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TeeVee Awards 2000: Worst Actor, Worst Hour Show

Something's been missing from our lives this year, something as essential as the air we breathe. The sun still comes up each morning, but it's lost some of its luster. The birds still sing, but their songs sound a little sadder. And no matter how we try to fill the emptiness in our lives with song and frolic and material things, we just can't shake the gnawing feeling of discontent, the quiet uncertainty that comes with being incomplete.

We don't have Jon Seda to kick around anymore.

Oh sure, we'll be tooling around the dial, and we might happen upon an appearance by the two-time winner of TeeVee's Worst Actor award. Maybe it'll be a guest shot on Third Watch, maybe a beer commercial, maybe even an appearance in feature film come to cable like "Selena" or "12 Monkeys." And each time we see his chipmunk cheeks and beady eyes, we'll sigh wistfully, turn to one another and say the same refrain: "Do any of you guys understand a word he's saying?"

We'll turn on Court TV and its nightly reruns of Homicide, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Marble-Mouthed One. And we'll reminisce. Hey, remember where you were the first time you saw Jon Seda garble a line? Remember that time TV's Falsone was involved in a thoroughly uninteresting subplot? Or how about when Jon Seda got out-acted by that filing cabinet in Yaphet Kotto's office? And who could forget how his very presence nearly ruined one of the best shows on TV?

Yes, life without Jon Seda is just a little bit grimmer, a little bit more lonely, a little bit less worth living.

Not that this past season didn't offer a host of worthy successors, vying for Seda's crown of thorns. Jaleel White, Richard Belzer, Ted Danson -- all gave their very best, which turned out to be not very good at all. But no one in this triple-decker shit sandwich could match Jon Seda inanity for inanity.

Michael Weiss, TV's Pretender, had been nipping at Jon Seda's heels for years. But, despite another year of wooden performances and deer-in-the-headlights looks, Weiss failed to win the big prize. Besides, Pretender finally got cancelled this year, and we figure that's reward enough. For us, we mean.

Boomer Esiason leapt into contention for his portrayal of a tongue-tied ex-quarterback trying to mask his unfamiliarity with the English language. But after watching Monday Night Football, we simply couldn't believe Esiason had ever seen a game of football, let alone played it. Say what you will about Seda, but we always believed he was a cop. A slow-witted, easy-to-fool, marble-mouthed cop.

Unlike Boomer, Alfred Molina managed to convince us that he was a native English-speaker. Unfortunately, his work on the reprehensible Ladies Man failed to convince us that he's human. Molina's performance as a bug-eyed fuckknuckle of a husband and father proved so loathsome it helped hide the fact that Ladies Man also starred Sharon Lawrence -- possibly the worst actress in the western world. Anyone who can out-ham the former Mrs. Sipowicz deserves our awed respect and dumb admiration. And possibly a mute button.

Taking potshots at the cast of Shasta McNasty for failing to pass creative muster is like driving out to the local high school to mock the spring musical. Still, nobody's angling to put Central High's production of "Godspell" on UPN next fall -- though we hear negotiations are heating up. Besides, one look at the equine features of Jake Busey -- Gary Busey's worst project since "Predator II" -- and we must set aside simple human decency. If we don't speak up now and recognize Busey's work on Shasta McNasty as an awful performance on a terrible show, there's a chance we might be stuck with him forever. And after we've just recently managed to shake Martin Short.

Yes, all worthy candidates to serve as a third-rate Prince Hal to Jon Seda's hack-like Henry IV. But in this comedy of errors, there's only one true heir to Seda's porcelain throne, only one actor who, when tackling his role, asked himself, "What would Seda do?"

God bless you, Erik Palladino. The Jon Seda Memorial Cup for Worst Actor on TV is all yours.

You watch Palladino's open-mouth-breathing performance as Dr. Dave Mallucci on ER, and something just doesn't seem to fit. Palladino seems so out of place in the ER universe, you can't help but wonder if he was acting in front of a blue screen and then edited into the shot in post-production. Or maybe he's some sort of computer-generated character grafted onto ER for comic relief.

If so, he's the worst CGI since Jar Jar Binks.

Every scene featuring Palladino grinds to a halt. Every subplot devoted to him serves as an invitation to channel surf. You see Dr. Dave interact with patients, and you wonder why they don't run from the hospital screaming about how they've just converted to Christian Scientist and they're putting their faith in the healing power of prayer.

It's not that we don't like Dr. Dave. We're not supposed to -- Mallucci was conceived as a foil. It's that he's a lousy foil. Small children with no medical training outside of what they've read in Curious George books could outwit him. Stuck among the other characters on ER, he stands out like a sore thumb. And we resent the fact that on a show choked with excess cast members, any amount of plot is spent on this boring, poorly drawn, badly portrayed character. Palladino takes away screen time from more talented actors -- Eriq LaSalle, Laura Innes, an extra mop lying around the set. He appears on screen, and instantly, our hearts sink.

Jon Seda would have been proud.

Unlike Seda, Erik Palladino can't claim sole responsibility for ruining a once-great show. That fault falls upon the show's writers and producers, who no longer care to come up with any good ideas.

It says something that in a day and age where a number of terrible shows still populate the airwaves, ER was our hands-down winner for Worst Hour Show. But ER has become such a convoluted mess that it lapped a very impressive field.

Ally McBeal is a terrible show -- an hour of David Kelley's worst instincts and poor impulse control. Then again, it also follows the pattern of so many Kelley projects: great first year, mediocre second, poor third, unwatchable fourth. You might as well get angry because the ugly duckling became a swan. A horrible, misshapen swan.

Lexx certainly qualifies as the worst show on cable TV. Filled with bad acting, worse costumes, and even worse computer graphics, the show makes a compelling argument for the lavish production value of cable-access TV. But it airs on Friday nights on the Sci-Fi Channel, so the only people in danger of seeing Lexx are lonely teenage boys who might otherwise listen to speed metal. So Lexx is a small price for society to pay.

Get Real and Wasteland were horrible additions to the fall schedule, polyps on the colon of creative endeavor. But Get Real is, thankfully, dead. And Wasteland, while eye-glazingly awful, may have exposed Kevin Williamson as a fraud. By doing so, it may have performed a greater service than its pea-brain is capable of recognizing.

But consider ER. It's irredeemably awful. From the bloated cast to the uninvolving storylines, there's not one facet of ER that didn't disappoint this year.

A big part of the problem is with the writing. Things like "character development" and "story arc" apparently frighten and confuse the ER creative team. So we get plots that come out of nowhere, peter out and resurface again in the second wave.

Nothing for Dr. Greene to do this week? Let's kill his father. And Carol, you're infatuated with the Croatian guy. Only now, you're running off to be with Doug! Carter, you're hopelessly addicted to pills! Starting... now! And Lucy... you're dead! Let's see you get out of that one!

If the writers have stopped trying, a lot of the actors have mailed it in for so long they could double as postal annexes. Julianna Margulies sleepwalked through her final year on the show. Anthony Edwards looks to be following her zombified lead. And, thanks to a cast larger than most countries, fine actors like LaSalle and Innes blend into the background like furniture.

This wretchedness didn't materialize overnight. ER's creative slide has been in effect for some time. And, unless drastic changes take place before October, you can expect next year to be just as bad, possibly worse. In fact, it's time ER took the honorable way out and called upon the services of a man who knows how to give once great shows a proper send-off.

Paging Dr. Seda. Dr. Jon Seda...

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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