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Bad TV Ponderings – Joe Pantoliano

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It would seem that reviews coming in for the new TV series Dr. Vegas are somewhat less than encouraging. Variety sets the tone by calling it “an ill-conceived medical franchise providing further evidence that some things that happen in Vegas really should stay in Vegas” (a joke that most reviewers, notorious for our their lack of creativity, seem to be parroting).

Having seen the previews, I can’t say that this is all that surprising. Rob Lowe has elevated committing career suicide to an art form, though the fact that he can still get work proves we’re all willing to forgive a celebrity that takes Huey Long’s old “dead girl/live boy” adage to heart, even if the live girl they’re caught with happens to be underage.

However, I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone ever bothers to put Joe Pantoliano in a television series. The guy’s arguably worse than Ted McGinley, since McGinley only kills shows that have reached a decent level of maturity, Pantoliano murders them in their cribs. To prove this theory (which I refer to as the Pantoliano Premature Hollywood Homicide Hypothesis), I’ve compiled a list of his TV series apperances, exhaustively researched at great taxpayer expense:

Free Country (1978) – Rob Reiner’s first post-All in the Family TV gig was billed as the story of Lithuanian immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City. With an action-packed plot like that, and a cast including the likes of Larry Gelman and Hot Shots! Part Deaux’s Judith Kahan, it’s a wonder this never took off.

The Fanelli Boys (1990-1991) – AKA Everybody Loves Guido. The cancellation of The Fanelli Boys served notice to lovers of Italian stereotyping everywhere that America would no longer tolerate jokes at the expense of hairy mooks in wife-beater t-shirts.

Beethoven (1994) – Remember the good old days, when the networks would make a half-assed aninmated series out of every marginally successful movie featuring a Saint Bernard and Charles Grodin? Good times.

EZ Streets (1996) – By all accounts, this was a pretty good show. The presence of Joey Pants and the alleged association with EZ Wider rolling papers were all the government needed to pull the plug, sadly.

Godzilla (1998-2000) – Remember the good old days, when the networks would make a half-assed animated series out of every excruciatingly horrible Roland Emmerich monster movie? Unfortunately for Pantoliano (the voice of “Animal”), this could never compete with Godzooky and the superior Godzilla Power Hour.

The Lionhearts (1998) – I don’t actually know much about this MGM animated series, but I suspect any cartoon featuring characters with names like “Leo Lionheart” was either a belated attempt to cash in on the success of The Lion King or a series that was too ahead of its time to survive.

Sugar Hill (1999) – Another alleged comedy that ran for less than a season. And another series about which I can find little info. It co-starred pre-rehab Charlie Sheen and pre-Meet the Parents Teri Polo, if that tells you anything.

The Sopranos (1999-2006) – Some may feel The Sopranos negates my theory, while I consider it the exception that proves it. The show was around for four seasons before Pantoliano showed up, and – let’s be honest – did anyone honestly think he was going to last that long? Call it Corollary #1 to the Pantoliano Hypothesis: the only way a series will survive the addition of Joey Pants if is his character doesn’t.

The Handler (2003) – This one got decent reviews, but CBS dropped the ball when it failed to promote the show as a gritty crime drama and presented it as a glossy vehicle for Pantoliano to be a smart ass. And his stupid hat didn’t help.

Dr. Vegas (2004-?) – Isn’t this where we came in?

The problem, as I see it, is that Joe Pantoliano will forever be Guido the Killer Pimp in the minds of millions of Americans. They’re rarely, if ever, going to buy him as a romantic lead, or a lovable buffoon, or anything other than a borderline psychotic SOB, and that goes for the majority his movie roles as well. One of the reasons his turn as Ralph Cifaretto in The Sopranos was so successful was because Ralph was Guido with a death wish and a penchant for playing “bottom.” Who doesn’t love that?

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About Pete Vonder Haar

  • Eric Olsen

    I think Joe’s pretty great, but has definitely done better in movies. I think of him as Bob Keane in La Bamba, but that might be because I know Bob Keane and he looks, sounds, and acts nothing like Joe.

    Other than the Sopranos, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of any of other series – sure you’re not making them up?

    Great job Pete, thanks!