On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love – Television – gave to me… six male characters I’ve enjoyed.
Well I’m late and getting later. Beyond that I’ve got some open spots in the whole “12 Days” thing. Still I’ve got a few more things that I do have something for, so what I’ll probably end up doing is dropping the “Twelve Days Of Christmas” title and round up the rest of the stuff that I’ve got. At least the male characters are easier for me to write about than the female characters. As I’ve said, the 2010-11 season has a lot more male characters to write about than female characters. A couple of these are a bit of a surprise, even to me.
1. Scott Caan – Danny “Danno” Williams on Hawaii Five-0: Say what you want about the new version of Hawaii Five-0 – and I have – you’ve got to admit that the remake of the original series gave the character of “Danno” more personality in the first episode than the original series gave their “Danno” in all the time that James MacArthur played the role. This Danno is a rather defiant “fish out of water” who hates being in Hawaii, refuses to follow local habits (he always wears a shirt and tie even though everyone around him avoids that like the plague) but stays there because he’s a divorced dad who is devoted to his daughter. Caan’s version of Danno isn’t deferential to his “boss” Steve McGarrett. He is, by turns sarcastic, dubious, professional and even, on rare occasions, supportive of McGarrett. In fact, most of the time Caan makes Danno more interesting than Alex O’Laughlin makes McGarrett. The important thing to me is that which Jack Lord’s McGarrett could do reasonably well without James MacArthur’s Danny Williams – as he did in some episodes while MacArthur was on the show and for the show’s final season when he wasn’t – it is hard to imagine O’Laughlin working without Caan to play off of. It’s a great relationship the show sort of falls apart without it.
2. Jackie Earl Haley – Guerrero on Human Target: Considering that Guerrero is sociopath who routinely tortures people whit whatever he has close to hand and whose moral compass seems to be stuck pointing any direction but North. Guerrero is Christopher Chance’s (Mark Valley) left hand man, the left hand being the one that usually gets stuck doing the dirty stuff (at least in some traditions). Guerrero isn’t a particularly complex character but he is a fun one filled with little character quirks. He doesn’t put his name down on paper anywhere and he has an almost paranoid fear of people being able to track him down. Physically unimposing – he’s short and wears glasses – as often as not just his name or a look from him is enough to get his potential victims to break down and tell him anything he wants to know. Guerrero is pretty much the polar opposite of the other major supporting character on the show, Winston. Their relationship tends to be adversarial, albeit with a grudging acknowledgement that they don’t really work well without each other. Jackie Earle Haley, the former child star and award winning actor seems to have great fun with this part.
3. John Noble – Dr. Walter Bishop on Fringe: Every year since Fringe started (which seems longer than it really has been) I hope that John Noble will at the very least get an Emmy nomination for playing Walter Bishop. And every year I know I’m going to be disappointed because Fringe isn’t on some high profile cable network and it is a “genre show” (which means science fiction – you don’t hear of shows in the forensic genre being called “genre shows”) with a”cult following.” Those two things are the kiss of death for mainstream awards. That’s a pity, because even before this season John Noble has been outstanding playing Walter Bishop. They say that one of the hardest things for an actor to play is crazy, and Walter is, as the British would say (or at least the class of British that we usually see on imported TV series) completely dotty. Thing is that it’s a fun kind of dotty. Walter has an endearing child-like quality even when he’s whipping up his latest device or postulating some theory which is at the same time a crackpot idea and absolutely correct. That’s the Walter that we’ve known up until this season, and I’ve thought that the portrayal was worth an Emmy.This season something new was added for John Noble: “Walternate.” “Walternate” – the version of Walter Bishop in the alternate universe that is at war with ours is in his own way probably just as mad as our Walter, but not in an endearing way. Walternate is completely ruthless, willing to kill “our” Olivia to bring his Olivia back to his side once her mission is completed, and when that proves impossible lops off pieces of the corpse of a formerly trusted associate (his Philip Broyles) to match Olivia’s weight. And that’s not even mentioning his willingness to use his son, the only remaining Peter Bishop, as an integral part of a weapon that will destroy “our” universe. And he did it all cloaked in patriotism and his role as Secretary of Defense. Playing two characters in the same show is always a trial for for an actor, and in playing both our “dotty” Walter and his polar opposite the sociopathic Walternate, I think that John Noble has truly earned the Emmy nomination that he will undoubtedly not get.
4. Donnie Wahlberg – Detective Danny Reagan on Blue Bloods: Truth be known, this is more of a case of me liking the actor and bringing the character along for the ride so to speak. I’ve basically been a fan of Donnie Wahlberg since I saw him in Band of Brothers (what? you expecting me to say New Kids On The Block?) and I also liked him in Boomtown, the series he did after Band Of Brothers, (which was created by Graham Yost, who also wrote two episodes of Band of Brothers). I did miss his very short running CW series Runaway and some of his other movie and TV work, but what I’ve seen him in I like him in. And that includes Blue Bloods. Wahlberg plays NYPD Detective Danny Reagan who is the eldest son of Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). Danny is one of those cops who bends the rules. If you follow enough police procedurals you know that just about all of them have cops who “bend the rules.” What makes Danny Reagan different – and indeed what makes the whole show different – is that we see beyond the work life and into the personal family life of Danny and the rest of his family. Thus we see and get to know Danny’s wife and how she reacts to some of the situations that she’s in; we get to see the reaction of his sister Erin – an Assistant District Attorney – to some of the things that Danny does when he “bends the rules.” This adds an extra dimension to the character and gives Wahlberg something to work with.
5. Jim Belushi – Nick Morelli on The Defenders:
6. Jerry O’Connell – Pete Kaczmerik on The Defenders: This is the one that surprised me because I really haven’t liked either of these two actors in roles that they’ve had in the past. And yet, I like them in this and I think it’s because these fit the characters nicely. I’m probably less surprised with Belushi’s performance. While I, like just about anyone else who has written even a comment on a website about TV, complained about his previous series According To Jim, I am aware that Belushi has at least some acting chops both in comedy and drama. The character of Nick Morelli fits Belushi well; a Chicago-born lawyer who enjoyment of his prosperity is disrupted by the end of his marriage and his sudden return to the dating scene. As for Jerry O’Connell, I have to say that I find him the more limited of the two actors. I‘ve seen at least some episodes of the four series that O’Connell has done as an adult, and while I actually liked him in Crossing Jordan, I could barely watch a single episode of his last series, Checking In and I don’t think I saw a complete episode of Carpoolers. My impression of O’Connell is that he often plays varying degrees of the same character, always energetic and usually quite pleased with himself. In the two comedies, he was oversexed and even a bit smarmy. There is just something about O’Connell that I always find annoying. In The Defenders all of those negative character aspects are found in Pete Kaczmerik but they work. Pete is a womanizer and egotistical and over-energetic, and a bit smarmy but those are the traits that this character, a fast talking lawyer who is a few steps above being an ambulance chaser but nowhere near the top of his profession would have. Maybe putting him opposite Belushi has worn off some of the traits that I previously found annoying in both of them.