STAR TV: CBS has made a deal with Ben Stiller to produce a sitcom starring Stiller’s wife, Christine Taylor, according to a Hollywood Reporter story.
Stiller has committed to direct the pilot and play a recurring role on the show as her husband. The as-yet-untitled show, to be shot single-camera style, instead of the traditional three-camera live in front of an audience approach, is based on Taylor’s life.
“She is a small-town girl who has found her way into Hollywood but still retains a lot of the values and humility (of her upbringing),” said CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. “There are times when she is befuddled by her status — being an actress married to a big movie star.”
So, you’re wondering — what’s the news? A successful actor with clout as a producer and director decides to help his wife with a show of her own, a “quality” one-camera sitcom based on their lives that, on the surface, was probably pitched to CBS as a network-friendly take on cable Hollywood insider shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Entourage, full of winking gags about celebrity life and regular cameos.
It reads like standard operating procedure today — a slick bit of negotiation by some star agent — but viewed with a bit of perspective it’s actually a striking sign of the times. Once upon a time, there were TV stars and movie stars, and while there could be crossover, leaving one medium for the other was a one-way ticket; the odds on TV stars making it on the big screen were steeper than the other way around, and a movie star moving to the small screen was being demoted, though even a B-list movie star was considered to be bringing a bit of class to the idiot box.
That border has been slowly erased over the last couple of decades, and now TV and movies have blended together into a 24-hour house party, where a star can come and go with impunity. Doing a cameo on a hit show is considered maintenance on a star’s profile, something to do between flops, or when your asking price is so high that the gaps between films are getting wider.
A movie star spouse appearing on their significant other’s TV show (Brad Pitt doing Friends) is big top stunt casting, while a few seasons on a hit crime drama can do wonders for actors whose star profile has never quite matched their critical reputation (Gary Sinise on CSI: NY). An overlooked or half-forgotten actor with an offbeat persona can sell it to new audiences weekly (James Spader on Boston Legal), and an older actor can assume an almost statesmanlike aura with a hit political drama (Martin Sheen on The West Wing). For the non-stars, it’s just work — a character role in a movie here, a season and a half on a sitcom there — and for the rest of us sitting at home, it’s all just melting together into one big, polymorphous entertainment package. It’s no wonder no one bothers going to the movies any more — it all passes through the small screen eventually.