Do you dig big-name guest stars on crime procedurals?

Penn_beach_lPopWatchers, once again, I’m feeling conflicted. On one hand, I’ve already marked my calendar for the Jan. 16 installment of Law & Order: SVU that’ll feature two rising big-screen stars, Flags of Our Fathers‘ Adam Beach (at right, who EW’s Dave Karger is calling a safe bet for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) and The Namesake‘s Kal Penn (at left, who I found oddly compelling while barely uttering a word in Superman Returns). I mean, seriously, the writing on this episode has to be a pretty sparkling if it attracted a pair of actors who’ve most likely got their pick of big-screen roles. (For the record, Beach will play a Brooklyn SVU detective who pairs up with Ice-T’s Finn, and Penn will play a suspect in a college rape case.)On the other hand, I’m always a little ambivalent when network crime procedurals cast big-name thespians in guest spots. Think about it: Penn’s not going to sign on for a 30-second scene as a bystander who describes the perp’s parka, right? The minute his character gets introduced, you pretty much know he’s either the guilty party, or at the very least, intimately connected with the crime or criminal. In that sense, it negates the mystery and suspense that might’ve existed if some unknown Joe Thespian played the role.I dunno. Maybe I’m overthinking things. These days, the Sleepytime Fairies are usually circling my head by 10:45 pm. If not them, then it’s the Are My Credit Card Bills Due Today? Gremlins. In other words, am I really looking for Law & Order: SVU to blow my mind? And what’s your take on A-listers invading the L&O/CSI universe?addCredit(“Kal Penn: Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Adam Beach: Michael Germana/Everett Collection”)

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  • Robert

    I also hate it when you can figure out the entire episode from the TV Guide description and the list of guest stars.
    The only other thing that distracts me about SVU is that it takes place in some strange alternate universe populated by almost the entire cast of Oz.

  • khrystyne

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Christopher Meloni – yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmy!

  • Tom Brazelton

    After “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj,” I wouldn’t say that Kal Penn has his “pick of big-screen roles.”

  • aa

    you’re not overthinking it at all. the worst is when they introduce the innocuous well known actor/actress and then spend the next 25 minutes focused on another suspect then realize that the suspect cannot be guilty. next there’s some ridiculous plot twist to give the well known person some interesting material. and yes meloni is yummy but vince donofrio is so sexy and big.

  • Robert

    I don’t know, gang, I’m more of a Dann Florek guy myself. Oh, Captain, my Captain! :)
    I can’t handle L&O: CI. That Vincent’s character just magically knows all this stuff is completely crazy. He’s better than Horatio Crane from CSI: Miami, but if I have to see V.D’O. do that head-to-the-side line delivery again, I’m going to scream.

  • Ceballos

    “And what’s your take on A-listers invading the L&O/CSI universe?”
    Sorry, but as much as I like Kal Penn and Adam Beach (and I think they’re both quite talented), I just don’t think they’re considered A-listers…at least not by anyone outside the Beach and Penn families.
    On the point of whether this is good or bad, the L&O’s and CSIs tend to be so damn predictable anyway (let’s be honest, the killer/perp is usually pretty guessable) that having a famous name doesn’t help me solve the puzzle any more easily. If anything, I find it pretty interesting and entertaining to see someone who does most of their work on the big screen coming to play on TV.
    Also, knowing L&O, my guess is, it’ll look like Penn did it (whatever “it” is), but it’ll turn out Adam Beach’s detective was involved somehow…why not?

  • Dave

    I agree with your assesment that when a well known actor guest stars, you almost know they did it. But sometimes they do it right. One of my favorite SVU episodes is the one with Fred Savage. You spend the whole episode wondering if he is lying or telling the truth and probably what helped keep that debate going was that you could not imagine Kevin Arnold being a rapist!

  • Evie

    I have never heard of Penn or Beach, but that doesn’t mean anything because I’m new to the Popwatch world. I agree with you, Slezak, about the predictability factor. The only two exceptions I can think of (but I’m sure there could be others) is the recent Leslie Caron episode of SVU (she made me cry and you can still see Gigi in her!) and another SVU that had Kellie Martin in it (it was disturbing, I only watched it once) in which it looked like she was the killer but it was her mama, Shirley Whomever. Also I’m with Robert on the Dann Florek thing. Meloni is yummy, yes, but I get so tired of SVU being all about Elliot and His Issues, so I prefer Richard Belzer and Ice T. What a team, seriously!

  • Paul

    I think that these two actors are hardly “A List.” I would not even have known who they were had you not described in detail what they have appeared in. I have not seen Flags of our Fathers and I have never heard of the other movie.
    Liza Minelli was another guest star on Law and Order: SVU recently where she wasn’t the suspect or killer. She played the mother of a victim. She was suspected at one point to be involved, but then it was someone else.
    So, there can be big stars on there without it always meaning they are the guilty party.

  • melissa

    I definitely understand what you mean, and I think it’s an issue with recognizable faces as well as more established actors. The example that comes immediately to mind is when an actress named Keri Lynn Pratt (I had to look up her name) appeared on “Bones.” She appeared only briefly in a scene as a very minor character, so I just knew she’d end up being an important player later with a lot more to her than the investigators expected. She’s not a big name (she was in “American Dreams” and “Drive Me Crazy” among others), but her familiarity made her stand out right away.

  • janine

    My favorite guest star ever was Will Arnet on SVU. It was before the arrested development days, but now i find it hilarious. that man’s voice just makes me laugh, even when he’s playing a travel agent who arranges underage sex tours through asia. It’s re-airing on USA this weekend; set your dvrs.

  • KJ

    Robert said: The only other thing that distracts me about SVU is that it takes place in some strange alternate universe populated by almost the entire cast of Oz.
    With the unfortunate exception of Lee Tergesen. We’re just WAITING for his guest spot!

  • Mozz

    Michael, I love you like I love my luggage. Wait a minute, I don’t have any luggage. But Adam Beach and Kal Penn are not big stars. Rising, yes, But Billy Crudup has been rising for the last 12 years and he’s yet to arrive. Meryl Streep on TV that’s a big deal, these are just two actors taking checks and exposure while they can, and before everything cools off.
    That being said, I’m not a big fan of the “big” guest stars on TV. They usually end up being the guilty ones. And that takes out the fun of guessing who did it.

  • california

    Paul, Liza was on L&O Criminal Intent not L&O Special Victims Unit. Big difference. One is good while the other has devolved into some pathetic Olivia and Elliot sexual tension bs, ignore the crime, ignore the issues, ignore Belzer and Ice-T piece of crap.

  • davidsask

    Doesn’t matter who guest stars on the show, this is the Law and Order show still worth watching and still kicking butt some in the ratings!

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