As we approach a new year, television is a tangle of trends: Networks began "unbundling" their streaming services from their television channels. New (and old) platforms broke ground with scripted series — "Transparent" put Amazon in the Emmy's race and "Outlander" gave Starz a big hit.
Comedies like "You're the Worst," "Broad City" and "black-ish" took on experimental tones and tactics.
Underlying it all, however, is the most satisfying and continuing development of them all: the rise of the character actor.
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" finally made
Ten years ago, I wrote a piece about how tough it was for character actors to find work. This was particularly the case in television, where, at the time, reality shows ruled and most scripted series were procedurals, which burned through noncast performers on a one-and-done basis. The piece centered on
This year, O"Neill co-starred in SundanceTV's small but amazing "Rectify" and
And he wasn't the only double dipper, not by a long shot. Many performers are making their mark concurrently in cable and broadcast.
The beloved but too often narratively neglected
This year, Janney won two
Aside from audiences, no one has benefited more from television's age of expansion and exploration than the thousands of wonderful performers who, for whatever reason, never quite fit into television's often ridiculously narrow, appearance-focused and financially cautious definition of leading men and women. Boiled down to simple math, more television means more roles.
But it's more than that. The increasing artisanal quality of television also demands a level of craft that cannot be expected from the latest cavalcade of hot young things.
The rise of sci-fi fantasy, comic book-based and otherwise, also requires a high level of nuanced performance; it takes a lot of emotional resonance and character believability to sell a story set in an alternative universe.
In other words, as the writing and general creation of television have gotten better, the roles have become not just more numerous but more demanding, which means that talent and ability are now just as, and perhaps even more, desirable as youth, good looks and even a big name.
There were many breakout performances like Tolman's and Dowd's this year, and many bit stars, like "The Honorable Woman's"