Keegan-Michael Key Playing House

TVLine's Performer of the Week: Playing House's Keegan-Michael Key

THE PERFORMER | Keegan-Michael Key

THE SHOW | Playing House

THE EPISODE | “Knotty Pine” (Aug. 18)

THE PERFORMANCE | When you think of USA Network’s Jessica St. Clair-Lennon Parham comedy, a few choice phrases might instantly come to mind — “totes kewl” and “body be bangin'” among them. “Heartbreaking dramatic performances,” however, might not be included on the list. That is, until we saw Keegan-Michael Key’s work in Tuesday’s episode.

Throughout the half-hour — in which woodworking instructor Buck Finch (played by Rob Riggle) attempted to seduce Lindsay Sloane’s Tina away from Key’s Mark — there were ample warning signs that Mark’s marriage to Bird Bones might be in danger. But even then, as Mark obsessed over Pinebrook’s vandalism problem and hid away in his man-cave instead of talking to his wife, Key brought his signature brand of levity to a situation that seemed like no laughing matter.

It wasn’t until the final act of the episode, when Mark spotted Tina locking lips with Buck, that Key allowed his character’s months-long marital frustration to come to the surface. What began as anger — “All I ever do is pay attention to you!” — quickly morphed into something much softer and sadder, as Mark tearfully admitted his marriage to Tina was “just so much work.” No matter how incompatible Mark and Tina have seemed throughout the last season and a half, Key did a spectacular job of making us wish this weren’t the end for the mismatched pair.

With four episodes remaining in Playing House‘s sophomore run, and a divorce just around the corner for Mark, we’re confident that Key will be given even meatier material in the weeks ahead — and we can’t wait to see what he does with it.

chasing-life-potwHONORABLE MENTION | Thanks to consistently honest, visceral performances from Italia Ricci, Chasing Life is gunning to become the new Parenthood — that one drama guaranteed to make you weep at least once a week. And this Monday’s episode was unquestionably the most devastating to date. April’s discovery that Leo had died suddenly in his sleep (“Life is short, so let’s have dessert for breakfast!”) played out in real time over the final minute, though it felt like an eternity had passed once 7:49 finally changed to 7:50 on Leo’s bedside clock. The only thing more haunting than the image of Leo drained of life was Ricci’s portrayal of a woman whose entire universe was falling to pieces around her. Those 60 seconds might have only been a taste of the gut-wrenching material Ricci has in store for us as we near the finale, but considering the gravity of the moment, it’s also probably all that we could handle at the time.

HONORABLE MENTION | It’s a testament POTW_HaveHaveNotsto the strength of Crystal Fox’s work as Hanna on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots that, although her character is the soap’s moral compass, she’s never for an instant overshadowed by the show’s flashy bitches. Take, for instance, this week’s episode, “A Home for Q.” Amoral Candace seethed spectacularly upon learning that her mother was trying to keep her from her son, yet Hanna didn’t blink. Instead, she alternated between pleading with her daughter to put the boy’s needs first and attacking her sketchy-at-best lifestyle — and, every step of the way, Fox put the “right” in “righteous.”

HONORABLE MENTION | Typically,Murder in the First Murder in the First‘s Kathleen Robertson puts up a fierce front, as SFPD Homicide Inspector Hildy Mulligan. But now and again, that facade cracks, as it did when she learned that her brother’s sins extended far beyond adultery. First hearing from Terry that Junior runs girls out of a strip club, Robertson registered Hildy’s (measured) disbelief. Then after Junior copped to his illegal acts, the actress allowed the heartbreak of a sister to surface, especially once he acknowledged, plainly, “This is me.” While holding back tears, Hildy responded, “Prostitutes? You’re a scumbag,” her last shred of faith in her kin perhaps crumbled once and for all.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

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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22 Comments
  1. Sara says:

    I don’t watch any of these shows, so I can’t comment on them. My performance of the week goes to Rebecca Wisocky. From the hilarious (why are there so many Deions) to the heart breaking scene at the end, she was it!!

  2. Not even an honorable mention for Rami Malek after this week’s Mr. Robot?! Booooo!

    • lauren says:

      I feel like he won this very recently? anyone?

      • Christine says:

        Yep, he won it for the fourth episode, the motel detox. TVLine seems to try to recognize different actors every week, which I appreciate, giving props to actors who might otherwise be overlooked. Though Rami could easily make this list for every episode!

    • Rachel says:

      I agree. He did get it recently but I would’ve recognized him for this episode instead. Or both b/c he is very good. But this one got me more.

    • FtheFreys says:

      Exactly! A number of actors could have received a mention from Mr. Robot. Same for Humans too. Tyrant had maybe it’s best episode ever so there were a couple of actors that shined on that show too.

  3. Hege says:

    Richard Armitage for Hannibal. He is amazing!

  4. John Davis says:

    Rebecca Wisocky for Devious Maids.

  5. Drewer says:

    When i watched Playing Cards this week I thought Key should be performer of the week, but I thought it would never be picked. Silly me!

  6. Sheila says:

    Keegan-Michael Key was really good in that episode. But he’s been great thru the whole run. It’s such a fun show, I wish it could have more seasons!

  7. HAP says:

    Keegan-Michael Key is an extremely talented actor. He can play just about any type of role well. I’m hoping that with the wrap-up of Key & Peele, we’ll get to see even more of his range.

  8. Cali says:

    While I was impressed with Mr. Key (and Ms. Sloane) performances, I was most moved by the writing. It played on the delicate and nuanced writing style that Ms, Parham and Ms. St. Clair set for their show. Few breakup scenes are so tender and mature, usually going for drama or quick laughs rather than having two people talk earnestly and painfully about real problems. Playing House is always best when it goes for realistic discussion over broader jokes, showing the intimacy that appears rooted in the real, long-term relationship of the creators.

    Kudos to Ms. Santamaria, Mr Steckler, Ms. St Clair and Ms. Parham!

  9. Bryce says:

    Show that makes me cry every week? Sorry, The Fosters takes care of that just fine.

  10. Eric says:

    Thanks for mentioning Crystal Fox she is by far the best actor on The Haves and Have Nots

  11. Beth says:

    Great pick! Thanks for recognizing smaller shows, too! this show is so good!

  12. Kate says:

    This week when Dylan O’Brien as Stiles was in the argument with Scott. He got me when he yelled Some of us are Human. The look on his face when Scott flinched was heartbreaking.

  13. How are there only four episodes left of Playing House? We waited forever and now we only get 8 episodes?