Who Knew?

Last night we watched one of my favorite shows – Seinfeld and I was engaging in one of my favorite activities. That is, looking in the background to find someone who would become famous. Or infamous. In the last episodes we watched, there were two faces that stood out – Bob Odenkirk and Bryan Cranston. They would both be involved in not only one of the best TV shows in history, but one that was in part responsible for TV’s drastic replacement of movies. It’s funny to see them in small roles knowing what they went on to.

Every time we put on an old movie or show, I look in the background to see who’s there. It’s simple Hollywood reality that before people get famous, they’re extras and in bit roles and it’s fun to see them toiling in their early years. In the last three weeks I have seen Rainn Wilson as an extra in Galaxy Quest and who knew he’d go on to be in a paradigm shifting show. Sometimes they’ve developed beyond simple actor. I recently saw Patrick Stewart and Alan Rickman in the 70s miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and both would go on to become not only massive actors, but also cultural icons.

Watching News Radio a few weeks ago I couldn’t help considering the trajectory of Joe Rogan, who was at the time simply a comic actor and a comedian (with hair) and who is now a major player in society and culture and who has honest sway with those who have bumper stickers of Calvin peeing. Who’d have known twenty years ago that he’d be discussed by national politicians and a cited resource for how people deal with a pandemic? Probably nobody. More surprising is a character from the movie Two Weeks’ Notice. We watched this romcom of basic pedigree a few weeks ago. It stars Sandra Bullock and, naturally, Hugh Grant. What stood out to me while watching was that the film takes a lighthearted look at protesting capitalist culture, which was a sign of things to come…minus the lightheartedness. It also cameos a guy named Donald Trump, who until then was a punchline with a bad combover and good hotels.

By the time I understood who Ronald Reagan was, in the mid-1980s, I only knew him as the president. My parents of course knew him to be a B actor in goofy comedies and as the Gipper. My parents also did not like him and I never really got why. He was just the handsome guy with the voice everyone at my grade school tried to impersonate. I guess I understand that now, since I really wish Trump had kept his role as bad combover hotel guy. It seems that purveyor of the end of American democracy and the most hated person on the planet is a bit of a stretch. 

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