Day 19 - Best TV show cast
I take this to mean "best cast of actors", not "best cast of characters", which would be a very different thing. Even so, it's not easy to answer, not least because an actor just marking time or having cameos in one show might reveal he or she has actually amazing range in another. For example, I would never have guessed how good an actor Walter Koenig is before seeing him as Alfred Bester in Babylon 5
, because Chekov in Star Trek
wasn't a role in which he could do more than be cheerfully optimistic and talk in a fake Russian accent. And the two or so episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica
I watched certainly didn't prepare me for Richard Hatch, who was the original Galactica's straight man Apollo, being great and utterly convincing as devious politician and ex terrorist Tom Zarek in the new BSG. Then there are cases where an actor might be good in one particular role but once you see him or her in another show/film/play, you realise it was the writing, not the acting, which made this character so memorable. Or at best a union between the two. *eyes James Marsters*
Conversely, there are cases where a show actually isn't that good but the cast is amazing. I would say Dollhouse
is an interesting failure at best, but the ensemble of actors, both regular and recurring, with the notable exception of the leading lady (and oh, the irony that a show designed to show off Eliza Dushku's versatility instead pointed out she's something of a one trick pony as an actress), might actually be stronger than in any other Whedon show (and all the others were far better written). With Dinchen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj the standouts as Victor and Sierra, but Olivia Williams, Fran Kranz and Harry Lennix also did superb jobs, as did Amy Acker (and Alexis Denisof in his s2 appearance reminded me all over again of the mystery that post Angel
, this best of all male Jossverse actors pre- Gjokaj didn't seem to get any roles).
Then there are shows where there are stronger and weaker actors but the parts for the weaker ones are either so small or play to these particular actors' strengths, and the overall writing is strong enough that the general impression is of a strong cast. (Case in point: Star Trek: The Next Generation
. I don't think anyone else in the cast is as good as Patrick Stewart, but no one is bad, Brent Spiner really is excellent, and after the shaky first season the writing gets to a point where actor strengths and character happily meld for the entire ensemble, and most importantly, no one, be it a good episode or a bad episode, ever gives you the impression of just marking time and waiting for their pay check. And the general chemistry is really good.)
...and then there are the cases where the writing is not just good but great, and
the actors are amazing in these and other roles. Which means I have to choose between:
1.) I, Claudius
: as I said elsewhere, the cream of 70s British acting shows up there - Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies; and, again as mentioned on another day, Brian Blessed delivers one of the most amazing death scenes ever as Augustus in complete silence, acting only with his eyes and the most subtle of expressions and proves once and for all that if given the opportunity he can do more than shout.
2.) Six Feet Under
: the wonderful Frances Conroy as Ruth Fisher, Michael C. Hall as my favourite gay character of all time, David Fisher, Peter Krause as Nate, Lauren Ambrose being awesome as Claire (and in many ways Claire is the pov character throughout the show), Rachel Griffiths as Brenda, and those are just the regulars through all seasons. Terrific cast, great writing, and that goes for the recurring characters and one shot guest stars as well.
3.) The Wire
: I marathoned it so recently that I'm hesitant to include it because usually I need some temporal distance to be sure about my jugment, but it really is everything that was claimed about it in fandom and in professional criticism, both writing and acting wise. And even though the earlier two examples make it hard, I think I'll still name The Wire
as my end choice, because the format - five seasons, with each seasons introducing new characters in addition to the established ones and putting the emphasis elsewhere, which means, for example, a minor character in s1 can be a main character in s4, and the reverse, a main character from s1 can get only cameos in s4 - means that of all the shows I named, this one has the largest
ensemble of actors, and
the best opportunity to give each othem the chance to shine. This includes some teenagers played by actual teenagers, not adults playing teenagers as is the custom on tv, which, considering said teenagers have to do some heavy dramatic lifting, was a risky move that pays of amazingly.
...in conclusion: the cast from The Wire
, who were, in the order that Wikipedia gives them and not limited to, Dominic West, John Doman, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, Larry Gilliard, Jr., Wood Harris, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Sonja Sohn, Chris Bauer, Paul Ben-Victor, Clarke Peters, Amy Ryan, Aidan Gillen, Jim True-Frost, Robert Wisdom, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, J. D. Williams, Michael K. Williams, Corey Parker Robinson, Reg E. Cathey, Chad L. Coleman, Jamie Hector, Glynn Turman, Clark Johnson, Tom McCarthy, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Neal Huff, Jermaine Crawford, Tristan Wilds, Michael Kostroff, Michelle Paress, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.( The rest of the days )