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KICKING TELEVISION: Why David Costabile, Mary Louise Parker, Gary Cole, Michael Keaton, Ellen Page, Joan Allen, Adam Driver, and Beyonce Need Vehicles!

KICKING TELEVISION: Why David Costabile, Mary Louise Parker, Michael Keaton, Ellen Page, Joan Allen, & Beyonce Need Vehicles!

In my look
back at 2014
, I bemoaned the wasting of good talent on bad TV. Fewer
things are more frustrating in film and television than a performer withering
under the bright lights of a production unbecoming of their abilities. As I
binge-watched TV over the festive season while adding 20 pounds raiding my parents’
fridge, I became more and more aware of how prevalent this neglect is. And then I was reminded
of it when J.K. Simmons won a Golden Globe on Sunday. Simmons is a character
actor with few peers. And yet, when he finds himself on TV, it’s in doomed-from-the-start series like Growing Up Fisher or
Family Tools. Alternately, pilot
season is filled with actors and actresses undeserving of their own programs who are regurgitated each year. What exec’s nephew thought we needed a Kyle
Bornheimer-led comedy? 

There is no shortage of acting talent wandering aimlessly
from lot to lot in Hollywood. True
Detective
brought Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson back into the
public discourse, reminding us that they’re actors first and celebrities
second. In season two, the same revitalization will be attempted with Colin
Farell, Vince Vaughn, and Taylor Kitsch. But True Detective can’t provide every underused actor a path to
salvation.

What the industry seems to lack is the ability recognize
talent and find suitable vehicles for them to succeed in a series. What follows
is a list that could go on longer than an explanation for Anger Management, but recognizes a few actors and actresses who I
think could really excel in a series, especially in the new world of streaming
television where shows like Transparent
and House of Cards are not just made,
but celebrated.

David
Costabile

Costabile has had recurring or small roles in several of
the most interesting and innovative TV shows in recent memory, and more often
than not, he’s the best thing on screen. His CV includes Damages, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Flight of the Conchords. Even in the soapy guilty pleasure of Suits, he stole scene after scene
stepping beyond the work of his co-stars. Costabile is a standout amongst his
peers, and would be excellent in a leading role in a show of the pedigree of
those he has guested on. Costabile is the least known on this list, and was one
of many character actors who I considered including, such as David Morse,
Margot Martindale, James Remar, and their peers. Here, Costabile stands for all
of them. A quietly accomplished screen presence who could no doubt define a
series if given the opportunity.

Mary
Louise Parker

I never liked Weeds.
The first few seasons were somewhat palatable, but the narrative got more and
more ridiculous and suffered from child casting gone awry with puberty so bad
that Robert Iler could feel better about himself. But Parker was always an
engaging presence, even in the later seasons when even she seemed embarrassed
to be enduring the silliness of the plots and wasted guest stars like Albert
Brooks and Richard Dreyfuss. Parker’s best role to date was the recurring Amy
Gardner on The West Wing. While Aaron
Sorkin is often maligned for writing poorly realized female characters,
Parker’s Gardner was a sublime revelation, and I often hoped she’d be added to
the full-time cast. Gardner’s mix of quirky intelligence and aloof indifference
to the chaotic world around her would’ve been an interesting spin-off, and a
series with Parker at its center that respected the quality of her performative
acumen. 

Gary
Cole

Gary Cole has been in everything. Seriously. He had a
cameo in my buddy Phil’s Bar Mitzvah video. The popular parlour game Six
Degrees of Kevin Bacon should be renamed for Cole. My introduction to Cole was
in the short-lived NBC series Midnight
Caller
, and I’ve been a fan of his in everything he has done since. An alum
of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Cole has been the best part of 36 episodes
of The Family Guy, stole laughs from
Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights, is
part of pop culture lore from his role in Office
Space
, and was nearly elected President – in The West Wing. And the dude has great hair. Like, George Clooney great.
How he has never been part of the main cast of a (successful) live action
series is beyond me, but then again Jon Cryer has won two Emmys, so what do I
know?

Michael
Keaton

Fresh off his Golden Globe win for Birdman, and now a frontrunner for an Oscar, Keaton has revived his
career after fading from the spotlight in the past decade. The real Batman will
likely have his choice of film scripts to choose from, but to me his place is
on the small screen. After a lauded performance as a former superhero actor who
turns to the stage in an effort to find his place in the canon of contemporary
film, Keaton could learn from Riggan Thomson and turn to a more interesting
medium in the twilight of his career. And what possible better film role will
ever come his way? Keaton was a giant in the 80s and 90s, stepping seamlessly
between comedy (Mr. Mom, Multiplicity) and drama (Batman, Clean and Sober) unlike almost any actor of that era. He would’ve
made an interesting choice for new seasons of True Detective, and a series of that ilk built around Keaton would
be a welcome addition to the TV landscape.

Ellen
Page

Where’d you go, Ellen Page? Her Oscar-nominated turn in
Juno was eight years ago, and since then, Page has been seen only sporadically on
screen, and often lost in the grandiose of the franchise (X-Men) or the scope of the premise (Inception). Page’s coming out in a speech at the Human Rights
Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference reminded us of her remarkable
presence despite the absence of the false Hollywood sheen. As
a Canadian, I recall Page from her start in TV on Pit Pony and ReGenesis,
and would love to see her return to her roots in a series befitting her
marvelous talent. The problem is, Hollywood has no idea what to do with a 5’2”
Canuck lesbian who’s best known for an indie romcom role as a pregnant teen.
Ideally, they’d like to pair her with Michael Cera in Juno 2: Twins! but she deserves so much more.

Joan
Allen

Hollywood’s inability to cast women over 38 as anything
other than mothers and quirky older sisters is not just a plague on the
industry, but an indictment of its lack of imagination. There is perhaps not a
more captivating yet underappreciated screen presence than the three-time Oscar
nominated, Tony Award-winning Steppenwolf alum. If she had a penis, she’d be
George Clooney. One of my favorite films of the past two decades is The Contender, in which Allen’s
performance outdoes brilliant turns by Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, and Sam
Elliott. She’s the only life in the antiseptic aesthetic of the Bourne films.
In fact, I’d love to see her CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy in a series of
her own. Who do you call at Netflix to get that done?

Adam
Driver

Girls is
awful. I mean, it’s beyond awful. I’d rather spend the rest of my life in Chuck
Lorre’s screening room than endure another episode of HBO’s series about
privileged white girls in Brooklyn trying to monetize their MFAs is exhausting
self-indulgent tripe. But Driver, is excellent. And wasted. He’s similarly
excellent and wasted in the disappointing This
is Where I Leave You
, and the only reason to suffer the Daniel
Radcliffe/Zoe Kazan romcom The F Word.
With a prominent role in the upcoming Star
Wars
sequel The Force Gets Up Early,
Driver is likely meant for more big screen turns, but is better suited for the
character driven serial quality of TV. He has the manner of a character actor
and the charm and presence of a matinee idol, traits that beg for a series. But
not NCIS: Greenpoint.

Beyoncé
Knowles

This isn’t a list of performers who need a break, it’s a
list of those who need a vehicle to fit their talents and engage viewers in the
genre of TV. Perhaps I’m still smitten by my WATCHABLES
podcast episode one Beyoncé learning from Arielle Bernstein
, but
the star among stars Ms. Knowles is a presence unlike any we’ve seen in a
generation. And she has held her own in films such as Obsessed, Cadillac Records,
Dreamgirls, and even Austin Powers 3: More Britishy and Silly.
Does she need a TV show? No. Would it immediately be a hit not matter the
quality? Yes. But talent intrigues me, and just as I wondered
aloud recently about non-TV auteurs could revitalize the sitcom
, I
would love to see what Bey could do on the small screen. And I’m not talking
about Z & Bey @ Home. I’m talking
about real TV. Like, Yoncé in twelve episodes directed by David Fincher written
by Gillian Flynn. But, you know, funny too. Hell, there’s already a trailer:

Mike Spry is a writer, editor, and columnist who has written for The
Toronto Star, Maisonneuve, and The Smoking Jacket, among
others, and contributes to MTV’s
 PLAY
with AJ
. He is the author of the poetry collection JACK (Snare
Books, 2008) and
Bourbon & Eventide (Invisible Publishing, 2014), the short story collection Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press,
2011), and the co-author of
Cheap Throat: The Diary of a Locked-Out
Hockey Player
(Found Press,
2013).
Follow him on Twitter @mdspry.

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