Friday, April 21, 2017

Looking at guest list rosters: The Crazy Ones, Masters of Sex, Arrested Development, Mom

The Crazy Ones: Ashley Tisdale, Brad Garrett*, Brad Paisley+, Cheryl Hines, Ed Asner, Fred Meladed, Josh Groban, Kelly Clarkson+, Marilu Henner, Pam Dawber, Saffron Burrows, Sandeep Prakh

Notes: The opportunity for the cast to interact with a wide array of famous names outside the world of sitcomdom playing themselves was one of the selling points of the show. The pilot (as well as a clip of that pilot presented at the upfronts) featured Robin Williams dueting with Kelly Clarkson as herself. Despite the early promise, the show remained relatively tame in comparison to a show like Extras (whose entire gimmick rested on a guest star of the week making a fool of themselves) or Party Down (where not all but part of the allure was tuning in for a guest star of the week). The most meaningful guest stars the show boasted were the ones of star Robin Williams’ generation such as Ed Asner, Marilu Henner or Pam Dawber. The latter allowed the show to promote the episode as a Mork and Mindy Reunion.

Highlights: Josh Groban’s strange trajectory to TV acting has evolved from cornering the niche market of opera singers teeny-boppers will save a spot for on their playlists to using those singing talents for a standout guest spot on Ally McBeal to roles as aloof characters  on The Office and  Coffee Town. Groban channels his voice and doofus charm as an old coworker of  Sidney’s who carries a torch for her. Addiionally, Ashley Tisdale displays the kind of meta-awareness that is needed for ex Disney-stars trying to outgrow their squeaky clean image as a bratty intern. 

Arrested Development (Season 4 Only): Adam Devine, Alan Tyduk, Anders Holm, Andy Buckley, Andy Richter, Ben Stiller, Ben Schwartz, Blake Anderson, Bobby Lee, Bruce McCulloch, Carl Weathers+,  Chris Dianotopolous, Christine Taylor, Diedrich Baker, Ed Begley Jr, Ed Helms, Garcelle Beauvais, Henry Winkler, Ian Roberts, Ione Skye, Isla Fisher, James Lipton, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Minor, John Michael Higgins, John Beard+, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Lennon Parham, Lonny Ross, Liza Minnelli, Mae Wittman, Margaret Cho, Maria Bamford, Maria Thayer, Martin Mull, Mary Lynn Ruskjab, Natasha Leggero, Nadine Velazquez,  Parveesh Cheena, Rizwan Manji, Ron Howard+, Seth Rogen, Terry Crews, Tommy Tone, Zach Woods

Notes: The fourth season is a testament to just how much talent a casting director can accumulate if they have seven years of anticipation and a decade of good will to work with.

In addition to the superbly talented ensemble of the Bluths, fans of the show are equally as likely to cite the brilliant creations of Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli), Bob Lablaw (Scott Baio), Anne “Her” Veal (Mae Wittman), and others when discussing what made the show so memorable. For actors like Liza Minnelli, Carl Weathers and Henry Winkler, the show gave the chance to redefine themselves for a new generation.

In order to give the 4th season an added flavor, AD weaved a handful of new characters as central parts of the story: Maria Bamford as a looney drug-addled soulmate to Tobias, Chris Dianotopolous as an activist to give Lindsey new purpose and love, Terry Crews as a soulless politician loosely modeled on 2012 also-ran Herman Cain and Isla Fisher as an intriguing actress who gets entangled with both Michael and his son. 

On top of that there are a number of blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos by luminaries such as Natasha Leggerro (Now on Another Period), Lonny Ross (30 Rock) or Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl).
Mom: Ed Asner, French Stewart, Jaime Pressly*, Jim Piddock, Justin Long, Kevin Pollock*, Mimi Kennedy*, Missi Pyle, Nate Curddroy, Richard Schiff, Rick Fox, Sarah Rue

Notes: For all the talk of Kevin Pollock as a character actor, this is the one of the few times where he gets to do some acting as opposed to doing impressions. Every other time, I scratch my head and realize “Oh, that’s just Saul Rubineck.” One of the most critically respected multi-cam sitcoms out there, “Mom”  is a great venue for veterans like French Stewart, Ed Asner, and Sarah Rue to dip their toe in a more sophisticated comedy while staying in their comfort zone. The blue collar nature of the show has proven to be a great fit for Jaime Pressly whose most famous role was a similar financially down-and-out character in My Name is Earl’s Joy

Masters of Sex: Alex Borstein, Allison Janney, Beau Bridges*, Betsy Brandt, Frances Fisher, Greg, Grunberg, Josh Charles, Julianne Nicholson*, Judy Greer, Laura Silverman, Keir O’Donnell, Mae Whitman, Nicholas D’Agosto*, Rene Auberjonois, Sara Silverman*, Tate Donovan

Notes: A prestige period drama like this will inevitably attract the usual candidiates: The versatile Betsy Brandt, fast-rising Julianne Nicholson, the droll Rene Auberjonois and Josh Charles who’s been immersed in high-level drama since he broke out some 25 years ago in a period piece (“Dead Poets Society”). At the same time, the show is trying to bring a bit of edge which is why they’ve also reached from the comedic pool of actors including Mad TV’s Alex Borstein as a crazy zoo lady and the counter-intuitive choice of Sara Silverman. While Silverman is too idiosyncratic in her comedic style to convince someone that she’s from the 1950’s, the exuberance and sassiness in her comedic persona make her an ideal source of attraction to the high-spirited character of Betty DeMilo. 

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