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11 Most Underappreciated Roles Of Your Favorite TV Actors

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | August 14, 2013 | Comments ()


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John Corbett — “United States Of Tara”: I was thinking the other day about this criminally under-loved show and about what a bang up job John Corbett did as the steady straight man to Toni Collete’s antic disposition. Of course Corbett is much more famous for his sexier roles on “Northern Exposure” and “Sex And The City” (not to mention his tear-inducing turn on “Parenthood”), but as the good (but flawed) guy? The steady husband and pater familias? He was amazing. He faltered, she faltered, but they made it through together. And no one ever gives him credit for it.
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Lee Pace — “Wonderfalls”: Before he was The Piemaker. Before he was The Bandit. Before he was the b*tchiest, sparkliest elf king in all of Middle Earth, Lee Pace stole our hearts as Aaron Tyler on this quirky little gem. Thank goodness series creator Bryan Fuller is fond of recycling his actor (see, also Caroline Dhavernas on “Hannibal”). Sure, sure, he probably should have seriously reconsidered the length of his sideburns, but it was the mid-aughts. None of us were guilt-free.
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Scott Bakula/Andre Braugher — “Men Of A Certain Age: These gents have a lot of credits under their belts for sure. Braugher has been especially unlucky prolific. But both did such a good job in this worn-in TNT dad drama. No I am not giving Ray Romano any credit. You can’t make me and I’m still pissed about the last season of “Parenthood.”
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Kevin McKidd — “Journeyman”: Most people still call Lucius Vorenus from his “Rome” days. And most, regrettably, only know him from his rather dull run on “Grey’s Anatomy.” But this weird little vehicle was perfect for him. It combined just enough sci-fi and San Francisco to fill that “Sliders”-shaped whole in my heart.
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Mary McCormack — “Murder One”: Oh, cripes, Mary here is the only lady on this list. To my shame. Please do throw in your suggestions below. Regardless, McCormack who gained a lot of notice during the dog days of “The West Wing” and that very boring looking “In Plain Sight,” was a force to be reckoned with on “Murder One.” We need to talk about that show more often.
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Nestor Carbonell — “The Tick”: It’s hard to out-funny Patrick Warburton. Really, really hard. But Carbonell (known to most for his work on “Lost” and what he swears is naturally occurring guy liner) pulled it off. Not every episode, mind you, but Batmanuel was an absolute delight.
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Jeremy Piven — “Cupid”: I was as sorry as anyone that the attempted reboot of this series with Bobby Cannavale didn’t work out. Because I loved the stuffing out of this early Rob Thomas show. The role was perfect for Piven who somehow managed to strike the perfect balance between earnest and smarm. Now that he’s become almost a parody of himself (both on “Entourage” and in real life) it’s hard to remember how much charisma he used to be able to harness. Plus, is that his real hairline? Is that the last time we saw it?
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Neal McDonough — “Boomtown”: I’m not sure why “Justified” creator Graham Yost didn’t have a hit on his hands with “Boomtown,” but I do know that McDonough (pre-albino baby head phase) was fantastic. Thankfully, much like Bryan Fuller, Yost knows how to recycle.
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Wilmer Valderamma — “Awake”: Oh save your drama. I know this photo isn’t doing my case any favors, but Valderrama was surprisingly fantastic on his show. I’m so sorry he didn’t get a chance to continue to wipe out the memory of Fez.
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Damian Lewis — “Life”: Lewis is, of course, a TV golden boy these days. And he’ll always be remembered for his excellent work in “Band Of Brothers.” But “Life” has such a fun, perfect fit for him and as “Homeland” continues to decline in quality (it really, really is), this may be the way we’ll wish to remember him.
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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Donna SHerman

    Aaron Tyler is and probably always will be my favourite male character ever. Also you're spot on about...BATMANUEL!

  • Oh, man, Boomtown. I hate NBC for everything they did there.

    I don't know if it would hold up, but I started liking Stockard Channing when I first saw her in The Stockard Channing Show.

  • AudioSuede

    The Fall probably makes as much sense on this list for Lee Pace, since I've only met four people in my life who've seen that movie, and I showed it to two of them.

  • ruby

    I thought that it was beautiful. Then again, I managed to see it on a plane, so.....yeah.....

  • AM

    Are you KIDDING ME. I freaking LOVE that movie so hard. I try to make everyone I meet watch it, too. My dad watched it and at least he liked it, so there's that.

    "I'm not a man who can be loved."

  • Jamie Lannister in 'New Amsterdam'

  • I wanted to like that show so much.

  • Matt Smith

    Can't believe someone other than me actually remembers Cupid. I was CRUSHED when this series got the early hook, definitely one of the most underrated shows ever.

  • Lucy

    Life was a great series and a better showcase for Damian Lewis. I didn't know Lee Pace was in Wonderfalls, now I want to see that! And every other Lee Pace performance I've missed.

    Oh, and Mary McCarthy is great in In Plain Sight. I love the way she is so unaccomodating and plain speaking, well ... rude. Love it. And her partner, played by Frederick Weller, could go on my Pajiba 10 list. Great part, great actor, gorgeous looking.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Portia de Rossi in Better Off Ted.

  • girlwithhat

    You mentioned Wonderfalls! YES and YES!

  • mrsdalgliesh

    You could add Sarah Shahi for her work on "Life." That was a gem of a show and Shahi and Lewis were great as partners. Sarah's pregnancy and absence screwed with the second season and maybe contributed to the cancellation -- but still. The whole first season, and eps like "Badge Bunny" in the 2nd, were terrific. (and Garrett Dillahunt was *creepy* as the main villain.)

  • "'Allo, Batmanuel...On a roof, OF COURSE!"

    Still use that line all the time.

  • Conor

    Sorry Joanna, but it's a scientific FACT that McKidd's most underappreciated role was as Father Deegan from the Christmas episode of Fr. Ted, where he got trapped in Ireland's Largest Lingerie Section.

    THERE'S NO WAY OUT!

  • seth

    Anything Garret Dillahunt.

  • emmalita

    Although he's pretty great on Raising Hope. I've loved watching him play a lovable doofus after so many menacing roles.

  • seth

    Also John from Cincinnati.

  • Eep

    I am Batmanuel size.

  • Muertemaria

    Life and boomtown I watch over and over again. They are both great and gone too soon.

  • e jerry powell

    Tom Wopat on Cybill. Even more underrated than Scott Bakula.

    Of course, short of Morgan Fairchild, everyone on Cybill -- Shepherd, Witt, Pfeiffer, Krause, Masterson, Rosenberg -- were all in Christine Baranski's shade.

  • llp

    Also, I really liked Piven's Cupid series - it was really good. No, really.

  • emmalita

    It was a really good show. I started watching it because I went to college with Jeff Sams, but stayed for the good show.

  • llp

    That photo of Lee Pace from The Fall, in his bandit outfit. Gah. I'll be in his pants.

  • DominaNefret

    I think that is one of the sexiest costumes ever. I keep trying to figure out if I can successfully adapt it as a female Halloween costume, but worry that it won't work due to not being 6'4" and having significant bazonkas.

  • llp

    It is kind of a costume that lends itself to height, although Alexandria did wear a version of it. That movie is just rich in beautiful costumes, though.

  • llp

    I love this.

  • DominaNefret

    Every time that hat is on screen I can't stop staring at it. I am a hat person, I have a HUGE collection of vintage hats from the 30s - 60s, and I just can't handle that hat.
    Which I think is exactly the point. It is so beautiful and well made and the lotus shape is so well done, but it is utterly ludicrous. It irritates the hat-loving hell out of me, and I love the costume designer/milliner for that.

  • llp

    There is a shot of it from the back that I saw online too - it is just so beautiful.

  • DominaNefret

    I wore a lot of JNCOs in middle school, I think I can do it.

  • llp

    I had to look up what JNCOs means. I am not sure what that says about me.

    All that being said, that would be an awesome costume and I hope you do it.

  • DominaNefret

    Were you in late elementary school/middle school/high school 1994 - 1998? If not, your lack of knowledge is probably understandable. Those were their heydays and they were the most popular amongst middle schoolers and high schoolers. (Though I had my first pair in 5th grade. I had a "tom boy" phase.)
    The pairs I got always had the widest legs I could find, and I always got boys pairs, because the girls weren't "tom boy" enough.

    I actually bought black cotton duck fabric and gold trim awhile back, specifically for the purpose of trying to make the costume, and never did it. Chickened out.

  • llp

    I was not - too old, so I must have missed that era.

    You should do it for this year. I kind of want to dress up like Darwin in that crazy coat, but nobody here would understand.

  • emmalita

    Haven't you moved in yet? I was getting a housewarming present ready for you.

  • llp

    Oh no, totally moved in. I just left for a bit, get a bit of air, y'know. What did you get me?

  • emmalita

    An assortment of cranberry juices, a misting fan, some bonbons.

  • llp

    You know me like the back of your hand!

  • I know. I feel like they should put that further down and put a warning. I WAS IN PUBLIC, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

  • llp

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  • weetiger3

    Good list. "Murder One" is one of my all time favorite tv shows. Agreed McCormack was good. "In Plain Sight" was good for the first couple of seasons (albeit mostly due to Frederick Weller), but by the end, meh.

    Loved "The Tick" (Carbonell even made "Suddenly Susan" {almost} worth watching), "Journeyman" (huge McKidd fan since Dog Soldiers) and "Life" (as good as Lewis is in "Homeland", he was better in Life).
    Hey, what do Journeyman, Life, Awake and Boomtown (McDonough makes anything better) have in common? NBC - the bastards.

  • I always called that "Suddenly a Good Time to Do the Dishes."

  • e jerry powell

    Nestor Carbonell and Kathy Griffin mashed together would have made a decent sitcom but for the dead comic weight that is Brooke Shields. I still have a problem with the idea that a style magazine based in San Francisco wouldn't have any gays working outside the mail room.

  • Nadine

    Lee Pace in Soldiers Girl. BECAUSE OF THE FEEEEEELS

    (Also, disqus stopped letting me sign in again. So FUCK DISQUS)

  • Dude. I cried so hard over that...

  • PollyQ

    Before she blew the roof off the dump in "Justified", Margo Martindale was great in a smaller, less dramatic turn in "The Riches." Actually, all the acting was great there, including the kids.

  • e jerry powell

    For some reason I can't remember her on that. But I stopped watching religiously after the end of the first season, and I may not have been paying adequate attention in what I did watch.

  • apsutter

    United States of Tara was such a good freaking show that no one watched and Corbett was great on it. Actually the whole damn cast(minus Charmaine) were wonderful and that show got me totally hooked on Toni Collette. Plus I loved that Patton was part of the cast.

  • e jerry powell

    Patton was FULLY AWESOME on that show and woefully underutilized.

  • Mrs. Julien

    "Who is this giant come to steal my poohs?"

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    I strangely really like Kevin McKidd. I even like him in Grey's Anatomy (my guilty pleasure...it's been 9 seasons dammit, I'm INVESTED now). That said, they're making an Outlander series, though I'm not a huge fan of the book, he'd be great in in considering he's both gingy AND Scottish.

  • I loved Kevin Rahm on Juding Amy which no one my age ever really watched. I didn't want a Vincent replacement, but he won me over anyway as cousin Kyle.
    Kathryn Hahn was pretty good on Crossing Jordan as well, although she's still kind of under the radar.

  • DominaNefret

    I was just going to mention Crossing Jordan. I love the entire supporting cast in that. INCLUDING Jerry O'Connell.
    Of course Nigel and Bug aren't really well known now, but they were great.
    I actually think the show was overall underappreciated, and one of the more unique/interesting procedurals.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm still quite heartbroken about Tara. It made me forget that John Corbett is a born-again Bo Derek boy toy.

  • Arran

    To be fair, weird as it seems, she's only a few years older than him. It just seems like more because she's been around forever and he's been around slightly less forever.

  • e jerry powell

    I need to apologize for ragging on Bo Derek, but it upsets me when marginally-talented Republicans (and let's be real about this; to borrow a phrase from Cheryl Ladd, Bo Derek = Farrah Fawcett Minor) whine about not being able to get acting gigs because HOLLYWOOD LIBERAL BIAS as though the entertainment industry owes them a living.

    So I'm sorry for being so unreservedly mean to a person I don't know.

  • Of all the things I thought I'd never see on this site or comment thread, one was a reference to a bit of Cheryl Ladd wisdom.

    And a couple hours after randomly coming across a 'Charlie's Angels' episode this morning before checking out of hotel. My 13-year-old self was so smitten with Cheryl Ladd.

  • e jerry powell

    True, but (and I'll get a beatdown for saying this) many of the people here were barely alive -- if they were alive at all -- during Cheryl Ladd's tenure as Kris Monroe. And I would've just turned 10 years old when Farrah started making return appearances as a "Special Guest Star" with the Angels, so most "Charlie's Angels" references here are more likely to be related to Lucy Liu.

  • e jerry powell

    More to the point, she was around since she was underage and shacked up with John Derek in Europe until she was old enough to legally marry him here.

    Dammit, I have to have my bitch switch removed.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    No, you don't. Leave the bitch switch turned on! (but maybe switch to energy efficient)

  • apsutter

    He's what?!

  • e jerry powell

    You didn't know?

    He's a lapsed Catholic/born-again Christian and he's been shacked up with that worn-out husk of a Republican cougar Bo Derek for quite some time (2002, if memory serves).

    Christianism aside, "shacked up" is the appropriate term, because he's gone on record that it's less than likely he'll ever get married or make any babies (and since Derek is likely post-menopausal...).

    Oops. When did I flip the bitch switch? Apologies.

  • apsutter

    Oh man...why do all the likable seeming celebs have to be tainted by shit like Scientology or an intense crazy level of Christianity?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    He's still the least crazy/Christian Northern Exposure alum by a long shot. And for that matter, just being born-again doesn't necessarily mean hardcore Christian or crazy (esp not if he's 'living in sin,' as it were).

  • e jerry powell

    True. Janine Turner will be duking it out with Barry Corbin for a while.

  • Homestar

    I also loved Cupid. It was sweet and funny and smart. What happened to Piven is really a shame.

  • Why is it that it's doesn't appear to be available through any streaming service? Everywhere I've looked - Netflix, Hulu, etc. Is it karmic retribution for Piven's deal with the devil, that any evidence of him portraying a compelling, nuanced character is stricken from the inter webs?

  • Homestar

    It must be.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Oh, Lucius Vorenus. Your misadventures with Titus Pullo were the BEST. (also, your homoerotic tension with James Puresex's Marc Antony)

  • Those guys will always be Vorenus and Pullo to me. always.

  • hindulovegod

    I loved Batmanuel, and not just because of all of his good press.

  • $27019454

    I love him for all his parking tickets.

  • Fruity Fonzie

    Batmanuel is the most amazing thing ever :D

  • Sherry

    I loved both versions of The Tick--cartoon and live action. Terribly sad neither lived on. "Spoon!" was the original "Hodor!" IMO.

  • It was so good we adapted it as a call on our rugby team. "Spoon!"

    The Tick was the best. "Losing consciousness..."

  • $27019454

    My God how I love Batmanuel.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Hey now! Easy on the sideburns! Some of us look super weird without them, and even weirder with a full beard*.

    *A full beard makes me look like an Amish Viking since, while Scandinavio-Scotch-Franco-Cree genetics offer me the metabolism of a boy half my age, they also offer me that boy's mustache.

  • emmalita

    I feel like I should demand pictures.

  • Mrs. Julien

    or GTFO, right?

  • emmalita

    It's such an evocative description that I want to see an illustration. Sometimes I like visuals with my words.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    I don't know if it's underappreciated, but Felicity Huffman was spectacular on SPORTS NIGHT before getting a bit higher profile on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Can we get Dana Whitaker to move over from CSC to ACN?

  • idiosynchronic

    Wait . . You could put Damian Lewis on this list, but not Sarah Shahi? Or Donal Logue?

  • DominaNefret

    I know everyone is enamored with Terriers, I'M enamored with Terriers, but Donal Logue in Life has my heart.
    You know when you are really attracted to someone, and gosh-darn you can't really explain why you are attracted to them, and you kind of feel like you really shouldn't be attracted to them, and you can't really explain why you feel that way either, but GOSH-DARN you are attracted to them?
    Donal Logue in Life epitomizes that for me. Confused attraction.
    Damien Lewis gives one of my favorite performances ever in that, and Sarah Shahi is SO HOT, but Donal Logue is the one who gives me flutterbyes and I daydream about.

  • Ruthie O

    Well, every role of Sarah Shahi's career is underappreciated. She's an absolute gem and deserves way more recognition and quality work in the TV world.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm still up in the air about Shahi on L Word. But that may be mostly Ilene Chaiken's fault.

  • Ruthie O

    Oh man. I read your comment, and realized that I had never seen Shahi in one of her biggest roles, The L Word. It's been on my to-watch list for a while now. And, I just discovered that the series is on Netflix Instant View.

    So basically, within a few seconds of reading your comment, I have committed to marathoning The L Word. I will enter the wonderful world of TV show marathons, where pants are not only not required, but discouraged; where take-out is the only food group; where my friends and family start to feel concerned about the fact I talk about TV characters like they are my friends in real life. I'm stoked.

    (I just left my long-time job to go back to grad school, and school doesn't start in a few weeks. I know Pajibans won't be critical of my TV marathon habits, but I still feel the need to explain that I am, in fact, a productive, contributing member of society, despite my hatred of pants and love of Netflix.)

  • alannaofdoom

    Word to the wise: SKIP THE OPENING CREDITS THEY ARE THE WORST. LITERALLY. THE WORST. OH GOD I AM HAVING FLASHBACKS.

  • Ruthie O

    I had no idea what you were talking about. There aren't really opening credits during the first season.

    Then, the second season arrived. And I instantly knew what you were talking about. Holy crap. They must have TRIED to make the worst opening credits of all time. There is no other explanation. Just, wow.

  • e jerry powell

    DAMN YOU, ELIZABETH ZIFF!

  • e jerry powell

    But she was only on the show for the second and third seasons, and around the end of the third the show went all to shit (personal opinion, not objective or statistical fact) when Chaiken decided that there weren't characters anymore, only walking plot devices.

    But the first three seasons were mostly pain-free, and Shahi got to be part of that. As did Eric Mabius and his lovely backside.

  • Ruthie O

    Three episodes in, and I'm totally hooked. Sex and the City has nothing on the honest, fun conversations on The L Word. Seriously.

    And wow. Eric Mabius is so much hotter in this than he ever was in Ugly Betty. And the cheestastic, but hot sex scenes every ten minutes or so? Hello, lions. Oh, and I love Jennifer Beals. So much.

    ETA: PAM MOTHERFUCKING GRIER. This cast is amazing.

    Thanks again!

  • e jerry powell

    ALWAYS PAM MOTHERFUCKING GRIER!

    ^5

    If ABC had let Mabius ever be completely naked on "Ugly Betty," things could have been much livelier, yes, but they kind of made up for it (a little bit) when they let Grant Bowler go all Ursula Andress in season four. But even with that, Bowler was even sexier as Cooter on "True Blood," so...

  • $65530708

    Michael Cudlitz - John Cooper, Southland.

    Lucy Liu - Jessica Tang - Southland.

    HM: Caroline Dhavernas - Wonderfalls and Brie Larson - U.S.of.T.

  • Guest

    PS. The photo of Lewis is so Carrie Mathison.

  • PerpetualIntern

    That linked photo of Lee Pace just made me ugly snort water onto my desk.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I love it. If it were me, I'd be prancing around singing "I'm the prettiest prettiest princess in all Elfland!"

  • PerpetualIntern

    I kind of want to make it my desktop background. Is that weird?

  • duchessjms

    No... no, I'm with you. There is a part of me that is horrified and a part that is weirdly turned on.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Nuthin' weird about it. Trouble is, once the glitter gets on you, its impossible to get it off. And it gets EVERYWHERE. Or so I hear.

  • TheMercurialMan

    Damn, "Life" was a great show.

  • DominaNefret

    I will hate Leno forever for being the cause of its cancellation.

  • e jerry powell

    I will hate Leno forever just for being Leno.

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