This week, it was announced that Robin Williams — the 7th highest grossing feature film actor of all time — would be returning to his television roots to star in “Crazy Ones,” a David E. Kelley comedy for CBS about a father and daughter who work together in an advertising agency. It probably shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise: Robin Williams hasn’t had a hit movie over a decade, and he’s been guest starring in television shows like “Louie,” and “Wilfred.” The bigger surprise is that he chose CBS over a network like FX, but given his age and CBS’s demographic, maybe it makes better business sense.
It’s not just Williams, of course, who has made the jump from major film star to television: Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are in House of Cards, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have a detective series coming out together on FX, Kevin Bacon is on the miserable “The Following,” Eddie Murphy is returning — at least in some capacity — to television with a TV version of “Beverly Hills Cop,” and even John Goodman is going back again, starring in a series for Amazon. A lot of feature film actors whose best years were behind them have managed to resurrect their careers on the small screen, and thanks to the increasing narrative complexity of much of television, their doing the best work of their lives. If Robin Williams and the second highest grossing feature film actor of all time, Eddie Murphy, are returning to television, then anyone can.
Here are 11 more washed-up Hollywood actors who should consider making the transition.
Arnold Schwarzennegar/Sylvester Stallone — As January has demonstrated, these two guys are completely incapable of opening a film on their own (see Bullet to the Head, The Last Stand) and even The Expendables franchise has lost its novelty. These guys are pretty much done as feature-film actors, notwithstanding a series of films each currently have in production (I’m betting that many will go in turnaround). So why not join forces on television? They’d be great on TNT, where all their films are in constant rotation, and they could star in a lightweight drama about two over-the-hill rival stuntmen who decide to go into business together as private detectives. They’ll solve crimes, beat the crap out of people, and say “I’m too old for this sh*t” at least twice an episode.
Tom Hanks — He’s the highest-grossing actor of all time, and he’s also the second most likable actor in Hollywood now (behind Michael J. Fox, who is also returning to his own series this fall), but Hanks hasn’t had a solid hit in four years, and even that was a disappointing Da Vinci Code sequel. What most of us miss about Hanks is his comedy, which he really doesn’t do except on talk shows (where’s he’s always brilliant). He has a great working relationship with HBO (thanks to the WWII mini-series) and I think plenty of people would turn out to see Hanks on television again, perhaps reviving his That Thing You Do! character in a dramedy series focussed on the music industry in the 1960s.
Julia Roberts — The second-highest grossing female actress of all time (behind Cameron Diaz) has kind of hobbled through the last decade of her career. There was at one point, an Erin Brockovich television series in development, and with Steven Soderbergh retiring from making movies (saying that movies are “irrelevant”), it’d be fitting if he decided to try his hand at a dramatic series, probably for a network like FX. I’d watch a serial legal drama that starring Roberts that might take on one giant case each season, and the two of them could probably pull the biggest cameos on the small screen.
Orlando Bloom — What happened to this guy? He’s been fairly useless outside of the Pirates of Caribbean and Lord of the Rings series, and those won’t be around forever (or will they?) He’s a not good, very bad actor, and honestly, he doesn’t deserve better than a network show that’ll probably be cancelled within a month. He might survive in a strong ensemble (after all, that’s how he’s managed so far), and since ABC is trying to build out their success with Once Upon a Time with other, similarly-themed shows, maybe Bloom could land on one of them. In fact, they’re doing a Once Upon a Time-like drama with characters from the Van Helsing universe, and I’m sure that Bloom could pull off the wooden lead who passively watches the action occur around him.
Mike Myers — Myers kind of screwed his own career, selling out too hard with a series of overly broad comedies and sequels He’s a gifted comedic actor, but also kind of limited. He could be good in the right role, but given his age and his limitations, I’m not sure that role exists on network television: At best, I could see is a scene-stealing, crazy drunken uncle on a irreverent family sitcom.
Keanu Reeves — Keanu!? Where are you? He’s has a few little-seen indies in recent years, but Keanu hasn’t had a major hit since the last Matrix movie in 2003. But you know what he was good in? Street Kings. He’s good cop material, and he’d probably excel in a serialized cop drama with procedural elements on a network like TNT. They could even go Breaking Bad with it: Reeves could play a sympathetic anti-hero crooked cop trying to stay ahead of Internal Affairs to support a lavish bachelor lifestyle.
Liv Tyler — Tyler’s last minor hit was The Strangers, and that’s kind of been it outside since The Lord of the Rings. I could definitely see her taking in a quirky mom role in a Showtime dramedy, another housewife with a secret life kind of show. While the kids are at school, and Dad is at work, she operates as a high-end escort, not for the money, but to bring some excitement back into her dreary suburban life.
Rene Russo — Thor is the only thing she’s done in 8 years, and honestly, I barely remember her from that. But she’s a decent actress, though perhaps she’s been aged out of Hollywood. No matter. Television would love her. In fact, she’d be perfect in a period drama. I’m sure that future seasons of Game of Thrones would have a need for a wicked matriarchal role, and I think she’d be brilliant in that.
Val Kilmer — I don’t like reality television, and neither does the FX Network, but what would be better than an FX reality show called “Fat Kilmer”? What’s it about? It follows Kilmer as he dines — always alone — at the best restaurants in the country, and the strange and bizarre conversations he has with the waitstaff and other patrons along the way. I hope someone is listening to me, because this show would be gold.
Jodie Foster — Although she recently came out (kind of), it’s unlikely to change Jodie Foster’s box-office fortunes. Last modest hit? 2006’s Inside Man. Yes, she has Elysium out this summer with Matt Damon, but who would not love to her and, say, Portia de Rossi in an irreverent sitcom about a high-powered lesbian couple who work as political consultants for opposing parties (Foster would be the Republican, obviously). Basically, it’s a lesbian James Carville and Mary Matalin, only there’s a twist: They each have to come home each night and be loving mothers to their quirky brood of children.