The past few months have shown a definate improvement in public awareness of the craft of a character actor. From Fametracker's excellent Hey! It's That Guy! report to bi-weekly columns in the LA Times, there seems to be a growing awareness of that actor who spends his career playing subtle variations on the exact same character. You may not know his name, but you can certainly get out a "Hey! It's that guy from _______"
Clearly the producers of Without A Trace are big fans of the character actor. Without A Trace stars that mobster/cop guy from Betsy's Wedding and Murder One as the head of the FBI's Missing Persons Squad (or MPS, as I will call them out of laziness). Also on his team is that gal from Glory Days, that guy from Now and Again, and the lady from Mr. Jealousy.
In the pilot, the girl from The American Embassy has disappeared, so the MPS has to go interview lots and lots of people to figure out what happenned. Hey, there's Jimmy Bond from The Lone Gunmen! Hey, there's Mr. Wyck from Seinfeld (or possibly Senator Kelly from X-Men or the cheating music critic from Grace of My Heart) And there's that guy from Metropolitan and Barcelona! Why doesn't he get more work? And why isn't Chris Eigemann doing ads for Pacific Bell anymore? Those were much better than the creepy, gloating ads with Tommy Lee Jones bragging about how PacBell is all-powerful.
This is fun! It's like a character actor free association game. Sadly, the second episode tones down the quanity of character actor appearances, but more than compensates by adding David Paymer, who may well be the most ubiqitous actor alive. One can only hope that the entire cast of Company Man makes its way onto this show at some point.
Unfortunately, the great casting seems to be masking a somewhat boring premise. The repetitive nature of missing persons investigations may make this show hard to watch on a regular basis. Still, I'll probably tune in every once in a while, and it certainly doesn't induce the "post-CSI-frantic-remote-control-off-button-mashing" that The Agency did, so I guess that's saying something.
Rating: BReviewed by Padgett Arango