By Kati Johnston, MSN Entertainment
The 2009-2010 TV season featured a particularly gifted class of freshmen who won our hearts and made us tune in week after week. Let us toast the breakout stars of this season, whom we can't wait to see a whole lot more of next fall.
These folks caught our eye this past season.
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
After some excellent performances in little-seen series ("Back to You," "Out of Practice"), Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy, finally gets the show and the role he was made for. Burrell's Phil plays the sitcom's clueless dad, yet takes it to new deadpan levels (think of Steve Carell in "The Office"), while trying, with protective TV wife Claire (Julie Bowen), to raise three rambunctious kids. Burrell is also convinced he's hip and keeping up with his kids as a pal: "Please! I text -- LOL, laugh out loud; OMG, oh my God; WTF, why the face?" ROFL.
The Cast of "Glee"
FOX's splendid ensemble hit and its adorable cast have become America's singing, dancing, rollin' on the river sweethearts. And with good reason. The show's writing is insightful, character-driven, focused on drama as well as comedy, and delivers zingers with, well, glee. And the talented kids who sing and dance, including the darling Lea Michele, never stop surprising. The performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" by McKinley's glee club and that of a nearby deaf school, with kids of both clubs singing, speaking and signing the words together, was as moving a moment of TV as we've seen all year. (And Jane Lynch, already known as a terrific comedian, took her own talents to new heights.) This one's for you, Mr. Shue!
Andy Whitfield, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"
The Welsh-born Whitfield is the reason to tune into Starz's unexpected sandals and swords hit. Whitfield was a huge star on Australian TV, with roles in series like "McLeod's Daughters." In the title role of the blood-drenched "Spartacus," Whitfield has seared himself into the TV-watching consciousness. And why not? The plot threads may be a little predictable (revenge, conquest, betrayal, lust, more revenge), but Whitfield plays the role fiercely and believably. Co-stars (including Lucy Lawless and John Hannah) lend a gravitas to what could have been cartoony, and the resulting show is as addictive as any nighttime soap (with lots and lots of blood). The production of Season 2 has been postponed while Whitfield undergoes treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Here's hoping for a heroic recovery.
Crystal Bowersox, "American Idol"
Yes, Lee DeWyze won the season, but it was Bowersox who imprinted her soulful, gospel-flecked voice onto the American psyche. Her version of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" owed a lot to Janis Joplin's, but Bowersox also added a dusky folk flavor, giving the song a new layer of heartbreak and appeal. Her twisty blond dreads and punky look belie the genuineness of her open heart and truly memorable voice. We agree with Randy, who said, "Yo, check this out! America! ... That's what's called being a star." Maybe we're amazed.
To see who else made the list of 17 "Breakout Stars", click HERE.
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