Are Guest Stars Ruining Television? No. Is Alessandra Stanley Terrible? Yes.

biebercsi_500.jpgThe New York Times' Alessandra Stanley recently penned a piece decrying the sudden over-abundance of guest stars clogging our favorite television comedies and dramas. But is it really the guest stars who are to blame? And is Alessandra Stanely really just grasping at straws here?

To get to Stanley's central thesis, you first have to wade through the world's most awkward metaphor where the guest stars are bedbugs and the Emmys are a toxic pesticide and she is Rachel Carson and Bob Newhart is a Thalidomide baby. Or something. I'm not sure, it's a terrible, impenetrable mess and I can't believe it saw print.

Anyway! After all that mishegoss, Stanley posits that big name guest stars have become too forced and are distracting from the shows they're guesting on. First off, I'm not sure what great gnarled oak Stanley emerged from under after her decades-long nap, but guest stars have always been drawing attention to their shows and the best way to get someone's attention to throw a big name up in lights. Will & Grace did it all the time; so did Friends; hell, so did Batman, with his "Special Guest Villains." People tuned in to see Liberace or Tallulah Bankhead slap a teen in satin shorts, and maybe they stuck around the next week.

Second, she points out how awful guest stars can be, saying that Justin Bieber on CSI or Jennifer Aniston on Cougar Town or Betty White on Community were gimmicky and not enjoyable. Guest stars bad! But she then says that Matt Damon was delightful on 30 Rock. So...guest stars...acceptable?

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the guest stars, but in the writing. Matt Damon was funny on 30 Rock because was saying and doing funny things. Jennifer Aniston was not funny because she was not given funny things to do or say. There will always be stunt casting, but the success or failure of the guest stars is predicated on the show's writing not on the casting itself. Guest stars are no more an "infestation" than lousy, lazy writing, but only good writing can cure bad guest stars; the opposite is rarely the case.

You would think all of this is rather self-evident and I'm not quite sure why Stanley felt the need to expound about a thousand words decrying the fact that TV shows sometimes use big celebrities to garner attention. All I can think of is that she had the words "BIEBER" and "BEDBUGS" written on a big dry erase board, stared at it for ten solid minutes and then twirled and twirled around till it made sense.

· TV Guests Overstaying Their Welcome [Deadline]



Comments

  • Matthew DH says:

    The guest stars on 30 rock really kill alot of the buzz. It seemed like they became the focus at the end of the 3rd season especially.

  • Fan of GS's says:

    Thank You, I hated what she wrote also--I think she was just going out of her way to find something bad to say about people she dislikes. As long as there is TV, there will be Guest Stars and you are right--it can really work with good writing.

  • Dave says:

    Um, TV shows have had guest starts since the beginning. I LOVE LUCY had guest stars. So why are they a problem now? This is the biggest non-issue I've seen in a long time.
    EVERY SHOW HAS GUEST STARS. Every week. It's the way serial television works. Perhaps if the idiot author's premise was that "bad" guest stars were ruining television, it might have a little weight, but just claiming that "celebrity" guest stars are ruining television is ridiculous.

  • Dave says:

    Um, TV shows have had guest starts since the beginning. I LOVE LUCY had guest stars. So why are they a problem now? This is the biggest non-issue I've seen in a long time.
    EVERY SHOW HAS GUEST STARS. Every week. It's the way serial television works. Perhaps if the idiot author's premise was that "bad" guest stars were ruining television, it might have a little weight, but just claiming that "celebrity" guest stars are ruining television is ridiculous.

  • Dave says:

    Wow, my apologies. I pressed the submit button, got an error message, tried again, and FOUR copies of my note showed up. This site sucks.

  • TurdBlossom says:

    Good stunt casting - Terri Hatcher on Smallville, playing Louis Lane's mother.
    Bad stunt casting - Justin Bieber on CSI, in a role that could have been filled by any random actor (that probably needs the the work and money a lot more than the Bieb)

  • Furious D says:

    I have nothing against celebs doing stunt guest appearances on TV shows.
    What I do have something against is that these celeb cameos tend to hog the roles and emmy nods that would have gone to workaday character actors who might actually need them to maintain their own career.

  • Lissa says:

    I agree with Dave-"I Love Lucy" featured everyone from Hedda Hopper to Groucho Marx. It's nothing new. I'm not sure what A. Stanley's problem is, aside from a run-away metaphor.
    I quite enjoy the idea of a guest star on a TV series. Perhaps the difference now is that there's no element of surprise (^ random bedbug comment), given the hype and bombardment of media.
    One example that jumps to mind is Frankie Muniz on "Criminal Minds." It gave him a chance to show that he's matured into a dramatic actor. His performance was stellar. Even Taylor Swift got to show her acting chops in a dark role on "CSI."
    Perhaps Stanley should focus her attention on the writing. More specifically, the delecterious effect "reality" TV has had on writing quality and the waning need for writers. After all, the actors, regardless of who they are, are mouthpieces. If the writers are pros, then the actor will deliver the goods.

  • Bronson says:

    Sure Dave. It's the site that sucks.

  • R4i says:

    Guest stars only detract from the show if their presence is to disguise an otherwise rather weak plot and scriptwriting. A strong show would and should benefit from guest stars.

  • GhostOfBrandonTartikoff says:

    Thank you! I thought my head was going to explode when I read Stanley's article over the weekend. The fact that they printed that drivel is proof positive of how awful the NYT has become. World's worst metaphor in the world's worst article about television EVER! I can't believe someone pays her to write.

  • anonymous says:

    Guest Stars are bad when the show becomes so focused on them that it doesn't pay enough attention to the regular characters and storylines we care about. Or when they cast actors in roles that don't suit them just because their famous.

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