Connie Britton (Mrs. Coach Taylor, if you’re nasty) will be appearing in one of this Fall’s weirdest offerings, “American Horror.” I don’t know much about the show, which premieres tonight (Wednesday) at 10pm other than the fact that a) the dudes who made “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck” are behind it b) it boasts an incredible cast and c) it’s been described as a sex-filled gorefest. So, I’m conflicted. On the one hand it looks very stylish and FX has been putting out some stellar shows. On the other hand, well, f*cking “Glee.” But it doesn’t even matter, to be honest, if the show is any good. I’ll watch it. Because Connie Britton? I’d follow her anywhere. But if it’s bad, it’ll pain me. I hate seeing a great actor, an actor I love, settle for parts or projects well below their proven talents. Here are nine recent cases of television actors who have gone from quality projects/roles to total dreck. We can’t feel sorry for them, these Slumdog Millionaires, but we can mourn their talent.
Felicity Huffman: Huffman has had a long and impressive career, but she is perhaps best-known to us as either Dana Whitaker on Aaron Sorkin’s “Sports Night” (1998-2000) or as Lynette Scavo on “Desperate Housewives” (2004-2011). There is a lot wrong with this picture. While her male co-stars landed on their feet (Krause with the one-two punch of “Six Feet Under” and “Parenthood” and Josh Charles with “The Good Wife”), Huffman has been spinning out eight seasons (EIGHT SEASONS) on Wisteria Lane with only Gay Matt from “Melrose Place” to keep her warm. And no, I don’t feel too sorry for Huffman with her Oscar nomination and William H. Macy-shaped bedfellow, but I miss Dana Whitaker.
Daniel Dae Kim: While not the flashiest actor on “Lost,” Kim had several juicy scenes and plot lines over the show’s long run. He’s chosen to follow up with the boring CBS procedural “Hawaii Five-O”…and he’s not the only one. “Battlestar Galactica“‘s Grace Park and Kim’s “Lost” co-star Terry O’Quinn are also slumming it on the beaches of Oahu. While Kim’s decision was likely heavily motivated by his desire to stay on the island ( he opened a restaurant on Oahu while filming “Lost”), I can’t help but wonder how comparatively boring he finds the “Five-O.”
Jane Lynch: I’d like to say that if Ryan Murphy came knocking on my door with a wheelbarrow full of cash and a gleam in his eyes, I would turn down “Glee” to continue to work on the stellar “Party Down.” But I don’t know…you can buy a lot of fancy tracksuits with a wheelbarrow full of cash. And while Lynch has certainly gained fame and fortune for being the funniest part of that show, well, that’s like being famous for being the most mature person in the NICU. Lynch, who has had a long, hilarious career, is now stuck with a show that has lost all of its sparkle and vim.
Neil Flynn: With the Janitor on “Scrubs,” Flynn originated a sly, deftly comedic performances and now…now? Now Flynn is stuck in sitcom dad obscurity. Honestly, who watches this show? The only way I remember what it’s called is by referring to it as “(Not Malcolm In) The Middle.” And yet it’s in its on its third season. Oh, Janitor, I miss you.
Allison Janney: After playing CJ Cregg for seven seasons on “The West Wing,” it must have been hard for Janney to decide what to do next. Why she chose Matthew Perry’s “Mr. Sunshine,” I will never know. Her character in that show was a total scattershot, addle brained asshole. The kind of person, in short, that CJ Cregg would eat for breakfast. Mercifully “Mr. Sunshine” was cancelled early and often.
Minka Kelly: It’s been noted elsewhere that many of the young actors from “Friday Night Lights” are having trouble matching the natural, easy talent that seemed to come pouring off them during the run of the show. Specifically Aimee Teegarden, Zach Gilford and (this one hurts) Taylor “Big Tim Riggins” Kitsch. Whelp, with this season’s “Charlie’s Angles” we can add Kelly to the list. Oh, Lyla, you were never my favorite on “FNL,” but you deserve better than Jiggle TV.
Nathan Fillion: Oh I know, many of you like “Castle.” I don’t really get your fascination with the show, which is one of the more predictable procedurals I’ve seen in a long time. Fillion deserves better. He deserves snappy Whedonesque dialog and a real showcase for his talent. Not all brown coats are cut from the same cloth.
Tristan Wilds: As Michael, the school kid embroiled in the drug trade, Wilds killed it on HBO’s “The Wire.” Now the kid’s on “90210.” Any glimmer of talent or gravitas has been obliterated by the aggressive smiles, bright, bold colors and an endless parade of idiotic plot lines.
Michael Emerson: For years Emerson held us captive as the scheming, double-crossing genius, Benjamin Linus. Now he’s starring in a CBS procedural (“Person Of Interest”) that’s essentially a remake of “Early Edition.” Except instead Kyle Chandler, you’ve got Jesus. I can’t decide which role Michael Emerson is fulfilling: The Prescient Chicago Sun-Times, the cat who brings The Prescient Chicago Sun-Times or Fisher Stevens.
How about you? Which actor do you hate seeing settle for mediocrity?