Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More Lists: A Baker's Dozen Of Favorite Performers (Times 2)

Trying to put together a list of favorite actors and actresses leaves me with a frustrating problem.

There's just so gosh-darn many people I like to watch on TV.

How to illustrate this? Here some of the names I'm NOT putting on the lists below: James Gandolfini, Steve Carell, Zach Braff. (I know, right!)

So I came up with a reasonable baker's dozen each of actors and actresses who keep me glued to my TV set.

In no particular order, then, except how they popped out of my head:


1. Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies): Pace is absolutely note perfect as the piemaker with the gift and curse of bringing the dead back to life. His staccato, deadpan delivery and longing eyes toward his longtime love, Chuck, help make "Pushing Daisies" TV's best new show.

2. Jon Hamm (Mad Men): Without a doubt, TV's breakout star of the year. As the broken ad genius, Hamm made "Mad Men" the most interesting new show of the summer.

3. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights): As someone who has covered a couple hundred high school football games over the years, Chandler captures the feel of a small-town high school football coach perfectly.

4. Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica): When I first heard that Olmos and Mary McDonnell, actors with serious chops, were going to be part of the then-new remake of BSG, I knew this series was going to be something different and far better than the original. Olmos has proven me right every season.

5. Kevin McKidd (Rome, Journeyman): Neither of McKidd's series had an especially long life, but McKidd's star is definitely on the rise with roles as both a time-traveling journalist and an ancient Roman captain. I look forward to any future projects from this Scottish actor.

6. Hugh Laurie (House): Few actors can have an entire series built around their character and pull it off, but "House" is definitely the exception that proves the rule. That Laurie has yet to even be nominated for an Emmy shows how ridiculous the awards show is.

7. Michael C. Hall (Dexter): When I first heard Hall was cast as the crime techie/serial killer, I didn't think he could pull off the menacing nature required, based on his "Six Feet Under" character. Boy, was I wrong! Anyone who doesn't vote Hall for an Emmy deserves to be strapped to Dexter's lab table.

8. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock): Should I be entertained or extremely bothered by the fact that most network execs are more like Baldwin's Jack Donaghy than anyone would like to admit?

9. Damian Lewis (Life): Another of the Brit imports dominating US TV right now, Lewis has created a wonderfully unique detective with some of the cleverest dialogue around to go with him.

10. Zachary Levi (Chuck): The one criticism I've heard of women fans and critics about this series is that Levi is too good-looking to be considered a geek, but I think Levi is the perfect blend of geekiness for his role as a reluctant spy.

11. Michael Chiklis (The Shield): Chiklis and "The Shield" got Emmy consideration after its first season, but it's been largely forgotten ever since. That's a shame, because it's one of those rare shows that started great and got even better.

12. John Simm (Life On Mars): As a detective who doesn't know if he is a time traveler, in a coma or simply mad, Simm expertly evokes the character's desperation with his dilemma.

13. Steve Carell (The Office): Nobody does befuddled like Carell does, and his cringe-inducing Michael Scott is a character for the ages.


1. Edie Falco (The Sopranos): I think I'm going to miss Carmela most of all. She stood up to Tony like no one else did, and she was never afraid to be hypocritical in enjoying the wealth of Tony's ill-gotten gains while decrying the mob lifestyle.

2. Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica): If the world had leaders like Laura Roslin, it'd be a better place. That McDonnell has never gotten an Emmy nomination for this role is a worse crime against humanity than anything the Cylons perpetrated.

3. Glenn Close (Damages): When I heard Glenn Close was returning to TV a couple of years after her electrifying run on "The Shield," I was stoked, and Close didn't disappoint. While "Damages" never quite worked for me, Close was sensational as the lawyer from Hell.

4. Jenna Fischer (The Office): Fischer's Pam is technically more of a supporting character, but Fischer is one of the rising stars in the industry, one of those rare beautiful women with perfect comic timing. Anyone who hasn't yet needs to go see "Walk Hard."

5. Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies): The stunning and quirky Friel is absolutely perfectly cast as the ultimate girl-next-door. Oh to be Ned, and have both Chuck and Olive pining for you.

6. Polly Walker (Rome): As Atia, she was seductive, scheming and just a helluva lotta fun to watch. When Walker took her place by her son's side in the "Rome" finale, it was the perfect end note to two seasons of putting her kids through hell.

7. Jamie Pressley (My Name Is Earl): Like Fischer, technically more a supporting actress, but definitely a scene stealer. Her Emmy this year was well-deserved.

8. America Ferrera (Ugly Betty): As the title character of one of TV's best new shows last season, Ferrera pretty much won every award imaginable, with the exception of the American League Cy Young, I think. And she deserved them all.

9. Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who): It must have been pretty intimidating to take over the lead female role for one of the most popular actresses in Britain, but Agyeman was up to the task as her Martha Jones proved to be the right replacement for Billie Piper's Rose Tyler. Agyeman's unrequited love for The Doctor was both comic and heartbreaking.

10. Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights): As "Mrs. Coach," I've already sung the praises for Britton many times on this blog. And I hope to continue for a long, long time.

11. Tina Fey (30 Rock): Much like Ricky Gervais (high praise, indeed) Fey is equally gifted as both a performer and a writer. And I love those American Express commercials she does.

12. Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars): I knew Bell wouldn't be out of work for long after "VM" got axed, and she's already proven to be a key performer on both "Heroes" and "Gossip Girl." The sky is the limit for Bell in the coming years.

13. Helen Mirren (Prime Suspect): Last, but definitely not least, is Mirren, for whom you could make the argument that she is the best actress in the world at this moment. Her sweep of the Oscar for "The Queen" and the Emmy for her final bow as Jane Tennison in the last "Prime Suspect" series proves that Planet Earth is Mirren's stage.

So, which performers did you want mentioned, and who should I have left off the list?

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Slim pickings with all of the reruns airing right now. "American Masters" (PBS, 9 p.m.) is doing a special on the great Bob Newhart.

And, sports-wise, the thrilling Motor City Bowl between Purdue and Central Michigan (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) shows sports fans just how important third-tier bowls can be. Go Chippewas!


Jonathan said...

Great list; wouldn't really know who to take off, with the exception of maybe Laurie, but I realize I'm in the minority there. Although I haven't cuddled up to "Pushing Daisies" to the extent that most people have, it's hard to knock a show that is so original and remains entertaining as well (unlike say "Viva Laughlin" or "John From Cincinatti"), and the performances are solid.

And since you don't like "CSI," there is no reason he would be on there, but William Petersen has remained around the top of my list for the past seven years with his portrayal of Gil Grissom, who I still think is the best TV detective since Columbo. Well, at least male detective; Helen Mirren is pretty hard to top. And as ridiculous as "24" gets, Keifer Sutherland is still as bad ass as it gets on television with his action stud, Jack Bauer.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, there are a lot of great actors I didn't include because I don't watch the shows. I always enjoy Bill Petersen's work in whatever he does, and Chandra Wilson and Katherine Heigl draw a lot of praise for Grey's Anatomy. I'll say this for Sutherland: he sells the role really well given the thankless plots he's been given.

And there are shows I've stopped watching altogether, like Desperate Housewives and Prison Break, which is why Marcia Cross and William Fichtner didn't make my list. Hey, I had to limit myself to 13!

zodin2008 said...

Jonathan, you are NOT alone on your dislike of Hugh Laurie. I have made my complete displeasure with his performance well known on this site and other sites and I know others who don't just bow to the statue of Laurie.

I do LIKE Damien Lewis overall, and he was utterly fantastic in the greatest miniseries of ALL time, "Band of Brothers", but his performance is not my favorite on "Life".

Yes, he has grown on me. I don't despise his performance the way I did back in September, but I can't say he'd come close to making a top 5 list for dramatic actors.

But Kevin Mckidd, there's an import to an American show who would get a dramatic emmy nomination in my world.

And Jonathan, I totally agree with you about Sutherland but of course, phillip cannot resist taking potshots at "24" - the show has been fantastic until season 6 and even righted the ship in the last 7 episodes. Far better than drivel like "Heroes" which I do watch, but is possibly the most overrated show since, well, "House".

Jonathan said...

I quit watching "Prison Break" as well, and completely forgot about Fichtner. I saw a movie the other day with him and JK Simmons in it that wasn't very good, but I realized that it should be a requirement to have both of those actors in every film; no matter how minor the role.

And I agree with you on Petersen. I still think that Michael Mann's "Manhunter" is way better than "Silence of the Lambs" or any of the sequels/prequels, and Petersen is a big part of that. I'm also a huge fan of "To Live and Die in L.A."

zodin2008 said...

Fichtner is a terrific actor but a strange person.

He seemed to think (in an EW interview) that he was "upgrading" when he left arguably one of the ten best shows of 2005, "invasion" (well, he didn't leave the show, it lasted 1 year and then sadly canceled) and went to a show that stopped being remotely relevant, "Prison Break", and said it was a big step up - huh?

But even if he's confused as to which was the good show and which is the bad show he was on, he's still an engaging and terrific actor.

Phillip Ramati said...

What's he going to say, "the only job I could find was one on this crappy show?"

When Fichtner joined PB, it was after season one and the show still had some juice to it, so I think he was pretty genuine in his comments. No way he could have seen the ridiculous path the writers chose to go on.