I love a good ensemble television show, and usually, when there are ensembles, people gravitate toward their favorites. When the acting in those ensembles is worthy, some of those even get award nominations, which probably makes them feel fuzzy inside while also validating our own opinions of those particular actors. But then there are the many others in those ensembles who, after not getting the nominations we think they so rightly deserve, drive us to gnash our teeth and call those darn Emmy voters scalleywags and wish harm upon their mothers.
This list is not about any of those people. It’s about seven male actors who not only don’t get awards recognition, but don’t even elicit outrage when they’re not considered. And yet, in my mind at least, they provide a lot to the shows they are part of. Sometimes, their roles are minor, but they make the most of those roles. In other cases, they quietly hold up these shows; they are the glue that binds the characters, their dilemmas, and their narratives. You might not think about them very much while they’re there, but you’d probably miss them a hell of a lot if they were gone.
These are the 7 Most Unsungiest Male Actors on Television
7, Nick Offerman, “Parks and Recreation” — Amy Poehler gets the accolades; Aziz Ansari gets all the love; Rashida Jones get the movie parts; and Aubrey Plaza gets the cult following. But it’s Nick Offerman — as the stubborn conservative ass with a huge kernel of heart underneath — that really makes this ensemble as good as it is. He may in fact have the driest wit on comedy television, and the best episodes invariably are the ones that focus the most on Ron. Plus, he’s almost unrecognizable without the mustache.
6. Brad Leland, “Friday Night Lights” — Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton make the best couple on television (and both were Emmy nominated last year, finally); Taylor Kitsch gets all the Google searches, and Zach Gilford even got some Emmy consideration this year for his powerful turn in the most heartbreaking episodes of television last year. But Brad Leland — who plays Buddy Garitty — has been exceptional during the entire series run. He’s a sleazy used car salesman who cheats on his wife, blows his daughter’s college savings, and back-stabs his high-school alma mater, and yet, somehow, he’s remained sympathetic throughout — a guy that makes bad decisions, but isn’t really a bad person.
5. Paul Lieberstein, “The Office” — Nobody ever talks about Toby. This guy takes an enormous amount of shit from Michael Scott — for no good reason — and he somehow puts up with it. He got completely blown off by Pam, who wasn’t exactly kind about it, and whenever he’s on the screen, it’s invariably so someone can put him down. Why does everyone hate Toby so much? What did he do to anyone? He does his job, which isn’t an easy one in that office; he takes people’s shit; and he miserably shakes his head when forced to watch Ryan and Kelly make out. And he’s quietly hilarious. Of all the background characters on “The Office,” it’s usually Creed or Kevin that get the most attention. I think Toby’s the best. And be honest: How many of you even knew this guy’s name before today?
4. Ian Gomez, “Cougar Town” — I’m probably completely alone on this one. If you folks were wondering what happened to “Scrubs’” Turk and & JD, Ian Gomez is the Turk to Bobby’s JD. Andy is whipped and proud of it; he’s a great Dad, owns his straight-man homoeroticism, and quietly provides a large percentage of the show’s humor (and if you’re not watching “Cougar Town,” because of its title, or because you quit after the first few episodes, you should give it another shot — it’s grown into the rightful successor to “Scrubs”).
3. Dax Shepard, “Parenthood” — Nobody liked the idea of Dax Shepard being a part of this ensemble — this is the guy from “Punk’d” and Without a Paddle and he looks like what would happen if Ashton Kutcher and Johnny Knoxville had a face-first collision. Still, stuck with the most implausible storyline on the show — he finds out he has a black son with a woman he hasn’t seen in five years — he’s doing one hell of a job of selling it. He’s a daffy, free-spirited guy who doesn’t want to end up like his domesticated older brother, but every week, that warm, gentle father within comes closer to the surface, and Shepard has made every second of it believable.
2. Josh Charles “The Good Wife” — Is this an old person’s show, and if so, does my enjoyment of it make me an old person? Because this is the only legal drama on television worth my time. Most of the attention is paid to Julianna Margulies — who I didn’t much care for before this show — and Archie Panjabi, who deserves every ounce of attention she receives. But my favorite character on this show is actually Josh Charles — his Will Gardner is outrageously charismatic, confident, boyishly good looking, sometimes a little on the unethical side, and the only guy who is even in the same league as Margulies. If you still miss Josh Charles from “Sports Night,” this is a pretty decent simulation — he’s a little less cocky, but has a lot more gravitas.
1. Jared Harris, “Mad Men” — Harris is a long-time character actor, though if you only knew him from “Mad Men,” you might not even recognize him in his other roles. He hasn’t received or been nominated for any awards for his crucial role on “Mad Men,” and to the best of my knowledge, he’s rarely acknowledged as deserving one. This show’s attention is largely focused on Jon Hamm because he’s fantastic; Christina Hendricks because she’s gorgeous; Elisabeth Moss, because she deserves it; January Jones, because we love to hate her; and John Slattery, who gets the awards recognition. Even Vincent Kartheiser has something of a large following. But Jared Harris — who plays Lane Pryce — rarely gets the props, even though the character was instrumental in separating the old firm from the new one, and even as we’ve become more and familiar with his bizarre and compelling life outside of the office: An abusive father, an ex-wife who doesn’t respect his work; former employers who crapped all over him; and, of late, an affair with an African American stripper. And yet, in the office, he maintains that repressed, British stuffiness, which is what makes the out-of-office revelations so wonderfully surprising.