T5F: Underrated Performances

Regina King and Carrie Coons’ performances on The Leftovers got us thinking about other criminally underrated performances.

5. Michael Cera as George Michael (Arrested Development)

Sometimes, I like to imagine what it was like casting Michael Cera for this show. It had to be a no-brainer, right? “Oh. This is the kid. This is the kid.”  He’s so natural and at-home, despite being on the verge of panic or scrambling, most of the time we see him on screen. I feel like we take it for granted almost immediately, from the first episode, how compulsively watchable and lovable and strange he is, easy to do on a show with a powerhouse ensemble.

4 & 3. Lauren Graham as Lorelai (Gilmore Girls) & Sarah Braverman (Parenthood)

Gilmore Girls is exactly the type of show that falls through the cracks when it comes to awards. Which is a bummer, especially when you consider the sheer amount of work it must’ve taken for Graham to pull off Lorelai- we’re talking pages and pages of dialogue, every episode, delivered at a lightning fast pace, all with charm and humor and a little steely edge.

Parenthood on the other hand, was the kind of show that the Emmys usually love. So it boggles my mind to see her shut out for both shows. You can see her working every word as hard as possible in Parenthood and she had even more of a scene partner in Mae Whitman than she got from Alexis Bledel. Lorelai is flippant and a little brash, masking a fierce survival instinct. With Sarah Braverman, she could put her vulnerability on full display- she practically shimmers with it. In both cases, Graham deserved far more credit for her work.

2. Amy Sedaris as Mimi (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

One of my favorites, the screwball comic. Nobody does it better than Amy Sedaris. Nobody. She is, without a doubt, my favorite part of Kimmy Schmidt. This is not scenery chewing, this is full on scenery destruction; I’m frankly shocked every scene doesn’t end with her pulling the walls down behind her as she leaves the room.

1. Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith Crane (Cheers, Frasier)

Lilith is such a funny character. She’s like a WASP who was accidentally raised by the Addams family. And Bebe Neuwirth gets her completely, you can tell. I can’t help but like Lilith and root for her, just a little bit. It’s fun to watch her torture Frasier and, well, alienate everyone around her- there’s a psychic thrill in watching her do it. Neuwirth is a master of restraint and she makes it look so easy, like all it takes to nail Lilith is a deadpan voice, a stiff back and killer dialogue. And while that’s all there, Neuwirth is doing more. Because her Lilith is full-blooded; capable of rage, tenderness and loneliness, glimpsed when that cold mask slips, just enough to get me laughing and keep me on her side of whatever argument she’s in (sorry, Dr. Crane).

(Also, I feel like I need some kind of reminder to pop up every few months, something simple that just says, “Hey, don’t forget- Cheers was an awesome show.” Wouldn’t life be better if we just remembered that fact, with more frequency?)

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