Monday, September 12, 2005

Grab Bag: Dignity, Always Dignity

The other night I happened to flick from Bronson Pinchot on VH-1’s THE SURREAL LIFE to Bronson Pinchot on LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT.

In the former, he’s acting as referee between two of the most deluded figures on the pop cultural landscape, Omarosa (formerly of THE APPRENTICE and the hyphenated surname) and Janice Dickinson, who will be the first to identify herself as a supermodel. On the latter, he’s matching wits with Vincent D’Onofrio as a sleazy dentist suspected of murdering his wife.

The problem is I’ve seen more than a few minutes of Pinchot’s stint on THE SURREAL LIFE, in which he reveals himself to be, ahem, an oddball with a penchant for sexually inappropriate behavior. Knowledge that robbed his legitimate acting of some of its power. Which is unfortunate, because it’s obvious in his scenes with D’Onofrio that he can still bring the heat.

I can understand an actor’s impulse to stay in the limelight in the hope that it will lead to more work. For all I know, his SURREAL LIFE casting led to the L&O gig. But you don’t want that exposure to diminish your ability to do your job.

Contrast this with the example of Steve Guttenberg. (I’ve waited years to write that sentence.)

One of the most satisfying magazine articles I’ve read recently was this Entertainment Weekly piece on the POLICE ACADEMY series. It wants to poke snarky fun at the movies, but is thwarted at every turn by Guttenberg’s polite refusal to play along. The ending even has the snap of poetic justice.

Like all careers, Guttenberg’s has had ups and downs. Most actors’ lows, however, are not immortalized in song on THE SIMPSONS. (Curse you, Stonecutters!) But throughout, Guttenberg kept his focus on the work. He gave a solid performance in Jodie Foster’s HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, and wrote and directed a low-budget adaptation of the play P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD.

This season, he joins the cast of the way-cool UPN series VERONICA MARS. Due in no small part to the fact that he’s held on to his credibility.

But nothing excuses the Goot’s appearance as a motorcycle-riding tough guy in the video for Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl.” Some things are simply beyond the pale.

Today’s TV Ad I Hate

The Verizon Wireless spot (which I can’t find online) in which the guy can’t work on his laptop in the coffee shop because of other people’s annoying behavior. Like ... sitting next to him. And drinking coffee. I think we’re supposed to feel his pain. I keep watching it in the hope there’s an alternate version in which he gets horribly scalded.

How Do You Feel About Cleveland?

I tried watching some of the John Roberts confirmation hearings on CNN’s The Situation Room today, but the show’s set made it impossible. Multiple screens on camera at once, all offering different angles of the same event. It was like watching a bad episode of 24. From one of the later seasons, when Jack Bauer finally goes to the bathroom.

Of course, maybe the real problem is that I miss Wolf Blitzer’s lead-in to his old show: Stand by for Hard News!