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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.