As I mentioned here, I've been watching a lot of television lately. As a matter of fact, my DVR and I are about to have some serious, snowy night quality time. Since one of old faves, Heroes, is in the tank, and a bunch of shows that I really liked have gotten the ax (Life, Samantha Who), I've had to find some new ones. In my watching, I have found some good new things. I've also found some performers that I've just plain fallen in love with. They're not the leads, but they're sometimes the reason I watch. I wanted to introduce you to them. Get to know the Secret Weapons of Television.
Courtney B. Vance on FlashForward. I am a well-known sci-fi geek. So...a show about the whole planet passing out and having a two minute vision of their future in a few months? Sign me up. Except...it's kind of boring. And confusing. It's the kind of show where literally nothing happens for an entire episode, then BAM! CLIFFHANGER! In the last three minutes. It's a gimmick, but it works. It's also marred by some of the worst bits of over-acting out there. But then, in the midst of it, Mr. Angela Bassett shows up and brings a great complicated portrayal of FBI Assistant Director Wedeck. He usually winds up with the comic relief of the episode (his flash forward is a comic highlight and too good to be spoiled), but also brings real gravitas and passion. Just wait for him to show up on the screen and you won't be disappointed.
Regina King on Southland. I've only just started watching it, but I was hooked almost immediately and Regina King's performance as Detective Lydia Adams is huge part of that. When you have a female detective on a TV show, you wind up with either the "hard as a man" bitch type or the super-feminine uberwoman. Lydia Adams is both and neither. Smart, tough and compassionate, but still human. Southland is one of the best cop dramas I've seen, subtle and unsentimental and Regina's performance is right in there with it. The first two episodes she has to deal with cases involving children, which gave me a bit of a pause at first, but it pays off beautifully when she goes to her ex's house to say that she might have been wrong and does maybe want a child after all. It's a quiet scene, but carries a punch. I'm very excited that there will be more of Lydia Adams soon. Plus, bonus for Regina: she does voices for The Boondocks. Awesome.
Donald Glover on Community. This one isn't really a secret weapon. But, Jesus Christ, he is awesome. Donald Glover's Troy is quite possibly my single favorite character on television right now on my single favorite show. His work is funny, slick, slightly bizarre, and beautifully timed. It works better when you see him in action, so...
Vik Sahay on Chuck. Also not too much of a secret, but Vik's Lester Patel is an endless source of joy. The show has its own daffy, cartoony quality and yet maintains a beating heart. Lester is not that heart. He's more like the pancreas. Or the spleen. Always a little inappropriate, every fanboy has a friend like Lester. The guy who's a bigger geek, a bigger nerd and always makes a gathering just a little weird. So. Much. Fun. On television. He's two tons of awesome in a tiny little body.
And last, but never, ever least...
Chi McBride on Human Target. I'll be honest with you folks. This was all pretty much an excuse to gush over Chi McBride. Seriously, this guy is the shit. Always terrific, he takes Human Target up a level all by himself (though Jackie Earle Haley helps). Sure, it's a variant on his Emerson Cod from Pushing Daisies, but no one really can do that blend of tolerating the lead character's antics and wanting to throttle them at the same time quite the way Chi does. Plus he never forgets to bring the funny, or, as Christopher Chance's business partner and rational side, the constant threat to kick someone's ass just for looking at him funny. I remember the awful, monstrous spectacle of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer years back and it's amazing that Chi survived that and has gone on to have such a great career. Maybe it's the still lingering stink of that that's kept him relegated to second bananas, I don't know. But his work is always watchable, always enjoyable and, when on a fun, breezy show like Human Target, hell, it's a good thing for a long, snowed-in night.
As you can probably guess, my tastes in TV aren't exactly PBS fare, or even the Discovery Channel. I've got a craving for pop in my entertainment. But smart, engaging pop that's doing something more than showing my pretty pictures. I'm not saying these are the deepest shows on the air, but, with the performances from the actors here, they're not just mindless pablum. You have your reasons to watch what you do. I have mine. These are some of them.