joyous glimpse of the “before times” that one could turn to on YouTube whenever they needed an isolation pick-me-up. [Myles McNutt]

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4 / 25

Hank Azaria, Brockmire

Hank Azaria, Brockmire

Hank Azaria’s role as the verbose, frequently drunk baseball announcer Jim Brockmire began its life as a throwaway Funny Or Die sketch. On the basis of that sketch alone, there was no way to predict it would lead to one of the most compelling, vulnerable performances of the past decade. At the beginning of the series, Brockmire was a punchline, a man more famous for his meltdown-gone-viral than his announcing career, but he eventually climbed his way out of the gutter and back to respectability. Brockmire’s fourth and final season features the man staring down a fractured, dystopian nation, ravaged by inequality and violence and disease (sound familiar?), trying to carve out an honest legacy built around giving back instead of serving himself. Azaria has always played the character with good humor and innate warmth, but his performance reaches new heights as Brockmire faces his own mortality, struggling to leave a mark in a world that’s falling apart. More to the point, there’s true poetry to the fact that an actor most famous for his voice performances gives a career-best turn as a man who talks into a microphone for a living in a show about the power of wielding a voice. [Vikram Murthi]

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Nicholas Hoult, The Great

Nicholas Hoult, The Great

No actor has ever done more with a single word than Nicholas Hoult does with “huzzah” on Hulu’s The Great. As the buffoonishly pompous Emperor Peter III of Russia, Hoult wields the exclamation with the dexterity of a contortionist. His “huzzah” can be a celebration, a threat, a punchline, a comedic subversion, or even a melancholy sigh. It’s a reflection of the astounding number of layers at play in Hoult’s transformative, career-best work. If he were just delivering the funniest TV performance of the year, Hoult would likely still earn a place on this list. But he also makes Peter a terrifyingly sociopathic leader, a sympathetic figure of tragedy, and sometimes a genuinely alluring bad boy—all without ever sacrificing one quality for the others. Taking full advantage of his height, physicality, and ability to wear the hell out of some gaudy Russian fashions, Hoult’s Peter is gloriously hilarious on the surface and simmering with unexpected complexity just beneath. It’s remarkable that nearly two decades into an already stellar career, Hoult somehow still has the ability to level up as an actor. [Caroline Siede]

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Amber Ruffin, The Amber Ruffin Show

Amber Ruffin, The Amber Ruffin Show

Keeping up with the news has been particularly exhausting in 2020. Coming to comedy fans’ rescue during the grueling slog that was the fall was beacon of light, energy, and optimism Amber Ruffin. The Amber Ruffin Show has proven to be an excellent vehicle for the Late Night With Seth Meyers standout, capturing her bubbly essence while giving her plenty of room to play. Not every segment works, but Ruffin always does, switching effortlessly between comedy songs, extended riffs and sketches, and earnest, potent asides. In lesser hands, her material could come off as saccharine, sarcastic, or slight, but Ruffin grounds everything she does, bringing a playful edge and complete commitment to even the most absurd, irreverent tangent. Ruffin’s rapport with Tarik Davis is terrific and head writer Jenny Hagel and the rest of the writing staff give her a lot to work with, but it’s Ruffin’s confident charm that makes The Amber Ruffin Show such a delight. [Kate Kulzick]

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7 / 25

Antony Starr, The Boys

Antony Starr, The Boys

It’s not exactly new to say that real-life superheroes might well be psychotic authoritarians. But The Boys has proven uniquely effective at making that argument fun, and its best weapon is Antony Starr’s Homelander. As The Boys’ primary antagonist and Superman stand-in, Starr Homelander is powerful, scary, and elusive, a media figure who basks in the love of the masses while not-so-secretly disdaining everyone who isn’t him. Still, in The Boys’ second season, Starr manages to imbue Homelander with a certain pathetic quality, a naked longing for an equal, whether that comes in the form of his son Ryan or Stormfront, a superhero possibly even more depraved than he is. In the span of any given scene, Starr veers from ice-cold murderer to scared little boy and back again, depicting not only a compelling, twisted hero, but the pathology of any overgrown child who enjoys exercising power over others. The brilliance of his performance, and of The Boys in general, is never, ever letting you forget that it’s always the same guy. [Eric Thurm]

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8 / 25

Harvey Guillén, What We Do In The Shadows

Harvey Guillén, What We Do In The Shadows

Apologies to Jackie Daytona—he really does deserve the world—but the true secret to the success of What We Do In The Shadows is a loyal familiar with vampire-hunting in his blood. Harvey Guillén’s Guillermo would have been an indispensable part of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s FX series if he were simply the audience surrogate and nothing more; not since Jim Halpert roamed the cubes of Dunder Mifflin has someone rendered the take-to-camera such a vital part of a show’s comic language. But Shadows takes things a bit farther, and it’s Guillén’s bone-deep commitment to Guillermo’s private struggle betwixt his lifelong fascination with vampirism and his Van Helsing-inherited instincts that makes his one of the year’s best performances. Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja may be oblivious, but Guillén made it all too easy for audiences to intimately understand Guillermo’s fear, shame, guilt, occasional adrenaline rushes, and above all his need to protect the ungrateful sanguisuges he serves. He pulled it off by executing the simplest and yet most difficult approach: He played Guillermo’s struggle like the very funny tragedy it is. [Allison Shoemaker]

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Cobie Smulders, Stumptown

Cobie Smulders, Stumptown

An underrated player in the ensembles of How I Met Your Mother and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cobie Smulders found a leading role worthy of her talents in ABC’s comic-book adaptation Stumptown. Her Dex was the gritty female P.I. the world had been waiting for since Kathleen Turner failed to pull off V.I. Warshawski in 1991: a conflicted action hero who was tough, honest, and fair even as she wrestled with demons related to her PTSD and a rough upbringing. Not only could the whip-smart Dex discern clues like a modern-day Holmes, her Army training meant that she could take down bad guys who towered over her, which was always gratifying to witness. Smulders had warm, believable family chemistry opposite Cole Sibus, and a platonic-but-not-quite dynamic with Jake Johnson as her pal Grey. But she offered multitudinous layers in a riveting take on a classic detective who was tough as nails on the outside but more than a bit shattered within, which was revealed when she ran into her ex, a beautiful pop singer, or finally opened up to a fellow veteran at a VA center. ABC wisely renewed the series, only to renege, cruelly robbing us of more of Smulders’ complex portrayal of one of the year’s most compelling TV characters. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You

Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You

There are moments during her stunning dramatic turn in I May Destroy You where Michaela Coel expertly shifts from reveling in her comedic roots to revealing a sobering truth about surviving sexual abuse. Grounded and honest, Coel digs into her own experiences to share a familiar, sometimes uncomfortable story about processing trauma. Whether her young, occasionally impulsive writer Arabella is inappropriately broadcasting live updates from her doctor’s office to her loyal Instagram following or having an emotional breakdown outside of her ex’s locked door, the multihyphenate skillfully avoided the easily-laid trap of portraying perfect victimhood, which more often than not places a premium on resilience and strength. Arabella’s healing process is reassuring because it’s messy, with the character often stumbling to make her way back to some semblance of the life that she knew prior to the assault. It’s Coel’s ability to allow and respect Arabella’s moments of weakness, curiosity, and empathy that make her such a fully realized survivor. Pair Coel’s intelligence on the matter with her natural charisma and intensity, and you have one of the most enthralling characters that TV has offered up in years. [Shannon Miller]

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Sonoya Mizuno, Devs

Sonoya Mizuno, Devs

When we first meet Sonoya Mizuno’s Lily Chan, a software encryption engineer for the secretive Google-like tech company Amaya, she’s basically a cipher. We know she has a loving boyfriend and a couple of friends, but that’s more or less it. Yet, as the inciting murder mystery begins diving into knotty plotting involving revolutionary technology, political conspiracy, and who-can-you-trust paranoia, it’s Mizuno’s performance, far more than the elliptical and restrained script, that unpacks the depths of Lily’s complicated persona. With little more than a hard-edged stare, Mizuno is able to convey broad swaths of emotion, from the vulnerability lying beneath her brittle exterior to the tightly bottled anger she so rarely lets bubble to the surface. It’s such a compressed, reactive performance, you almost don’t notice when Lily starts to seize control of situations—until the plotting and dialogue catch up to her, and your mind retroactively understands what the actor had already cleverly put in place several scenes (or even episodes) prior. To the degree that Devs works, it’s not really because of all the fun little philosophical narrative curlicues writer-director Alex Garland doles out; it’s because of Mizuno’s gift for finding depth of character in even the shallowest of emotional pools. [Alex McLevy]

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Hugh Grant, The Undoing

Hugh Grant, The Undoing

The Undoing pulled off a twist by not having one. When a young artistic mom at an elite Manhattan private school is murdered, the guilty party turned out to be our only real suspect: Hugh Grant’s Jonathan, who was having an affair with the deceased. The sole saving grace of this non-mystery was Grant’s portrayal. The rom-com icon previously explored his dark side in Paddington 2 and A Very English Scandal, but here, Grant reached unprecedented levels of malice. Putting his decades of screen charm to more nefarious use, his psychopathic character sounded spot-on convincing when proclaiming his innocence; such is Grant’s innate natural charisma that we still wanted to believe Jonathan didn’t do it, even when every circumstance pointed to the contrary. Once the gloves were off, though, Grant masterfully unraveled in the series’ final episodes, casually kidnapping his son and spouting off about the best fried clams in Albany as easily as he offered catty gossip to his wife at a cocktail party in episode one. By the end, we were convinced that a character portrayed by Hugh Grant was capable of pulverizing an ex-lover with a hammer, a seemingly impossible outcome at the start of the series. [Gwen Ihnat]

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13 / 25

Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder

How To Get Away With Murder concluded its six-season run this year, and it will be remembered for a mixed bag of things—from the good (like its realistically complicated depiction of addiction and recovery) to the bad (its tendency to prefer a shocking story development to one that makes even a little bit of sense). But one of its greatest strengths has remained consistent over the years: Viola Davis’ performance. She is the show’s lifeforce. The Emmy and Oscar-winning actor brings depth and nuance to the great antihero Annalise Keating. She captivates on a level that makes it easier to ignore the show’s most absurd courtroom antics. Davis masterfully plays by the rules of HTGAWM’s soap, darkness, and melodrama and delivers exactly what the role demands. The show simply wouldn’t have worked without her. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]

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14 / 25

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever

With Never Have I Ever, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan establishes herself as a star in the making. In her first onscreen role, Ramakrishnan deftly balances the two critical personas of her character, Devi Vishwakumar: the unflinching, smart teenager who is determined to be the cool kid at school and the emotionally vulnerable young girl struggling to cope with the death of her beloved father. Devi doesn’t necessarily make the best choices—she alienates her friends in favor of a boy she’s crushing on, puts on her best acerbic tone to argue with her mother, and boldly faces off a coyote assuming it’s her dad’s spirit. However, Ramakrishnan brings levels of comedic and emotional range to her performance, making it easy to both laugh and empathize with Devi. She’s as adept with the witty dialogue as she is Devi’s expressiveness, whether it’s savage comebacks for academic rival Ben or softer notes in interactions with her dad Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy). She shines in the mother-daughter confrontations between Devi and Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), especially in pivotal episodes like “...had to be on my best behavior” and “...said i’m sorry.” And Ramakrishnan’s only begun to tap into her talent on Never Have I Ever; she’s quickly become an MVP. [Saloni Gajjar]

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15 / 25

Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America

Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America

Phyllis Schlafly remains one of the most polarizing figures in U.S. women’s history. Reviled for her opposition to feminism, gay rights, and abortion rights, she was also the face of the campaign against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In Mrs. America, Cate Blanchett portrays Schlafly as the de facto leader of a reactionary movement, as well as a mother, wife, and woman. It’s disorienting to see such a reactionary figure humanized, but Mrs. America fully embraces the irony of Schlafly being the outspoken political leader of a movement claiming a woman’s place is in the home, with Blanchett effortlessly teetering from a rousing orator energizing a room of hundreds to a submissive sexual object in the privacy of her marital bed. It was a seemingly impossible needle to thread, but Blanchett, like the impeccable homemaker Schlafly appeared to be (with the help of her maid), pulls it off. [Patrick Gomez]

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16 / 25

Melissa Barrera, Vida

Melissa Barrera, Vida

If Lyn Hernandez, one of the quarreling yet loving sisters of the late Vida, exhibited the most growth throughout the series’ three-season run, it’s because Melissa Barrera captured each infinitesimal step that took her from self-centered millennial to self-aware business partner. Barrera has a dancer’s physicality, which she used to great effect as the yoga-loving, wayward vegan Chicana. Early on, the willowy actor would shrink in the frame as Lyn endured another (typically deserved) lecture from Emma (Mishel Prada, one of several standouts in the Vida cast). But in season three, Barrera embodied Lyn’s growing confidence in her abilities beyond turning heads, fire flashing in her eyes as she refused to play the doting, malleable girlfriend yet again. She met Prada’s flinty resolve with unyielding warmth, making Lyn the sun to Emma’s more reserved moon. Even as she honed her dramatic chops, Barrera also showed off great comedic timing—she turned Lyn’s guilt over breaking from her vegan diet into one of season three’s funniest moments. The door to many more multi-faceted leading roles swung open the moment Barrera whispered an apology to “Miss Piggy.” [Danette Chavez]

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17 / 25

D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place

D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place

One of the biggest pop culture errors of 2019 was D’Arcy Carden not getting an Emmy nomination for The Good Place season three’s “Janet(s).” It was hard to imagine a comedic task more difficult than successfully channeling Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Eleanor (Kristen Bell). But then the actress went and one-upped herself in her NBC comedy’s final season with the Janets-filled “You’ve Changed, Man.” Rather than playing up the most recognizable characteristics of characters Carden had watched so closely for years, this time she was asked to embody multiple versions of her not-a-girl, not-a-robot, all-knowing... entity, is probably the best way to put it. The fact that it’s so hard to describe what Carden’s Janet even is reflects the difficulty in portraying the character. What we do know is that Carden’s easy charm made Janet the highlight of a stellar ensemble, and that her 2020 Emmy nomination was a decent make-good for the previous oversight. If only there was another season of the comedy to give her a shot at a win. [Patrick Gomez]

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18 / 25

Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird

Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird

The Good Lord Bird is no straightforward biographical drama, and Ethan Hawke isn’t simply playing a significant figure in U.S. history. As abolitionist John Brown, Hawke is responsible for a performance that must shake right-thinking people out of their complacent slumber, blazing a path to war, while still hinting at the man behind the convictions. The actor gives himself over to the role, summoning a gravelly voice and reserves of spittle that speak to an almost religious ecstasy. Just as key to the portrayal are the stumbles, the moments when Brown has to retreat or otherwise rethink his strategy. Hawke’s visage registers the passing shadows of doubt, the knowledge that Brown is in the twilight of his years. Those quieter beats only serve to spur on Brown’s thunderous rage, as his increasingly limited time drives him to ever bolder and more desperate action. And through it all, Hawke maintains a sense of self-effacement that carries the wicked humor of this adaptation of James McBride’s novel. [Danette Chavez]

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19 / 25

Hugh Laurie’s accent, Avenue 5

Hugh Laurie’s accent, Avenue 5

When Hugh Laurie’s Captain Ryan Clark first appears in Avenue 5, he’s all charm and confidence. In the wake of a disaster, he knows exactly how to keep all of his passengers calm and safe, with a lot of the heavy-lifting being done by the same American accent that Laurie used on House. You know him, he talks like you, and you’re going to trust him to get Avenue 5 (the spaceship, at least) out of danger. It doesn’t take long for the mask to drop, though, with Laurie revealing that he’s essentially playing two characters: The Sully Sullenberger-esque space hero image of Clark is—like his comforting American accent—a fake. Clark’s really a miserable British guy whose job is to pretend to fly the spaceship so nobody aboard freaks out about entrusting their lives to computers and surly engineers. The brilliance of Laurie’s performance isn’t simply the accents, though; it’s the way he effortlessly switches between them and allows both him and the audience to lose track of whichever one he’s supposed to use in any given moment. It’s a good running joke, but it only works because Laurie makes it so hilariously difficult to keep his many lies straight. [Sam Barsanti]

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20 / 25

Shaun Parkes, Small Axe: Mangrove

Shaun Parkes, Small Axe: Mangrove

Some artists might have seen the rousing story of the Mangrove 9 as an opportunity to render the most heroic version of restaurateur/activist Frank Crichlow, the center of the landmark British-Caribbean movement that caused the court to formally recognize the inherent bias of the London police. Thankfully, Shaun Parkes recognized the complexity of Crichlow’s position as a flawed man against immense power. The actor gives a perfectly conflicted portrayal that elevates Crichlow beyond symbolism, paying as much attention to the man’s apprehension to remain a target for police violence as he does to his moments of resistance. Parkes’ ability to tap into the most human side of such an important figure in Black British history anchors the man in a reality that some films ostensibly sacrifice for the sake of “inspiration”: Some heroes are born just as much out of reluctance as they are justice. His presence absolutely commands the attention with an amalgam of righteous anger, pain, fear, and brief brushes with defeat. Employing intensity and a fiery passion with each scene, Parkes quickly establishes himself as a clear standout and a thoughtful artist who can recognize someone’s legacy without forgoing what makes them truly familiar to us all. [Shannon Miller]

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Luke Wilson, Stargirl

Luke Wilson, Stargirl

If Tom Hanks is America’s dad, then Luke Wilson seems to be gunning for the position of the nation’s lovable stepfather. And he more than earns it thanks to his endlessly endearing performance on The CW/DC Universe joint venture, Stargirl. Playing sidekick-turned-mentor Pat Dugan, Wilson embodies positive masculinity at its finest. Whether imparting parental lessons via video games or protectively standing up for his blended family, Wilson knows just how to project a fundamental sense of decency that’s all the more compelling because of how laid-back it is. In Wilson’s hands, Pat is dorky but self-aware, cautious but confident, polite but not a pushover, and heroic without ever being cocky. It’s a true supporting performance, one that complements his talented young co-star Brec Bassinger without ever pulling focus from her. Instead, Wilson is the glue that holds the series together, ensuring that its superhero earnestness never tips over into mawkishness. It’s further proof that Wilson shines brightest as an actor when he’s playing characters who are happy to focus the spotlight on others. Of course, we should expect nothing less from Mr. Elle Woods himself. [Caroline Siede]

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22 / 25

Shalita Grant, Search Party

Shalita Grant, Search Party

In its third season, Search Party doubled down on its satirical look at millennial life by putting members of the vilified (mostly by older Gen X columnists) generation on trial. The core ensemble deftly handled the move into crime dramedy; in particular, Alia Shawkat gave an eye-opening performance as Dory shifted from floundering femme fatale to calculating defendant. But Search Party’s supporting cast has always offered an embarrassment of riches, and this year, Shalita Grant nearly stole the show as novice attorney Cassidy Diamond. Grant used vocal fry and improbable outfits to construct the latest in a long line of unforgettable TV lawyers—in place of Matlock’s folksiness or Perry Mason’s steeliness, Cassidy has sky-high heels and tongue pops. And like Elle Woods, Cassidy takes advantage of her perceived lack of perception, acquitting herself nicely before the jury’s rendered its verdict in the case against Dory and Drew. Grant plays Cassidy as shrewd but idealistic, pampered but solicitous. By season’s end, if we’re still pulling for the four leads, it’s because we’re so invested in Cassidy scoring her first win, a remarkable shift in sympathies inspired by Grant’s highly detailed portrayal. [Danette Chavez]

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23 / 25

Eve Lindley, Dispatches From Elsewhere  

Eve Lindley, Dispatches From Elsewhere  

Eve Lindley’s performance in Dispatches From Elsewhere captures the appeal of the AMC series—she’s luminous as Simone, an art history student caught up in an alternate reality game, opposite Jason Segel, Sally Field, and André Benjamin. Lindley and Dispatches were the soft, warm glow amid flashier series like Westworld and Devs, which were also concerned with free will; but where most proper puzzle-box shows end up selling their characters short—essentially losing the humanity they so often claim to be in search of—Dispatches From Elsewhere gave its foursome compelling interiority. And though Simone isn’t the entry-point character, her journey is every bit as rewarding as Peter’s, thanks in great part to Lindley’s verve and soulfulness. She radiates a sense of great wonder and deep stores of pain; even as Dispatches glides toward enlightenment for its characters, she never truly loses either. The alternating realities within the show allow Lindley to dance between genres, from rom-com ingenue in the premiere to the protagonist of her own coming-of-age story, without missing a step. [Danette Chavez]

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Hall Of Famer: Rhea Seehorn

Hall Of Famer: Rhea Seehorn

At this point, Rhea Seehorn’s missing Emmy for her work on Better Call Saul is less a foolish oversight than it is a miscarriage of justice akin to The Wire’s lack of Best Drama nods, or Lauren Graham’s missing Emmy nomination for her work on Gilmore Girls (don’t even get us started on Kelly Bishop). Is there anyone who’s watched the past five straight seasons of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s sun-baked drama and, at the end of every one, not thought to themselves, “Wow, that actor playing Kim Wexler deserves some sort of award”? With each passing year, Seehorn has peeled back the layers of her sharp, calculating character, exposing both the thrill-addict and the vulnerable romantic buried deep below the confident and self-possessed exterior. She consistently elevates the already-strong material, whether it’s Kim yet again rebuking Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill for his carelessness while secretly embracing her own more reckless side, or the lawyer letting an episodes-long emotional slow burn come to a boil and exploding at her former mentor Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). Seehorn’s nuanced portrayal always suggests conflicting impulses vying for dominance; it’s a performance that rewards close viewing, time and again. Shouldn’t Seehorn be rewarded in turn? [Alex McLevy]

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