Stupid Tuesday questions, Amy Acker edition

As you may have perhaps gathered, the Better Half and I like to watch a certain amount of television.  While I also enjoy more solitary pursuits like running and reading, when it comes to how we like to unwind at the end of the day, it’s kind of nice to lie on the couch with a diverting program or two.  Our tastes diverge a bit (I like to hassle him that his taste in television is awful… because it is), but we can reliably agree on sitcoms.

One of the shows we like is “Raising Hope,” largely on the strength of the performances of Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt as the titular toddler’s young grandparents.  (They’re hilarious.)  Plus, any show with opening credits that read “Introducing Cloris Leachman” has found a soft spot in my heart.  It’s no classic, but it’s enjoyable and consistently funny and so we’ve become regular viewers.

Of course, like a great many television watchers nowadays, much of the time we record it to watch after the original broadcast.  And because of missing the tail end of shows in the past due to weirdness with how they were scheduled vis-à-vis exact half hour increments on the clock, we have set the DVR to record five minutes into the next show.  This is how I’ve gotten introduced to the show “Ben and Kate,” which looks amusing enough but hasn’t become one that we actually watch.  (Except for the first five minutes.)

I don’t have much to say about the show per se, which is understandable since I don’t really watch it.  However, the first time I caught a little snippet I was immediately drawn to the English actress who plays… I don’t know who she plays.  But she’s funny, and I knew I’d seen her in something before.  One short Internet search later, and voilà — Lucy Punch.  Turns out I’d seen her in a couple of things (“Being Julia” and “Hot Fuzz”) and had liked her performance in both of them.  Upon figuring out who she was, I turned to the Better Half and said what I always say under similar circumstances.

“I’m glad she’s getting work.”

Every so often I’ll come across a character actor or ensemble that, for various reasons, I simply like.  Maybe I just loved the show, and want everyone associated with it to do well.  This is especially true of shows that didn’t enjoy the viewership and success they deserved.  (For this reason, I am happy when anyone from the cast of “Firefly” gets work, even those whose politics I despise.)  Maybe I really liked their performance in something.  This is especially true of a show where you wouldn’t expect to see really good acting.  (For this reason I am always happy when the quite surprisingly good Amy Acker from other Whedon shows “Angel” and “Dollhouse” gets work.)  Maybe they’re both excellent actors and starred in something I loved. (For this reason I am happy whenever I see Olivia Williams [what the hell, let’s just make it a Whedon extravaganza… she was excellent in the aforementioned “Dollhouse,” and also the beloved “Rushmore”] gets work.)

Do other people do this?  Am I the only one who notices supporting players and is happy when the good ones make it in the biz?  Is there some kind of equivalent in sports, where people root for some really talented but non-famous player?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. In the world of sports it’s pretty common for fans to notice the careers of members of “their” team even after they move on. F’rinstance I took notice when Matt Flynn was passed over as the starter for the Seattle Seachickens and I still think that was a mistake. I’d not have noticed had he not previously been a Green Bay Packer.

    • I was at a game once when Paul Lo Duca came up for the Mets, and of course I started booing him. The guy sitting next to me asked “Once a Dodger, always a Dodger?” “Damn straight.” I replied.

      • When Orel Hershiser was a Giant, did your brain explode a little every night?

        • If he’d still been any good by them , it might have been tough.

  2. For me, ‘that guy’ is Jeremy Renner. I adored him first in the cancelled-far-too-soon quirky cop show “The Unusuals”, which was probably far too amazing to NOT get cancelled instantly, alas.

    In it, Renner plays the partner of the ingenue/new guy, who’s a girl in this case. Everyone in this precinct is weird, and you get the impression Personnel is basically shoving anyone they can’t handle into it to corral them away from Normal People. The captain is a former astronaut (who, among other things, keeps his old spacesuit in a standing glass case in his office). There’s a guy who’s sure he’s going to die this year FOR CERTAIN, so he goes around wearing two bulletproof vests, padding the corners of his desk, etc. However, they all manage to still be good cops through their quirks, and understand and love one another.

    Renner’s character is, on first glance, the most functional and ‘normal’ of the bunch, and ends up sort of hemi-managing the team to keep everyone going. He’s the beating heart of the precinct, because his ‘weird’ is that before he was a cop, he was a minor-league baseball catcher, and that’s what the catcher DOES on minor-league teams. What he did in that role was so subtle and beautiful that I fell for him, hard, in a viewer-crush sort of way.

    And then I saw the Avengers trailer and had that ‘vague recognition’ thing, IMDB’ed, and danced around going “YESSSS!” that he’s finally got a role likely to give him a pretty decent nest egg and the ability to go take Any Work He Wants, instead of having to take whatever will come in to pay the bills.

  3. I admit to soft spots for pro wrestlers. When Steve Austin got cast as one of the bad guys in The Expendables, I thought “Good! A real movie!”

    Dave Bautista is going to be in the upcoming Man With The Iron Fists.

    (And there are a number of movies put out by the WWE film division that star wrestlers who are recovering from injury, on a bit of a hiatus from overexposure (John Cena), or who have retired but are still on contract. Most of these movies achieve pleasant levels of dumb which, let’s face it, is a step or three up from “bad, really bad”.)

    • When Steve Austin got cast as one of the bad guys in The Expendables, I thought “Good! A real movie

      And then you went to see it….

      • Sometimes you want a steak with sauteed mushrooms and jalapeno & goat cheese mashers.

        Sometimes you want Chikin In A Biskit crackers with cheez in a can.

  4. Subcategories:

    “There’s a Future Star” — that kid who made love to Geena Davis in “Thelma and Louise.” I nudged FemRex and said, “Oh, he’s gonna be huge!”

    “Here’s One Who Has Done Great Work, But Hasn’t Quite Cracked It” — I’ll play a Whedon card…James Marsters.


    “Long Career of Terrific Work, But Not Stars” — Scott Wilson, Harry Dean Stanton.

    I have no idea why I pay so much attention to the “second bananas,” but I love ’em. (Favorite “oh look!” moment — Strother Martin in the line-up in “Asphalt Jungle.”)

    And we’re getting a kick out of “Raising Hope” as well. Did you ever see Dillahunt in the cop show “Life”? Totally different character.

    (And as an aside, how come all the names I came up with are male??? Darn it: Aline MacMahon; Alyson Hannigan; Thelma Ritter. So there!)

    • Did you ever see Dillahunt in the cop show “Life”? Totally different character.

      Not to mention Deadwood — two totally different characters. (With one thing in common, of course.)

      Thelma Ritter

      Krysten Ritter? Thelma died in 1969.

      • Mike — naw, I’m really old. Thelma Ritter has a scene in “Pickup on South Street” that I think is some of the best acting, ever. She did win an Oscar (I think), so maybe she doesn’t really qualify for my category of “Long Career…Not Star,” but what the heck. She was great.

        Another category:

        “Acting Above and Beyond” (very, very rare performances of transcendent brilliance) — Thelma in “Pickup…”; Linda Hunt in “Year of Living Dangerously.”

        Whew! Got some ladies in there. /filmgeek

        • very, very rare performances of transcendent brilliance

          My example of this is, and always will be, Imelda Staunton in “Vera Drake.” It was easily, without question, the best performance I’ve ever seen by any actor in any role ever. (I feel similarly, but not quite so strongly about Judi Dench for “Mrs Brown,” but she’s a lot more famous so doesn’t count.)

  5. Garret Dillahunt

    I ope they’re keeoing away from the poker table.

    • Gah. “I hope they’re keeping him away from the poker table”.

  6. You tend to see this in sports with guys who are liked for reasons that have little or nothing to do with their athletic prowess. For instance, Brian Scalabrine will likely always have a bit of a cult following because he was tall, doofy, red-headed, and seemed like the last player you’d pick to play (which was sort of true, since he was never more than a role player). But I don’t think that is really what you’re getting at. We all understand the “cult” phenomenon.

    I think fantasy sports has added an interesting wrinkle to this. Every year, there are a number of players who come out of no where to have great seasons. Or, maybe they didn’t come out of nowhere for YOU, as YOU somehow knew they’d be great, but most others didn’t realize allowing you to snag them. These guys are often the difference between winning and losing since the added valued of a player expected to do little who ends up doing great is huge. These guys tend to become “your guys” even years later when they are now on your opponents’ teams because of that special bond you forged when your 24th round draft pick took you to the championship.

  7. “Do other people do this? Am I the only one who notices supporting players and is happy when the good ones make it in the biz?”

    Yes to the first one, no to the second one. I think I’ve said before here that Allison Janny (most famously C.J Cregg on the West Wing) deserves her own show. (though that said, the story arc propelling her character to Chief Of Staff on that show was widely implausible)

    “Is there some kind of equivalent in sports, where people root for some really talented but non-famous player?”

    Yes, my favorite Washington football player growing up was Mike Nelms

    from above: “Long Career of Terrific Work, But Not Stars” — Scott Wilson, Harry Dean Stanton.

    I think the internet has helped out with this a lot. (see the recognition of Alex Karras at his recent passing). And in the specific example, by the time Stanton hit BSG, everyone knew ‘hey that’s the guy from Quantum leap’ – but now with the internet, people can more easily recognize the name too. (just like if one re-catches Beverly Hills Cop II after not seeing it for years).

    But I wonder if Brian Cox fits the bill of “Long Career of Terrific Work, But Not Stars”?

    • Kolohe — let me join the ranks of those who think that Cox’s work as Lector in “Manhunter” is really chillingly terrific.

  8. One of mine is a writer (also from Whedon-Land): Jane Espenson. I’ve always loved her writing (she wrote some of the best Buffy episodes), so when I see her name, I do a little “squee”. She’s currently working on “Once Upon a Time”, which is a fun, fun show.

  9. In keeping with the Whedon theme, I’m always happy to see Eliza Dushku get work (although I never got into “Dollhouse”; liked her in season 3 of “Buffy”). Same with Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof.

    Also (not Whedon-connected), anyone who was in the cast of “Battlestar Galactica.”

    I suppose the flip side of this coin is when you watch a rerun and recognize a current character actor or star in an early role–for instance, seeing an early Ashley Judd or Kirsten Dunst in episodes of “ST:TNG.”

    • I think Eliza Dushku is really good at a certain kind of role, but doesn’t have the range to anchor a show. The whole cast of “Dollhouse” was really strong… except her.

    • My Friend Jane wrote for BG, so there is a connection.

  10. I felt that way about the entire cast of Sports Night.

    One of my favorite guilty pleasures when watching West Wing would be when some SN alum would guest star and have a scene with some other SN alum. I even tried to get into Desperate Housewives for a short time, since the pilot featured a few SN actresses. (It never managed to hook my interest, however.)

    Most of them have gone on to do at least something else of note, the obvious (and sad) exception being the amazing Josh Charles, who I have never seen in anything else. I would have picked him to be the most “hirable” after SN folded.

    • +100 about Sports Night. I can’t imagine why Sabrina Lloyd didn’t become a big star.

      • Good golly was she adorable. As is Amy Acker.

        Sorry, these shallow comments are all I have.

        Both are also fine, fine actresses (for all values of “fine” – hey, stop it, Glyph!)

          • “If I were straight, I’d totally go for it with Amy Acker!” Except the Doc is not nearly crude enough to express it that way. I, however, am willing to go there for a cheap laugh. A chuckle, even.

            And I’ll pre-empt the follow-up question, too. Colin Farrell.

          • My answer to the follow-up is Diana Rigg. Because I’d totally change back for her.

          • Burt — a few years back, mine would have been Denzel. That man was FINE!

          • I grok you, Jeff. I think he’s still got it. It’s the confidence. Mmm-mmm!

            Sorry for the pre-empt, Doc. We can edit this out before publication, right?

          • My first exposure to Denzel was St. Elsewhere, so in the back of my mind he’s still the world’s most boring black guy.

        • Mike — from “Philadelphia” straight through to “Training Day”, Mr Washington has brought good looks and considerable talent to every role. I haven’t seen “Safe House”, but in the trailer, he has a smile that is absolutely horrifying. You don’t need to know anything about the role, or hear any words, to know that this character is BAD-ASS!!!!!!!

          • I’m not disparaging Denzel. In St. Elsewhere he did his usual fine job, playing a doctor who was very, very boring.

      • Yes, along with Chris Noth. Two people who fit into this “I have a fondness for them and want to see them in more things” dynamic. Another actor from that show, the one who plays Ira Gold, is another one I hope to keep seeing after TGW.

        Clancy has that affection for the entire cast of The Practice. Which is one of the first show she watched all the way through.

    • Here’s a comment thread [1] largely asking the same question about Josh Charles. The conclusion (which i’m sure I’ve seen elsewhere) is

      Rumor has it he’s “difficult.” Pulled some “do you know who I am” shit above his pay grade; didn’t stay *quite* good-looking enough to counteract that.

      1. Alan Sepinwall is a first-rate TV critic. Here he’s doing Sports Night, but his reviews of more serious shows (e.g. Breaking Bad and The Wire) are even better. If you’re watching or re-watching one of them , you could do far worse than read his review after each episode.

      • There’s difficult, and then there’s “kicked off the set for touching the women too often”. I’m mildly disturbed that THAT creep is now kicking around the my little pony set.

  11. Yes.

    Some years ago, I always felt particularly pleased to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman get great supporting roles, always hoping he’d get cast in leads. Obviously that’s happened. More recently I’ve enjoyed seeing Chris Hemsworth go from a brief but powerful part in Star Trek to a leading man in several big pictures.

    An aside: I insist that Amy Acker get the lead in the new Star Wars movie. There must be a Jedi Amy Acker. The Force is with her.

  12. There are character actors who made careers out of showing up as “Guest Stars” on 70s cop shows.

    The Streets of San Francisco, Quincy, M.E., Harry O, Hawaii 5-0., Cannon, Barnaby Jones, etc.

    A bunch of them fell off the planet after QM productions was sold in 1978 and then the rest mostly fell off the planet when Bellisario took a ~10 year hiatus from doing crime television.

    The guys who are producing the remake of Hawaii 5-0 (which honestly isn’t very awesome) have pulled in some of them (Patty Duke, Ed Asner) which is cool.

  13. There are so many people I place in this category that I cannot even begin to list them.

    Started young, too, before I actually knew if people *were* famous or not – so, I remember watching some old movie at the age of 7 or so, and saying, “Mickey Rooney? He was in _The Fox and the Hound_! I LOVE HIM.” and feeling pleased that he had real jobs and not just voicing-cartoon-character jobs. 🙂

  14. I do well to recognize one actor from another; a rare experience, granted.
    I just don’t know who all those people are.

    With my music collection, however, I typically know month & year of recording, the studio, producer, engineer, and track listing in order for each and every album, cd, or cassette that I own.
    Too many times have I hoped to hear more material from the solid behind-the-star type and been bitterly disappointed.
    Whitford-St. Holmes comes immediately to mind.
    And when Ulrich Roth left the Scorpions and turned outright weird.
    Too many to list, or even think about.

    Hey, look! A bunny rabbit!

    • +1. Michael J. Anderson is pretty easy to recognize.
      My husband tends to know a lot of the smart showbiz crowd.
      I tend to root for them too, because they’re hilarious.

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