TVLine's Performers of the Week (tie): Vanessa Hudgens & Julianna Margulies

THE PERFORMER | Vanessa Hudgens

THE SHOW | Grease: Live (Jan. 31, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | Headlining a live TV musical is a lofty challenge, but Vanessa Hudgens’ wickedly funny, wildly charismatic and deeply sympathetic performance as bad girl Rizzo in Grease: Live borders on miraculous when you remember that she lost her father to cancer the night before the telecast.

Hudgens’ pair of showstoppers were a study in opposites. “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” — a deliciously bitchy put-down of wholesome new acquaintence Sandy — allowed Hudgens to show off her comic chops as she donned a blond wig, swanned around a slumber party and delivered zingers like “Keep your filthy paws/ Off my silky draws” with real mean-girl bite. Sandy may be the heroine of the play, but Hudgens’ Rizzo is the first one you’d invite to your party.

It was “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” however, where Hudgens brought Grease: Live to its emotional peak. Performing alone in the hallway of Rydell High School, Hudgens started off the song with an air of indignation, her high-school party girl dismissing those who label her “trashy and no good” — and proudly taking ownership of her own libido in the process.

Hudgens booming, beautiful voice absolutely soared on the last verse, though, as she pointed out, “I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I can feel and I can cry — a fact I’ll bet you never knew.” Finally, softening to almost a whisper, she concluded that, “to cry in front of you, that’s the worst thing I could do.” With that one line, Hudgens balanced Rizzo’s pride and insecurity, her growing sense of self and her feelings of loneliness — and stole the show in the process.

THE PERFORMER | Julianna Margulies

THE SHOW | The Good Wife

THE EPISODE | “Judged” (Jan. 31, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | If you’ve ever used a pressure cooker, then you’re aware of that magic moment when the timer goes off, you flip the switch and steam comes violently shooting from the top of the device.

In Sunday’s installment of The Good Wife, Julianna Margulies translated that scenario into human terms as Alicia Florrick — a character who’s been in a depressive, often vacant haze for most of Season 7 — unexpectedly bared her grief and her rage to law partner Lucca Quinn (a most excellent Cush Jumbo).

As the colleagues discussed a malpractice suit that threatened to wipe out their fledgling firm, Alicia turned suddenly icy and walked off to run a load of laundry. But Lucca followed, determined to hash out the tension, and it led to a breathtaking, heartbreaking monologue that underscored why Margulies is a 10-time Emmy nominee (and three-time winner).

“I was in love. He died,” Alicia began flatly, then as she gave voice to everything her character has experienced since the sudden death of her lover Will Gardner in Season 5 — and her recent knowledge that his declaration of love had been deleted from her voicemail before she’d had a chance to hear it — her voice began to tremble with raw emotion. “Now I’m sick to death of everything,” she explained bitterly. “This apartment. This laundry. The fact that things get dirty. The law. Just standing here.”

Margulies played much of the scene avoiding eye contact with Lucca — as if she didn’t want to quite acknowledge the words coming out of her mouth, about drinking like she never has before, about wanting to climb into bed, pull the covers over her head and never do anything again. “I just want it to end!” she finally erupted, weeping, gasping, and causing Lucca (and much of The Good Wife audience) to cry for her, too.

GALAVANTHONORABLE MENTION | War, what is it good for? Answer: Laughs, bravado and even some lovey- dovey times, as Galavant’s Timothy Omundson showed us. Season 2’s final half-hour opened with a duet between Richard and his younger self that was bittersweet in its honesty about the lad’s lackluster future. After that melancholy bit, Omundson dove into Richard’s duel with Wormwood, which began with amusing awkwardness before segueing into the seriocomic, as Richard feared the worst about his pet dragon. After besting the wizard, Richard tracked down Roberta to earnestly avow, “Without you,” his victory “means absolutely nothing.” Cap the season with future Richard beaming over a grown Tad Cooper, and you have a royally resonant performance.

RhysHONORABLE MENTION | The X-Files‘ Darin Morgan-penned episode, which aired this week, needed a very specific type of actor to play the part of Guy Mann, lizard monster-turned-unwilling human. Guy needed to be funny but unassuming, and wry yet childlike — someone who could perform both a soulful monologue and a gut-busting pratfall with equal ease. And wow, did the Fox series find a perfect match in Flight of the Conchords alum Rhys Darby. The comedic actor imbued Guy with an eminently watchable combination of silly nonsense (his delivery of the “3000 gigaberts of pixelbits” speech in the cell phone store was rewind-worthy) and true humanity (his goodbye to Mulder was touching without being cloying). Many — including TVLine — have deemed “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” the revival’s best episode; Darby deserves a huge portion of those kudos.

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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  1. Jeanne says:

    great choices on both performances

    • Jeri says:

      Totally agree regarding Vanessas’ performance. Bravo! I thought Juliannas’ performance came off as “try hard” though. Especially in light of her performances of the last few years. Wooden is the best description for JMs work of late. In my opinion.

  2. Dude says:

    Vanessa was very good given the circumstances but I feel like she’s being overly praised given what happened to her. Had her father not died the night before, I doubt people would be praising her the way they are.

  3. Hello says:

    Everyone apart from vanessa and Carly rae were pretty wooden so although vanessa was amazing, it’s mainly because her co stars were so much weaker making her the standout

  4. Ashley says:

    Timothy Omundson always nails it on Galavant!

  5. Hudgens absolutely deserves the kudos, especially for deciding to perform despite what I can only imagine to be the one of the most difficult times of her life.

    And Rhys Darby was absolutely hilarious throughout the episode. Every character, actually, brought their “A” game to the spectacularly funny episode.

  6. Ivo says:

    Excellent choice, they were both incredible!!! And I didn’t know about Vanessa father and I was in love with her performance. Her singing was amazing and people would have pointed that out in every possible scenario.

  7. lily says:

    hudgens definitely proved herself in grease live and even if she doesnt get a nomination (which i would be surprised about) she has definitely gained enough positive recognition and reviews to get some good roles in the future. she wouldnt get a nomination because of her tragedy, she would get it for her professional and successful performance.

  8. John Davis says:

    Julianna Margulies was incredible this week.

  9. Mommaknowsbest says:

    Absolutely agree about Hudgens – secretly hoping she’ll get an Emmy nomination as well.

  10. Bianca says:

    She needs to get an Emmy nomination. She was phenomenal. If you think she is getting praised for her fathers death… did you even see grease live?

    • Bianca says:

      and yes, im talking about Vanessa Hudges. And I do want Juls M to get a nomination this year as well because the good wife is one of the best tv shows in the drama genre (: and I feel like she doesn’t get enough recognition.

  11. spindae2 says:

    I didn’t watch Grease Live and I’m not a TGW fan, but my perfomer of the week by far is the Evy actress from American Crime. That show is just on a different level than anything on TV right now.
    The way this girl delivered her lines was exceptional. “Am I a boy to you?!! Am I?” “How many people have to say it is a rape before you start to care!!!!” Purely sublime.

    • abz says:

      I can’t really recall at the moment ever seeing such an immensely talented group of young actors on one show. The younger cast are doing an amazing job. Connor Jessup and Joey Pollari have been doing outstanding jobs. I’m enjoying the show as much watching them as i am watching Regina King and Felicity Huffman. I definitely agree. This show is entirely on another level. It’s so addicting. Each episode goes by so fast and I’m so engrossed by the story and the acting and the emotion. Can’t believe we’re already half-way through the season.
      This season of American Crime is phenomenal and much better than the first which was pretty good. I wish it’d get more coverage here on TVLine than the constant postings about Castle, Arrow, etc.,

      • abz says:

        My one complaint that I have about American Crime though is the censoring. I absolutely hate that black screen thing they’re doing. Bleeping or silencing words is one thing (which I too find annoying), but this technique of using the black screen when the characters swear is just odd and unnecessary. Broadcast networks are so annoying. The show airs at 10pm. If you’re gonna allow the explicit language into the actual script then don’t cut it out or bleep it. Let them say it. What young kids are watching this show anyways?
        And its not just the swearing. They used the black screens when Eric was in that car kissing that older guy and I think again this past episode when that kid approached Taylor in the washroom. It’s really annoying.

      • spindae2 says:

        These “kids” are killing it, I haven’t seen any of them perform earlier (besides Joey in The Inbetweeners) but this is just marvelous. They are so into the character that you feel every sentence they say like it’s your own.
        I watch a lot of TV but I think AC is the best show I ever watched, no show can really compare to it ( Code Black is also a great one, but AC is still above it). I have to say TvLine does acknowledge the shows amazing work with Performer of the week recognition, but they can’t put AC up all the time.

        As for the bleeps, silencing and blackscreens, I have mixed feelings about them. I thing sometimes they are perfectly set but sometimes they just don’t work at all. I really don’t feel them as child proving more as storytelling devices.

        • abz says:

          Yeah I just find them distracting the a lot of the time. It takes me out of it for a second while I’m watching. i just don’t like the censoring in general. If they’re gonna allow the words into the script in the first place, then just let them say and have us hear it. Otherwise I’d rather they not include them at all.
          I read a theory about the possibility that what went down between Eric and Taylor was at first consensual, but that afterwards during the time when Eric left (before he came back to drive Taylor and Evy home) that something happened to Taylor (probably drugged or something) and then those pictures were taken and Taylor might be confusing some of the details of what happened and is putting the blame on Eric which is why Eric is on the defensive. It’s confusing because it’s definitely become a he said, he said thing. I guess more will be revealed about that night hopefully. I hope they don’t leave it too open-ended by the end of the season. That theory certainly might support the suspicion that Kevin was involved in the incident that night somehow. Especially after that talk with Kevin and his teammates reassuring him they weren’t gonna say anything. I feel like Kevin is involved somehow.
          I wonder where the show is going with all this screen time being spent on the coach and his daughter. It feels like a side plot sometimes.

  12. Phun says:

    Congratulations to both Vanessa Hudgens & Julianna Margulies! Well deserved!

  13. D says:

    Saw the original production on Broadway in the late 70’s This was as bad as the movie!!!!!

  14. shadester says:

    i loved TGW performance too.i really liked Quinn’s response too. I really like her character. I like Jason too.

  15. Karen says:

    Only Hudgens deserves anything. Doing what she did hours after her dad died isn’t worthy of a tie with the lying petty actress who wouldn’t film with Archie.

  16. Toady says:

    Excuse me, guys, but did you see The 100? Did you see Eliza Taylor and Alycia Debnam-Carey perform? Shouldn’t they at least get a honorable mention, too?