Shiri Appelby as Rachel on Unreal was one of the year’s breakout performances.

The TV Club, 2015

Shiri Appleby on UnReal Was One of the Year’s Breakout Performances

The TV Club, 2015

Shiri Appleby on UnReal Was One of the Year’s Breakout Performances
Talking television.
Dec. 29 2015 11:00 AM

The TV Club, 2015

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Shiri Appleby gave an amazing performance on UnReal—and took on the rare task of playing a woman a decade younger than she is. 

Josh Kelly (“Jeremy”) and Shiri Appleby (“Rachel”) in UnREAL.
Josh Kelly and Shiri Appleby in UnReal.

Photo by James Dittiger

Companions in the clubhouse,

After ranking the Pfefferman kids from hella annoying to supremely annoying, picking out some prime performances should be a piece of cake—oh, and my picks for cakes of the year are the baked goods on the Great British Baking Show.

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Margaret, since you mentioned Jude’s lovely coming out to his sister Callie on The Fosters, I’ll note that my favorite coming out of the TV year was Brad’s sweet moment with Sue on The Middle. But I’ll add a few performances of my own.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

The grandmas on Jane the Virgin, Fresh Off the Boat, and Black-ish are all outstanding. Ivonne Coll (who had abuela’d it up on Glee and Switched at Birth before getting this gig) and Lucille Soong get extra credit for acting in a different language from the rest of their casts, but Jenifer Lewis’ expressions of disdain for the kind of bougie household that eats quinoa instead of chitlins is working the exact same generational-dislocation seam, praise Black Jesus.

Netflix’s Grace and Frankie was one of the most up-and-down new shows of the season—clichéd and painfully unfunny at times; perceptive and profound at others—but Lily Tomlin was amazing throughout, whether she was elevating dumb “bits” about Frankie being an upper-class medical marijuana fiend or really selling the heartbreak her character felt when her husband/best friend left her for his male business partner.

I think I was a little less enamored with UnReal than some people—surely because I’ve never really watched any of the reality shows it was skewering—but yikes, Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer were amazing. Whenever they were on screen, I was transfixed, but Appleby probably deserves extra praise for playing a character—utterly convincingly—about a decade younger than she is.

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A toast to the flexible folks who show up in multiple shows and always brighten the shot: I’ll let Zach Woods stand in for all of them. He was slightly less ubiquitous in 2015 than in 2014. Nevertheless, in Silicon Valley, The Good Wife, and especially Playing House, he was always goofy, good-hearted, and perfect.

My romance of the year was Cam and Alison’s on Survivor’s Remorse—I wanted to send them both flowers!—though “MVP,” the first half-hour of primetime television to focus on a middle-aged woman’s coochie, was television’s most groundbreaking episode of the year.

In the coming stretch of weeks, when the television schedule is all reruns and sports I don’t watch, I’ll be compiling my own mix-and-match fantasy police procedural: Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), from Longmire, to take care of everything outdoorsy. Stef Adams Foster (Teri Polo), from The Fosters, because I like how she acts just a little bit differently when she puts on her police uniform. All the young officers of Rookie Blue (RIP), because their constant cop-ulation will spice up my imaginary show. Detective Constables Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) from Scott & Bailey, because they’re the most badass cops on television. Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell), from Major Crimes, to negotiate a plea deal.

And since cop shows always run smoother if the actual detection can be performed by gifted amateurs, I’ll invite Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) from Elementary, Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) from, gosh, what’s the name of that show; or one of the super-skilled investigators from The Good Wife to solve all the crimes lickety-split.

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This has been so much fun!

Until next year,

June

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