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Fey and Carell Prove That The Gap Between TV and Movie Stardom is Disappearing

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 5th 2010 4:02PM
Steve Carell and Tina Fey in 'Date Night'Let me start this post off by getting this out of the way right now: I have no idea whether 'Date Night,' the new big-screen comedy from Tina Fey and Steve Carell coming out on Friday, is any good, or whether it'll make any money. From what I can see from the ads, it isn't looking promising, but good movies have been victimized by bad ads for as long as TV and movies have co-existed.

What has been the most remarkable about the promotion and marketing of this movie, though, has been this: Nothing, from the movie ads to the breathless previews on entertainment channels, to any of the print stories, are making a big deal that this movie is headlined two (gulp) television stars. And it's the career paths of both Fey and Carell that make this so refreshing.

If someone were to ask you with what you associate Fey and Carell most closely, you'd likely respond with a TV show: Carell and 'The Office,' Fey with '30 Rock' or 'SNL.' But, for a few of you, the first role that pops up in your head might be from a movie. Granted, with 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' Carell's tie to movie stardom is stronger than Fey's. But enough people saw 'Baby Mama' two years ago, or have watched a DVD of Fey's cult hit 'Mean Girls' might bring those flicks up when talking about Fey.

But what's been interesting about both of their careers is that there really was no grand "crossover" from TV to movies; they didn't "graduate" from what has always been thought of as the "lesser" to the "greater" medium. And no one is saying that either of them are having a disappointing "come down" from movies to TV, a description that has plagued actors more known for feature work, like Holly Hunter, Alec Baldwin, Sally Field and Glenn Close, no matter how challenging their small-screen work has been.

No, Fey and Carell are two stars who just go back and forth from movies to TV without making a big deal about it. Unlike other stars who have shot movies during their series hiatuses, both seem to be quite happy with their place on television. Carell has said a number of times that he has no intention of leaving 'The Office,' and Fey... well, she produces and writes her own Emmy-winning sitcom, so that seems to be a no-brainer.

So, something like 'Date Night' is just another project for the two of them. It's not being touted by publicists or the studio as some big-screen "coming out" party for either, because it isn't.

And, as the way we consume media evolves, the gap between TV stardom and movie stardom is going to disappear. People already watch most movies on ever-larger HD screens, anyway, and it seems like, except for blockbusters like 'Avatar,' the main way people experience movies is on television. And, since we're in a golden era of quality TV -- especially in the world of drama -- the sitgma of "doing TV" has already faded quite a bit.

Could there be a time when we see George Clooney or Leo DiCaprio coming back to TV and doing a series, with no one batting an eye? Or Julia Roberts putting in her best performance for an HBO flick? Yes, and that day is coming sooner than you think.

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Dan H

"Right, and the facts are that, despite his ascending movie career, he decided to stay on The Office. Remember, he got The Office *before* The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out and made him a big star."

Which is exactly why the point of your blog is moot! It was when the 40 Year Old Virgin came out that the time would have been for critics to point out that he was graduating from TV to film (which they did) or point out he was heading back to the office and say whether or not it was a good career move....not after he has been the lead in over half a dozen films! Regardless of the fact that he is most closely identified as Michael Scott in The Office, at this point, he is a bonnafied movie star. Any analysis on him making the jump from TV to movies now would be woefully too late.


April 06 2010 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan H

Seriously, Carrell had a big role in Anchor Man, and was the lead in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Get Smart, Evan Almighty, Dan in Real Life, and Horton Hears a Who.

The point of this blog is moot if you actually take the time to look at the facts.

April 06 2010 at 8:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan H's comment
Joel Keller

Right, and the facts are that, despite his ascending movie career, he decided to stay on The Office. Remember, he got The Office *before* The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out and made him a big star.

April 06 2010 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
PB

Popular TV Stars head to movies.

Tired unbankable Movie Stars head to TV.

Neither don't "usually" do both for too long.

April 05 2010 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
j0phus

I think there is an important distinction to make here that Keller missed completely, it is getting easier for character-actors to move back and forth.

That is actually why I think this film is going to be brilliant, both Fey and Carell understand their characters, have no inhibition, and are also writers themselves. I would also assume that neither of them did this film for the exposure or money, and that is all I need to go see this movie.

Ever notice that the talent that was fostered in Chicago before getting their break is always above rest, no matter what field- just a random observation.

April 05 2010 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CParis

Old news. British actors have been doing this for decades - moving between feature films and TV.
And many of the top shows on cable are headed by female stars (Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Holly Hunter, etc) who do both TV and movie roles, consistently.

April 05 2010 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Troy

I was just discussing with a friend that Steve Carell is a far bigger movie star than he is a TV star. More people have probably seen his weakest performing movie at the box office (Dan In Real Life?) than have seen The Office.

April 05 2010 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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