TV stars leap to the silver screen with varying levels of success, yet, for some, good things come in small-screen packages, says Paul Whitington
Published 04/12/2011 | 06:00
Believe it or not, it's 27 years since Kelsey Grammer first entered the bar in 'Cheers' to play the cerebral Boston psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane.
It's a role he continued to play for 20 years in 'Cheers' and its spin-off, 'Frasier', making Grammer one of the most successful actors in the history of television -- and one of the most durable.
Recently in the US, he premiered in a new drama called 'Boss', in which he plays Tom Kane, a rather nasty political operator who'll do practically anything to save his job as Chicago's mayor.
It's not the first time that Grammer has played a straight role, and in truth he's struggled to follow the success of 'Frasier'.
But his own popularity remains undimmed, and his mere presence in a new show is enough to give it a more than decent chance.
Grammer's continued success is relatively unusual. Unlike film stars, TV actors tend to come and go. Small-screen traction is harder to maintain, as one bad series can fatally undermine a career trajectory and send it into an irreversible slide.
But there are some hardy perennials such as Grammer who last the test of time, despite never quite succeeding in transferring their talents to the movies.
TOM SELLECK (below)
Tom Selleck is currently starring in the very enjoyable crime show 'Blue Bloods', playing New York's police commissioner and the patriarch of a family of Irish- American law enforcers.
It's the latest success in a TV career that stretches all the way back to 1975, when Selleck landed a minor part in the daytime soap opera 'The Young and the Restless'.
His big break came in 1980 when he was cast as a winsome Hawaii private detective in a pilot called 'Magnum PI'. The show was a hit and lasted eight seasons, making Selleck -- and his impressive moustache -- world famous.
Selleck was famously forced to turn down the role of Indiana Jones because the shoot for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' clashed with his 'Magnum PI' schedule, but he went on to become one of the highest-paid actors on television.
He did make some half-decent films in the 1990s, but television has remained his natural home.
He had an eye-catching recurring role in 'Friends' as Monica's older boyfriend, and currently stars in the recurring Jesse Stone crime dramas. At 66, he's still going strong, and a new series of 'Blue Bloods' will air here after Christmas.
Though it has included a lot more comedy, Ted Danson's career has followed a similar path. He's considered one of America's greatest TV stars ever, and he also started out in a soap opera.
Danson joined the cast of the suburban soap 'Somerset' in 1975 at the age of 28, but the show was canned a year later.
He became something of a bit-part player until he was cast as womanising bartender and ex-baseball player Sam Malone in 'Cheers', in 1982.
That show almost collapsed in its first season, too, but became hugely popular thereafter and ran for 11 seasons.
Danson's skillful portrayal of Sam won him two Emmys and two Golden Globes, but, again, his TV success failed to crossover into cinema.
He appeared with Selleck in the hit comedy 'Three Men and a Baby' in 1990, but was destined to remain a B-list film actor.
On TV, though, he's still a huge star. His appearances in Larry David's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' are hilarious, he played a sinister businessman to great effect opposite Glenn Close in 'Damages', and has just taken over from Laurence Fishburne as the lead in CSI.
Danson achieved the difficult trick of becoming synonymous with a hugely successful TV character and surviving it. So did William Shatner.
WILLIAM SHATNER (above )
His TV career began in the 1950s on shows such as 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', but he will always be associated with 'Star Trek'. Shatner starred in the iconic sci-fi series from 1966 to 1969, and later in a series of Hollywood films.
He's always been a bit disdainful of 'Star Trek' and once suggested that Trekkies should "get a life", but found the show hard to follow when it finished in 1969. Shatner struggled to land regular work in the 1970s, but had another TV hit in the 1980s when he starred as a no-nonsense Californian cop in the crime drama 'TJ Hooker', which ran for four seasons.
More recently, the Canadian actor has revealed a surprising flair for comedy. He began playing eccentric Boston lawyer Danny Crane in David E Kelley's drama 'The Practice', and then brought the role to more surreal heights in Kelley's 'Boston Legal'.
(above right )
Calista Flockhart also got her big break in a David E Kelley show, the brilliant 'Ally McBeal'. She excelled as the kooky lawyer Ally in a show that ran from 1997 to 2002 and mixed courtroom drama with broad comedy and mad dream sequences.
But Ally was a bit of a drip, and when the show ended in 2002 many assumed that Flockhart's career would stutter, because she was too closely associated with the role.
Her relationship with Harrison Ford may have helped her profile, but didn't lead to a film career. Instead, she stuck to television, and in 2006 she was cast as Kitty Walker in 'Brothers and Sisters', an acclaimed family drama that ran for five seasons and only finished in May of this year.
Flockhart was apparently offered the role of Susan Mayer in 'Desperate Housewives' in 2004, but turned it down.
Instead, it went to another TV veteran, Teri Hatcher. She began in soap operas such as 'The Love Boat' and 'Capitol', and in 1993 was cast as Lois Lane in the hit show, 'Lois & Clark'. She then flirted with movie stardom and was a Bond girl in 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.
But Hatcher has had much more joy on the small screen, and starred opposite Kelsey Grammer in a memorable episode of 'Frasier', before achieving huge success in the long-running 'Desperate Housewives'.
And what about our own Gabriel Byrne? He's had a very successful movie career, but started out on television and has recently returned to it. In the late 1970s Byrne first came to the attention of Irish audiences playing the dashing Pat Barry in 'The Riordans' and its spin-off, 'Bracken'.
We all know what happened after that, but in 2008 he returned to television to play troubled psychiatrist Paul Weston in the brilliant episodic HBO drama, 'In Treatment'.
His performance won him a well-deserved Golden Globe.