Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Similarity scores for actors?

One of the more engaging pilots I watched back in the spring was for NBC's "Parenthood," primarily for the performance by Maura Tierney (kinda sorta playing the role Dianne Wiest did in the original "Parenthood" movie). Then, unfortunately, Tierney was diagnosed with breast cancer, and NBC (understandably not wanting to lose the best part of the show) pushed "Parenthood" back to midseason. Even more recently, though, Tierney dropped out altogether to focus on her health. That shouldn't be surprising, and doesn't even necessarily mean bad news. Cancer treatment, even successful cancer treatment, is an all-consuming thing. Starring in a new TV drama, even as part of an ensemble, is an all-consuming thing. One of those had to give, and Tierney chose the right one.

That, however, leads to the question of who should replace her, and one report I've seen today (the picture should give you a hint) doesn't make me very optimistic.

Jace at Televisionary pointed me to this story about the producers approaching Helen Hunt to fill Tierney's shoes.

And if they close that deal, my interest in "Parenthood" drops, precipitously.

I know Hunt has that Oscar, and four Emmys, but I've never been a fan. She always comes across as brittle and off-putting to me, which I guess would help her fit in on a show that would have Monica Potter playing her sister-in-law, but that's a combination I'd find about as fun as getting bamboo shoved under my fingernails. It's gotten to the point where I hesitate to watch something Hunt's in, even if the rest of it is right in my wheelhouse, like HBO's adaptation of one of my favorite books, "Empire Falls." (Not surprisingly, I found her to be by far the weakest link in that cast.)

My buddy Phil was in agreement with me on this, but then he asked the tricky question: if not Hunt, then who?

Tierney, particularly if you just saw her sensational guest stint on "Rescue Me," is not easy to replace. You need to find a woman in her early-mid '40s who is likable, attractive and equally good at comedy and drama - and someone who'd be willing to be part of the ensemble of an NBC drama.

We tossed around some names - Carla Gugino, Moira Kelly, Paula Marshall (who'd almost certainly be getting a call if "Gary Unmarried" hadn't been renewed) - but eventually I threw up my hands.

What we need in these sorts of situations is the entertainment equivalent of Similarity Scores. When baseball fans are debating the merits of a particular player, they can always look up the players to whom they're most statistically comparable. So if someone wants to decide whether, say, Roberto Alomar is Hall of Fame-worthy, they can look at his Similarity Scores and see that his two most comparable players are Barry Larkin (maybe going to the Hall one day, but a long time from now) and Derek Jeter (going in on the first ballot).

Now, it's a lot easier to do that for ballplayers than for actors, because you don't quantify performances statistically. But the internet is full of smart, obsessed people, and I have to think that someone somewhere can come up with a formula that will tell us who should be on speed-dial if Maura Tierney drops out of a project, or who to get if Brad Pitt isn't available. (Hint: the answer is not Brad Rowe.) Surely, if we had a good statistical model, Hunt would not be in this discussion.

Any suggestions on how we do this? And names for specific actor stats? Once upon a time, Fienberg (in a blog post since lost to history) suggested VORG, or Value Over Replacement Guest, to connote how much happier he was to see some actors pop up on shows versus others.

92 comments:

Dean Winchester said...

VORG is great. Alternatively we could use GST+ (Guest Star Talent Plus) to measure how an actor is against the industry average score of 100 which might be say... John Heard. Someone like Jane Lynch would have a GST+ of like 170, which is Pujolsesque.

Matt said...

I'm with you on the Helen Hunt revulsion. Sabrina Lloyd? Diane Farr?

Anonymous said...

Lauren Graham, obviously.

Alyson said...

Were it not for her development deal at ABC, wouldn't Lauren Graham be in the middle of this discussion as well?

(for the record, no, I am not Michael Ausiello in disguise.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

See? Now Graham's someone who would probably have a very high Similarity Score to Tierney, including her own brief stint on NewsRadio.

bsangs said...

Good God -- Moira Kelly? Are you serious Alan? Want to see the quickest FFWD draw on the East Coast? Then watch me while I'm viewing early "West Wing" re-runs on my DVR and that grating little annoyance materializes in a scene. I would take 10 Helen Hunts over her.

I hope Tierney gets better. Not for the sake of "Parenthood," but because she always put a smile on my face in "News Radio" and "Rescue Me." (Didn't watch her on "ER" - but heard she was a bit of a downer there.) Get well Maura.

Doug S said...

Glad to hear other HH-disdain. I never got her, she seems so angular and cold. Plus Mad About You was just bad. I find Ethan Hawke to be her male equivalent.

Real shame about Tierney as she was the only watchable part of Rescue Me's latter half.

She's not similar physically, but I always liked Margaret Colin (I guess she's on Gossip Girl, but in what looks to be a recurring role). Sherry Stringfield? Or how about swinging for the fences (to continue the baseball metaphors) and getting Amy Ryan?

Adam said...

Likeable comic actress who can also do sad and depressing, ready to play mom roles? Janeane Garofalo.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Moira Kelly definitely Moira Kelly...she would be fantastic...but I'm not altogether against Lauren Graham.

Rick said...

Diane Farr was originally cast in the Monica Potter role but had to drop out because of a conflict with "Californication." I could maybe see her in Tierney's part but wonder if the show would go back to her.

I love me some Lauren Graham, but after playing a single mom for so long I'm not sure she'd want to go back to that well.

So I'm going to suggest Amy Ryan. Probably couldn't ever happen, but she'd be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Diane Farr was originally cast in the Monica Potter role but then dropped out because of conflicts with her gig on Calironication.

Variety reported last week that Marissa Tomei was being considered. I don't really see that working.

What about Lily Taylor? I enjoyed her on Six Feet Under. I guess Holly Hunter is available now too, though, I find her as annoying as you seem to find Helen Hunt.

Anonymous said...

How about Jenna Elfman after her new show is cancelled?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What about Lily Taylor?

As Fienberg pointed out when I passed this suggestion along to him, you don't want to be putting Taylor on a show with Peter Krause, lest we all have flashbacks to her as Lisa on Six Feet Under.

Paul Outlaw said...

Diane Lane (!)
Michelle Forbes
Sherilyn Fenn
Catherine Dent
Joely Richardson
Brooke Shields

Hannah Lee said...

Alan, I think you described Helen Hunt well. I liked her in Mad About You, but then she did become very brittle and one-noted, to me. She isn’t as appealing choice in the role as Maura Tierney was. I'd still turn in for Peter Krause, but HH would not be a draw for me.

Lauren Graham would be a good choice, same with Carla Gugino.

Doug S, I like your suggestions, too.

It’s tough, because this role will take a really talented actress to pull it off, and one who can convey warmth and humor in an ensemble cast, but also a bit of realism/toughness.

Might Robin Wright or Tea Leoni be looking for a steady project to throw themselves into these days? Or Laura Dern if she’s looking to do some quality time on TV. Lily Taylor, or is she too soft spoken? Mira Sorvino if they cast younger…Bonnie Hunt if they cast older. Sherilyn Fenn or Molly Parker maybe. I think Marlee Matlin could be awesome in the role, but that would add another dimension to the character that the producers might not want to tackle.

This is pretty hard…I guess that means Maura Tierney was perfect for the role.

fanshawe said...

Marg Helgenberger if she ever quits CSI.

And seconding Amy Ryan.

FTR, I'd still rather see Hunt than most of the choices here. I like her a lot, always have.

Jefferson Burns said...

Ugh. Glad to hear someone has my Helen Hunt feelings. I was holding out for Ally Walker or Andrea Parker in case she had to pull out of the show.

srpad said...

The names I came up with were Laura Linney and Jean Smart.

Paul Outlaw said...

Jean Smart's 58, Dana Delany (who I left off my list) is 53. Both probably older than they're looking for.

Phil Freeman said...

Here's an outlier choice: Cathy Cahlin Ryan.

Corina said...

If she wasn't already being perfection personified on FNL, Connie Britton would be my first pick.

Mike F said...

I guess she's too big a name, but what about Lisa Kudrow?

Or how about Elisabeth Shue?

both have some serious chops

Anonymous said...

Janeane Garofalo likable? Maybe 12-15 years ago, but at this point she's about as appealing as a body rash...

greebs said...

Moira Kelly makes me want to rip my fingernails off. Lauren Graham is, however, a pitch perfect call.

How about Teri Polo? And the suggestion of Tea Leoni is spot on - that woman needs to work a lot more, truly talented.

Garrett said...

I was going to suggest Linda Fiorentino, who reminded me a little of Maura Tierney in "Dogma" and hasn't been active for most of the decade. But she's 51, which surprised me.

Linda said...

I like the Diane Farr suggestion. Who doesn't love Carla Gugino (why she isn't a superstar, I still don't understand). I also love Gina Torres (a good writer could make her fit). Catherine Keener would be great. Susanna Thompson always brings it. Maura is great and I hope she's able to make it back to the screen soon.

Anonymous said...

Maria Bello

Anonymous said...

Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins are available.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Gina Torres (a good writer could make her fit)

That would require a significant rewrite of the character, since she's playing Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedlia's daughter, and Peter Krause, Erika Christensen and Dax Shepard's sister.

I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but throwing (presumably) adoption into the mix would alter the dynamic.

Linda said...

Re: Gina Torres - I didn't know that there was SO much of the character's family involved. I just have a vague memory of Steve Martin (as the brother) from the movie.

How about giving someone like Melora Hardin a chance.

Word verification: bardio. The repeated act of vigorously lifting your alcoholic beverage to your mouth.

Tara said...

If TPTB of Parenthood had called me up and said, "Who is the one actress we could replace Maura with whom you absolutely would not be able to stand the sight of on your TV screen?" My answer would have been....

Well, not Helen Hunt, but Kim Raver.

However, if they'd asked me for TWO choices, Helen would have been in the 2 slot.

Frankly, I'd be happy if the show just disappeared. Whoever they hire, I'm always going to look at them in the role and think, "Maura would have done that SO much better." And she would have. Hope she gets well ASAP.

Jessica said...

Catherine Keener is a great idea! If they go with Helen Hunt, the prop dept will work overtime. Woman can't utter a sentence without fiddling with something.

LA said...

I really like the Molly Parker idea.

What about Hope Davis?

filmcricket said...

First of all, best of luck to Maura Tierney. Someone very close to me is going through it right now, and it's effing scary.

That bummer aside, I don't dislike Helen Hunt as much as many do - I liked her on Mad About You - but she's become very mannered in later years, and certainly doesn't have Tierney's warmth.

If they cast Lauren Graham, I won't watch and that's flat. Can't STAND her. Ditto Moira Kelly.

Love the suggestions of Amy Ryan and Laura Dern. Melora Hardin would have to do a lot of work to win me back after what happened to her character on The Office, but as that's not her fault, she's not a bad choice either.

Doug S said...

Gotta say I find suggestions a la Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Laura Linney or even Mario Bello very unrealistic. Maybe Alan as a person who covers tv for a living can address how likely it is that a woman who has a solid-to-better-than-solid movie career would join the tv cast of a new sitcom. Just seems very unlikely to me, much as I like those actresses.

Linda said...

Doug S. - while I sort of agree with you - I then remember that more and more movie actresses are turning to TV (Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Jada Pinkett Smith - granted, they are over 40 and are on cable but they're the first ones that come to mind).

The Waitress said...

Just throwing some names out there that haven't already been mentioned...

Kristin Davis, Debra Messing (I never watched Will and Grace but I have liked her in the few things I have seen her in). OK that's all I got so far. I love the Lauren Graham and Amy Ryan suggestions.

Mac said...

Totally off-topic...

Sometimes when you're a spy, you wind up dead for three years and then come back evil.

Anonymous said...

To toss out a few more names: Jill Hennessy, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gillian Anderson, Cynthia Watros, Bridget Fonda, Virginia Madsen, Julie Warner, Janine Turner, Mary Stuart Masterson, Charlotte Ross, Rena Sofer, Paige Turco, Annabeth Gish, Ally Sheedy

Art Fleming said...

I would like Rosemarie DeWitt.

Hatfield said...

I never cared about Mad About You, though that was as much Reiser's fault as Hunt's. However, I am a huge sucker for As Good As It Gets, and I think she's great in it.

Molly Parker is an interesting choice, but her almost British way of speaking may not mesh. Is Sela Ward too old?

Emma said...

Well if you want former WW actors, not Moira Kelly, but how about Janel Moloney?

Steve said...

I love me some Helen Hunt so if she's in, I'd give the show a shot.

Lauren Graham? Ugh, not a fan. Agree with bsangs re Moira Kelly, too. The ONLY flaw in Season 1 of The West Wing was Mandy. Not the character, but the portrayal.

Jerry said...

Callie Thorn or Jill Hennessy.
Next!

Anonymous said...

Amy Ryan would be great in any role in any medium, but she is expecting her 1st child and therefore not likely to take on any regular series role this year.
Moira Kelly...um, NO. I agree 100% with the poster who said she was the weakest link ever in West Wing history.
I don't understand the Helen Hunt hatred, she's done outstanding work on both the small and big screens. My guess is that the audience they'd lose by hiring her would either be replaced quickly by new fans if the show and herself strike a chord with audiences, or the show will falter for the same reason most dramas do: too slow a start, no breakout elements for traction and high expenses that equal "bye".
Having said that, if Laura Linney wanted the role, they should hire her in .0002 seconds. She's a phenomenal actress.

James said...

Alan you're crazy if you really think Larkin's gonna have to wait awhile to get in the HOF.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan you're crazy if you really think Larkin's gonna have to wait awhile to get in the HOF.

Larkin has the problem of Jeter, A-Rod and (to a lesser extent) Nomar having overlapped the back half of his career and raising the bar for what are considered shortstop hitting statistics.

I think he deserves it, but I can see the writers dismissing him, in the same way they've dismissed Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell, and other guys who should be slam-dunk inductions but had bad career timing.

Anonymous said...

Not that she'd want to go back to TV, but Jennifer Aniston strikes me as perfect (in many ways).

Anonymous said...

Don't know what's happening with "Rules of Engagement," but I'd throw Megyn Price's hat into the ring. She's always been associated with comedy, but she did well with serious scenes on "Grounded for Life."

On the other side, Mireille Enos didn't do any comedy playing either Marquardt twin on "Big Love," but she had a presence.

Larkin or Andre Dawson might get in this year, because it's a very weak class and I don't think baseball/Cooperstown will tolerate a year without a player inductee. (That might also explain the Pete Rose detente).

James said...

yeah I'm not a Cincy homer or anything, just that Larkin (despite being not much better than Trammell or not as good as Raines) seemed to have a much better rep when he was active (did Trammell ever come close to sniffing an MVP?), automatic AllStar every year, etc. Plus w/ the unresolved issue of exactly how the hall is gonna deal w/ the steroid I'm guesing the writers are gonna jump for every hall-worthy nom from that era that doesn't have the taint. The Rice selection last year makes me think they're already recalibrating the standards. Mind you I've been wrong re: the hall before - I thought Sandberg would go in first ballot easy.

James said...

Oh and ignoring reality and conflicts I'd like to see Felicity Huffman if only cuz Huffman and Krause together again as brother and sister would simultaneously evoke SportsNight and Six Feet Under.

l.b. weighs in said...

Love the range of talent and ages that people are coming up with. I add Cynthia Watros. She has a similar mix of comedy and drama work as Tierney and deserves (I think) to break into a lead role. And by the time this is rolling any Libby appearances on Lost will be in the can.

Of the choices mentioned I go for Carla Gugino hands down, I am still sad that Karen Sisco was canceled so quickly.

Tyroc said...

It's time to come back to full-time acting Phoebe Cates!

Bix said...

Leslie Hope? Lena Olin doing an American accent (she can certainly pass for younger)? I dunno.

Lauren Graham's the best choice if it could happen, though.

l.b. weighs in said...

Actually Tyroc, Phoebe Cates is an interesting idea! NBC would get a publicity bump from it and there would be the chance of a Kevin Kline guest role!

belinda said...

Best of luck to Maura Tierney!

Lauren Graham would be an interesting replacement, and it would be nice to see LG on a good show again (instead of in mediocre roles in mediocre films). And Lisa Kudrow would be another interesting choice.

How about Christina Applegate?

I don't dislike Helen Hunt myself, but I do understand why others would her off putting. Anyway, I didn't know she had an interest to return to TV.

Hank White Fan Club said...

Andrea Roth

Anonymous said...

Good heavens, NOT one-note Rachel Green!

Anonymous said...

"how likely it is that a woman who has a solid-to-better-than-solid movie career would join the tv cast of a new sitcom."

First of all, the show is a drama, not a sitcom. And a lot of the actresses mentioned are already looking to do TV. Laura Linney already has a show set up at Showtime, Laura Dern has one at HBO, and Hope Davis did the last season of In Treatment and Six Degrees a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

Also, I should add that some of the "tv stars" mentioned are already taken. Debra Messing has a deal at NBC. Melora Hardin has a show at FX. Kristin Davis is busy this fall with the SATC sequel. I think Lauren Graham is actually available now since her ABC pilot was for last season and wasn't picked up. Courtney Thorne-Smith is also available. I think this is probably the first time in close to two decades that she hasn't been on TV.

Hannah Lee said...

Here's a potential actor classification system, Alan.
It's still subjective (especially # question 5), but might have some potential.

For a given actor, after determining basic demographic information (age, gender, etc), you'd then ask a series 5 of questions:

1) Could play the President? (Y= yes, N = no, y = yes once old enough to be credible)
2) Could play an elf?
3) Could play a terrorist?
4) Could play a flaky hairdresser?
5) If he/she showed up drunk at my house at 2 am, would I open the door (O) or call the cops (C)?

That will give you a unique 5 letter code that could be matched with other actors for possible substitution.

For example, take several actors from The Office:

Steve Carell = Y Y N Y O
John Krasinski = N Y Y N O
Rainn Wilson = N Y Y Y O/C (I might open the door, but my neighbors would probably wind up calling the cops)
Jenna Fischer = y Y Y N O

Each has a profile that's different from the others, and confirms, systematically, that those actors aren't interchangeble / good substitutes for one another even if they were the same age/gender.

Trying it out with Maura Tierney and Helen Hunt:

Maura Tierney = Y Y Y N O (I'd open the door even at 2 am because MT seems like she'd be a wick'd funny drunk)
Helen Hunt = Y N Y N O (I'd open the door at 2 am because she'd seem harmless enough, but she'd probably wind up being up all night yelling loudly about bedspins)

And using this system, you can see that Helen Hunt should not be substituted for Maura Tierney (as Alan suspected)

Interesting, though, that Jenna Fischer would be a good fit, if she were older and not already on The Office. And that seems to make sense to me.

Matthew L said...

Hannah - Amusing idea, but I just wanted to check, do you really think John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fisher, Maura Tierney, and Helen Hunt could all play terrorists, but of these only Rainn Wilson could play a flaky hairdresser?

Hannah Lee said...

That's why it's subjective.

To me, they all have the potential to play really, really evil, but the flaky* hairdresser type I'd pictured would require a certain inherent offcenteredness that I see in Wilson and Carell, but not the others. The others could play it, but they wouldn't embody it.


(* maybe wacky would be a better word?)

l.b. weighs in said...

@ Hannah Lee -- love your standardized testing!

So for my(and so many others) first choice Carla Gugino, I think it would be YYYNO which is an exact match!

But if we are still taking long shot ideas I want to put another one out for someone who is overdue for another shot at a lead role, Alison Smith, known for Mallory on the West Wing but had a funny short-lived show called Spy Game and of course was a daughter on Kate and Allie.

Anonymous said...

No one's mentioned Laura San Giacomo. I'd say her similarity score with Maura Tierney is pretty high. Or how about Famke Jannsen? Her score would be lower, but didn't she recently have a pilot at NBC?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hannah Lee, you rock. Earlier in the day, Fienberg said that Jenna Fischer is basically a younger Maura Tierney, so I like those results.

Some days (most days), you guys are awesome.

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't Helen Hunt play an elf? For that matter, why couldn't John Krasinski play the President of the U.S. once he's older? Having said that, that's a damn good casting-scoring system you came up with there, Hannah, and the fact that people would have different ideas about casting confirms your basic categories are sound. Kudos!

Rick said...

Alison Janney.
Angie Harmon.
Kimberly Williams.
I like the idea of Cynthia Watros.

While I don't dislike Helen Hunt as much as many of you seem to, every time I hear her name I wonder why Paul Reiser doesn't do much these days. He was in a solid three minutes of Funny People this summer, and I think that's the first time I've seen him since The Aristocrats (also for three minutes)

Anonymous said...

I know someone who always gets Maura Teirney and Julie Bowen confused. Odd I know. Too bad she is already on Modern Family!

BF said...

Sonya Walger's down to only 2 shows: she needs to stay busier.

Anonymous said...

I have once again, found my people! Ugh. Helen Hunt. Still can't believe she has an Oscar. Anon 1:21, too funny about Janeane Garofolo! I also like the Cynthia Watros suggestion. She could pass for a Krause/Christiansen sibling.

--Cincy

Sharon said...

Haven't watched any clips of this show other than the commercials, but it seems like a less camp version of Brothers & Sisters.

Isn't Helen Hunt much older than Maura Tierney? Also, I would guess her asking price would be too high for an ensemble show with all of the others already on-board (as would Lisa Kudrow's & others mentioned here.) But maybe not considering that B&S manages to pay Field, Flockhart, Griffiths, Lowe, & the rest of the cast.

Kim Raver is actually not a bad idea. I hated her on Third Watch, but after seeing her on 24 & particularly Lipstick Jungle realize that it was the terrible writing of her TW character, not her.

Maura said...

Carla Gugino or Cynthia Watros would be at the top of my list. But, geez, anyone other than Helen Hunt would do.

I've always liked Maura Tierney (not even for the obvious reason). I wish her the best.

verification: "expups". Awwww.

Pamela Jaye said...

well, I can't beat Lauren Graham, so I'll try... Tracy Pollan.

I think I have at least two things Tracy's done lately that are still sitting on my DVR so I don't know how she comes across these days, when she's acting. I've only seen her being interviewed. But I liked her as Ellen on Family Ties. (and she's prettier than Helen Hunt)

I don't know what the character is supposed to be like. (I just searched to see if any had mentioned Tracy)

Of course it wouldn't fly, given the commute. (is there any show Teri Polo hasn't killed (or been in the last season of?))

Anonymous said...

I was looking forward to watching Parenthood but if Helen Hunt is going to be part of the cast I will not be watching that show.

Hannah Lee said...

Hannah Lee, you rock.
Thanks, Alan. Right back at you. And thanks for giving us a forum to comment on these programs, for better or for worse.

The President/Elf comparison started as just 2 questions to feel out the drama/comedy capabilities and serious/silly image of actors. "Could they play The President? and Could they play an elf?", but then when I was testing it out (in my head during my commute home) I got stuck on comparisons among the cast of The Office or Jon Hamm (and his MM costars) vs. Nathan Fillion vs Christopher Walken or Christine Baranski vs Megan Mullally vs Cybill Shepard, or Peter Krause vs. Michael C. Hall vs. Dax Shepard/Jeremy Sisco, so the other questions came into play and got added.

I agree with Fienberg on Jenna Fischer. She's incredibly talented, and brings enormous realism and depth her projects, in the same way Maura Tierney does. JF serves as an anchor on The Office, in a good way. Check out Ken Levine's take on Jenna Fischer: http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2008/09/why-i-love-jenna-fischer.html

Personally, I think similar comments (to those Ken Levine applied to Jenna Fischer) could apply to Maura Tierney in whatever projects she's been a part of. I wish her a quick recovery and a long, healthy, happy and creative life once she gets through whatever she's going through now. (Some good news, apparently MT felt well enough to officiate at her brother's wedding in Massachusetts this past weekend)

I'll probably still check out Parenthood without MT, though it's easier to picture Carla Gugino or Tea Leoni filling in the project then Helen Hunt.

Tyroc said...

While I put forward Phoebe Cates earlier, I do think it would be better to go with an unknown (or not well known.)

I like when TV creates new stars rather than using the same actors and actresses over and over and over.

As a viewer there's a lot to be said for falling for an actor (or actress) as you get joy out of discovering them. (Something I did with Maura Tierney back on NewsRadio. And more recently with the entire cast of Mad Men.)

Anonymous said...

Hannah Lee, that's awesome.

Loving the Cynthia Watros idea. And I'll toss out two names I don't think I've seen yet: Debrah Farentino and A.J. Langer.

Vivian said...

More gratuitous Brad Rowe bashing? You oughta get a new hook, cause that one's getting old.

Anonymous said...

What's up with the Brad Rowe hate?
Do you have a problem with him for some reason?
If that's the case why don't you tell him in person and not here in an obscure blog.

Alan Sepinwall said...

More gratuitous Brad Rowe bashing? You oughta get a new hook, cause that one's getting old.

No, it gets old if I do it a third time.

JanieJones said...

I wish Maura a speedy recovery and good health. It's a tough battle and she needs all of her strength and support to get well. I believe once Tierney is recovered, she will get involved in a good, solid project.

Alan, I loved "Empire Falls" - the book and the series was fairly decent. Helen Hunt's portrayal did not impress me. I will have a hard time tuning in if she is Tierney's replacement. I liked Hunt in "Mad About You" but I've grown to not appreciate her acting. Your description of her, to me, nailed it in full sum.

I like the idea of Lauren Graham, Sherry Stringfield, Carla Gugino and Amy Ryan.
Marissa Tomei? My personal feeling is that she is film actor who has made some significant contributions in certain roles. I think Tomei should stick to film roles.
Someone mentioned Laura San Giacomo. They have one last season of Saving Grace so there would be a scheduling conflict. I do love her. She has the ability to do drama and humor with wonderful nuances of sarcasm.

Vivian said...

Maybe you should talk about Brad Rowe when he's actually IN the show you're talking about? But random hate is kinda rude, even from a "critic."

Anonymous said...

I've read only half the comments so far, so I don't yet know if this name has come up already: Kari Matchett.

Entirely underrated; capable of whimsy and comedy (see Wonderfalls) and of drama and gravitas (see Invasion, note how good she was in it, how hard to keep one's eyes off of).

Tyro.k.y said...

Kanye acted like a jackass but the low blow about his mother was inappropriate.

Jay Leno is Jay Leno. Seems like they didn't want to lose him to another network so they gave him a new space to work with.

I think Carson Daily arguably now has one of the cooler late night shows. I know the cinematography is over the top but what he's done is unique. He's defied the traditional format.

VP81955 said...

Jean Smart's 58, Dana Delany (who I left off my list) is 53. Both probably older than they're looking for.

Same thing with Beth Broderick, who's 50. (Beth would be great as the congresswoman in that political sitcom Arianna Huffington is developing fp
or ABC. Heck, if Beth can do a Greek accent and return her hair to its original red, she'd make a great Arianna.)

BTW, this has inspired a thread at BaseballThinkFacotyr:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/discussion/alan_sepinwall_similarity_scores_for_actors/

Anonymous said...

Of the actresses suggested so far, I think Laura Linney, Tea Leoni, and Laura San Giacomo are good options.

I don’t think anyone’s mentioned Minnie Driver so far. Previously, I wouldn’t have thought of her as someone whose similarity quotient (or elf/terrorist potential) is on par with Maura’s; but after seeing Minnie Driver in “The Riches,” I’m thinking she’d be an interesting casting choice.

Lyn said...

I am terribly upset to see the show loe Maura. Terribly. I thought the Helen Hunt choice was a good one because she falls in the same physical type as CT Nelson, Erika, Dax and Peter....which I thought was an attempt to cast against Tierney's type. Good idea as NO ONE will be able to replace her with any credibility. Now in thinking of others choices, I like Annabeth Gish and I LOVE Angie Harmon. I have read the pilot script however. Not sure either would be a good fit for the proposed character. Not sure HH would either for that matter. But that's what 'acting' is all about, right???

Jeremy said...

Kind of a left-field suggestion, but.. Janel Moloney? or Liza Weil?

CampMotha said...

Ok I am not good at all this stuff, but I love love love Maura Tierney, and my prays are with her.

I cannot see anyone being able to bring what Maura would have brought but been reading your ideas and only 2 people spring to mind, One already mentioned.
Sherry Stringfield is classic and her and Maura had a lot of on screen awesomeness together playing off eachother, It could be a good fit.

Also this may seem random and i may get attacked for it, also she hasn't done anything for a wee while but Holly Marie Combs was always awesome I thought and she has the comedy and the drama I dunno, i guess thats just me wishing to see her in something again - dont even know what she is up to.

Um Lauren Graham is the only other one you guys have mentioned that I can see.

I can see Hunt bringing her own thing to it, and I don't mind her so much, but when i watch this show i will just be reminded of what could have been. Anywho I hope Maura gets well soon.

l.b. weighs in said...

So Lauren Graham it is! I wonder if the powers that be read this post?

Elocin said...

Although I did like "Mad About You" and for the most part do like Helen Hunt, I never could really see her as a suitable replacement for Maura in this role. However, I do think that if there is one actress out there who could fill Maura's shoes, it's Lauren Graham. I am thrilled that she is the one TPTB chose. I think she will be a bit more bubbly than Maura would have been, but other than that the two of them are more similar than dissimilar.

I was so looking forward to having Maura on TV again, and so soon after she left ER. I loved her on that show. But, her health does come first, and I hope and pray she gets better. In the meantime, I will look forward to watching Lauren, because I really do think she'll do a good job.

Also, whoever said Jenna Fischer is like Maura's little sister is so right! I have thought that for years!