In decades past, television was the last place any self-respecting film actor wanted to be. Up until the turn of the 20th century, TV shows had a reputation for content that was broad, sappy, or just plain dumb. Film was considered a place for real artistic expression, so if a movie actor took a role in a television drama or sitcom, it was often taken as a sign that the actor's career was moving in the wrong direction.
Today, it's almost the exact opposite: Movie stars everywhere are taking roles in a television industry that has become more open to bold new projects and ideas than a film world that is increasingly bogged down with sequels and reboots. Thanks to the monumental impact of shows like The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, actors have sought out leading roles in TV shows that might offer them the same amount of prestige as an Oscar-nominated movie might have in decades past. Celebrated film actor Alec Baldwin won accolades for his role in a primetime sitcom, Matthew McConaughey revived his career with the help of a star turn in True Detective. This trend has been accelerating to the point that we have new shows starring A-list actors that many people haven't even heard about yet.
Take a look at this list of new and underrated TV shows starring famous Hollywood actors and vote up the shows you like, or even shows you'd like to see.
- 113 VOTES
The Staircase demonstrates just how enduring our obsession with true crime has become: It's a true crime dramatic adaptation that touches on the true crime docuseries that first brought attention to the original true crime. Surrounding the alleged murder of Kathleen Peterson by her novelist husband Michael, this show offers a new perspective on how a violent domestic crime became an obsession for the greater public.
Colin Firth and Toni Collette have both wowed audiences on the big screen, though Collette is perhaps as famous for her TV roles as she is for her film ones. The Staircase will be Firth's first television appearance since the mid-'90s, when the actor was making a name for himself in British miniseries like Nostromo, Performance, and perhaps most famously, Pride & Prejudice, when he played Mr. Darcy opposite Jennifer Ehle.
- Photo: Apple TV+
Almost immediately after its release in February 2022, Severance was already being hailed as one of the best new shows of the year. A clever mix of Black Mirror-style tech dystopia and neo-noir mystery, this Apple series about a world where an elective surgery can effectively sever the work and personal lives of employees at a mysterious corporation has won praise in large part for Ben Stiller's inspired direction. But with a movie star in the director's chair, lost in the buzz about this show is the impressive slate of movie stars filling out Severance's supporting roles.
Severance isn't the first TV show John Turturro has been a part of: He turned heads as a harried defense attorney in The Night Of back in 2016, and has since appeared in shows like The Plot Against America and The Name of the Rose. And while Patricia Arquette first made a name for herself on the big screen with films like True Romance, the second half of her career has been defined by her TV roles in shows like Medium and CSI. But for Christopher Walken, Severance will be his first recurring TV role, save for a 2002 two-part miniseries called Caesar. Fans of the iconic actor will be moved by his tender performance alongside Turturro and Arquette, as well as TV veterans Adam Scott, Britt Lower, and Zach Cherry.
- 39 VOTES
Based on the Slough House book series by Mick Herron, Apple TV+'s Slow Horses is all about failure in the counterintelligence world. British spies seen as too inept to be placed in the field, but not quite inept enough to fire, are placed under the care of Jackson Lamb, a perpetually drunk spy who puts the agents he manages to work doing dull, bureaucratic tasks in the hopes that they'll eventually quit. But this painfully dull status quo suddenly gives way to something far more dangerous (and exciting) when a team of screw-up spies becomes embroiled in a kidnapping scandal.
Gary Oldman has proven his worth as a spymaster in films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and has played heavy drinkers in movies like Mank and Darkest Hour, so he's a natural fit as Slough House boss Jackson Lamb in Slow Horses. The entire cast puts in an incredible effort and is aided by the show's politically charged story, but fans who come for Oldman won't be disappointed.
- 48 VOTES
The Dropout is the fictionalized treatment of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, one of many similar ripped-from-the-headlines dramas about scam culture released in 2022. This Hulu original is more true to life than other examples of this trend, such as Netflix's Inventing Anna, and it comes from New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether, who treats her characters with a humanizing sense of humor. But beyond the public's fascination with this story, what's drawing viewers is Amanda Seyfried.
Before she starred in Oscar-nominated movies like Mank and Les Miserables, Seyfried got her start on the small screen. She had parts as a child actor in daytime soaps like As the World Turns and All My Children, then made appearances in procedural dramas like House and CSI, eventually landing memorable roles in teen detective series Veronica Mars and HBO drama Big Love. Since her film career has taken off, Seyfried still takes on the occasional TV role - she was a series regular in the 2017 reboot of Twin Peaks - but The Dropout is the first time she's starred in a television role since her transition to film.
Based on the true crime book by Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven is a true story with all the dark, gritty elements of prestige crime dramas like True Detective and Mare of Easttown. It's set in rural Utah, where a small Mormon town is rocked by the gruesome murder of a young woman and her children. Two detectives - a pious Mormon family man played by Andrew Garfield and a police veteran from Las Vegas who deals with discrimination based on his Native American heritage played by Gil Birmingham - slowly uncover a dangerous extremist fringe within the Latter-day Saints church.
Under the Banner of Heaven was initially intended to be a feature-length film, but Garfield took the starring role after it was announced that the story would be a limited series on FX. Famous for playing the titular superhero in the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Garfield recently received an Academy Award nomination for best actor for his turn in the musical tick, tick…BOOM!
- 612 VOTES
Outer Range is a great example of what TV is offering right now that film does not. It's a neo-Western that stars Josh Brolin as a rancher waging a battle for land with a rival family, a family drama about the disappearance of a family member, and a science-fiction story about an inexplicable black void that appears on their land. Viewers will have an easy time seeing Brolin in this role, since he's donned cowboy boots in movies like No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and Jonah Hex.
While Brolin's been treated well by Hollywood superhero franchises, playing villains like Thanos in the Avengers movies and Cable in Deadpool 2, it's clear that TV producers like Amazon Prime Video are offering him the kind of weirder, artsier roles that many actors love to take on.