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The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Mark Pellegrino

20 Nov

Mark Pellegrino

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Some of the people we induct into the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame are actors who most people would instantly recognize because of their long, prolific television careers, or character actors remembered in particular for one stand-out main cast role in a much-loved television show. Some however, are less well-known, and can only be pinned down by most people as “the guy who played” one character from a couple of episodes of a couple of shows. Well, Marl Pellegrino is one of the latter, but I think if you’ve watched a lot of television in the ‘00s, you’ll likely recognize at least a role or two he’s played. In particular, he has appeared in one all-time recurring role of a character much better remembered by name than for the amount of screen time he gets in the seven episodes in which he appears. But we’ll get there. First we start at the beginning.

Pellegrino’s first IMDB credited role is as “punk” in an episode of L.A. Law. Next was an appearance in TV movie What Price Victory, followed by one-shots as “Dude” in Doogie Howser, M.D., an episode of Hunter, and as “Punk” again in a Tales From the Crypt. He ran through the entire decade of the ‘90s appearing in single episodes of many television shows, some of them popular, including, Northern Exposure, something called The Hat Squad, The Commish, Viper, Renegade, Deadly Games, ER, Nash Bridges, The Sentinal, Brimstone, and The X-Files. In X-Files episode “Hungry” he played a murder suspect, Derwood Spinks, who gets eaten by the true murderer and self-hating monster Rob Roberts. He also appeared in TV movies Class of ’61, Knight Rider 2010, The Cherokee Kid, and Born Into Exile. His best known role of the decade, however, may have come as an unnamed blond Jackie Treehorn thug in The Big Lebowski. He dunks The Dude’s head into the toilet and drops the bowling on the tile, breaking it, towards the beginning of the film (“Where’s the money Lebowski?,” he asks).

In the ‘00s, Pellegrino’s career began to pick up with some recurring roles. He was in three episodes of The Beast and four of NYPD Blue. He was in single episodes of The Practice, The Unit, Burn Notice, and Grey’s Anatomy, and two of Without a Trace, along with TV movie NYPD 2069.

Paul from Dexter

In 2006, he got the first television role for which he’s frequently recognized. He played Rita’s sketchy ex-con ex-husband Paul Bennett in eight episodes of the first two seasons of Dexter. Bennett is extremely possessive, and after he gets out of jail he comes looking for Rita and her new boyfriend, who is, of course, Dexter. Bennett was an abusive husband who beat and raped Rita, which got him to jail in the first place. Rather than simply kill him, per Dexter’s m.o. Dexter sets him up with some heroin and gets him shipped back to prison, where Bennett gets killed in a prison fight.

After getting killed off on Dexter, Pellegrino spent some more time as a TV nomad. He appeared on episodes of Women’s Murder Club, K-Ville, Knight Rider (remember that reboot?), Criminal Minds, Fear Itself, Ghost Whisperer, The Philanthropist, and The Mentalist, and two each of Prison Break and CSI.

Jacob from Lost

Soon, though he was to land his next extremely recognizable recurring character as the infamous Jacob from Lost. I don’t even begin to actually understand much of Jacob’s story, but he was a legendary figure talked about and heard but not seen long before his backstory was revealed. Jacob was the long-time protector of the island. He had a centuries-long feud with his brother, the nefarious Man in Black who also took the form of the Smoke Monster, and also killed their mother (Yes, Lost makes absolutely no sense; as someone who watched most of it, I can’t even imagine how ridiculous this sounds to someone who has seen none of it). Jacob was worshiped by Ben Linus, he was the one who made Richard immortal and he eventually anointed a successor to his place from among the survivors of the Oceanic crash.

Pellegrino was in TV movie Locke & Key (as Locke), a CSI: Miami, and a Breakout Kings, before guest-starring in six episodes of TNT hit The Closer as Gavin Q. Baker, a lawyer who represents Brenda in whatever the Turrell Baylor lawsuit is. He’s described by Wikipedia as flamboyant, astute, clever, and brutally honest.

He appeared in two Chucks and a Castle. He got a pretty choice recurring role as Archangel Lucifer on Supernatural. He has appeared in that role for 10 episodes over the course of seasons 5 through 7 and is the primary antagonist of season five, when, after breaking out of his prison in hell, he attempts to get Sam to be his vessel who he can inhabit (I don’t really know what that means either. Maybe I’ll watch you one day, Supernatural).

He appeared in the TV movie Hemingway & Gellhorn and in episodes of Grimm and Person of Interest.  He was a main cast member in the first season of the American Syfy remake of British supernatural show Being Human, in which a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire live together and try to make it in modern day society. He played James Bishop, a vampire, turned in the 15th century, who now works in the Boston Police Department.

Pellegrino played Jeremy Baker, a member of the Monroe Militia in four episodes of Revolution. Currently, he’s starring as the antagonist in the CW’s The Tomorrow People, about a near-future where some people have genetic super powers. He plays the head of the villainous government organization Ultra, charged with rounding up and disabling all the people with genetic mutations.

Before, he may have just seemed to be “the guy who played Jacob in Lost,” but he’s so much more. Welcome to the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame, Mark Pellegrino.

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The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Gerald McRaney

24 Jul

Gerald McRaney

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Here at the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame, we often like to celebrate character actors who don’t get their due.  But, occasionally, as today, we’re celebrating the career of an absolute TV titan whose work we still believe is underrated.

McRaney’s sheer amount of work is unbelievable.  His first TV role was in 1972 in an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  In the early ‘70s he appeared in episodes of Alias Smith and Jones, Cannon, The F.B.I., Sons and Daughters, The Waltons, and Mannix.  He was the last guest star to meet Matt Dillion in Gunsmoke.  He was an incredibly busy guest star in the second half of the decade as well, appearing in two episodes of Petrocelli, Police Woman, and The Streets of San Francisco, three of The Blue Knight and Barnaby Jones, and single episodes of CHiPs, Eight is Enough, Switch, Hawaii Five-0, The Oregon Trail, The Six-million Dollar Man, Baretta, The Dukes of Hazzard, and in a series adaptation of Logan’s Run.  He was in four episodes each of The Incredible Hulk and The Rockford Files.  He appeared in TV movies The Jordan Chance, Women in White, and The Aliens are Coming.

Rick Simon

After appearing in TV movies The Seal, Where the Ladies Go, and Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case, McRaney got his first huge break, starring in detective series Simon & Simon, as Rick Simon.  Simon & Simon operated as a classic partners-are-opposites set up.  Rick was the tough, street smart, brother; he was formerly a Marine who fought in Vietnam, while his brother AJ was book smart, financially savvy and fashionable.  Rick was a free spirit who liked pick up trucks and lived on a boat in his brother’s yard.*  The series lasted an incredible 8 seasons and 157 episodes, and yet no one can still remember the actor who played AJ (Jameson Parker – and don’t act like it was on the tip of your tongue).

While busy on the series, he found time to film a series of TV movies, including Memories Never Die, The Haunting Passion, City Killer, Easy Prey, A Hobo’s Christmas, The People Across the Lake, and the sublimely named Where The Hell’s That Gold?!!?  He crossed over as Simon into an episode of Magnum, and showed up in two Designing Womens.

Major Dad

Immediately after Simon & Simon ended, McRaney showed his range by starring in his next successful show, the four season sitcom Major Dad, where he played Major John D. “Mac” MacGillis, a commander of an infantry training school who falls in love with a liberal journalist who has three daughters.  For the second time in two shows, he played a Marine.  The show lasted four seasons on CBS.

During Major Dad’s run, he still found time for TV movies, including Murder by Moonlight, Blind Vengeance, Vestige of Honor, Love and Curses..And All That Jazz (I don’t look into every one of these TV movies because the entries would become thousands and thousands of words – but I couldn’t resist this one – IMDB lists the premise as “A private investigator and her husband, who is a doctor, investigate rumors of a dead woman who was brought back to life by a voodoo spell.” and it also features Delta Burke, who is McRaney’s real life wife playing that role as well as Elizabeth Ashley), and Fatal Friendship.

He basically spent the rest of the mid-90s filming a ridiculous amount of TV movies, none of which you will have ever heard of, but which I will list, because as I’ve said many times, TV movies have the best names.  Scattered Dreams, Armed and Innocent, Motorcycle Gang, Deadly Vows, Someone She Knows, Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou (this may be the best name of this list), Not Our Son, The Stranger Beside Me, Nothing Lasts Forever, Home of the Brave, A Nightmare Comes True, A Thousand Men and a Baby (this may have now taken over as best title) and a Simon & Simon reunion entitled Simon & Simon: In Trouble Again.  He appeared on single episodes of Burke’s Law, The Commish, Diagnosis Murder, Coach, and Murder, She Wrote.

He appeared in seven episodes of Darren Star created one-season CBS primetime soap Central Park West, which starred Mariel Hemingway and Raquel Welch and he appeared in seven episodes of the much more successful CBS drama Touched by an Angel.  His recurring character on Touched, Russell Greene, was spun off onto his own CBS drama, Promised Land, which lasted three seasons, and which I don’t even remember existing.  The show was the story of Greene and his family traveling throughout the United States in their airstream trailer, even though everything was filmed in Utah.

The early ‘00s was possibly the least fertile period of McRaney’s career, and he still collected several series appearances and TV movie roles.  Movies included Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story, A Holiday Romance, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, Danger Beneath the Sea (new best title contender!), Becoming Glen, Tornado Warning, The Dan Show, Going for Broke, and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, where he played Patton.  He was in two JAGs, two Third Watch episodes, an episode of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, and two West Wings.

George Hearst

In 2005, he made his first of 13 appearances on David Milch’s HBO western Deadwood, where he played George Hearst, a villainous mining baron who unites the town of Deadwood against him.  In 2006, he starred in cult CBS post-apocalyptic series Jericho as Johnston Green, Mayor of Jericho, father of main character Jake, and again, a military veteran.

In the past few years, McRaney, now in his 60s, has been as in demand as ever.  He was in two episodes of Women’s Murder Club and a CSI.  He co-starred in JJ Abrams’ short-lived spy drama Undercovers in 2011, as CIA handler Carlton Shaw, who brought back the two main characters into the agency.  He played a recurring judge in five episodes of USA’s Fairly Legal, who had a grudge against main character Kate for switching from law to mediation. He was in two episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards as Raymond Tusk, a wealthy industrialist and long-time friend and confidante of the president.  He was in two episodes of Justified as Josiah Cairn, friend of the hillbillies and of Raylan’s dad, who claims to know where Drew Thompson is.  He was in five episodes of Southland and six of Mike & Molly.  Most recently he’s appeared in three of A&E western Longmire.

Phew.  That was a long one.  What’s also kind of incredible is just how few movies McRaney has been in relative to his television work, which has been more or less completely constant since 1980.  What a career, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Welcome to the Hall, Gerald.

*I erroneously originally put that Rick lived in a trailer on his brother’s property, rather than a boat.  Thank you for correcting me, commenter – my boneheaded error.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Richard Kind

8 Apr

One of a Kind

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Playing largely portly, often anxious and neurotic characters might seem to limit the roles an actor can get, but in Richard Kind’s case, as the go-to for the type, it means he gets a lot of them.  He’s done plenty of movie work as well, including a spot in 2012 Best Picture winner Argo, but we’ll be focusing on his TV work, the medium in which he’s had his biggest successes.

Kind, born in 1956, had his first role in TV movie Two Fathers’ Justice in 1985 as District Attorney.  He appeared in a failed sitcom pilot called the Bennett Brothers as one of said brothers, an odd couple, whose other member was no less than George Clooney.  He was in single episodes of Hooperman, My Sister Sam, Mr. Belevedere, Empty Nest, 21 Jump Street, and Anything But Love.   He was a regular on eight episode 1989 NBC series Unsub, a sort of proto-Criminal Minds about an FBI team which tracks serial killers, where he appeared alongside  David Soul and M. Emmet Walsh.

He began the 1990s as a regular role player in Carol Burnett one season sketch show Carol & Company, in which he acted aside future luminaries Peter Krause and Jeremy Piven. He then traveled along with Carol when a new version of The Carol Burnett show was produced for CBS in 1991, which also didn’t last long.  He was in episodes of Princesses, Stand by Your Man, Great Scott, and The Building, and in 1992 finally got his breakthrough as a recurring character in smash success Mad About You.  He appeared in 37 episodes of the series as Dr. Mark Devanow, who left his wife, and Jamie’s best friend, Fran Devanow to see the world.  He later reconciled with his wife, converted to Buddhism  and worked at a grocery store.

Richard Kind started to get regular appearances in main casts of failed sitcoms around this time.  He starred with Julia Campbell and Stephen Tobolowsky in Blue Skies in 1994 about two guys who operate a mail-order business in Boston.  Soon after Blue Skies’ cancellation the same creators imported some of the same actors (Kind, Campbell, and Tobolowsky, now with Corbin Bernsen and John O’Hurley) to work on A Whole New Ballgame in the same time slot, about an ex-ball player who becomes a sportscaster for a local Milwaukee TV station.  The show failed equally quickly.  Kind also appeared on six episodes of the Michael Chiklis-led The Commish.  In the mid-90s, he lent his talents to individual episodes of Nowhere Man, Space: Above and Beyond, Something So Right, The Lionhearts, and Strangers with Candy.

Delivering the Spin

In 1996, he got his next big break, and the part he is most famous for, as Paul Lassiter in Spin City.  Kind is in all 145 episodes of the show, including the two Charlie Sheen seasons, after Michael J. Fox left to cope with his Parkinson’s disease. Kind’s Lassiter is the Press Secretary for the New York City Mayor’s office, and is known for being gullible, subject to practical jokes, and a bit of a cheapskate.

He lent his voice to episodes of The Wild Thornberrys and Oswald, and appeared in Disney Channel’s Even Stevens.  He began the ’00s by showing up in two episodes of Still Standing (did you know every Still Standing episode title began with the word “Still”?  I sure didn’t) and individual episodes of Just Shoot Me!, Miss Match, Girlfriends, Oliver Beene, The Division (one of his first drama appearances) and Less Than Perfect.  He narrated a series of Disney interstitial programming known as Go, Baby! which featured two babies playing with one another.

He appeared in four Scrubs episodes as hypochondriac patient Harvey Corman.  He went back to kids TV to show up in episodes of Sesame Street and a voice role in five episodes of Kim Possible.  He also lent his voice to two episodes of famously failed adult animated series Father of the Pride.  In 2002, he made his first of four memorable appearances on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as Larry’s irritating Cousin Andy.  He famously asked Larry for money to fund his wife’s cosmetology school after Larry offered to pay his child’s college tuition.

Larry and Cousin Andy

He was in TV movies Genetically Challenged and The Angriest Man in Suburbia and single episodes of series Head Cases, Reba, Psych, Three Moons Over Milford, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as two each of E-Ring, Stargate: Atlantis, and All of Us.  He was in a Two and a Half Men, Trauma, ‘Til Death, and Harry’s Law, and multiples of Burn Notice, Leverage, and Mr. Sunshine as well as voice roles in American Dad! and The Penguins of Madagascar.

He co-starred in ill-fated but underrated David Milch HBO series Luck as Joey Rathburn, an agent for jockeys.  Within the last year since Luck was cancelled, he’s appeared in NYC-22, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kroll Show, and Golden Boy, where he plays an interviewing journalist in the pilot.

We salute you for your work, Richard Kind.  The next supporting role for a slightly rotund man proud to live up to the occasional Jewish stereotype is just a call away.  Before we go, I’d like to additionally give credit to his work in the hugely underrated Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, and note the interesting trivia fact that his best man at his 1999 wedding was his fellow Bennett brother George Clooney.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Jim Beaver

13 Mar

Jim Beaver

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Today we’re celebrating the television work of Jim Beaver, a character actor who has only become more prolific with age, first acting in the late ’70s, working more frequently in the late ’80s, and whose biggest roles have come largely in the last 10 years.

Beaver’s first work came in the late ’70s, appearing in tiny roles in TV movies Desperado and something called Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders starring Jane Seymour, as well as an uncredited appearance as “diner” in an episode of Dallas.  After another uncredited appearance in a TV movie called Girls of the White Orchard as “pedestrian,” he next appeared in a Jake and the Fatman episode in 1987.  He spent the end of the ’80s and 1990 making individual appearances in Matlock, Guns of Paradise, CBS Summer Playhouse, The Young Riders, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Midnight Caller, and TV movies Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake, Mothers, Daughters, and Lovers (that’s one title), Follow Your Heart, El Diablo, The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson (featuring a young Andre Braugher as Jackie Robinson), and Gunsmoke: To The Last Man.

He got his first multi-episode role on soap Santa Barbara as the wonderfully named character, “Andy the Rapist.”  He got his biggest role yet in two season odd couple cop drama Reasonable Doubts, which starred Marlee Matlin as a civil liberties-friendly District Attorney and Mark Harmon as an old-school cop.  Beaver appeared as Harmon’s friend and partner Detective Earl Gaddis in 14 episodes.  He showed up in another Gunsmoke movie, an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and TV movie Children of the Dark before appearing again as a regular in two season ABC sitcom Thunder Alley.  Thunder Alley starred Ed Asner as a retired race car driver, and included in the cast a young Haley Joel Osment.  Beaver played Asner’s mentally challenged mechanic, Leland DuParte.

Beaver danced around TV for the rest of the ’90s, appearing in single episodes of Home Improvement, High Incident, Bone Chillers, NYPD Blue, Moloney, Murder One, Spy Game, Total Security, The Adventures of A.R.K. (I have no idea what some of these are), Melrose Place, Pensacola: Wings of Gold, The X-Files, and TV movies Divided by Hate and Mr. Murder (starring the great Stephen Baldwin).  He also appears as bar owner Happy Doug in seven episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun and in four episodes of long-running soap The Young and the Restless.

He recurred in one season David Krumholtz and Jon Cryer starrer The Trouble with Normal in 2000.  From 1996-2004, he appeared in 26 episodes of soap Days of Our Lives as Father Tim Jansen, the local pastor.  Next, there was more journeying around the world of TV appearing in single episodes of That ’70s Show, The Division, Star Trek: Enterprise, The West Wing, Philly, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Six Feet Under, Tremors, The Lyon’s Den (Rob Lowe’s ill-fated post The West Wing show), Monk, and Crossing Jordan.

Whitney Ellsworth

Beaver landed the biggest role of his career in 2004, as he was cast in David Milch’s Western masterpiece Deadwood as grizzled prospector Whitney Ellsworth.  Ellsworth was the rare truly honest man in Deadwood, and unlike a couple of the other honest characters, was liked by just about everyone in town.  He’s initially trusted to manage Alma Garrett’s gold claim, and works hard to manage her successful gold operation, fighting off various concerns who want to buy it.

Episodes of The Unit and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation were next, followed by the start of his second biggest role, appearing as a heavily recurring character in Supernatural.  At 54 appearances over the course of Supernatural’s nine seasons, Beaver has shown up in more episodes of the show than anyone except the two leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.  He plays Bobby Singer, a blue collar demon hunter and old family friend of main characters Sam and Dean’s family.  Over the course of the show, Singer shows the boys countless tricks of the trade for dealing with the supernatural, and becomes a father figure to Sam and Dean.

Beaver was busy elsewhere while appearing on Supernatural.  He was in five episodes of the one season Taye Diggs led Daybreak, and in eight of one season David Milch far out HBO drama John From Cincinnati as Vietnam Joe, a pot grower who helps Mexican illegals cross the US border.  He was in three episodes of Big Love and one of Criminal Minds.  He was a main cast member in 2008-09 CBS 13 episode horror/thriller murder mystery miniseries Harper’s Island, playing the sheriff of the titular island, Charlie Mills.  The gimmick of the series, which sounds kind of zany and possibly worth further investigation, is that at least one character, and as many as five, are killed every episode.

Shelby Parlow

Next were single episodes of Psych, Law & Order: LA, The Mentalist, Lie to Me, and Love Bites.  Then, he appeared in two episodes of Breaking Bad, as gun dealer Lawson, selling Walter White guns in episodes Thirty-Eight Snub and fifth season premiere Live Free or Die.  He was in an episode of Dexter’s most recent seventh season, playing Dexter love interest Hannah McKay’s lousy dad, Clint.  He’s also played an important recurring role in Justified as now Harlan County Sheriff Shelby Parlow, appearing in almost every episode this season.  Keep up the good work, Jim Beaver.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Stephen Tobolowsky

3 Nov

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

An actor perhaps best known for his small role in an early ‘90s movie (Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, you know his quote “watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy!”), he’s come back to TV over and over in numerous recurring roles and many single episodes, and because his career has been constant for over two decades, please pardon the especially long entry today as we induct Stephen Tobolowsky into the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame.

Tobolowsky’s first credited television role was as TV Clerk in 1983 TV movie Cocaine and Blue Eyes.  He then appeared in a series of single episode roles throughout the remainder of the ‘80s including Alice, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Cagney & Lacey, Stir Crazy, 222, Designing Women, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and L.A. Law. Then, a series of TV film appearances in Roe vs. Wade, Last Flight Out, The Marla Hanson Story, Tagget, and Perry Mason: The Case of the Maligned Mobster.  Then, more single appearances in shows Lifestories, Down Home, Baby Talk, and Shannon’s Deal, and then on Seinfeld, as a holistic healer who diagnoses George and proscribes a tea which puts George in the hospital (Jerry accompanies George to the healer for the potential comedy value).

A few more bit roles followed, in single episodes of Picket Fences, Civil Wars, and Café Americain, as well as TV movie When Love Kills:  The Seduction of John Hearn.  Apparently this little TV movie starred Gary Cole as John Hearn, a real life ex-marine, who Debbie Bannister, played by CSI vet Marg Helgeneurger, convinced to kill her husband and her sister’s ex-husband.  The movie also featured Michael Jeter and Justified main cast member Nick Searcy.

Next, he got his first main cast role on Against the Grain, a show I can’t believe I’ve never heard of for two reasons.  First, because one of the other main cast members was Ben Affleck a good couple of years before Good Will Hunting.  Second, because the show is based on a little book by Buzz Bissinger called Friday Night Lights which went on to become a somewhat more successful show a few years later (not to mention a feature film).  I’m going to have to investigate this show more in the future, but the coach role was played by John Terry, best known as Jack’s dad in Lost (and unrelated, as far as I know to the controversial Chelsea defender).

He appeared in an episode of Harts of the West before getting another main role in a series called Blue Skies that doesn’t even have a wikipedia entry.  He did act in it next to possible future Ivanek nominee Richard Kind.  After two episodes of Chicago Hope, and two of A Whole New Ballgame, he co-starred again in the 1995 CBS sitcom Dweebs.  Dweebs seems like an earlier take on The Big Bang Theory idea or possibly the British IT Crowd.  A normal human woman, played by Farrah Forke, is hired to manage a bunch of uber nerdy software workers.  Bosom Buddies’ Peter Scolari owns the company, and Tobolowsky is an employee aside other luminaries such as Corey Feldman.  The show aired six episodes before cancellation.

Next up were single episodes of The Home Court and The Pretender along with an appearance as Principal Flutie in the unaired pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Tobolowsky was back in a regular series in 1996 with Mr. Rhodes, starring comedian Tom Rhodes, and yet again, bizarrely, Farrah Forke.  The show co-starred Lindsey Sloane and Veronica Mars’ Logan, Jason Dohring, and lasted 19 episodes.  After four straight failed series, Tobolowsky spent the last few years of the 20th century guesting in a number of series.  These included three episodes of Murder One and Snoops and single episodes of The Naked Truth, Promised Land, The Drew Carey Show, The Closer (the less heralded Tom Selleck one), Suddenly Susan, Vengeance Unlimited, Mad About You, The Practice, That ‘70s Show, and Odd Man Out, along with TV movie Don’t Look Under the Bed.

He recurred in 2000 in one season USA mystery show Manhattan, AZ, as a small town veterinarian who also works as a regular doctor (hey, it’s a really small town).  After that it was back to one off appearances in Any Day Now, Hollywood Off-Ramp, That’s Life, Bull, The Lone Gunmen, Roswell, Malcolm in the Middle, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Oliver Beene, Stephen King’s Dead Zone, Las Vegas, The West Wing, Married to the Kellys, It’s All Relative, According to Jim, Will and Grace and Complete Savages (seriously, this only covers about four years) and TV movies with amazing names like Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion, The Gene Pool, On the Edge, Black River, The Day the World Ended, and Twins.

He appeared in five episodes of CSI: Miami as Assistant State Attorney Don Haffman.  He became likely one of if not the only person to appear in both series titled The Closer (the more famous Kyra Sedgwick one this time) and showed up in Curb Your Enthusiasm as Jeff’s conservative brother-in-law Len Dunkel.  He followed this by guesting in Reba, Ghost Whisperer, and Desperate Housewives.  He was in 9 episodes of Deadwood, mostly in the second season as Commissioner Hugo Jarry, a politician trying to angle for the inclusion of Deadwood into the Dakota Territory, negotiating with Al Swearengen, Cy Tolliver and occasionally Sheriff Bullock, with mixed results.

He was a regular cast member in the short-lived Big Day, a show which takes place on a couple’s wedding day, and in which he portrayed the groom’s father.  He was then in TV movie Valley of Light and episodes of Boston Legal, Raines, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Entourage, in which he played the mayor of Beverly Hills.  He was in three episodes of HBO’s one season John From Cincinnati and one of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

He appeared in 11 episodes of short-lasting phenomenon-before-turning-terrible Heroes as Bob Bishop, a member of the evil company who also has the power to turn anything to gold, which allows him to fund the company, and is a member of the older generation of heroes that had some large conspiracy in place from years ago and well, trying to explain more about what he does, it would just make less sense than this.  He did two episodes of The New Adventures of Old Christine as a principal, one of Community as a professor, and episodes of The Sarah Silverman Program, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Defenders, and kids show True Jackson, VP.

He’s been in eight episodes of Glee as recurring character and creepy ex-teacher Sandy Ryerson (a nod to Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day I assume?).  Sandy is the former director of the Glee club and is super creepy and one of those says-he’s-not-gay-but-is-obviously-gay types who apparently has had disturbing incidents with harassing male students (yeah, it’s kind of creepy).  He’s meanwhile been in 19 episodes of the can’t-believe-they’re-on-their-sixth-season Californication.  He was in the last two seasons as movie producer Stu Beggs who dates and then marries Marcy, played by Louie recurring actress Pamela Adlon, who used to be married to Evan Handler’s character, Charlie.  He also appeared in two third season episodes of Justified as a an agent out to get Raylan Givens.

Tobolowsky is now a main cast member (though he hasn’t been in at least a couple of the first batch of episodes, so maybe he’ll end up simply recurring) on The Mindy Project as Mindy’s practice’s head and veteran doctor Marc Shulman.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Titus Welliver

15 Jul

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

It’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these, but I was raised out of my stupor by a true TV that-guy, the wonderfully-named Titus Welliver.  I had been discussing Welliver with a friend recently, and then, upon watching the first episode of The Good Wife, saw that he popped up again.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Inspiration?  Certainly.  Let’s pay the good Mr. Welliver the respect he deserves with a true Ivanek tribute.

Welliver, born in 1961, made his first TV appearance in 1990 with a role in TV movie The Lost Capone and in an episode of Matlock.  He then appeared in episodes of L.A. Law, Beverly Hills, 90210, The Commish, and Tales from the Crypt, along with TV movies An American Story and One Woman’s Courage.  Welliver then guest starred in X-Files episode “Darkness Falls,” as an ecoterrorist who, along with loggers, tries to avoid a killer swarm of green insects which escaped when an extremely old tree was cut down.  Welliver is dead by the end of the episode.  He appeared in episodes of New York Undercover, Kindred: The Embraced, and High Incident, as well as HBO TV movie Blind Justice, before appearing in three episodes of Murder One.  He followed this with episodes of Nash Bridges, Spy Game, The Practice, and TV movies Rough Riders and The Day Lincoln Was Shot.  In 1995, he was introduced to Steven Bochco with a recurring role in eight episodes of NYPD Blue as Dr. Mondzac.

Bochco would give him his first shot at a starring role in 1997.  He played Officer Jack Lowery in the one season of Bochco cop show Brooklyn South, which had the distinction of airing the first TV-M rated episode ever.  His character, as Wikipedia describes, was, “a tough street cop coping with personal demons which included his selfish and nagging wife, Yvonne, who died early in the season,” After the show was cancelled, Welliver finished out the decade appearing in episodes of Total Recall: The Series (doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry), Star Trek: Voyager, and Touched by an Angel, as well as in TV movie Mind Prey.

He got a couple of quick starring chances early in the next decade, as a regular on eight episode Ed O’Neill starrer Big Apple, and as second season character in what I-can’t-believe-lasted-two seasons-since-I-don’t-remember-it-at-all dramedy That’s Life, which starred Paul Sorvino, Ellen Burstyn, Kevin Dillon and Debi Mazar.  Before his next big role, he appeared in episodes of UC: Undercover, Third Watch, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Twilight Zone, Hack, and in mini-series Blonde about Marilyn Monroe, as Joe DiMaggio.  He picked up his next major role in 2004 in David Milch’s Deadwood.  His role is not extremely major, but he plays Silas Adams, one of villainous Al Swearengen’s primary and smartest henchmen.  He appears in the majority of the episodes of the show.  He has a rivalry with fellow henchman Dan Dority, but saves Dan’s life from a Chinese man with a knife at the end of the second season, allowing them to reconsider their relationship.

The mid-2000s were a nomadic period for Welliver.  He appeared in episodes of Law & Order, Numb3rs, Kidnapped, Jericho, NCIS, Shark, Life, Prison Break, Monk, Raising the Bar, Kings, and Supernatural and TV movies Danny Fricke and True Blue.  He next played a small but crucial role in Lost as The Man in Black, one of the primary antagonists of the series.  Although Welliver only appeared in three episodes as the character, the role was a major one.  I’m not even going to try to explain the entire Lost Man in Black mythology because it makes no sense and I don’t understand it, but apparently he’s the representation of evil who needs to be kept on the island and he’s also the smoke monster and he also can appear as dead people like John Locke.  Jack kills him at the end after Desmond makes him mortal by pulling some plug in the heart of the island.  Sure, why not.

Welliver was the primary antagonist of the third season of motorcycle gang show Sons of Anarchy.  He played IRA kingpin gone rogue Jimmy O’Phelan.  He’s originally in charge of selling guns to the Sons, and has a complicated history with them, having kicked SAMCRO member Chibs out of the IRA and stolen his wife and daughter.  It turns out that he’s trying to screw over SAMCRO and the rest of the Real IRA.

In 2009, he also began his other major recurring role as new Cook County State’s Attorney in The Good Wife after titular good wife Julianna Margulies’ husband was forced to resign.  He appeared in 16 episodes in the first two seasons.  He’s still looking for a new longer-term home, but since those two shows, he’s appeared in The Closer, Law & Order: LA, Suits, TV movies Awakening and Good Morning, Killer, an episode of Grimm, and in the pilot episode and two others of Fox’s Touch.

Welliver’s TV work is diverse and prolific, and we induct him today into the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Michael Gaston

11 Jan

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

We love character actors who play rich white guys here at the Zejlko Ivanek Hall of Fame and this week we’ll be celebrating on of the less well known entrants, Michael Gaston, who has experience playing rich white men and police officers, and who has gotten more and more work as the years have gone on.

He began his career in the mid-90s, with his first role in an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete.  In the 90s, he appeared in single episodes of New York News, New York Undercover, One Live To Live, Homicide: Life on the Street, andSpin City.  He was in three episodes of The Profiler and played the title character in TV movie Nathan Dixon.  He appeared in the pilot episode of The Sopranos as CPA Alex Mahaffey.  He works for Blue Cross/Blue Shield and participates in a scheme to defraud Medicare with Tony and Hesh to get himself out of debt he acquired through gambling.  To convince him to participate in the scheme, Hesh and Big Pussy threaten to throw him over a waterfall, after Tony hits him with his car and Christopher and Tony beat him.

In the early 2000s, he was in episodes of Third Watch, The $treet,100 Centre Street and two of Now and Again.  He was in TV movie Cora Unashamed and appeared in Oz as death row prisoner Shirley Bellinger’s (played by Kathryn Erbe) ex-husband.  He was a recurring character on one season Oliver Platt drama Deadlien and appeared in two episodes each of Ally McBeal, Ed, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.  He appeared in five Law & Order episodes over the course of the series run as five different characters, with the first appearance in 1994 and the last in 2009.  In 2009’s Bailout, he played a Wall Street CEO for a sinking investment bank who is at first accused of murdering his girlfriend.  In 2001’s White Lie, he played the military husband of a woman accused of helping smuggle cocaine into the US.

He was in individual episodes of The Practice, John Doe, Hack, The Guardian, NCIS, Malcolm in the Middle, The West Wing, Without a Trace, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and two of JAG.  In The West Wing, he played a friend of Josh who has been waiting a year to be confirmed in his appointment to a federal appeals court judgeship by the Republican congress.  In 2005, he was a main cast member as a cop in one season literally titled Steven Bochco show Blind Justice.  In two episodes of Prison Break, he played Quinn, and agent from “The Company” who ends up at the bottom of a well.  He was in four episodes of three season Brotherhood.

In two seasons of post-apocalyptic cult classic CBS show Jericho, Gaston portrayed Gray Anderson. Anderson is a businessman who controls the Jericho Salt Mines.  He defeats mayor Johnston Green to become mayor himself and helps lead the construction of a new power source, a wind turbine.  He participates in an Allied States of America conference (I have no clue what this is but the show sounds vaguely intriguing) but disagrees with their ideas and eventually turns the town back over to former mayor Green.

He was in episodes of ER, Numb3rs, and Saving Grace.  He was in an episode of Mad Men as Head of Accounts Burt Peterson who is fired by Lane Price so that Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove can take over.  He makes a scene while leaving, knocking items off desks and yelling.  He was in two episodes of Raising the Bar and in TV movie U.S. Attorney.  He had a quick appearance in the pilot episode of White Collar as a director for the US Marshals working at the prison Neal Caffrey escapes from.  He plays recurring character Roger Kastle in six episodes of Damages.  In two episodes of season eight of 24, he was General David Brucker.  Brucker disagrees with President Allison Taylor and believes she should turn over Omar Hassan to potentially save Ameircan lives.  Brucker concocts a plan to abduct Hassan without the President’s knowledge, but his plan is foiled by Jack Bauer and he is later arrested.

Gaston appeared in four episodes of short-lived AMC show Rubicon as Donald Bloom.  Bloom is an independent contractor who formerly worked for the CIA.  He is hired by Truxton Spangler to kill main character Will Travers, and to make it look like an accident.  However, the plan is botched and Will manages to shoot and kill Bloom before Bloom can inject him with an overdose of heroin.  Later in the same year, Gaston was rich white guy Ben Zeitlin in four episodes of one season Terriers.  Zeitlin is a corrupt attorney who is part of a conspiracy at the heart of the season, and is attempting to purchase some land through shady means.

In 2011, Gaston began a recurring role on The Mentalist as California Bureau of Investigation head Gale Bertram.  Mostly concerned with the political and media aspects of being director, Bertram has noticed the impressive record of Agent Teresa Lisbon and Patrick Jane, and has been hinted to possibly have connections to serial killer Redjohn.  Gaston is currently a regular cast member of CBS detective show Unforgettable.  Unforgettable focuses on Carrie Wells, a police officer with a rare condition that gives her amazing memory.  Gaston plays Detective Mike Costello, a detective in Wells’ unit.