NBC announced earlier today that they planned to replace episodes of Perfect Couples starting in April with the premiere of The Paul Reiser Show, which is self-explanatory in that it puts the veteran comedian actor and former NBC star in his own right into a role where he plays a version of himself. He's not nearly the first actor to take on such a feat-- Jerry Seinfeld most famously did it before him, and for the same network, when the actors of Unscripted all tackled a less slapstick and more serious version of it on HBO about half a dozen years ago. But I can't help but wonder: Why Reiser? Sure, he had a legion of fans over a decade ago who probably would have followed him onto the next project regardless of what it was, but NBC's Thursday night comedies are much younger skewing now and much hipper. Putting him on after the sardonic and often self-referential Community is like telling a college kid they can spend half of Spring Break week in Cancun and half in Boca, at their grandparents' retirement community. It doesn't compute. Besides, there's at least half a dozen other actors I'd rather see play versions of themselves on TV before Reiser. Here are just a few of the names that made my list.
Any one of the Friends. If you're looking for someone on the top of their game in the nineties, who else is there but these guys? Sure, you could argue Matt LeBlanc is already doing it on Showtime's Episodes, but though he is the biggest name, the show really isn't about him. It's a small step in the right direction, but I personally think Lisa Kudrow could take the idea and run with it like no other. Just look at what she did with a could-have-been-one-note-Valerie Cherish, for example!
James Franco. I'm not sold on the whole "he's a genius" thing the way so many else in the media are. I can't tell you how many artsy kids in high schools and colleges all over the country are doing exactly what he's doing: dabbling in every artform possible just because they can't keep their creativity in. But he already has fame, so he is put on a pedestal and made out to be an example. I'd love to see him take on his greatest role yet: himself. I'd love to see if he really does have a good sense of humor about the whole thing or if he's too in his head to even notice. I'd love to see what his process looks like when he's working on an Oscar-worthy film, a soap opera, a short story, and I'd really love to see if it varies even the slightest little bit or if he just is a true artist in every sense of the word.
A news anchor like Anderson Cooper. He has such grace and poise, whether he's doing live stand-ups from war-torn countries or standing in below freezing weather on a three-foot platform with a no-holds-barred comedienne. Does he really have the knowledge that he appears to about each and every suspect-- or does he have someone talking in his ear the whole time and is really just an airhead? After seeing so many terrible things in the world, how does he manage to keep smiling, keep going, and relax at the end of the day? And how does he keep his hair so luxurious and such a shiny shade of gray!?
Angelina Jolie. I don't care what people (*coughBradandJenfanaticscough*) say about her, she has been an inspiration to me for years not only as a really talented actor but also as someone with genuine compassion for those who need it most. A show about someone in show business who for once isn't just all about the work and rewards would be much appreciated. You can't really make fun of humanitarian work without looking like a dick, but you can portray it in a way that is a bit more light-hearted and maybe even moves others to get involved. Television is there to entertain, but we don't have to set our sights so small; we can also hope to make people think...and maybe even act.
Child stars like Macaulay Culkin or Jonathan Taylor Thomas. If networks are going for the whole "they had a taste of fame but now their lives are relatively normal" thing, why not look to those who had the most chance of being really affected by the drastic change in lifestyle? Children grow up a certain way and get much more easily attached. They fall harder at times-- but at others they still cling to the little fame they have left, such as selling memorabilia or making webisodes about themselves. The humor there is found in part by the tragedy but also by the willingness of the particular actor to poke fun at the cute catchphrases and bad hair and clothes they made national trends.