Thursday, February 03, 2011

best of 2010: the guest stars

Though it can often enter the territory of stunts and shark-jumping, thank goodness some TV shows know how to handle guest stars.  Gone are the days (hopefully) of cookie cutter appearances in virtually every episode (Will & Grace, I love you so much, but damn).  So for 2010, here are my LCT Awards nominees for Guest Actor and Guest Actress, followed by the plethora of other greats that were in heavy consideration but just missed the cut...

Best Guest Actress
  • It's tough for those drama girls - of my top five guest performances in 2010, only one hails from that genre - Carrie Preston in The Good Wife.  Her plucky investigative lawyer played so well with the traditionally cold and calculating characters of the series.  
  • Next up is the always-wonderful (Just erase The Waterboy from your memories, people!) Kathy Bates as new boss Jo Bennett in The Office.  With the massive restructuring of the show's premise, Bates was such a great anchor for the shift - respect... she's an Oscar winner. 
  • Then there's Betty White, whose much-hyped appearance on Saturday Night Live totally delivered.  The woman is a treasure, and she didn't let her near nonagenarian status keep her down.  
  • One of the hallmarks of Modern Family is its ability to cast parents - in this case, Cameron's mom, played by the glorious Celia Weston.  She's a brilliant character actress, and her work in the "Mother Tucker" episode was just the right amounts of awkward and genius comedy.
  • Finally, another much-hyped appearance by Gwyneth Paltrow on the otherwise overwhelmingly silly (if entertaining) Glee did what most guests hope for - she completely transcended every other element at play in the episode, in which she played the musically inclined substitute Spanish teacher Holly Holiday.
Best Guest Actor
  • Though the great guest actors in 2010 were much fewer and farther between than the ladies (you'll see the evidence in the number-skewed runners-up list below), there were a few plum parts.  First off, Michael Sheen's turn as the impossible Brit Wesley Snipes was both aggravating and charming.  Sheen is one of my favorite actors working, in fact.
  • Another fantastic Good Wife guest (man, that show sure can utilize guests effectively), Michael J. Fox appeared as a sneaky, intelligent prosecutor in a December episode.  Alicia proved nearly no match for his courtroom skills, and Fox was typically enjoyable to watch.
  • As state above, there is no better casting than the parents on Modern Family, and Fred Willard is probably the best example.  His chemistry with on-screen son Ty Burrell is a joy to watch, and the Christopher Guest troupe member has the perfect comedic style for this family sitcom.
  • Equal parts terrifyingly creepy and disturbingly hilarious, James Frain played Franklin, the bad-boy vampire who woos stoic Tara on True Blood, with such tenacity and demented vigor, he was definitely a memorable part of an otherwise weakened season.
  • Now, don't say playing yourself isn't a performance (I cite Garrison Keillor in the film version of A Prairie Home Companion as a perfect example of this) - James Franco was hysterical and a treat as a slightly odder version of himself.  Kamiko-tan the body pillow will forever be a favorite 30 Rock sub-character of mine.
Best Guest Actress Runners-Up
  • Yes, I'm so greedy I couldn't corner it down from 10, but I seriously considered all of these gals for my top 5.  (NOTE:  They are in no particular order.)  Starting off with the two best guests The Big Bang Theory has offered up in its four seasons (other than the amazing Christine Baranski, last year's LCT Guest Actress winner), Laurie Metcalf as the bible-beating Mary Cooper and Mayim Bialik as nerdy "love" interest Amy Farrah Fowler.  Metcalf is comic gold interacting with Jim Parsons' Sheldon, and though Bialik has been promoted to series regular, her couple episodes in 2010 were some of the best of the entire series.
  • Just let Glee continue to offer guests that far exceed what the regular series cast can do.  Starting with Carol Burnett, a perfect cast for Sue Sylvester's mom, it was great to see her sing again, and she was an awfully good sport in a picture-perfect performance.  Next, though she seems to have become somewhat of a regular, Lauren Potter's Becky Jackson is fantastic - Sue's ideal sidekick, she's definitely become a favorite of mine within the show.
  • Some will rush to deride her gawky work as Bah-ston native Nancy Donovan, but Julianne Moore was a welcome addition to Jack Donaghy's love life on 30 Rock.  I was sort of sad to see her go at the end of last season, but her recurring role played so well against Alec Baldwin's secretly soft-hearted performance.
  • To round out the comedic recognition, after leaving the show when season one wrapped (and being replaced by the now-2010-LCT-nominee Megan Mullally), Jane Lynch returned to Party Down this year to throw a lavishly quirky wedding.  Her Constance is often better than her Glee incarnation, and this episode was no exception.
  • The drama ladies that were given serious consideration included Kathy Griffin as scrappy lesbian spokesperson Babs Duffy on Law and Order: SVU, Randee Heller as the endlessly entertaining secretary Ida Blankenship on Mad Men, Martha Plimpton as the sneaky new mom Patti Nyholm on The Good Wife, and Sissy Spacek as the also-sneaky Washington lobbyist Marilyn Densham on the otherwise wacky season of Big Love.
Best Guest Actor Runners-Up
  • As you can see, the well for male guests in 2010 was a little drier, but these three excelled handily.  Andy Samberg was great fun as partially deaf park safety officer Carl Lorthner.  He played so well off of former SNL co-star Leslie Knope and was a highlight in the second half of Parks and Recreation's sophomore season.
  • Will Forte's recurring role as Jenna's drag doppleganger and on-again, off-again boyfriend on 30 Rock was totally messed up and total perfection all at once.  He was sort of a secret weapon during his tenure on SNL, so it was nice to see him welcomed onto Tina Fey's comedy hit.
  • Finally, it's no question that Mike O'Malley is Glee's almost-MVP.  His role as Burt Hummel, mechanic, widower, and supportive father, causes more tear-soaked episodes than any other player on the show.

1 comment:

John T said...

I'm just going to say it-skipping Mike O'Malley-complete blasphemy. He's never done anything so good before this show. Without thinking too hard about it, my list would look something:

Darren Criss (Glee)
James Franco (30 Rock)
Dominic Monaghan (Lost)-Bronze
Mike O'Malley (Glee)-Gold
Fred Willard (Modern Family)-Silver

Carol Burnett (Glee)
Randee Heller (Mad Men)
Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)-Gold
Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee)-Silver
Betty White (Saturday Night Live)-Bronze