Kev and Me

I have fond twentieth century memories of an above-average cop show where Ken Wahl and his eyebrow went undercover to fight crime, befriended the bad guys, and becoming increasingly conflicted about his work with each season. It was called Wiseguy. This (and the long-lamented Unsub) plumbed moral ambiguities and twisted the TV-cop-show genre before the likes of X-Files and then CSI made ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ cool.

Each season of Wiseguy concentrated on one big-cheese villain that had to be taken down. Of all the mobsters and politicians and teamsters who would go into Mr Wahl’s little black book, two villains stood out for me: Tim Curry‘s rogueish music exec who was a hoot to watch; and Kevin Spacey‘s enigmatic and downright creepy criminal mastermind (and his too-intimate-for-comfort relationship with his sister played by Joan Severance).

Now that I think of it, maybe it was the actors’ approaches that were so memorable. At one end of the spectrum was Curry’s big-toothed scene-chewing, and at the other was Spacey with his looks, glances and loaded pauses. I think it was Spacey – and the writing of course – that forced me to think things like what did he mean by that? and I just missed a major clue, didn’t I?

Did Wiseguy really introduce me to my screenwriting friend, Subtext? I don’t know. But something happened when Spacey started running his lines in that show. It’s where an actor elevates the script without drawing attention. People thought that Spacey was the bee’s knees when they saw him in either The Usual Suspects or American Beauty.

I knew that already from his tour of duty on Wiseguy.

(And here’s an entertaining few minutes of Spacey and his imaginary friends. Fedora-tip: Eyes Wired Open.)

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