October 12, 2004
It's interesting how these “Band of Brothers” guys keep popping up where I least expect them. I mean, after “Boomtown” got cancelled last season (I blame you guys for this, by the way -- you better make sure you're all watching “Lost” this season because if that one gets cancelled too, you're all officially DEAD MEAT), I didn't expect to see Neal McDonough again for quite a while. He's not exactly a spring chicken, after all, and before “Band of Brothers” and “Boomtown,” who had ever heard of him? I figured, whelp, that's it for Neal. He'll be back in B-movie land for sure.
And, at first, it looked like I might be right. As evidence of this, I need only offer up 4 words: “They Call Him Sasquatch” (2003).
However, as per usual, it turned out I was actually wrong. Imagine my surprise when he turned up again this season in a brand-new show on NBC! Unfortunately, the show is almost certainly going to get the boot. While I'm always happy to see NIH get some good publicity (even though the CDC would've made a lot more sense here), the show is pretty much, well, unoriginal and poorly written. It has no chance.
(Oh wait, I take that back. Unoriginal and poorly written? That pretty much guarantees its success in today's TV market, doesn't it? It's the good ones that get cancelled. Damn all you non-Boomtown-watchers straight to heck!!)
There are so many problems with this show, as a matter of fact, I debated not even going into it. Did I really want to spend the ENTIRE write-up telling you why Neal McDonough should fail in his current endeavor? That's hardly the definition of "supportive Girlfriend," after all. But what ultimately convinced me that I should is the fact that this site is supposed to be funny and it's a lot easier to be funny when you are ripping on something that sooooo deserves to be ripped on.
It's harder to be funny about, say, “Band of Brothers.” Although if you hang in here for about 4 more paragraphs, I'll give it my best shot.
Here's problem number one (and it's a big one from my perspective because I'm a librarian and thus am all about researching things before acting on them): NIH doesn't do what this show seems to think it does. What, none of the writers had 35 cents to make a phone call? "Hello, NIH? Should this show be about the CDC instead? It should? Okay, cool, thanks." Now, granted, there was a little attempt there in one of the episodes to show NIH doing what it actually does do (that is, clinical trials and research), but then they blew that totally all to hell by having the PI (principal investigator) track down one depressed subject and spend half her week trying to convince him to come back to her experiment. Yeah, right. Because PIs are just loaded with lots of personal time. Even worse, she went so far as to contemplate breaking into the system to see if he was on the real drug, ostensibly so she could tell him that and he'd be so relieved he'd return to the study. That just made me snort, frankly. Because no PI I know would ever do something as dumb as that. Not for ethical reasons necessarily, but because they'd just end up invalidating their study, which would mean they'd have to submit another proposal for it later. I mean, do you have ANY idea how much paperwork goes into a grant proposal? It's insane. No PI would ever risk having to file twice.
Trust me. I used to fill those forms out for a living.
But those are just the structural problems with the show. I could forgive those. You know, probably. What's harder to forgive are the plots, dialogue, and characters, none of which are remotely interesting or original. And yes, I say this despite the fact I haven't yet missed an episode. I confess I'm actually kind of enjoying this train wreck of a television program. Want to know why? It's partly because I like Neal, of course (plus Jake 2.0! I love him!). But primarily, it's because I so enjoy the smugness that comes with the fact that I've solved every single medical mystery featured so far in about 20 minutes, while it's taken a whole host of (fictional) M.D.s and Ph.D.s the full hour to get to the bottom of things.
This either means I should be working for the CDC or I should be writing this crap for a living myself.
But let's stop now while we're ahead (or at least before I start breaking down each episode of "Medical Investigation" one at a time, explaining exactly how I, Smarty McSmarterson, solved each case using the brilliant deductive skills that come from watching thousands and thousands of hours of "Law & Order" reruns) and instead go back, back, back, back in time. Back before "They Call Him Sasquatch." Back before "Boomtown." Back to where it really all began for Neal McDonough. Back to "Band of Brothers."
Now, Neal had been an actor for many years before BoB came out, but he'd really been struggling and was actually about to throw in the towel for good when the role of Buck Compton landed in his lap. And thank Pete for that too, because I can't imagine anybody else in that part. Amidst all the tales of heroism and honor and pressing-on, Buck Compton is one of the players who comes across as the most human. He's injured twice in battle (the famous "one bullet, four holes" wound through a butt cheek, for example), but never let fear get in his way. He had an incredibly strong loyalty to his comrades and was back out fighting with them as soon as possible after each wound had healed.
But while all those bullet holes and all that terror and stress would've done ME in in about 45 minutes and 37 seconds (seriously, I timed myself), Buck never gives in to it. He's a quiet man with a quick wit, a soft heart, and a fierce dedication to his friends. And it's that latter characteristic that finally does him in -- during the attack on Foy (after the Battle of the Bulge), Buck comes across his two best friends lying together in a bloody heap on the snow. And that's the sight -- after all that war, hell, and death -- that finally shakes him to his core. Guarnere and Toye both survive (each losing a leg), but Buck is taken off the front lines, ostensibly for trench foot, but really for total psychological collapse.
Yeah, see? I told you. Not funny.
The good news is that in real life, Buck recovers, eventually becoming a detective in the LAPD from 1947-1951, then a prosecutor for the DA's office. In 1970, Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the California Court of Appeals as an associate justice. He married and had two daughters and is, I think, still alive today. Rock on, Bucky Boy. You da man.
Interestingly enough, Neal McDonough also became a prosecutor after he'd moved on from "Band of Brothers." No, not in real life. In real life, he's an ACTOR -- pay attention! What I'm talking about now is the greatest show you never watched, "Boomtown."
On "Boomtown," our blond, blue-eyed dreamboat of a Boyfriend played David McNorris, a blond, blue-eyed dreamboat of an arsehole, in a nutshell. His character was actually quite wonderful -- an incredibly authentic mixture of tough-as-nails and all-screwed-up. Also, I should point out that Neal McDonough looks FABULOUS in expensive suits. Not that he could ever look unfabulous, of course. I did use the word "dreamboat," after all, and that's not a term I just throw around.
There were two other "Band of Brothers" actors in "Boomtown," by the way. Ex-Boyfriend Donnie Wahlberg played one of the homicide detectives (a main character), and future Boyfriend Frank John Hughes (Guarnere in BoB) had a smaller role as a beat cop. If you missed this terrific show while it was on, you can redeem yourself now by renting Season One on DVD -- it just came out a few months ago and is available through Netflix if you're interested. Maybe once you see how good it is, you'll finally trust my recommendations and will tune in to "Lost" before another original, well-done show gets the big boot.
Goodbye, cruel world of good-TV-haters!
Anyway, some other movies you may recognize Neal McDonough from include "Darkman" (1990), "Three Wishes" (1995, a pretty sweet Patrick Swayze/Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio movie), "Ravenous" (1999, a significantly less sweet movie about cannibalism), "Minority Report" (2002), "Timeline" (2003), and the just-released "Walking Tall" (2004, starring The Rock). I've seen all of the above except for "Walking Tall" and can attest to the fact that Neal is faboo in each and every one. Even the ones where he only has a couple of lines or the ones where he, say, eats people.
Born on February 13, 1966 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Neal was the youngest of six children and, like most last-born children, quickly realized he either needed to start entertaining his siblings and making them laugh or he needed to brace himself for a life of being sat on and given wedgies. Luckily for us, he opted for ham-dom, since all those wedgies could've had done serious damage to that deep, classy voice of his (my favorite of his many wonderful features).
As a freshman in high school, Neal officially became an actor when he landed the part of Snoopy in a senior-class production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Loving the limelight, he decided to forego the baseball scholarships he was offered and go to Syracuse for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (where he also served as the knuckleball pitcher for the university team, by the way). After school, he further honed his craft at the London Academy of Arts and Sciences, and had a pretty decent theater career in the years that followed.
In 1990, he debuted on-screen with a bit part in "Darkman," but though he never had a year after that that didn't include at least one role in a film, he was deeply unsatisfied with the choices he was being offered. The only role that truly excited him was his part in "Star Trek: First Contact" (he'd been a Trekkie since he was a kid and has a framed picture of Captain Kirk on his bedroom wall at home -- a fact I find slightly disturbing, to be honest).
Although he was being nominated for awards here and there, he wasn't getting the parts he had hoped for and was, as I mentioned earlier, contemplating a career change when he auditioned for, and got, his role in "Band of Brothers." The film's incredible success landed him his next big part, in 2002's "Minority Report," and after that came his first real TV series, "Boomtown."
"Boomtown" was cancelled in the beginning of its second season, despite the fact I promised God I'd stop using the distasteful and thoroughly unholy phrase "sucks monkey butt" in print ever again if only he'd save my show. Pfft, talk about monkey butt suckage -- this prayer stuff doesn't even work! But now that Neal's landed yet another television series, we can hope that he's finally starting to become somewhat of a marketable face. And while I'm not holding my breath that the show will survive, the fact that he's the star in a major primetime television production has got to mean bigger and better things are on their way.
And, if not, well, at least we'll always have "They Call Him Sasquatch."
HEY, DON'T FORGET TO TUNE INTO "LOST" -- Wednesday nights at 8pm! For more info about it, see http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/.
MacGyver Factor Score: 96.574. Hey, did anybody recognize the line "albinos and chain smokers" at the top of the site this week? Yeah, didn't think so. It's from the movie "Foul Play" (the full quote is "Our suspects are albinos and chain smokers?"), which is one of the greatest films of all time (in my opinion). What the Beelzebub does that have to do with Neal McDonough? It's just that Neal is extremely pale, with very light hair and very blue eyes. I can't help it that he reminds me of the evil albino from "Foul Play." You know, the one stalking Goldie Hawn in the library?
And now you see how that comes full circle? From Neal McDonough, to albinos, to "Foul Play," to Goldie Hawn, to the library. As you know, I'm a librarian myself, and while I could argue that this is mere coincidence, I'd much prefer to argue that we're clearly meant to be together. Uh, despite the fact Neal is actually married to a former South African bikini model named Ruve Robertson (who is 6-foot-3-inches tall and could probably beat me up just by looking at me).
This isn't a justification for deducting all those points, though. It's merely a cosmic observation. The real reason for the pointal deductions have to do with his smile, which sometimes seems somewhat teeth-clenchy. Relax, Neal! You've made the big leagues! You're a Boyfriend of the Week!