Performer of the Week: Allison Janney

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Allison Janney


THE EPISODE |Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling

THE AIRDATE | January 22, 2015

THE PERFORMANCE Allison Janney’s versatility as an actress isn’t exactly a secret, not after taking home a pair of Emmys last year — one for Guest Actress in a Drama (for Masters of Sex) and the other for Supporting Actress in a Comedy (for Mom). But on Thursday’s installment of the CBS comedy, as recovering alcoholic Bonnie coped with the death of her recently rekindled love Alvin (played by Kevin Pollak), Janney undeniably reconfirmed her ability to make us weep and leave us laughing.

The episode kicked off with Alvin renting the apartment across from Bonnie’s — and Janney let us see the giddiness in her typically cynical character’s eyes — but Alvin’s fatal heart attack in the midst of a tryst abruptly ended the happiest chapter of her hardscrabble life story. The aftermath, remarkably, found Janney nailing broad physical comedy (as Bonnie barreled down a hallway, with daughter Christy wrapped around her waist in an attempt to stop her from crashing Alvin’s funeral); heartbreaking grief (as she struggled to share her latest tragedy at an AA meeting); and delicious bitchery (Bonnie spoke her truth to a crowd of mourners, despite the protests of Alvin’s estranged wife).

Two moments, though, illustrated Janney’s subtle mastery of her craft. In the episode’s coda, as Christy broke down and acknowledged her own grief over the loss of her father, Bonnie wordlessly rubbed her daughter’s back and then embraced her with such tenderness that you could feel a lifetime of maternal love coursing through the room.

Just as impressive was a bar scene that found shellshocked Bonnie contemplating a break from sobriety, despite Christy’s pleas. “I just can’t go back to being alone,” cried Bonnie, a shell of her typical towering self. When her daughter offered a reassuring “You got me,” Janney’s deliciously droll line-reading — an exaggerated “Meh!” — told us in a single syllable that Bonnie had found the strength not to relapse, remembered her obligations to her extended family, and (as Mom often underscores) relearned the importance of hanging on to your sense of humor even in the darkest moments.

lauren-graham-parenthood-performer-of-the-weekHONORABLE MENTION | In recent weeks, it’s been hard to tell where Lauren Graham ends and Parenthood‘s Sarah Braverman begins. As the series nears its emotional conclusion, Graham has delivered some of her most sincere performances of the past six seasons. This week, it only took a few phrases for her to communicate Sarah’s deep love for her family (and Graham’s connection with her soon-to-be former co-stars). Even when Sarah was at her most devastated (“I just want to make sure that my dad is there,” she cried to Hank regarding their upcoming wedding), Graham’s performance remained authentic. Though it would be easy to define Sarah by her missteps in life, Graham’s most recent performance reminded us of her character’s deep complexity. To echo a statement made by Mae Whitman’s Amber: Graham is our hero.

girls-andrew-rannells-iowaHONORABLE MENTION | It’s amusing that the secret weapon of HBO’s Girls just so happens to be a boy: Andrew Rannells’ self-absorbed, sexy imp Elijah. In last Sunday’s installment, Elijah and fellow twentysomething Hannah crashed a student house party in Iowa, giving Rannells the chance to score huge laughs with a bawdy dance-floor sequence and the seduction of a naïve undergrad in a cramped bathroom. Rannells’ ability to play shamelessly hedonistic — and at the same time deliciously arch — is pretty much comedic perfection. “I love you so much. I hate everyone who isn’t you,” Hannah declared to Elijah upon his unexpected arrival. In the addictive but often maddening world of Lena Dunham’s Sunday-night dramedy, we often feel the same exact way.

candice-accolaHONORABLE MENTION | The fact that, during Thursday’s Vampire Diaries, we were moved just as deeply by Caroline as by Sheriff Forbes — a beloved character who’s literally dying right before our eyes — is a testament to the level of humanity Candice Accola still brings to her definitively nonhuman character. Despite everything Caroline’s been through, Accola has abandoned neither the vulnerability nor the insecurity of her character’s living years, which made her scenes with Marguerite McIntyre all the more heartbreaking and her moments opposite director Paul Wesley all the more hopeful.

What performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. spindae2 says:

    I was really moved by Candice Accola this week, don’t know where she’ll take us when Liz actually dies.

    • Jamie says:

      I have a feeling that she’ll turn her humanity off. I think it’s already been set in stone that sheriff forbes is going to die.

    • bon says:

      don’t worry, by now it’s pretty clear Stefan’s junk will give her all the hapiness she needs, that’s what happens to women in this show, who knows probably it will happen right besides her mom’s dead body

  2. dgard5th says:

    Danny Pino’s performance in this week’s L&O:SVU will undoubtedly get overlooked by critics and award shows. But holy cow – the heartbreak on his face, taking you back to those childhood years, the conflict, the anger and the sadness. The strong cop melting into a little boy on the witness stand. You now understand the complicated Det. Nick Amaro. I was captivated.

  3. robin says:

    Allison janney is fabulous. I remember her bit part as a maid on a soap and she was still one to watch. I think they killed Alvin off too soon. They could have allowed the relationship a bit. I doubt cynical Bonnie would really believe the rest of our lives so soon.

  4. robin says:

    Also agree about Pino.

  5. Sarah says:

    Bravo for your choice TV Line. Allison Janney was simply amazing in Mom who deserves every award out there. I’d have to give an honourable mention to Anna Farris as well who played the stoic grieving mom and daughter perfectly. Everything was perfect with the episode and the performances were stellar with all the actors. It made me laugh, cringe and cry in such a short space of time. If any episode needs to be shown come awards season the people behind Mom need to put this one forward.

  6. Nara says:

    If only they would make Caroline characters more about herself than the men in her life! Give Candice a chance to shine, she deserves it!!!

  7. Rebecca says:

    I’m going to miss Parenthood sooo much! Lauren is amazing! Can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the future!

  8. webly3 says:

    I agreed with Lauren and Allison and Andrew. But, Nick Offerman gave an amazing performance as Ron Swanson this last week. He finally showed an ounce of emotion.

  9. Giulia says:

    Candice as Caroline is literally breaking my heart right now. She’s brilliant.

  10. Sydney says:

    My honorable mention is for Jonathan Groff on Looking. It amazes me how well he conveys several emotions at once. Patrick’s anxiety is palpable at all times.

  11. Riana says:

    I’m surprised Emily Bett Rickards didn’t make the list. Even though we know Oliver’s alive. She doesn’t.

  12. Simon says:

    Nick Offerman for Parks and Rec should have been an honourable mention.

    • Spence says:

      Completely agree. I said an earlier week that Amy Poehler didn’t deserve her performer of the week for the premiere episode, but man she deserved it this week. Her and Nick bith knocked it out of the park, leaving me an emotional wreck.

  13. Frog212 says:

    I would like to say your(TeamTVLine) picks for performer of the week has been on point so many times. This is one of my favorite articles to see and I agree with you guys 99%. The actors you pick and the performances they give are so great to see. It was really sad to see happiness finally achieved only to be so cruelly taken away on Mom. I was watching that scene in the bar and I really felt like Janney was going to take that drink if it wasn’t for her daughter. After the daughter was going to drink also if her mom took the drink, I felt like Janney’s character got hit again. Like she was thinking It’s okay for me to ruin my life but I’m not going to ruin my daughter’s life. And together in sadness and small victory they took solace in each other.

  14. Paul says:

    The Entire Cast of Parenthood. Enough Said.

  15. Ali says:

    Totally agree with this. Allison Janney was amazing in the last episode. She’s amazing in every episode. And for next week, I think Performer of the Week will need to change to Performance of the Week…which will belong to the entire cast of Parenthood.

  16. donholley77 says:

    Alison Janney is great! But Anna Far is is too!