Tag Archives: Deadwood

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.

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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.