5. Maya Rudolph, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the latest example of why Tina Fey is a national treasure. I think it even one-ups 30 Rock’s penchant for zaniness bordering on surrealism. It’s in that spirit that Maya Rudolph shows up in season 3 playing Dionne Warwick and I never stopped laughing for the whole time she was on screen. She nails a certain goofy mixture of earnestness, ego and pizazz, which then gets blown up to hilarious insanity in the Fey universe. Even her facial expressions are spot on.
4. Liza Minelli, Arrested Development
Speaking of zany surrealism, Minelli’s vertigo afflicted Lucille Austero in Arrested Development is also top-notch. Aside from the sharp, absurd verbal humor that is a part of almost every character, it’s the physical comedy part of her performance that always gets me. There’s just something about seeing her slowly fall to the ground while trying to help another vertigo sufferer, for instance. Maybe I’m just a sucker for watching people fall down. And her pairing with Buster was hilarious.
3. Tom Hanks, Family Ties
Tom Hanks and I go way back. When he made his appearance on Family Ties as Drunk Uncle Ned, I may have thought, Oh, there’s the guy from Bosom Buddies! Hanks is just great here. The episode, which I learned through some cursory browsing is titled, “Say Uncle,” boils down to this (at least as I remember it): Alex is excited for Uncle Ned to show up because he used to be a hot-shot business guy and Alex is a Young Conservative who likes that. Ned seems gregarious and nice, but before long he’s going nuts when there’s no beer in the fridge and starts chugging vanilla extract. He blows a job interview because he shows up hammered. And toward the end he backhands Alex across the living room. Drunk Uncle Hanks really brought it all to this episode.
2. Kelsey Grammer, The Simpsons
When I used to watch The Simpsons religiously, I always knew it would be a particularly great episode whenever Sideshow Bob was a part of the action. Frasier’s Kelsey Grammer used his innate theatricality to bring gleeful life to Bart’s nemesis. Obviously, my favorite Sideshow episode also co-starred David Hyde Pierce and Bob’s brother Cecil, which even has a reference to Maris to put it over the top.
1. Peter Boyle, The X-Files
Beal has awesomely tackled the X-Files classic, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
elsewhere on this site, and I’ll echo her enthusiasm about it being one of the best episodes of any TV show ever. And obviously a big part of it is Peter Boyle’s world-weary Bruckman. Resigned to a psychic ability that allows him to predict people’s deaths yet still capable of being horrified by it, it’s a performance that sticks with you. After watching it, you can’t really imagine anyone else in the role. He’d obviously get to display his comedic side a lot more in Everybody Loves Raymond, but his ability to bring some levity to a fairly dark episode was also key.