TVLine's Performer of the Week: Cheryl Hines

Cheryl Hines SuburgatoryA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Cheryl Hines

THE SHOW | Suburgatory

THE EPISODE | “The Birds and the Biederman”

THE AIRDATE | Feb. 5, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | It was the fallout for which Suburgatory fans had been bracing: In this week’s episode, the paths of erstwhile lovers Dallas (Cheryl Hines) and George (Jeremy Sisto) collided in the Chatswin dog park for the first time since their sudden and painful split. And Hines, in particular, mined the story arc for absurdist comic gold and genuine, palpable heartbreak.

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Playing a character like Dallas in the heightened, sometimes parodic world of Suburgatory is no small challenge. In typical fashion, Hines scored many of biggest laughs in “The Birds and the Biederman” by exposing her materialistic single mom’s shallow limitations: using her fluffy pooch Yakult as a canine shield to prevent George from spotting her; ranting to vapid daughter Dalia about George’s attempts to encroach on her territory (“What’s next? George Altman opening wide for my OBGYN?!”); clumsily attempting to work her remote control without the help of a maid.

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Dallas’ desperation to avoid interacting with George crescendoed with her use of a Chinese restaurant delivery map and a magic marker to claim territorial rights, and subsequently, the hiring of her daughter as an intermediary to present her list of demands. “I want all marathons, walk-athons, bike-athons and anything -thon-related that I might be forgetting!” Dallas shouted in the midst of the episode’s funniest sequence. “Furthermore, he must cease and desist Tweeting about me!”

All that confidence, however, shattered like a dropped cup of crystals in the final minutes of the episode, when Dallas returned to the park and bumped right into the man we all know deep down is her soulmate. The surprise and nervousness etched in Hines’ face instantaneously took us away from goofball territory and gave the moment real, emotional stakes. “I just wanna say, I know you felt blindsided. And I wish I could’ve handled it…” Dallas began, before George cut her off and made it clear he wasn’t interested in an explanation for the breakup.

Within seconds, Dallas’ eyes began to mist, her brow furrowing even deeper with confusion and disappointment as she realized George wasn’t flying solo, but rather hanging with dog trainer Nora. “Wow. Looks like someone has a new friend!” Dallas exclaimed, painting on the bravest and most unconvincing of smiles. As she scooped up Yakult and walked away, Hines let us see the doubts and vulnerabilities of a character who’s often used as a punch-line generator, but is ultimately much, much more.

HONORABLE MENTION | When Bruno Mars opened the Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show with an explosive showing behind the drum kit, the message was loud and clear: He was getting ready to serve up an organic, high-energy musical experience. And indeed, the rising pop-R&B star did just that, moving and grooving with his gold-clad line of musicians through a funky, ferocious one-two-three punch of “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Treasure” and “Runaway Baby” which led into a sidebar of the Red Hot Chili Peppers going ballistic on “Give It Away.” Mars then took the tempo down, pausing for a touching montage of overseas U.S. military personnel sending dedications to family and friends back home before launching into a truly lovely rendition of “Just the Way You Are.” Considering the lopsided (aka boring) nature of the football game itself, it became Mars’ mission to raise our pulses and restore a festive mood to the telecast. And without a doubt, he succeeded.

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!