Monday, September 8, 2008

The Golden Age of TV: Actors You Just Can't Get Enough Of

Since Ive been busy, I haven't been able to support my Golden Age of TV idea as much as I wanted. I only got two posts out, and I've been planning this one for a while and never got around to it. So this'll be the last Golden Age of TV post for a while, unless I get less busy and more inspired in the real near future.

There's a certain brand of actor out there that I just can't get enough of. And I mean that literally, not figuratively. Figuratively, I just can't get enough of, say, Michael Caine. But hell, Michael Caine was a major leading man for three decades and has been a major character actor since. You could watch a Michael Caine movie a week and it would take you years to watch every movie with either a lead role or meaty supporting role.

Phillip Baker Hall is another matter altogether. I figuratively cannot get enough of him. But I also literally can't; I've only ever seen one movie where he has a leading role (Hard Eight), although I know there's a couple more out there. But for the most part, if you want Phillip Baker Hall, we're talking bit parts. We're talking 10 minutes in Rush Hour, 5 in Rush Hour 2, 15 in Zodiac, 7 in In Good Company, and some Holiday Inn Express commercials. That's what you have to wade through to try to get enough Phillip Baker Hall.

So I'm devoting the rest of this post to unobtainable actors, actors who I couldn't get enough of figuratively and literally, but who, unlike Hall, have found a place in The Golden Age of TV where they're beamed into our house once a week. Many of these actors started in TV before I was born or when I was a wee one, spent most of my lifetime in films, and have finally returned to the small screen, now that it's worth watching.

1.Tony Shalhoub
Show: Monk
Leading Film Roles: None

Tony Shalhoub is the king of this category. Either while enduring or after leaving the depressingly dull sitcom Wings, Shalhoub was a supporting actor ace, Coening it up in The Man Who Wasn't There, Barton Fink, and Miller's Crossing, and just plain being awesome in Men in Black and Galaxy Quest. But those 5 roles combined probably don't have an hour of screentime. Now, with Monk, you can see Shaloub on camera for an hour every single week. It's like striking character actor gold.

2.Bruce Campbell
Show: Burn Notice
Leading Film Roles: 5-10

Bruce Campbell's career can be broken down into three main categories: cultish lead parts in a handful of movies (Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep), bad lead roles in terrible TV shows (Brisco County Jr, Jack of All Trades), and miniscule film roles in everything from Coen Brothers movies to McHale's Navy. Suffice to say, after you've watched the cult movies, there wasn't much left worth watching just for Bruce, until Burn Notice. As a spy's sidekick, Bruce is a hard-drinking, hard-punching ladies man in a Hawaiian shirt. I hope the show goes on forever, and I would watch it just for him.

3.James Cromwell
Show: Six Feet Under
Leading Film Roles: 0-5 (pretty much just Babe)

Like many others of my generation, I was first exposed to Cromwell in that masterpiece that is Babe. Since then, I'm still looking for another leading role for him. Sure, he's great in great stuff like L.A. Confidential and The Queen and in crap like I, Robot and The Sum of All Fears. Unfortunately, I haven't seen Six Feet Under, but the evidence is piling up that I need to. I'll probably be the only person watching it for James Cromwell, though.

4. Alec Baldwin
Show: 30 Rock
Leading Film Roles: 0-5 (in comedies)

Alec Baldwin's career as leading man in dramas and action movies pretty much disappeared on impact. But since that career imploded in the 90s, SNL fans have known that he's one of the funniest people in the universe. But to see him being funny, you had to either Youtube SNL, acknowledge the fact that The Departed is actually an action-comedy, or sit through dreck like Along Came Polly, Cat in the Hat, and Elizabethtown. Now you can just turn on the TV and relish 30 rock. Although I do recommend The Departed.

5.Ron Perlman
Show: Sons of Anarchy
Leading Film Roles: 0-5

I'm aware of the ancient Ron Perlman holy grail, Beauty and the Beast, which is just a bit before my time. Outside of that, you've got the Hellboy twofer, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's City of Lost Children, and bit roles in everything from Alien Resurrection to In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. That's not pretty. There's only been one Sons of Anarchy episode so far, but it was a good un, and Perlman was great as the Godfather of a biker gang. I assume it will only get better.

6.Harvey Keitel
Show: Life on Mars
Leading Film Roles: 0-5

Martin Scorsese's original method muse quickly became a second, third, or fourth fiddle to the De Niro juggernaut. Since his brief heyday as a leading man, he's mostly just done crap or been an ensemble player in quality stuff like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Get Shorty. He's coming to the small screen this year in Life On Mars, the second attempt to do a U.S. remake of a show about a cop who goes back in time to the 70s (or something. Believe me, this whole situation has me confused). The role doesn't look huge, but I'll check the show out, just for Keitel. This one is pure potential.

Well, I'm sure I left lots and lots of people out. And I notice this post is totally missing the ladies; I guess Kyra Sedgwick would count, but I'm afraid I don't know her as a film actor and I haven't seen a single episode of The Closer. So I need some help here. Post away.


darkcitydame4e said...

"I don't watch that much TV and I especially watch virtually no TV as it come on TV..."
Well,...Hello! Graham,
Personally, I hope to become a "Netflix" Kind of "Chick" myself!... Television?!? What is Television?...Oh! something that is a "portal" for all of my films on dvds.
Oops!... is this a "rerun" or a "repeat" for me! ;)

The date below is when I first said,these....
(August 29, 2008 3:19 PM'

Robot said...

As for Shaloub - you've never seen "Big Night"?

Graham said...

I haven't. Is that the one with Tucci or Platt or some other hack that looks really not funny? Is it actually funny?

Robot said...

Tucci. It isn't really supposed to be funny. It has its amusing moments, but it isn't really a comedy. You should see it; the worst that happens is you get a Shaloub feature film fix.