Some TV shows we choose to watch are obviously at least 43% sex appeal. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. So go ahead and watch heated arguments between the various Abercrombie models on “The Vampire Diaries,” their meticulously gelled hair vibrating with the intensity of their “acting.” Or, hey, enjoy the obvious eye candy populating some of our favorite sitcoms. Your Vergaras, Bries and Coupes. But the folks on the list today are the surprises. These are actors that, for the most part, we never thought of “that way” before they landed their current role. But there’s something about their character, their performance, their facial hair that caught us off-guard. If you saw them in a magazine spread without any context, you might not quite get it. But whatever they’re doing, it’s working.
Brendan Coyle/Mr. Bates—“Downton Abbey”: I suspect the matinee idol of this ITV import was supposed to be cousin Matthew. But that hasn’t been the case, has it? Rather it’s the buttoned-up Mr. Bates who hobbled away with all the glory. Though his plot line in Seasons 2 and 3 leave much to be desired, he still continues to inexplicably smolder.
Louis CK/Louie—“Louie”: CK has been on the scene for a long time and while there’s always been something alluring about the intelligence behind his stand-up routines, it wasn’t until he laid it all on the table in “Louie” that everyone really sat up and took notice. There was a column in this week’s issue of “Entertainment Weekly” contrasting the male writer/director/actor tendency to make oneself look good (see Ben Affleck in Argo or The Town) with the female tendency to expose personal vulnerabilities (see Tina Fey in “30 Rock” or Lena Dunham in “Girls). It was a flimsy piece and the sweeping gender bias can be undone with one word: “Louie.” It’s that vulnerability and unflinching honesty that makes CK so attractive. The cute scenes with his little girls don’t hurt either.
Silas Weir Mitchell/Monroe—“Grimm”: Somehow, in a show with one of those aforementioned Abercrombie models in the lead, the sweater wearing, cuckoo clock loving hipster werewolf (begging your pardon, “Blutbad”) is the sexiest thing going.
Lily Rabe/Sister Mary Eunice—“American Horror Story”: Regrettably the only female on this list (because of reasons), Lily Rabe was sensational last season on “American Horror Story.” But this year, since she’s been possessed, she is blowing the doors off the mental institution. Fulfilling all the dark sexy nun fantasies, but intelligently, she’s been a total treat and a complete surprise.
David Morrissey/The Governor—“The Walking Dead”: Full confession, Morrissey was the inspiration for this list. I’ve seen him in dozens of BBC productions (most notably “State of Play” and that one terrible “Doctor Who” episode) but he never raised my temperature one single degree. He always seemed bland, like a very tall pudding. But since he swaggered onto the scene as The Governor, I’ve completely reversed my opinion. (Norman Reedus almost stole this spot after last night’s baby-related shenanigans, but my love for him goes back to the Boondock Saints days, so the real surprise here is how long they hid Daryl’s sex appeal from the viewers.)
Benedict Cumberbatch/Sherlock Holmes—“Sherlock”: Blah blah blah, he’s an alien. Grumble, grumble I don’t get what you people see in him. Etc. etc. I CAN TELL YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED “SHERLOCK.” If you had, you wouldn’t be arguing.
Danny Pudi/Abed—“Community”: Between the Bries, Glovers and the McHales, Pudi has a lot of competition on the set of “Community.” And the lanky nerd is not suposed to draw focus. Maybe it’s because he speaks our mildly autistic pop culture language, or maybe it’s the times he’s put on a more commanding demeanor (e.g. as Batman), but there is certainly something completely, surprisingly sexy about Pudi.
Bryan CranstonWalter White—“Breaking Bad”: There should be NOTHING sexy about Walter White. In his earliest incarnations he was a milquetoast, tighty-whitey-wearing symbol of frustrated masculinity. Subsequently he’s become an absolute monster. But Cranston’s performance is so damn engaging, so completely brilliant, that it’s hard to surpress the attendant tingles.
Nick Offerman/Ron Swanson—“Parks & Recreation”: The man has somehow outsexed Rob Lowe. Wrap your head around that.