Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Standing in the Shadows (No. 2): George Eads

The much-delayed second edition of Standing in the Shadows was originally going to be about Jesse Plemons, a.k.a. Landry on Friday Night Lights (he's the one who looks like a steamrolled Matt Damon). But this season, Landry's graduated from Matt's comic-relief best friend to a major player with his very own "I Can't Believe It's Not Murder!" storyline. The producers obviously realized he had untapped potential and decided they needed to give him a forum to show it off, and their risky gamble ultimately worked, though it was not without its One Tree Hill-esque moments. He's proved himself a fantastic dramatic actor who's still capable of pulling off moments of bracing gallows humor. Though why the hell is he not ever in scenes with Matt anymore? Is it the Magical Latina Care Worker who's putting him off? If so, I don't blame him.

Since Standing in the Shadows is our highly influential forum for advancing the careers of overlooked thespians we love, tonight we turn to someone more in need of our help: an incredibly likable actor named George Eads.

Eads is best-known for playing forensic scientist Nick Stokes on original-flavor CSI. In a large cast in which every character is compelling (if not always likable), Nick stands out as the guy you'd most want to hang out with. He's a truly decent man, always quick to help out his colleagues and to empathize with the victims and potential perps he comes across. He is the character who perhaps gets the most emotionally involved in cases he takes on, which makes him exceptionally intuitive but can be a hindrance when he jumps to conclusions too early in a case.

Nick is universally beloved by his colleagues, and is probably the most affable member of the team, able to get along with pretty much anyone. But he is at his best in scenes with Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan). The characters are clearly good friends, and the actors seem to be as well; they have a natural chemistry together. (In fact they are friends -- Admiral Neck just sent me a link to an article in which they say they have a "healthy man love" for each other. More on that later.) And though Eads is a fairly big guy with impressive "guns" (to use the argot of the youth of today) and the neck of a caber-tosser, he projects a sweetness and vulnerability perhaps even more endearing because he looks so much like a jock.

CSI has managed to play on that vulnerability to heart-tugging effect -- on most shows, it's usually the women who get kidnapped or otherwise end up in need of rescue; they're the most vulnerable characters and usually the most helpless. But on CSI, Nick is the one who usually ends up in trouble. He's like a big Labrador retriever; he's so sweetly guileless that he'll follow the man with the treat right into the back of a white van. And he is so vulnerable and beloved by the audience that the producers immediately have dramatic tension: no one wants to see anything bad happen to Nick. When he was trapped in a coffin during season five's excellent Quentin Tarantino-helmed finale, we were desperate to make sure he got out of there safely, which made the CSI team's race against the clock all the more dramatic. I think Admiral Neck might have snapped a tendon he was clenched so tightly the whole time Nick was in trouble. The show hasn't forgotten the lingering trauma to Nick's psyche, either -- he's still wary of going into dark, enclosed spaces and sometimes has flashbacks. When Sara was abducted earlier this season, it was only Nick who suffered as much as Grissom did.

In another endearing character quirk, whenever Nick has a gun pulled on him, he starts crying. It's only happened a few times over the years -- we're not on CSI: Miami here -- but it's the most human reaction I can recall seeing on TV (or in the movies, for that matter). I think I can confidently say that most people would lose control of their sphincters if they had a gun pulled on them, and we've become so inured to cop shows where the hero doesn't even flinch when confronted with the possibility of imminent death that we don't even mind that their reactions aren't all that realistic (unless they are Horatio Caine, obviously). But Nick doesn't carry a gun and isn't a police officer, so he reacts like anyone would: he's absolutely terrified. Apparently George Eads was the one who suggested this idea to the producers, so good on him for that.

Though CSI has the occasional Nick-centered episode, Eads is mostly just another player in an ensemble cast, and it would be great if, 45 years from now when CSI finally stops making a profit and is summarily cancelled, he got his own show. He's got leading-man looks, affability, charm, wit, and a body like a digitally enhanced Greek warrior -- he doesn't deserve to be relegated to TV movies about Evel Knieval. That's Scott Bakula territory.

While doing my internet research for this article, I found out there is apparently a raging IMDB-based debate about George Eads' sexuality. Now, obviously we have to take these arguments with a grain of salt, as the people who post on the IMDB boards have had raging, two-year-long debates about which kind of cake was served in a scene in Spider-Man 2. (I'm not making that up.) Also, they are moronic. Perhaps you got that from the cake debate. Anyway, does this man look gay to you?

At any rate, if he has healthy man love to give, I heartily approve of him giving it to Gary Dourdan. Preferably at length. And on camera.

That is all.