Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Winning the Show: Malcolm in the Middle

With Godzilla out, I thought I would do Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston's old show. Cranston is the star of Godzilla, FYI. Anyway, I watched the show and liked it. There a quite a few great jokes from it that I quote and it was a show that did a great job with the call-back (like the gerbil in his plastic ball that would periodically show up). The two-shows-in-one (one about the family and one focused on Francis, with two rarely meeting) was, and still is, unique in television; it isn't talked about as much as one would expect and was never emulated, but I could see how it would make the writing easier.

If you were a fan of the show, then you probably expected Jane Kaczmarek, who played Lois the mom to break out. She got an Emmy nomination every year the show was on. But it hasn't worked out that way. Bryan Cranston landed on Breaking Bad one of the best shows of recent times, for which he won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. He's had steady work and shown up in several hit shows and the movie Argo. Clearly he has won Malcolm in the Middle. How do the rest stack up? It gets tough with child actors, but I'd rank them thus:

1. Bryan Cranston (4 Emmy wins and 3 other nominations, 1 Golden Globe win and 3 other nominations, 1 big hit show, 2 hit movies, and steady work)
2. Jane Kaczmarek (steady work)
3. Frankie Muniz (steady work)
4. Christopher Masterson (sporadic work)
5. Justin Berfield (1 role, some production work)
6. Erik Per Sullivan (4 roles)

It gets tough between Kaczmarek and Muniz, but the former has been on a few series and the latter has not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Winning the Show: A recurring feature

A friend of mine and I have this stupid game we've played since we were kids called "winning the show". The basic idea is to take a television show that has been off the air for some amount of time and to then decide which of the featured actors on the show has gone on to have the best career. So, for example, if the show were Family Ties, the winner would be Michael J. Fox.

Sometimes it's easy to pick the winner (ER, Moonlighting, Alias). Sometimes it's hard to come up with one (Webster) and sometimes it's hard to pick from a few very solid possibilities (Cheers or The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

The rules are that:

1. The actor has to be featured for at least one year, no guest appearances. So Leonardo DiCaprio can, and does, win Growing Pains, just as Ralph Macchio wins Eight is Enough, but Kurt Russel's one appearance does not win him Gilligan's Island.

2. Anything can be considered in their career. So Ron Howard can win Happy Days, even though he went into directing (whether he does is debatable) and Gopher can win The Love Boat because he went into Congress.

3. But in general, a featured role on a hit TV show (one that lasts more than 2 years, or preferably 5), leading role in a hit movie, or awards are what really seal the deal. Steady work and good guest appearances can also factor in.

4. Only work AFTER they leave the show counts. Katherine Heigl will get no credit for Knocked Up when Grey's Anatomy finally goes off the air.

4. No looking at your phone/the internet. You have to go from memory.

If we really want to push it, we might try to rank the cast from winner to loser. So for Friends, that might look like this (I confess that I went to IMDB to help with this. It's for education):

Jennifer Aniston (Meet the Millers, Marley and Me and one Emmy nomination)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes, one Golden Globe win, two other Golden Globe nominations, and two Emmy nominations)
Lisa Kudrow (Web Therapy and three Emmy nominations)
Courtney Cox (Cougar Town and one Golden Globe nomination)
Matthew Perry (The Ron Clark Story, one Golden Globe nomination and one Emmy nomination)
David Schwimmer (The Madagascar movies)

It's actually a tough one to rank. LeBlanc and Kudrow haven't worked as much as Cox or Perry, but what they have done has been more successful and they've been noticed for it. Perry and Schwimmer have both landed basically one good role, but Perry gets more work and Schwimmer hasn't been nominated for any awards. Aniston wins because she's still a legitimate leading lady in movies. The whole cast has basically bunched up and more time is needed before someone breaks out from the pack the way Julia Louis-Dreyfus did from her Seinfeld cast mates. Before Episodes, LeBlanc was clearly losing, for example.

Anyway, there you go. You now have a new bar game. Expect to see semi-regular editions of this as I declare who has won certain shows from time to time. The grand-daddy of them all will be SNL (which obviously is still on the air, but I'll make an exception. Spoiler alert: the winner is Robert Downy Jr.)