8 TV Stars Who Were Awesome Twice


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By Jeff Finkle

There may never be another drama on TV with a character arc as intensely captivating as Walter White’s on Breaking Bad and Bryan Cranston’s performance was in a word, perfect. If you were a fan of the 2000’s era sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, then you knew just how awesomely funny Cranston was as Malcolm’s lovable father, Hal. Hal and Walter were as different as night and day. Walter liked to wear a pork pie hat, Hal preferred roller skates. Oddly enough, they were both quite comfortable in their tighty whities.

Here are six other actors who were awesome twice and almost as nice as Bryan Cranston.

8. Larry Hagman, I Dream of Jeannie/Dallas

Decades before Bryan Cranston broke out as amazingly bad and unexpectedly awesome with Walter White, Larry Hagman turned J.R. Ewing into the villain everybody loved to hate on Dallas. J.R.’s thirst for black gold was every bit as voracious as Walter’s hunger for the power that his blue crystal meth gave him. Even though Hagman’s affable Tony Nelson was an astronaut on I Dream of Jeannie, he did share one strong similarity to Hal on Malcolm in the Middle. Despite the fact that the beautiful Jeannie was literally his genie in a bottle, she was clearly the one wearing the (Hammer) pants in the family.

7. Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser, M.D./How I Met Your Mother

Neil Patrick Harris, or NPH as Twitter likes to call him, is the rare triple threat star who can sing, dance, and as Barney on HIMYM, he could wait-for-it…make sweet love with over 2,000 bimbos. But for anyone old enough to remember when MTV had videos, Neil made America fall for Doogie Howser, M.D. When the adorable teenage doctor wasn’t saving lives or hanging with his pal Vinnie, he was writing in his computer journal a decade before people knew what a blog was.

6. Ed O’Neill, Married With Children/Modern Family

“Let’s Rock.” This slacker rallying cry was delivered by The Fox network’s first rock star, Al Bundy. There had never been a character like Al Bundy before and a family like The Bundys who cared more about themselves than each other. Though of course they were always up for a “Whoaa Bundy!” chant when it came to getting out of having to do anything besides sitting on the couch. It’s a testament to Ed O’Neill’s acting ability that he could embody two iconic TV dads, decades apart, whose only shared character traits are the ability to be annoyed by their family.

5. Katey Sagal, Married with Children/Sons of Anarchy

The fact that neither Ed O’Neill nor Katey Sagal has won an Emmy in their careers is hard to imagine. Emmy voters are lucky that Sagal’s Gemma is just a character that she played on Sons of Anarchy, or else a SAMCRO beat down might just be in order. It is a credit to Sagal’s acting chops and gravitas that she was such a convincingly conniving, cut-throat Lady Macbeth-esque matriarch to the SAMCRO biker gang. Equally amazing is how she managed to look sexier as a 50-something biker chick than she did as a big-haired, bon bon-eating Peggy Bundy on Married With Children, decades earlier. (If you count Katey’s voiceover role as Leela on Futurama, she’s a three-timer on the awesome scale.)

4. Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under/Dexter

Despite what anyone thought of Dexter’s (SPOILER ALERT) lumberjack finale, they watched the show for eight years because Michael C. Hall made the complex character his own and became everyone’s favorite closeted serial killer. Hall had established himself a few years earlier on the highly acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under as David Fisher, the sensitive gay brother in the dysfunctional Fisher clan. Michael C. Hall brought two polar opposite characters to life in equally memorable and often humorous ways.

3. Jeffrey Tambor, The Larry Sanders Show/Arrested Development/Transparent

Hey Now! Twice is nice but thrice is nicer and Jeffrey Tambor has portrayed three classic TV characters that all showed that he is more than just a go-to comedic character actor. Tambor’s Hank Kingsley was the sidekick you hoped Ed McMahon was actually like, and arguably the funniest part of the critically acclaimed The Larry Sanders Show in the ‘90s. He fit perfectly with the hilarious ensemble cast of Arrested Development as George Bluth Sr. (and his twin Oscar) but no TV viewer could have predicted that his performance of a lifetime would be when he got in touch with his feminine side. As Maura Pfefferman on Transparent, he is transfixing as he captures all the right emotions, as well as the humor of what it’s like for a Jewish dad to come out to his family as a transgendered woman.

2. Fred Armisen, Saturday Night Live/Portlandia 

Perhaps we’re biased, but Fred joins the ranks of SNL star who went on to great TV success (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, etc.) with his role on Portlandia.

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1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld/Veep

The actress formerly known as Elaine became the only Seinfeld star to shake the show’s dreaded curse when she scored the lead role in the Emmy-winning Veep. If you’ve ever wondered what Elaine would be like as president, you’re in for a treat.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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