Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Big screen, small screen

Today's column deals with the staggering number of familiar movie actors who are on new shows this year:

BACK DURING Virginia Madsen's first stint on the A-list, when she was an in-demand young starlet, a script crossed her desk called "Long Gone," a movie about minor league baseball in the Jim Crow South. She loved the story, loved her potential role as a groupie with brains and sex appeal -- basically, the Susan Sarandon character from "Bull Durham," but a year earlier. It was a great part, one of the best she would ever play -- and everyone she knew was telling her not to do it.

Why? Because "Long Gone" was being produced for HBO, which in 1987 was the acting equivalent of being sent to the low minors.

"(It) was thought to have been a huge mistake, a huge step down to go for that cable channel," Madsen says now. "I loved the story, but it did some damage to my career."

Jump ahead a couple of decades, and her Oscar nomination for "Sideways" has Madsen back on the A-list again, getting significant movie offers again. And yet here she is doing TV again, playing Ray Liotta's wife on CBS' upcoming heist drama "Smith."

To read the rest of the column, click here.

And speaking of celebrity crossovers, I did my professional duty and watched about 15 minutes of "Celebrity Duets" before switching over to "Rock Star." All I saw were two of the people with musical theater experience (Lucy Lawless and Alfonso Ribeiro) sounding fine and the Olympic gymnast, not surprisingly, not. Unless it turns into a "Dancing with the Stars"-level ratings phenom, I don't think I need to come back. Anybody else watch?


Anonymous said...

I checked out Celebrity Duets for Jai Rodriguez (who also has musical theatre experience, IIRC) and Hal Sparks (who, also IIRC, sings for a rock band).

The show has the usual problems that seem common to Fox reality shows. The core content may be decent but there's a very LCD feel to the overall presentation (compare the judging of America's Got Talent to American Idol, for example). The narration and Wayne Brady's hosting really grates while the judging has a sycophantic "I don't dare say that was bad in case we end up at the same party." dynamic.

Still, the performances were entertaining, if only because most of the participants seem to be having fun on the show (including the guests). I say it's worth TiVo'ing so that you can speed through the annoying parts.

The big thing that sticks with me, though, was hearing Gladys Knight miss a couple notes on "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" After hearing a seasoned pro make a couple small missteps, I'm much more willing to overlook a couple missed notes by someone like Storm Large if the overall performance is great.

Anonymous said...

Saw "Long Gone" several times when it came out and loved it. Of course, I was mad for "Bull Durham" too.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED "Long Gone" when it first came out. Saw it everytime it was on HBO that year. Made me a huge William Petersen fan too (although I hate CSI).

Kristen said...

Count me in as another "Long Gone" fan!

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Long Gone" is very cool, and if I ever get around to finishing my long in the works Greatest Underdog Sports Movies Ever post, I may just have to squeeze it in there. Love the subplot where Cantrell sneaks the black slugger on the team as a Cuban, and Madsen is great as the bimbo who's not a bimbo at all.