Tuesday, 3 August 2010

TV Season, 2009/2010: The Best Guest Actors

I can't forsake the TV in my Encore's World, and it's that time of year (although the Emmy's will always be a little too backward...). Here are the guest stints in the last season that had me cheering the most.
#15: Sharon Stone in Law & Order: SVU
Law & Order: SVU is a show I hate (though not as much as Mariska Hargitay), even though I end up watching it too often. Glenn has the right idea when he says it should be campaigning in the comedy category…and Sharon Stone’s DA was up the same delicious comedy alley. Sharon is better than she’s given credit for (she was quite good in Bobby) and she shone in her episodes.
#14: Mike O’Malley in Glee
His character arc was just another in a long line of reasons as to how Glee is better than most people give it credit for. Unlike so many of Glee’s other excellent guest stars his great moments came when he was saying nothing. He had to do a whole lot of reaction shots to Colfer and he really sold them. The Finn / Kurt dynamic doesn’t exactly thrill me but O’Malley sells it.
#13: Sissy Spacek in Big Love
I was lucky enough that her few episodes were some that I managed to catch from Big Love’s recent season. The thing is Sissy’s so awesome it’s not even funny (I hope she wins that Emmy) and she’s constantly turning up everywhere (except on the big screen, grrr – can’t wait for Get Low) so it’s nice seeing her recognised for her contributions. Big Love doesn’t need its guest stars as much as some, but it’s always lovely when they turn up to surprise you.

#12: Cheyenne Jackson in 30 Rock
I’m anxious to see what he’ll do in Glee next season (the man can siiiiiiiiiiiiiiing) but he was good enough on 30 Rock for me. True, I would have liked to see just a little more of him with Jane Krakowski but his reaction shots were completely on point and he did such a good job of playing a straight man to all the crazies in that building.
#11: Adam Scott in Parks & Recreation
 It seems like it could be a stereotyped role, and then he surprises you. He’s an excellent actor (remember his bit role in The Aviator) and he works well against Rob Lowe and especially Amy Poehler. He’s neither TOO funny or TOO serious…he’s just there…being perfectly hilarious.
#10: John Lithgow in Dexter
Really – he’s supporting, and it was a copout on his part (and mine, I suppose) to submit him here. I’m not the biggest Lithgow fan – especially when he’s doing comedy (oddly), but he was the perfect addition to Dexter this season. True, the brilliance that was the inaugural season of Dexter will be essentially impossible to match – but Lithgow did a good job in making that last season brilliant, in its own way..
#9: Neil Patrick Harris in Glee
Character wise the role was mixed, but Harris is nothing if not a consummate actor and he sold it completely. There was the singing (“Dream On” was just a little awesome) but it was the spoken moments – especially his first scene – that sold me. There may be no justification for it plot-wise but I’d like to see him return (in fact I’d love to see a whole show with him and the next Glee guest starrer on the list below…)
#8: Mary McDonnell in The Closer
I’ve never seen Battlestar Galactica, so I’ve never really “gotten” all the effusive praise that’s been thrown at McDonnell – but from a mere episode on The Closer (her arc on Grey’s Anatomy was unbearably painful) I was a little sold that this woman was a brilliant actor. Kera Sydgwick is no Glenn Close in the department of scary, but she’s formidable and it’s difficult for anyone to match her. McDonnell does, she’s despicable and sometimes even annoying and just excellently played. So glad she returned for Season 2.
#7: Michael Sheen in 30 Rock
In a weird way – I was actually rooting for him in the battle of lovers for Liz Lemmon (alliteration: yay). It must have been difficult for him, making a character so blah seem appealing and though we think of him for his dramatics Sheen has a knack for the comedic side of things. Strangely, his character made me realise that even when they get a little too smug for their own good the writers on 30 Rock know what to do with themselves.
#6: Bitty Schram in Monk
Bitty Schram remains as the only person who’s ever been able to match the excellence of Tony Shalhoub on Monk and I will admit that he return made me almost ecstatic. It didn’t disappoint. Sharon has always worked because she doesn’t really care to beat around the bush and watching her clash stream roll Natalie was just too delightful. It’s moment like these that make me wonder why this woman is still virtually unknown (despite a well deserved Emmy nod a few years back).
#5: Ted Danson in Damages
It’s nice when great actors turn up to guest star on TV and though I don’t LOVE Ted it’s difficult to deny that he’s excellent on Damages. He’s easily my favourite recurring character on the show and he manages to turn up every time and deliver a noteworthy performance. I’m surprised that Emmy actually takes notice – they can be so backward at times. Sigh.
#4: Rob Lowe in Parks & Recreation
With the way that Brothers & Sisters (don’t even get me started) has been going recently I can’t blame Lowe for jumping ship and it’ll be nice to see what happens with him as a regular next season. The thing is: the man doesn’t strike you as the logical comedian but his appearance in the last few episodes was oddly hilarious. It’s a role that seems to be thinly characterised but Lowe keeps on adding some of the weirdest tics – but the best thing had to be his run-ins with with Rashida Jones. Just lovely.
#3: Lisa Kudrow in Cougar Town
Lisa Kudrow is one of those people I’m aching to see back on TV regularly and her guest stint here, though not enough to satisfy, was good enough. There was no hint of the Phoebe / Monica dynamic – though she did have chemistry with Cox. Kudrow is often (unfairly) looked over for being able to play one shtick. People forget that she’s just a talented comedienne and play different shades.
#2: Megan Mullally in Parks & Recreation
There was something oddly voyeuristic about seeing Megan and ofscreen husband Nick Offerman making out in a cafĂ©. Parks & Recreation works so well because it’s willing to do anything to maintain its silliness and Megan’s appearance was just on point. This was no Karen Walker, but another more devious (imagine that) character and Megan milked it for all it was worth. From the knowing glances to the sultry delivery of lines she stole the episode from everyone in sight (and considering the brilliance of that ensemble, that’s something).
#1: Kristin Chenoweth in Glee
Because I don’t live in, or anywhere near New York, I’ve never been lucky enough to see Kristin Chenoweth live. Thanks to the very excellent bit of television that was Pushing Daisies I was lucky enough to see her once a week. I’m glad she’s not a regular on Glee - it probably wouldn’t work, but she’s excellent when she’s there. I recall someone saying, unwittingly, that singing isn’t acting and though Kristin is just as excellent with dialogue it’s a bit silly to look at her performance of “Maybe This Time” or “Fire” and not see the brilliant acting that’s going. What a woman. (And imagine the Glee spinoff with her and Harris pairing up. Yum.)
What as your favourite guest turn in the last television season?
(Up Next: Supporting Actors)


Anonymous said...

I hated the participation of Sheron Stone in SVU. Prefer Sthephane March. And Mariska each episode I most love.

Fitz said...

I love Parks and Rec. Lowe won't be up for this next year though as he joins the show full-time.

Great list! Only person I would have added would be Duck on Mad Men.

Jose said...

You must watch Battlestar Galactica ASAP Andrew!
It's just incredible.
Other than that nice list, I guess my fave was Juli Moore in "30 Rock".

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

anon heh heh, sorry.

fitz i'm really anticpating rob joinging parks and rec though i shall miss paul schneider.

jose it was julianne, elaine stritch sharon or jonathon groff. i went for the show that wasn't already hogging the list.

Jess said...

I loved, loved, loved Mike O'Malley's performance as Kurt's dad. He seems to bring all of himself to the part and was always touching and surprising, while still being funny on occasion.

And there's not much scarier anymore than John Lithgow as the Trinity killer. Creeeee-py.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jess mike was kind of awesome, though i'm mixed on him becoming a regular. i don't know if he'll work as well when we see him ALL the time. here's hoping.

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