The always-awesome Hugh Laurie (I am watching may way through Jeeves and Wooster right now, which makes me wish we had a stronger buttling tradition in America if only for the comedic value) is predictably correct on one of the major problems with American entertainment:
After parking, Laurie cut through the studio lot’s New York street set and discussed the differences between British and American TV. “I think good-looking people seldom make good television,” he said. “And American television studios almost concede before they start: ‘Well, it won’t be good, but at least it’ll be good-looking. We’ll have nice-looking girls in tight shirts with F.B.I. badges and fit-looking guys with lots of hair gel vaulting over things. So at least we’ll have achieved that base standard of entertainment.’ ” He shook his head. “I think that’s hugely misguided. The glory of American television is Dennis Franz.”
We often treat tropes like the Girl Who Takes Off Her Glasses and is Suddenly Miraculous as if they’re the product of bad writing, which frequently, they are. But they’re also a product of exceedingly lazy casting (and sometimes, bad wardrobing). A story about a woman who becomes more comfortable in her body and more sexually confident can be legitimately interesting and empowering if it’s presented in a plausible way rather than a cheap one — these kinds of stories are not inherently unengaging or irritating. And it’s just true that casts that are not filled with people who look different are more interesting to look at than those staffed with tiny variations on a single, established theme. Richard Belzer’s mix of goofy, menace, and vulnerability help make Det. John Munch so amiably, if minorly, immortal. Patricia Belcher is good at acting impatient, but her lidded eyes and wide line of a mouth also help her play perpetually exasperated.