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The What the *#@#%! Were They Thinking? Award nominees

by Joel Keller, posted May 30th 2008 2:02PM
TVS AwardsWhen Keith and I were discussing some of the awards that we were going to do for the TV Squad Awards, we initially thought that doing an award about miscasting was going to get us a ton of nominees. Then we started thinking about it, and we couldn't come up with too many names off the tops of our heads. It seemed like our readers were equally flummoxed, as our call for considerations got less nominees than many of the other categories. I guess casting directors and producers are doing a much better job these days, since it seems like Elizabeth Röhm-esque casting disasters are happening less often.

But some names did emerge, which I'll list after the jump. The Squadders will choose the winner, and you'll get a chance to select the Readers' Choice for this award in the poll at the end of the list. So, here are the four people whose casting made us wonder just what the heck people in Hollywood are thinking:

Michelle RyanMichelle Ryan (Bionic Woman): She was an obvious nominee, as many blame her wooden performance for the show's demise. It was a promising premise: a remake of a camp classic with producers from Battlestar Galactica behind it. But they picked the wrong star in Ryan; she was so busy trying to squelch her British accent that she didn't infuse Jaime Sommers with any warmth, emotion, or... well, any kind of expression whatsoever.

There were two signs that Ryan wasn't a good fit. The first was that people loved her in the episode where Jaime goes undercover as a Brit, where she could speak in her natural voice. The second was that fans were regretting the producers didn't cast Katee Sackhoff, who played bionic-woman-gone-mad Sarah Corvus, in Ryan's role. When people are trying to replace you with someone from your own show, that's a pretty good indication that you've been miscast.

Britney on HIMYMBritney Spears (How I Met Your Mother): The most highly-publicized stunt casting incident of the season also happened to have the biggest split in opinion. Many people think that Brit-Brit did a decent job in both of the episodes she was in; others thought she did OK on the first episode and poorly on the second; still others thought that she was terrible and had the comic timing of a tree sloth. Upon reflection, I fall in the second camp, though I think that even her second episode wasn't that bad.

But what puts her in this category is the whole idea of why she was on the show in the first place. Was she a great comic actor? No. Did she mesh well with the ensemble? Not really. No, she was there to boost ratings for the show and rehab her disintegrating public image, and those two factors disappointed many of the show's very loyal fans.

Parker PoseyParker Posey (The Return of Jezebel James): Yes, the show was an all-around mess, with flat jokes, an intrusive laugh-track, and a premise that was about as convoluted as sitcoms can get. But having the usually-reliable Parker Posey in the lead of this disaster made things even worse.

This is a woman who has been hilarious in roles romantic and quirky alike, and she's fit in well with the improvisational ensemble in Christopher Guest's movies. But, for some reason, she couldn't wrap either her mind or her lungs around the twists and turns of Amy Sherman-Palladino's signature dialogue. The character of Sarah Tompkins was supposed to be a bit of a scattered mess, but Posey played her as someone who can barely keep it together, making you wonder how the character was ever able to start her own imprint for a major book publisher.

Kristen BellKristen Bell (Heroes): This is one where I had to rely on my fellow Squadders for help, since I don't watch Heroes (yes, I know...). She came on the show last year to play Elle Bishop, who has awesome powers but who is a bit mysterious.

From what I've been seeing, the reason why Kristen's casting wasn't a mistake wasn't because of any issue on her part, though one reader said that she acted like an "animated mannequin." No, I think it's because it was too soon for her to take on another role in a cult hit so soon after Veronica Mars was cancelled; fans of both shows -- which is a pretty large group -- continued to see Kristen as Veronica and not Elle, causing a distraction. Hey, a woman's got to work, but I wonder if she should have gone in a completely different direction for a year or two first.

There were a few other names bandied about, James Callis from Battlestar Galactica and Susan Misner from New Amsterdam being the most notable, but there wasn't enough of a consensus among either the readers or the staff to include them. So, who's your choice? Let me know by responding to the poll below.

Who do you think should win the What the *#@#%! Were They Thinking? Award?
Michelle Ryan437 (41.9%)
Britney Spears385 (36.9%)
Parker Posey124 (11.9%)
Kristen Bell96 (9.2%)

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I personally thought Kristen Bell did a great job on "Heroes." I think she plays the sadistic and sociopathic Elle very well. I understand why "Veronica Mars" fans might not be able to, or be willing to, accept her in another role so quickly after the cancellation of "Veronica Mars," but give the girl credit. In my opinion, she was one of the highlights in a rather messy sophomore season.

Britney is not an actress. But, as a singer coming on to a TV show, she did well. Many singers and musicians who try to become actors are pretty terrible. Every musician who tries to act is not going to be Mark Wahlberg (remember Marky Mark). Britney was not terrible. Brit may not have had comedic timing, but as I said with Kristen Bell, give the girl some credit. For the role she played, she did pretty well.

Now, I know this is an old choice, from at least three or four years ago, but my personal pick for "What were they thinking" is Erica Durance as Lois Lane on "Smallville." I don't know if it's her performance that rubs me the wrong way, or if it's the way Lois' character has been written. But something about Lois, from the moment she was introduced in season four, has seriously rubbed me the wrong way. I find it strange, as the casting for every other character on the show works very well...

August 09 2008 at 8:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i vote for kristen because she was the best thing in season 2 on heroes!
im a big fan of britney but kristen did an amazing job.

June 12 2008 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was looking forward to Bionic Woman til I watched the preview episode and 15 minutes into the show I was like WTF?There r certain classic tv shows u have to stay true to the charcter traits we fans have in our minds. This chick had NONE of it. Too bad , so sad! Try again in another 5 years after I get this bad taste out of my mouth!

June 04 2008 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bionic Woman died of a bad scripts not bad performances. You rant against Ryan is a flat out lie and you should be ashamed of yourselves for slandering her.

Nobody wants to see Spears in anything ever again.

Never even heard about the Posey show.

Heroes is just a bad show.

May 31 2008 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

James Callis a mistake? Is that a joke? He makes the show! Without him, BSG would not be the masterpiece that it is.

May 31 2008 at 12:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to saniko's comment
Laszlo Toth, Jr

"Without him, BSG would not be the masterpiece that it is."

This gets my vote for best unintentionally funny comment.

Of course, you forgot the scare quotes around, "masterpiece."

June 11 2008 at 5:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How could anyone possibly think James Callis is a mistake. His Batlar character is wonderfully entertaining (until the writers ruined him this season.)

May 30 2008 at 6:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't vote for Bob. Why can't I vote for Bob?


May 30 2008 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Michelle Ryan ruined Bionic Woman. Well with a little help from the crappy writing too.

Kirsten Bell was one of the high points of season 2 of Heroes.

May 30 2008 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I should have nominated Sophia Myles, who I think dragged "Moonlight" down from "greatly enjoyable" to "good to catch on TiVo on laundry day." I'm probably going to get a lot of guff from "Moonlight" fans for the previous statement, but I just felt she was awful and couldn't connect to any facet of the stories or characters.

She's great in "Art School Confidential," though. I just don't think this was a good fit for her.

May 30 2008 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I usually enjoy Parker Posey. I mean, hello, Waiting for Guffman is hilarious and she is great in it. Not so much on this show. Watching her on Jezebel was just cringe worthy. That whole show was just set up so wrong, from the casting to the canned laughter, but for the most part I just kept thinking about how Lauren Graham would have delivered each line. I'm still sad this show turned out so bad.

May 30 2008 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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