It’s easy for an actor to become the character they play on television. Can anyone make a valid argument about David Schwimmer and Ross Gellar not being one in the same? Or how about Frasier Crane? For the rest of his life Kelsey Grammar will always be (much to his own chagrin), Dr. Frasier Crane. That’s just who he is, and how we perceive him, but as much as we like him, we can’t accept him in another role. There are however, a select few members of the television elite who have managed to star in not one, but TWO prominent television roles. It’s unfortunate, a little, to think that so many great television stars never get a second chance to shine, but for the following five (ten by the time Judi chimes in) actors, NTO is glad they did. Without further adieu, here are the Top Five Stars So Nice They Cast Them Twice:
5. Kyle McLaughlin – Special Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) | Trey MacDougal (Sex and the City) | Orson Hodge (Desperate Housewives)
Alright, alright, so Kyle McLaughlin isn’t exactly television “elite,” but I like to give credit where credit is due. Somehow this guy has managed to star in two super hits (SATC, DH) and a total cult classic while somehow remaining somewhat nameless to the lay television viewer. His name is Kyle McLaughlin and he is a TV triple threat. Have you seen Twin Peaks? McLaughlin plays Special Agent Dale Cooper, the FBI guy sent to a podunk town in Washington to investigate the murder of the homecoming queen. He’s delightfully quirky, and really bizarre without being creepy. Actually, he’s sort of like his character Orson Hodge in Desperate Housewives, but without the whole attempted murder, left his own mother for dead, extorts his own wife, is a kleptomaniac thing. He plays both well, and they’re quite different characters, but what they have in common, is that no matter how nice or normal they might seem, you can just tell that there’s something off. What might that be? Well, maybe he’s an impotent mama’s boy with an affinity for Jugs magazine and Scottish flings. Oh wait, that’s his character Trey MacDougal, Charolotte York’s first husband on Sex and the City. “Alrighty.”
4. Ron Howard – Opie Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) | Richie Cunningham (Happy Days)
Seriously, how CUTE was little Ronnie Howard? The ginger offspring of Sheriff Andy Taylor was always getting into moral dilemmas and fortunately for him his father’s moral compass was pointed straight towards heaven. Pa doled out his simple, heartfelt country wisdom on the regular and we ate it up with a spoon. Hard to believe that that little boy who always struggled to do the right thing would turn out to play Richie Cunningham on Happy Days? Now, I’m not the hugest fan of Happy Days it’s a little too absurd for my taste (that’s right, TOO ABSURD), but there’s no denying that it is a television institution, not unlike The Andy Griffith Show, and so the fact that Howard starred in both, I think, is kind of remarkable. Not to mention his super successful directorial career or his narration of/affiliation with Arrested Development.
3. Betty White – Sue Ann Nivens (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) | Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls)
Betty White is easily my favorite television actress of all time. She’s been on television literally, since its inception. My favorite, and her most well known roles? Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. In an alternate universe, I would LOVE to see Sue Ann and Rose hang out with one another. Sue Ann and her “Happy Homemaker” with a dark side sits down for cheesecake with dimwitted Scandinavian, Rose Nylund. HILARITY ENSUES! Did you know that when they were casting The Mary Tyler Moore Show the character description for Sue Ann said, “A Betty White type?” At some point, one of the producers suggested, “Why don’t we just hire Betty White.” No one assumed she would take the role, but she did, and for that, we must bow down to the gods of television and sing the praises of the incomparable Betty White.
2. Mary Tyler Moore – Laura Petrie (The Dick Van Dyke Show) | Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
Who’s more lovable than Mary Tyler Moore? I submit that there is NO ONE! Which is probably why she was cast in two of television’s biggest hits. As a child my first introduction to Mary was as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke show which aired on Nick@Nite (of which the early 90’s version was far superior to today). Concurrently, N@N also aired The Mary Tyler Moore Show, another personal favorite. I remember finally noticing one day, “Heey, Rob’s wife is totally Mary Richards!” Without any concept of when these shows had actually been new, only that they were old, I, for a short time decided that Mary Tyler Moore was the greatest TV actress of all time, starring in two shows SIMULTANEOUSLY, for a number of years. However, I then deduced that The Dick Van Dyke Show was far more olden timey (four years) because it was in black and white, and yet again, felt a jolt of love for Mary, who had conquered both black and white and COLOR television formats. Seriously though, she can turn the world on with her smile.
1. Larry Hagman – Major Nelson (I Dream of Jeannie) | J.R. Ewing (Dallas)
Imagine how bewildered I was when I finally put two and two together and realized that my beloved J.R. Ewing was actually Major Nelson. I thought I was better than that, but alas, I enjoyed these two programs at entirely different stages of my life, as did most of America. Hagman hit it big as Major Nelson, the zany astronaut owner of a mildly retarded genie in I Dream of Jeanie, which aired from 1965 to 1970. In 1978 Hagman returned to the small screen as the nefarious J.R. Ewing, the baddest, most powerful, richest man in Dallas. The two characters could not possibly be more diametrically different, which is why Hagman found himself at Number 1 today! Nelson is a clownish sitcom character who engages in madcap hi-jinx with a fantastical sex symbol who wears pink tulle on the reg. J.R. is a depraved oil man with an insatiable appetite for women, money and bourbon who will stop at nothing to remain in power. Plus his eyebrows are awesome.