This is a minor quibble, but here it is: I’m always annoyed when there’s a recognizable guest star on TV dramas. Particularly cop/crime/caper shows. Why? Well, because it ruins the suspense. I meta-watch enough to know that if Nick Nolte shows up on Law & Order, chances are his character’s the guilty one. Or last week on CSI, with the frizzy-haired guy (I don’t know his name, but he’s been in a bunch of things). Long before they’d gotten to the case itself, I knew he was the guilty one, which took a little bit of the fun out of watching it for me.
Ironically, TV shows seem to deman very different things of their viewers when it comes to celebrity guest stars. In dramas, we’re generally supposed to believe that they are those characters, ignoring their celebrity. However, sitcoms quite often play on that very celebrity with their guest stars: One side demands isolation, the other meta-viewing. It was certainly funnier that Brad Pitt’s character on Friends hated Jennifer Aniston’s character, because they are married in real life.
Maybe one of the networks should do a theme night (like CBS’s (or whichever network airs 3rd Watch) upcoming ‘blizzard night’), wherein the theme was a particular celebrity appearing on all their main shows. I think if you could get, say, Tom Cruise to show up in all the NBC Thursday night shows, and then divvy up the appearance between the isolated-viewing and meta-viewing cases, it would be interesting to see how fans react to them.
Of course, I’d rather it be nearly anyone than Tom Cruise, but he’s the sort of superstar that’d be able to pull of such a stunt.