Saturday, July 14, 2012

That's Not Uncle Arthur!

Here's a much-trafficked blog entry from 2010:

 Above: Sherilyn Fenn. Yes, she could NEVER be mistaken for Uncle Arthur. More about her in a moment.

There is a little known tradition in TV series. The tradition has no name, so I just call it the "That's NOT Uncle Arthur!" effect.

If you watch TV, you know what I mean. You're watching a show and suddenly, a familiar character is acting a strange way.

Let me explain.

OK, here's Uncle Arthur:

Here's a description. There is an episode of BEWITCHED with Paul Lynde NOT playing Uncle Arthur -- he's this nervous driving instructor. Here's a (colorized) clip from the first time Lynde appeared on the show. It's from the very first season.

This 1965 episode is titled "Driving is the Only Way to Fly," and you can watch the whole thing on Hulu here (or there's a MySpace cut up Minisode, which runs under 5 minutes and really has all the best bits).

Paul Lynde would return the following fall, in his new role as the recurring Uncle Arthur character.

This is the Uncle Arthur Effect.

OK, here's another example. Harry Morgan appeared on M*A*S*H as 2 characters. The first: a one-time appearance as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele. Here he is in his 1974 episode:

And the next season, he returned in a different role: that of Commanding Officer Colonel Sherman T. Potter. He would stay with the series until its demise in 1983 -- and would reprise his role in the short-lived spin-off series After M*A*S*H.

So, how many times have actors wandered in, played a guest part -- and then are asked to return for a regular role in a series?

Above is Vincent Gardinia, who played Frank Lorenzo in ALL IN THE FAMILY. But before he played Frank, he played two other characters in 2 earlier episodes of the sitcom.

And the same thing with veteran character actor (and ubiquitous cartoon voice talent) Allan Melvin. Melvin was, like, in a zillion shows like PHIL SILVERS, DICK VAN DYKE, ANDY GRIFFITH and GOMER PYLE USMC. With both VAN DYKE and GRIFFITH, he played different characters before being brought in as a semi-regular character.

Alex Borstein, maybe best known for her long running gig as a great comedic character actress in Mad TV, played "Drella," a sarcastic harp player in the first few episodes of the Gilmore Girls series. It was the producer's hope that she play the second banana role of Sookie, but her Fox TV contract prevented that commitment. She returned a 3 years later to GG as "Miss Celine."

Sherilyn Fenn played 2 characters in Gilmore Girls: she was first cast in a pilot-within-the-series as Jess' mother figure and then, later on, a semi regular role as an ex-lover of series regular Luke

And then there's Dennis Franz. Back before NYPD Blue, he was on Hill Street Blues for a short multi-episode arc. He played Detective Sal Benedetto, a drug-hooked, crooked cop for 5 episodes. He returned two years later, portraying Detective Norman Buntz for the remaining two years of Hill Street's network run, and starred in the 12 episode spin-off series Beverly Hill Buntz.

Freema Agyeman played Adeola Oshodi, a "red shirt" who had to die in "Army of Ghosts" to emphasis the danger of the invading Cybermen in Doctor Who. (To quote Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest: "I'm just "Crewman Number Six." I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I've gotta get outta here.") In less than a year, Freema was back, this time in her new continuing role as series regular Martha Jones.

And on it goes.

That's all I can think of. But there must be more. Please let me know.

-- This is a rerun blog entry from June 16, 2010.

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