Remember the past, when TV series didn’t include all these famous actors? Right… I am talking about series like The Sopranos, The Wire and Band of Brothers – all HBO mind you. At the time of the TV-series breakthrough, at the beginning of the zero’s (2000 that is). Now that TV-series have established their value, competition is increasing. Not only traditional television is making series now, but also Netflix is joining the game. And with this increased competition I can’t help but notice that all these companies have spared no effort on standing out with their new productions. The ingredients: enough money and well-known actors.
I just noticed the latest one, True Detective, including former pretty boy Matthew McConaughey and not so pretty boy Woody Harrelson. Actors that have always done movies, now in an HBO production. And Game of Thrones? Sean Bean got to play Eddard for 11 episodes before he got killed off, but Game of Thrones is probably the most expensive TV series ever made. Netflix throws Kevin Spacey in the game with its hit series House of Cards, and what about the Norwegian production Lillihammer starring Steven van Zandt? The series have one thing in common: they are all good, well written and well executed. But is money and well-known actors all it takes to stand out?
Do big names make a TV series better?
Hell I didn’t know all the Italian named Sopranos actors, let alone did I expect a guitar playing rock star in it. Band of Borthers did include Friends’ Ross (David Schwimmer) for 3 episodes or so, the main characters were pretty unknown. I didn’t watch ER, so I didn’t know Scott Grimes, I noticed a hint of Markie Mark in Donnie Wahlberg. Just go through the list on IMDB, you’d probably not have known that many of them back then. I also love Curb Your Enthusiasm’s clumsiness, including all those “back-in-the-days” actors. The series just stands out because of its clumsiness (and for me as a Seinfeld fan probably also just because 🙂 ).
But what about AMC’s Breaking Bad? Did you know Bryan Cranston? OK, caught me. I did know him. It was Seinfeld’s dentist Whatley (it took me 5 looks before I saw it though). I didn’t know Dean Norris, nor did I know Aaron Paul. Breaking Bad is probably the best produced series I have seen since The Sopranos. It didn’t take a lot of money – in the beginning (of course the actors’ rates went up 800% after it caught on). It just took some brilliant writing and producing (Vince Gilligan and its team).
Of course there’s something to be said for series like Lillihammer. Nobody would have known it, if it wasn’t for Steven van Zandt, who is just playing a Sopranos’ Silvio in a different series. And I guess that’s it. The names are just being used to showcase a new series. If Matthew and Woody wouldn’t star in True Detective, I probably wouldn’t notice that new True Detective commercial, but now I did. Why did I start watching House of Cards again and not Orange Is The New Black? Ow yes, because of Kevin Spacey.
And the clue? I just doubt whether a well-known actor makes a series better. Maybe it could have been even better, with all the money to spare.