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DID YOU READ

Seven actors who crossed the TV/movie line.

Seven actors who crossed the TV/movie line. (photo)

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This weekend saw “Date Night” rocket to the top of the box-office, solidifying the future viability of Tina Fey and Steve Carell as theatrical attractions rather than stuck with bouncing from one TV show to another for the next fifty years. (Promoting the film, Fey returned to “Saturday Night Live” as some kind of new cultural hero).

Some TV legends — Lucille Ball, Andy Griffith — are perfectly content to stick to the tube, only occasionally attempting the odd supporting role on-screen. For others, though, the chance to capitalize upon years of mass exposure and go big-time is too hard to resist, whether or not it’s a good idea — it’s tricky to find time to film when you’re still working on a show, and it’s all too easy to fail in public no matter how many times you try to cross over. Here are seven who tried (and often succeeded) in breaking through to the other side.

04122010_rawhide.jpgClint Eastwood

Before Eastwood started incarnating the changing face of the American cowboy — from uncomplicated masculinity to anti-hero, interrogating his own persona as he went along — he had a trial run on “Rawhide,” the fifth-longest-running Western TV show of all time. As “Rowdy Yates,” Eastwood helped keep the cattle drive running in a fairly straightforward manner. He could speak quite articulately in the moment about how he was shifting the image of the cowboy in his movies. Total transition time from TV to cinema: under a decade. And while he was on “Rawhide,” Eastwood shared screen time with another, much less self-conscious future Tough Guy Star: Mr. Charles Bronson, who enters his guest appearance with the lines “You’re on my bridge, cowboy. Get off.”

04122010_vinnie.jpgJohn Travolta

Even while Travolta was warping teenage girls’ lives forever with his starring roles in “Grease” and giving the ’70s its ultimate image of disco-loving youth in “Saturday Night Fever,” he was slaving away as Vinnie Barbarino on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” Gabe Kaplan’s dysfunctional-classroom sitcom (though he did leave at the end of the third season). Travolta’s main function was to be a lovable Italian-American goofball, running around singing his personal theme song (“Barbara Ann,” reworked with his last name repeated multiple times) — an image that somehow didn’t constrain Travolta’s choice of parts when he moved into film (even though the line between the show and “Fever” was pretty direct). Despite the show being the creation of star Gabe Kaplan — who based it on his own experiences as a public school teacher — Travolta was the break-out hit, though it was Kaplan who released a novelty single based off Barbarino’s big catchphrase. Presenting “Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose,” the song.

04122010_tooltime.jpgTim Allen

No fool he, Tim Allen didn’t really want to transition from TV to film as he wanted to rule the entire world and hang on to all parts of the market for as long as possible; one weekend in 1994, he had the number one show (“Home Improvement”), number one book (his memoir “Don’t Stand Too Close To A Naked Man”) and movie (“The Santa Clause”) in the country — not bad for a guy whose range was limited to grunting, scratching himself and projecting immense self-satisfaction and cluelessness. If the “Santa Clause” franchise proved to be a surprisingly reliable cash cow for multiple installments, it’s worth noting that Allen’s only significant post-“Improvement” role was as a self-loathing, hard-drinking actor past his prime in “Redbelt” — a mentality former coke trafficker Allen can surely understand.

04122010_roseanne.jpgGeorge Clooney

Clooney toiled in TV for nearly 20 years before he finally became a star — although now, to be fair, his mostly idiosyncratic choices of roles mean he tends to make more headlines than his actual movies — like his “Ocean’s” co-star Brad Pitt, he’s often more famous than for his work (much of which is quite good). That means his back catalogue is full of turns that, in retrospect, make selected episodes of mildly beloved TV shows more interesting — it’s hard to remember that the suavest star we have did time on many shows as more-or-less a working schmo. He played Roseanne’s diner boss, a carpenter on “The Facts of Life,” and a cop not too smooth with the ladies on “The Golden Girls” — which in retrospect is just as unlikely as his would-be prole fisherman in “The Perfect Storm.”

04122010_csi.jpgDavid Caruso

Until finding a home on “CSI: Miami” as an obnoxious detective whose one-liners make ’80s Schwarzenegger look like the height of Noel Coward-esque wit, “David Caruso” was synonymous with “cautionary tale about leaving television for film.” If four seasons seems like a reasonable amount of time to raise one’s profile while making movies on the side — that’s how long Johnny Depp, say, toiled on “21 Jump Street” — Caruso left four episodes into the second season of “NYPD Blue,” only to brick twice (with “Kiss of Death” and “Jade”), lapse into the direct-to-DVD realm, and finally return back to TV, tail between his legs. This time, at least, he has much better sunglasses, and has been used as one of the better odd references/punchline in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” when Steve Carrell instantly understands this useful advice for picking up women: “Be David Caruso in ‘Jade.'”

04122010_squarepegs.jpgSarah Jessica Parker

Television worked for SJP twice: first for her one season on the ’80s show “Square Pegs” that got her career moving, then when “Sex and the City” revitalized her career, which had come down to spinning her wheels in supporting player parts. Not that Parker ever particularly asked to be ubiquitous — but yes, appearing in one of the most heinously influential shows of the last 20 years achieved that. (At a recent screening of “Ed Wood,” the audience laughter at her line “Do I really have a face like a horse?” seemed more than a little resentful and fed-up.) Parker went from embodying Modern Woman (or one very weird incarnation of it anyway) to, now, a series of bland rom-com roles that seem designed to undo everything that made her on-screen incarnation distinctive and different. But hey, everyone needs work. Then again, even as early as “Ed Wood,” there was something about Parker that made filmmakers want to cast her as a self-consciously normative woman just to tweak her; what she puts up with before walking away from Wood is pretty unbelievable.

04122010_topherforman.jpgTopher Grace

Out of all the people on the ubiquitous mediocrity that was “That ’70s Show,” Topher Grace was clearly the sharpest one, with the best timing. If anyone should’ve attained crossover success, it was him. Instead, the world was primarily graced with Mr. Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher. Grace’s career gamble was to hope his role in “Spider-Man 3” would help blow him up, but his creditable turn as Venom got lost inside the multiple completing plots and storylines, and his career’s never quite recovered. He’s a leading man trapped inside the roles of a sarcastic bit player. It’s too bad 2004’s “P.S.” wasn’t a better movie; that Grace could hold his own against Dennis Quaid in “In Good Company” was one thing, but that he could have an affair with Laura Linney without getting eaten alive was kind of amazing.


[Photos: “Date Night,” 20th Century Fox, 2010; “Rawhide,” 1959-65, Paramount; “Welcome Back, Kotter,” Warner Home Video, 1975-79; “Home Improvement,” ABC, 1991-99; “Roseanne,” Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1988-97; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 2002-present; “Square Pegs,” Sony Pictures Television, 1982; “That ’70s Show,” 20th Century Fox, 1998-2006]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…