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What Happens When The Actors You Love Make Really Bad TV Shows? The Art Of Selling Out And Cashing In.

By Joanna Robinson | Industry | March 10, 2011 |

By Joanna Robinson | Industry | March 10, 2011 |

In troubling television news last week, the great Ken Marino (“The State,” “Veronica Mars,” The Ten, “Children’s Hospital,” “Party Down,” my dreams) was cast as Rob Riggle’s brother on the CBS pilot “Home Game.” This rather broke my heart because CBS, let’s face it, is sort of the least cool place you could hope to get a pilot. For every “How I Met Your Mother” there’s a “Mike and Molly” (and a “Two and A Half Men” and a “Rules of Engagement” and a “Big Bang-let’s just say, all the other comedies, okay?). It saddens me to think of Marino, a genuinely sharp comedic talent, filing down those edges to fit into the soft, bland, predictable formula of a CBS sitcom. Is it fair to judge a TV show before they’ve even begun filming? Nope. Am I doing it anyway? Yawrp. Let’s take a moment of silence and reflect back on the height of Ken Marino’s comedic prowess.

Did that clip undermine my case for him being genuinely sharp? Alas. In other television pilot news, the fantastically bearded Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) fresh off the cancellation of “Terriers” (R.I.P.) has been cast in what will either be the greatest or the train-wreckiest show to debut next year, Marc Cherry’s “Hallelujah.” Cherry of “Desperate Housewives” fame (uh oh, right?) has described the ABC pilot as “a drama with musical elements” (double uh oh, right?) and presumably hopes to both cash in on the “Glee” craze and skirt the mistakes (and there were many) of Hugh Jackman’s “Viva Laughlin.” Were you hoping I had forgotten about that show, Hugh? I’ll never forget.

At least this pilot will be on ABC and not CBS. Have I mentioned how much I distrust CBS’s ability to put out a good television series? Oh “The Good Wife,” you delectable anomaly, you. However, the other three actors cast in “Hallelujah” give me a bit of hope for its success. They’ve got Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park, A.I.) who is gorgeous and talented, Jesse L. Martin (“Law & Order: Original Flavor,” Rent) who is the triple-est of threats and, best of all, Terry O’Quinn (“Lost,” “Alias,” The Cutting Edge, that time I saw him at the Foodland on Oahu and just grinned and stared). That’s right Losties, John Locke will be back on ABC playing a “charming, yet wholly corrupt local millionaire who virtually owns the town.” I can’t wait to see him sing and grin enigmatically at the same time.

This means, sadly, that the proposed pilot “Odd Jobs” reuniting O’Quinn with his “Lost” partner-in-intense-acting Michael Emerson, is no longer in the cards. In fact, Emerson has been cast in JJ Abrams and Jonathon Nolan’s pilot “Person of Interest.” The pilot, co-starring Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Thin Red Line, son o’ God) will premiere on CBS next fall. CBS, Nolan? Come on.

So what’s my beef with CBS? If I haven’t convinced you already that it’s a no good, very bad place for fine actors to go, allow me to elaborate. Sometimes tremendous actors make the transition to television with great success. Usually, these are on cable shows such as “Damages” (Glenn Close firing on all, scary cylinders), “Boardwalk Empire” (I stopped watching Buscemi on this, but I hear it got significantly better) and “Shameless” (William H. Macy at his drunken best). Sometimes (rarely), even a network show can catapult an already popular actor into a higher lovability bracket (see Baldwin, Alec). But when a talented and much lauded performer is cast in a procedural show (be it crime, medical or otherwise), that’s when I suspect that actor has abandoned their craft for a fast and easy paycheck. Not all procedurals are terrible, but they do absolutely require that their actors settle into a routine that dulls even the most incendiary talent. Is Hugh Laurie still biting and clever on “House?” Yes. Does Nathan Fillion still charm and smarm on “Castle?” Sure. Are Tim Roth’s teeth as snaggly as ever on “Lie To Me?” Aber natürlich! But so predictably so. The worst of all the network meat grinders to turn top sirloin into boring sausage is, you guessed it, CBS.

Watch as they trot out the once great Gary Sinise:

Make me snicker at BOTH Laurence Fishburne and Bill Irwin (if you don’t know, please look him up and then watch ALL the things):

And, most Criminal of all, bore me with Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo:

Janeane, CBS? Have you no shame? Of course, CBS isn’t really to blame. The blame lies with these actors who have undeniably sold out. Listen, I get it, everyone needs to make a living, but there’s a difference between making a sell-out film to help subsidize your better films/send your kids to school/buy you a yacht (Ben Kingsley is the champion of that game) and settling in for the long haul with one of these mind-numbingly bad CBS shows. Enjoy your paychecks, folks. I still love you, but I can’t watch you degrade yourself.

Okay, let’s rinse that terrible taste out of our mouths with this clip from “Viva Blackpool,” the show “Viva Laughlin” was trying to be. Here’s some David Tennant dancing to The Smiths. Oh yes, the Doctor dances.

Joanna Robinson thinks the jury is still out on Matthew Perry’s show “Mr. Sunshine” and that’s too bad, because she really wants to like everything Allison Janney does.

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