Is Rob Lowe The Greatest TV Actor Of The Last 20 Years?
No. No way, right? I mean, it’s Rob Lowe! He’s a member of the “brat pack,” a wannabe collection of middling, forgettable 80s actors who only even had a ‘name’ in comparison to a much cooler, more well known pack.
Right? I mean look at that group. Is anyone even relevant anymore?
Yep. Rob Lowe is.
So, let’s get the polarizing stuff out of the way first. Things like this really set people off:
Watching Bernie Sanders. He's hectoring and yelling at me WHILE he's saying he's going to raise our taxes. Interesting way to communicate.— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) January 26, 2016
He also seems to have a thing about closed borders and maybe some xenophobia and a conservative tilt. Okay. So does Peyton Manning. So do a bunch of other people. Understanding that we all may not agree with his politics, and that’s OK because this is America, let’s look at the question at hand. (After yesterday’s troll parade I’m at my wit’s end with crusty jugglers.)
Is Rob Lowe the greatest TV actor of the last 20 years?
And the answer is yes! I mean, I can’t believe it either, but this is his body of work:
1999-2006 The West Wing: Sam Seaborn — 84 Episodes
2006-2010 Brothers & Sisters: Robert McCallister - 78 Episodes
2011-2014 Californication: Eddie Nero — 6 Episodes
2010-2015 Parks and Recreation: Chris Traeger — 77 Episodes
2015-2016 The Grinder : Dean Sanderson — 12 Episodes (so far)
2015-2016 You, Me and the Apocalypse: Father Jude Sutton — 8 Episodes (so far)
There were, of course, lots of other series mixed in here, things like the brutal Dr. Vegas (2004-2006) and a long list of guest spots and DirecTV commercials and narration gigs and the like, but look, just look at that body of work. I mean, he has two hit network shows right now and he’s 50 years old!
Some comments I anticipate:
“Sam Seaborn was the absolute worst thing about The West Wing”
“Chris Traeger made me want to rip my face off he was so one note and irritating. That’s why they paired him with Anne and shitcanned them both off the show.”
“I haven’t seen The Grinder.”
“Nothing pulls me out of a scene faster than watching Rob Lowe pretend like he knows how to smoke.”
“I haven’t seen You, Me and the Apocalypse.”
“He’s a conceited douche.”
“He’s all looks and no talent.”
“He plays the exact same character on every show and has zero range.”
OK, now let’s define “greatest.” I don’t think anyone is going to confuse Rob Lowe with Denzel Washington. I wouldn’t go so far as to say more than he’s a ‘good’ actor who sometimes approaches the ‘very good’ actor range. But in the world of television, which changes so quickly and churns people out, is there anyone who has managed to stay more relevant over the last two decades than Rob Lowe? Isn’t there greatness in being an integral part of so many things that people cared about? Isn’t there greatness in weathering more storms than anyone else? Look at the shows above, he’s not an ancillary character. He’s like front and center in every one!
Frankly, the best actual ‘acting’ I’ve ever seen from him has probably been on The Grinder (though, Fred Savage should get a trillion bonus points for his role) and as the literal Vatican ‘Devil’s Advocate’ on You, Me and the Apocalypse. His job on that show is to prosecute the people that the church wants to canonize and prove why they’re frauds. It’s kind of the greatest role for an actor and he kills it. That role has a chance to let him shine more than ever. We’ll see, but based on the one episode I’ve seen, I recommend it.
So, setting aside his politics. Setting aside the fact that he and John Stamos are both probably aging in a portrait somewhere and might already belong to the devil.
Setting aside personal grievances and maybe just that you don’t like him (or do). Setting aside all of that, can you point to a single person — man or woman — who has built up this kind of resume in TV over the last twenty years? Is there even anyone in the ballpark? Kristen Bell, maybe? Michael Chiklis? Timothy Olyphant? Michael C. Hall? Kyle Chandler? Nathan Fillion? Peter Krause? Mark Harmon? Walton Goggins? Can any of them say they’ve picked as many long-running shows? Who else has picked so many winners?
Rob Lowe is the greatest, most relevant, most show-carrying, most predictably marketable, most unwaveringly solid and professional TV actor of the last quarter century. Like it or not, it’s probably the truth.