Television shows have always enjoyed throwing big name guest stars into the mix, and while their cameos and seasonal arcs can be enjoyable, sometimes they just distract from the main event. There’s a tricky balance interlopers must try to achieve — jumping in without completely disrupting, or overtaking the whole thing. Certain genres (comedy) seem to provide easier ins and outs for rotating star rosters (see Louie). Dramas seem more hit and miss; for every Mad Men, there’s…well, for starters, there’s these four series that have been able to integrate some great people, but also stumbled with a few less than stellar guest turns.
(Mild) Spoiler alert for each series listed.
Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen
With the many mad Mads fans we have around these parts, we were excited to see his brother cast as a big, bad Sherlock villain. Trouble was, neither Magnussen nor Mikkelsen came off “terrifying” or evil (his big bad was easily defeated), perhaps due to the series’ other brilliant foe.
Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty,
Speaking of Mikkelsens, Scott’s Moriarty is right up there near Hannibal, himself. Simply delicious (and some of us still hope he’s not gone for good).
Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan
While some fans were put off by the changes to Mary’s character, for others, hers was an interesting twist. Both before and after the reveal, Abbington played John’s delightfully duplicitous bride to the nines.
(p.s. The Sherlock special began filming today)
2. American Horror Story: Freak Show
Gabourey Sidibe as Regina Ross
What a waste! While it can be nice to pop in a special appearance by an amazing actress, this Ross cameo wasn’t worth Sidibe’s (or our) time. A phone call, then a quick visit to Dandyland, and poof! — she was gone.
John Carroll Lynch as Twisty
In what may have been his most foolish AHS move, Ryan Murphy killed off Lynch’s supremely watchable (and unpredictable) Twisty the terrifying clown. And once Twisty left…Freak Show devolved into an unwatchable mess.
Wes Bentley as Edward Mordrake
In merely two Mordrake-heavy (as opposed to Sidibe’s short scenes) episodes, Bentley managed to infuse freak-town with as much fear as Twisty spread through the rest of the neighborhood. His devilish (yet charming), double-datable Edward temporarily infused every character with new life. Well, except that one he took.
3. Sons of Anarchy
Marilyn Manson as Ron Tully, and Courtney Love as Ms. Harrison
Two utterly pointless and uninteresting cameos; both characters could have been played by no-names or extras, and had about the same impact.
Walton Goggins as Venus Van Dam
Making up for everything that went wrong with Sons’ final season isn’t easy, but Goggins — he’s the miracle man…er woman. With not one false note, his alternately strong and broken Venus was everything that Tig (and we) ever needed.
Michael Rapaport as Daryl Crowe Jr.
Whether it was the awful accent, or just a poor fit between character and actor, Rapaport’s entire stint as another rogue Crowe was cringeworthy, and seriously outdone by…
Jacob Lofland as Kendal Crowe
Perhaps this young dog could teach that older one a new trick or two; Lofland’s one to watch. The young actor killed it as the youngest Crowe, consistently caught in the middle of his warped, manipulative family’s machinations.
Alicia Witt as Wendy Crowe
Fast talking and smart, Witt’s tougher-than-most-of-the-boys Wendy Crowe expertly maneuvered her way through family and legal trouble alike. Her turn as a pushed-too-far mother was so good, Witt should be put on a Justified pedestal — right alongside Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett.