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Things I Hate About TV: Guest stars on cop shows

by Anna Johns, posted Dec 31st 2005 11:14AM
I am going to limit this rant to Law and Order since it is the primary offender when it comes to putting guest stars on its many, many shows. It's as though the writers can't help but make every single celebrity guest star the guilty person! Do they know it is a dead giveaway to the viewers? If I see Dean Cain, Fred Savage, or Dana Delany as a seemingly minor character in the beginning of the show, I know they'll end up on trial or at least be the guilty ones by the end of the episode. Last night, I was watching a rerun of Criminal Intent where Lee Tergesen from Oz appeared as a minor character in the beginning. Guess who ended up being guilty of murder? Surprise, surprise. I remember Julia Roberts being on the original Law and Order during season nine, does anyone remember whether she was guilty?

I have to commend CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, whose writers seem to have self control when it comes to guest stars. Last season, Wil Wheaton appeared as a crazed homeless man who also was a prime suspect in the murder of a little boy, but he ended up being innocent (coincidentally, so did Lee Tergesen, who was also a suspect in that episode).

I'm not saying that Law and Order makes its celebrity guests guilty every time, but it's a pretty good bet that if you see a recognizable face in the first 10 minutes of the show, that's your perp. What other celebrity guests do you remember on crime shows? Were they guilty?

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For those of you who don't know, Wil Wheaton is a co-worker of mine. He is a blogger over at Card Squad (.com), one of many Weblogsinc blogs listed on the right side of TV Squad.

He also makes a very good point in his comment that makes me think my frustration is with casting directors, not writers. These roles aren't necessarily written for recognizable actors. They land the big supporting roles because they're good actors.

Unfortunately, in the case of Law and Order, the only major supporting roles that are available tend to be for the guilty person. So, any 'whodunit'-style episode is made less interesting, in my opinion, because you can be pretty sure they're going to come back to find the recognizable actor guilty (i.e. Lee Tergesen in SVU). It's a Catch-22 of sorts. You want to give a good actor a good role, but sometimes it's at the risk of tipping off the viewers about who is going to be guilty!

January 01 2006 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

The big guest stars on shows like Law and Order have never bothered me, because the casting seems a lot more natural than a show like Will and Grace, which had big name stars (Madonna, Cher, Kevin Bacon, etc) just as stunt casting and ratings, and it's one of the things that killed the show.

January 01 2006 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, the Julia Roberts guest-starring bit was pretty lame, but Fred Savage on SVU was excellent. That was one of the best episodes they've done. And it's true that everyone knew he'd done what they said he'd done--but that wasn't the point. There's more to Law & Order than just figuring out who did it (though they have done many very good whodunit episodes); it's the twists and turns of how they're going to catch the "perp" that makes it interesting. I'm not especially willing to give CSI credit for not resorting to stunt casting (Quentin Tarantino directing? The popular song [Madonna & Radiohead, to name a few] product placement?). For one thing, something tells me that Caruso won't let anyone upstage him.

While I'll admit that Matlock was my favorite show when I was 10, and my view of crime shows staring aged stars is somewhat compromised as a result, Murder She Wrote was awesome.

January 01 2006 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, Toby, but I have to disagree that there was ever anything great about 'Murder, She Wrote'.

January 01 2006 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

What was great about 'Murder, She Wrote' and before that, 'Burke's Law' was that there were so many famous guest stars in each episode, you never could be sure who'd turn out to be the murderer.

Although as a kid, I worked out a system to figure out 'Burke's Law' - if the guest star appeared in 3 different scenes, they'd be the guilty party.

January 01 2006 at 4:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think there is a single actor that ever appeared on Oz, even if it was only as a background extra in the visitor room, for three seconds, in only one episode, that hasn't appeared at least once on one of the Law & Order's.

January 01 2006 at 2:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bad writing runs rampant on TV dramas, so it's no surprise to me that the guest star on L&O is usually the killer. That's par for the course and just one of many reasons why I don't watch them. Except for L&O: Sports Utility Vehicle, which I watch only because Chris Meloni, Lee Tergesen's cellmate and lover on Oz, is on it. And because I'm trying to ferret out if there's a vast conspiracy that is keeping Lee Tergesen from guesting on SVU.

Everyone on Oz has been on SVU. Some several times. I'm beginning to think there's some New York state law that states Oz actors HAVE to be on L&O. Freakin' Oz extras have been on SVU, but not once has Tergesen been on. What's up with that?

Now that "Wanted" (Tergesen's series on TNT) apparently won't be returning next season (according to internet rumors), I am hoping that the TV Casting Gods will cast Tergesen -- while he still has long hair -- on SVU. This is really important. At no other time is Tergensen likely to have hair this long while being available to guest-star on SVU. I want to see Tergensen and his long hair on SVU. Why with the long hair, you ask? Because he looks incredibly hot with it that long, I answer. :P

He and The Hair (tm) have already been on L&O: The Mothership this season, so why not SVU? Is that too much to ask?

If Tergesen's a guest star on SVU, I won't care that I'll know from the start that he is the one whodunit. I just want to watch Tergesen, The Hair (tm), and Meloni chew up the scenery together. A girl can dream, can't she? :P

January 01 2006 at 1:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wil, clearly you do not understand the modern day definition of 'celebrity'. It's kind of like the change that has happened to 'supermodel'. There used to be like 3 supermodels, now everyone and her sister is a supermodel. And if you ever wonder what it takes to qualify as a 'celebrity', take a look at Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Poker, Celebrity Blackjack, The Surreal Life, etc etc etc. For goodness sake, Wendy Pepper is a 'celebrity'.


Being a regular on TNG must qualify one as 'supercelebrity' if that is how we are setting the bar.

December 31 2005 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wil. You are famous. you were on Star Trek for God's sake. Why in the world are you wasting your time posting on blogs? Dude you were taken away by the traveller to become something more than human. Don't waste your time on us.

December 31 2005 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason Ruby

Does that mean Malcolm David Kelley is gonna be guilty on SVU? I knew I couldn't trust that kid!


December 31 2005 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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