2012: 1996 Redux

Attempting to capitalize on the cacophony surrounding the horrendous oil spill, Republicans are now dubbing it ‘Obama’s Katrina.’  Hardly.  There are far too many erroneous parallels to explicate here (most notably: our current president has responded immediately and with all due haste to attempt to control a heartbreaking situation; his predecessor, meanwhile, did, well, nothing.)

On a larger political point, however, I believe the GOPers are in for a rude awakening:

They will be singing quite the different tune when less catastrophic losses than expected occur in the midterm elections.  And once the sun rises on Wednesday, November 3, the 2012 presidential race begins in earnest.  If the highly entertaining (not to mention nasty and expensive) Republican gubernatorial primary in South Carolina is a harbinger, expect massive amounts of scathing rumors (who can forget then-Gov. George W. Bush’s malicious smear campaign of Sen. John McCain also in the Palmetto State in 2000?), ludicrous amounts of money, and a massive, deeply fractious collision of disparate right wing ideologies.  On the other end of the political spectrum, President Obama’s already legendary fundraising machine will be revving up for an historic reelect.

I’ve maintained for a year and a half now that 2012 will be remarkably similar to 1996.  And if the economy continues its slow and steady recovery, Obama’s chances of being elected to a second term increase exponentially.  I, for one, am not the least bit worried.

Before They Were Stars

One of my favorite things about re-watching fine films from the past is recognizing silver screen stars . . . before they had achieved such acclaim.  The early turns of megawatt movie stars are well known: Harrison Ford in American Graffiti four years before he hit it big as Han Solo in Star Wars, Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise before breaking out in romantic weepies A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall, and—my personal favorite—Matt Damon, first as a ‘steamer’ in Mystic Pizza then, barely recognizable, portraying an opiate addict (to attain such waifishness, he had to lose 40 pounds in 100 days) in Courage Under Fire.

More rewarding, however, is the character actors and actresses who leverage minor roles in big films into larger roles in equally dynamic movies.  Robert Patrick as one of the Dulles-takeover terrorists in Die Hard 2 . . . before achieving epic levels of badassery as the T-1000 in another glorious sequel: Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  (A gregarious pat-on-the-back [or free beer!] for anyone who can name—sans IMDB’s omniscience—the other soon-to-be famous actor in Colonel Stuart’s brigade!)

Turning to the ladies . . . how Bridget Moynahan went from Coyote Ugly to Serendipity to The Sum of All FearsThe Recruit, and I, Robot.  Or—for her on-screen doppelgänger, who apparently also stole her budding career—Michele Monaghan’s jump from a CIA analyst in The Bourne Supremacy to Tom Cruise’s wife in Mission: Impossible III.  Nicely linking the two careers is Ben Affleck—Moynahan’s his wife in Sum and then he directs Monaghan in Gone Baby Gone.  Moynahan and Monaghan.  Wow.

CTU as Sideways World?

In relishing Day 2 of 24, I have noticed a similar phenomenon manifesting itself. Except this has a definite Lost feel to it.  In the premiere of the second season, the first alum—well known to any fan of either series—is Reiko Aylesworth, here portraying Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU . . . mysteriously referred to as ‘The Agency’ in the first season and occasionally, too, early in the second) agent Michelle Dessler.  Yet she also is Amy Goodspeed in Lost.  (More on Aylesworth below.)

Originally saved by Sawyer et al from the ‘Hostiles’—they killed her husband Paul—when they were transported to the 1970s (the incident caused a breach of ‘the truce’, only alleviated by her allowing her husband’s body to be taken), she was a member of the DHARMA Initiative and the mother of eventual baby-snatching, attempted-Charlie-killing Ethan.  Speaking of the famed initiative, in hour four of 24 you meet Joseph Wald . . . played by Jon Gries . . . or as Losties know him: Roger Linus, father of the nefarious Benjamin.  All is not without hope for the castaways of Oceanic flight 815, however, as the father of the bride, Bob Warner, is played by none other than John Terry.

Despite only appearing in 18 episodes during the entire six seasons—by contrast he was in 12 in just one run of 24—Terry’s Christian Shephard astoundingly became the moral compass for his son Jack and really the entire Lost universe.  (Fans of 007—and with superb memories—may remember him also as one of the many incarnations of Felix Lighter—currently played by the very fine actor Jeffrey Wright—in 1987’s The Living Daylights.)

But, he, too is not alone!  For who is that helping Jack Bauer when they finally locate Syed Ali—a compatriot in his cause, played by actor Anthony Azizi is also Omar (fellow mercenary of Martin Keamy, brought to the Island aboard the freighter Kahana) on Lost—the man who they believe to be responsible for detonating a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles?  It’s Jin!

Aside.  What is more terrifying: a nuclear or hydrogen bomb?  Both figure prominently in both shows and it just seems to me that the nuclear option sets off in me a more visceral, haunting reaction.  (Of course, that very well could be how each devices figure into the plots of their respective storylines.)

Already with six actors in common (not counting little Megan, Kim’s charge in 24 and who actually was the voice of young Kate Austin on the tape recorder in Season 1’s ‘Born To Run’), I am excited to see if there will be any more in the remaining 16 hours of Day 2.  I think not.  Had I known of this phenomenon earlier, I could have turned it into a fun drinking game . . . ala these days when it’s standard practice—at least in my house—to take a drink every time you see a Wire alum on a new show.  Quick tip: if you really want to get drunk fast, just watch Numb3rs—they’ve had his many as three former cast members in one episode.

Bridging the Divide

Back to Aylesworth for a moment.  She must have one hell of an agent.  She has appeared on three of my all-time favorite shows: who can also forget her duplicitous turn as Janine—aka the girl who sold pictures of Sam Seaborn and hooker-putting-herself-through-law school Brittany, er, Laurie Rollins in the brilliant first season of The West Wing?—and then she landed a gig on Damages¸ though that show has fallen off a bit in its third go-round.

Speaking of that flawless first year of The West Wing, honorable mention too goes to Lance Reddick, who before guest starring on Numb3rs and portraying iconic characters Cedric Daniels, Matthew Abaddon, and now Phillip Broyles, was the D.C. police officer who finds a dead homeless man wearing Toby’s coat in one of the series best episodes: ‘In Excelsis Deo’.

But I don’t think anyone has it better than Terry O’Quinn.  He has managed to play crucial characters in a whopping four of my top five all-time favorite dramas.  (That list, in order, is: Lost, The West WingThe X-Files, 24, and Alias.)  Beginning as Lt. Brian Tillman—aka The Shadow Man—on The X-Files, he then got promoted to General Nicholas Alexander on The West Wing before making a lateral move to assume the duties of FBI Assistant Director Kendall in Alias.  And that was his fateful career move.  Show helmer J.J. Abrams created the now legendary part of John Locke for the veteran character actor.  Though minimally featured in the pilot, Locke soon became the crucial lynchpin of the faith versus science axis on which the show rotated for six seasons.

A Bit of Housekeeping

Speaking of the best television shows on TV, this seems like the perfect time for a bit of clarification.  Though the reasoning for the exclusions is still to this day unclear, based on reader comments and my own insatiable desire to provide a true list of the top 11 comedies and dramas (which have graced the small screen within the last year), I will reboot my original rankings.  Without further ado:


1. 30 Rock
2. Glee
3. Modern Family
4. Better Off Ted
5. Chuck
6. Cougar Town
7. How I Met Your Mother
8. The Office
9. The Big Bang Theory
10. Entourage
11. Always Sunny in Philadelphia


1. Lost
2. The Good Wife
3. 24
4. Mad Men
5. Burn Notice
6. Survivor
7. Fringe
8. Friday Night Lights
9. The Amazing Race
10. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities
11. Numb3rs

Madisonians On the Cup

Congrats to Madison native Adam Burish on becoming the third Madisonian to get his name engraved on the most hallowed trophy in sport: the Stanley Cup.  He joins Gary Suter (Calgary, ’86) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey, ’95) as the only players from Wisconsin’s capital city to be so honored.  Burish captained the 2006 Badgers to the national championship, while Gary Suter arrived on campus a year after Wisconsin won its fourth national title in 1983.  Dean played his collegiate hockey at New Hampshire, which has surprisingly never won it all.

The Force Will Be With You . . . Always?!


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2 Responses to 2012: 1996 Redux

  1. Pingback: The Most Boring Sports Day of the Year « An Ebullient Existence

  2. Pingback: A Notable Harbinger « An Ebullient Existence

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