Darrell Vickers: Duncing With the Stars

darrell-vickersHaving been employed in the entertainment industry since Netflix personally drove the actors to your house to perform your order, I have become friends with a small cadre of practicing thespians.  Additionally, having spent a regrettable amount of time wallowing in the fetid, festering spiritual cesspool that is children’s animation, I am acquainted with a number of talented individuals who make their living giving voice to artistic renderings of cute furry animals and intense do-gooders wearing capes.  For nigh on a decade now, these flexibly-larynxed entertainers have lamented their industry’s perplexing penchant for hiring celebrities.  In effect, they’re employing people with memorable faces to do voice work.  Why, that’s brilliant!  Talk about thinking outside the box.  Why pay dedicated professionals, who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their craft, to weave their paralinguistic magic when you can pressgang some sitcom-star-of-the-week or pre-arrest cinematic idol to do it?   That’s like hiring the handsomest waiter at a restaurant to cook all the food.

liberty duck avec confit“Garcon!  This Liberty Duck Breast avec Confit tastes like shit!”

“Oui monsieur, but it is made by our most popular waiter.  Everyone just loves him.  Would you like our waitress with the big tits to mix you up a Pisco Sour?”

To see if the cavils of the cartoon community had any credence – I checked out an animated movie at random.  I selected “Frozen” – for no other reason than I Googled “3D animated movie” at its name came up.  So, why don’t we check out the cast of this high profile cartooned “gem” and scan their mile long voxographies.

kirsten bell & cartoon characterIdina Menzel – Voice credits – 1 – Frozen

Kirsten Bell – Voice Credits 2 – Frozen and guest spot on The Cleveland Show

Jonathan Groff – Voice Credits 1 – Frozen

Josh Gad – Frozen and two or three other credits. (One other movie)

Santino Fontana – Voice credits -1 Frozen

Alan Tudyk – Voice credits – Frozen and one or two other parts.

  1. To think these frigid freshmen beat out every available voice actor in North America and beyond on shear talent would be a feat akin to Rob Ford showing up sober to Toronto’s Festival of Beer.

billy crystal john goodman monsters universityBut, perhaps this is just an anomaly.  A kooky quirk.  A misleading defect in the time/space continuum.  Let’s look at the cast of Monsters University and see what it has to offer in the way of insight.

Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Joel Murray, Dave Foley and Alfred Molina.

steve_buscemi talking into micNow, do you suppose these fine actors were hired because they brought a depth and reality to their computer generated characters, never even dreamed of by the creator, or because they are Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mel-Blanc-altMirren, Joel Murray, David Foley and Alfred Molina?

It’s enough to make Mel Blanc burst out of his grave, throw up and then die again – because let’s face it, Mel didn’t look that good, even when he was alive.

Jan_RabsonAnd for what?  The audience they’re aiming these 3D buckets of pablum at wouldn’t know Steve Buscemi if he blew their head off during a contraband whisky dispute.  Now, Mr. Buscemi is a fine, fine actor (a personal fave) but is he better at voicing cartoon characters than Danny Mann, Maurice LaMarshe or Jan Rabson?  No, he is not.  Is Julia Roberts a better voice actress that June Foray, Nancy Cartwright or Candy Milo?  Let me put it another way…Ringo Starr is an excellent, excellent Beatle, but if you need a really good drummer, for Christsakes cute animated animalshire Bill Bruford!

Alas, this celebrity psychosis among the entertainment executive elites is not just limited to brightly-colored, ridiculously round-eyed, steaming piles of cute.

An example:

When I toiled under the acrid scowling eyes that ruled Warner Brothers Television back in the day, my partner and I sold quite a few casting call signpilots.  Once a pilot is sold, you have to do two things.

1: Remove any imagination, originality and humor from the script.

2: Cast it.

The casting process is long and heartbreaking.  You see literally dozens and dozens of actors (many of them deserving of the part and even more whom I’ve admired for years).  After we’ve auditioned our brains out, we take our 3 or 4 top choices to the studio brass for their invaluable input.

Mature businessman working at the office.The casting director prepares 4 pages of names for our confab with the big wigs: Actors we have auditioned and liked, actors who will only audition for the network, actors who will meet but not audition at all and actors who are unavailable or not interested.  When you get in the room with these mega-mogals, they invariably flip to the “Unavailable/Uninterested page and start asking, “What about Leonardo DiCaprio?  Will he come in for a read?”

lillian gish“Why, yes he will, Tony!  Thank God we have your wisdom and insight to lead us through these confusing times.  Just because he’s unavailable and uninterested, he’d love to drop whatever he’s doing for a lengthy chat with a balding, ass-licking halfwit who wouldn’t be trusted to hand out free-steam-cleaning coupons in the real world.  Let me go get him on the phone!”

It was like this for every role – no matter how small.  The more unattainable an actor was, the more their saliva glands bubbled-over with desire.  If we’d have had a fifth page with dead actors on it, they would have been begging us to bring in Lillian Gish to read for the grandma.

faye dunawayAndrew and I were once dragooned into saving a sitcom starring Faye Dunaway – an actress of magnificent ability but a human being who took the phrase “totally fucked up” to a level inconceivable to mere morals.  We valiantly turned down their generous offer three times but were pushed and pushed and pushed until we eventually acquiesced.  Faye could hardly remember her own name, never mind half an hour of dialogue to be regurgitated in front of a live audience.  Movie productions can last forever.  They’re the natural breeding guy working meatgrinderground of prima donnas.  Television is a meat grinder.  You cram shit in one end; crank it day and night until even shittier shit comes out the other end.  And then, after an incredibly short weekend of wishing you were never born, you start the whole shit-cramming process again.  After working with David Steinberg and a dialogue coach for three whole days during a long weekend, she walked on stage, during the pilot, and got her very first line wrong.

After several weeks of unimaginable suffering on the part of those around her and ratings dropping like a herd of buffalo of a cliff; someone asked the obvious question.  “Why would anyone put this crazy woman in a sitcom?”

faye dunaway. robert urich - it had to be youThe answer was very revealing.  “Because Mr. X (a CBS exec I actually liked) wants to be sitting in his office and hear, ‘Faye Dunaway, on line two.’”

They pumped millions into “It Had to Be You” and it lasted 4 episodes.  Ms. Dunaway’s TVQ (a rating of likeability) dropped from 55 in the pilot to minus 17.  Until Faye, I didn’t even know the number went below zero.

The pilot in question was actually shot the year before (and tested quite well) with Twiggy but not picked up because CBS didn’t think Twiggy was a big enough name.  It isn’t about who was jennifer lawrence shaving legsright for the part or even what the public wants – it’s about “star fucking”.  About flipping to that back page of the casting list and imagining getting invited over for weekend barbeques with Kate Blanchett and Michael Caine, taking their kids for play-dates over at the Brad Pitt compound or just rappin’ to Jennifer Lawrence about “stuff” while she shaves her legs in the shower.

The cult of celebrity has corrupted the entire system.  Every actor with the slightest clout now has a production company.  Tom Cruise, Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, Demi Moore, tom cruise waiting to pitchPenny Marshall, Bette Midler, Wesley Snipes, Jodie Foster, Billy Crystal, Michael Douglas etc, etc, etc.  These “companies” are selling shows all over town.  Now, these people don’t write the shows they sell.  They won’t direct them.  And they certainly won’t lower themselves to be in these shows.  So, what possible contribution could a “Star” make to a production that a run-of-the-mill writer or regular producer couldn’t?

The Answer:

guy in jacket happy on phoneThose writers and producers can’t get some soulless jack-off executive to scream into his Android, “Guess what honey!  I have Tom Fucking Cruise in my outer office!

So now, instead of having to convince a lowly studio executive to convince a higher studio executive to buy a project to take it to the network to get it on the air, you have to go to a celebrity’s development executive who takes it to the celebrity who takes it to the lowly studio executive who convinces a higher studio exec to sell it to the network to get it on the air (and guess whose money the Celebs slice of the pie comes out of).

In Conclusion:

John-Lennon snorting cokeThese Gods and Goddesses of the silver screen who shit pure gold and piss the healing celestial light of heaven have it pretty darn good already.  They’re paid millions of dollars to half remember words somebody else wrote for them.  They get to sleep with whomever they want.  They snort the finest of drugs.  They get their ever-so-glamorous dicks sucked (figuratively and literally) celebrity dead in the finest hotelsby everyone they deign to meet.  They never have to wait for a table at a restaurant or line-up at a club.  They live in fabulous mansions and party on yachts and overdose in the very finest of hotels.  Large brutish men in their employ roughly remove the unsightly from their gaze.  They have minions pre-light their cigarettes and pre-chew their gum.  I mean, isn’t that enough?

Do they really need to take jobs off hard working voice actors, who are so lowly, they have to cook their own food at restaurants?  Isn’t the writer’s demeaning lot in life demeaning and lotty enough without having to drag their soon-to-be Lady Ga Gabutchered masterpieces before yet another layer of smug, disinterested cunts?

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I dream of a world where pilots fly, doctors heal and policeman taser people ahead of them in line at donut shops.  But alas, I fear it’s in only a matter of time before we hear someone screaming into his Android at a Starbucks, “Unbelievable news!…They got Lady Gaga to do my brain operation!”

And just because…here are two attractive women in bikinis kissing an eggplant.

two girls in bikinis kissing an eggplant


If you like the writing, then check out my serial novel at the link below.

There is a new chapter every Monday.

Chapter 6 is now available.


Darrell Vickers appears here every 4th Monday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.co

DBAWIS_ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .




2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers: Duncing With the Stars”

  1. VonRiesling Says:

    At least Kirsten Bell can sing. Good points though. The worst case: Disney fanboys casting Gillian Anderson in Princess Mononoke. Dead reading.

  2. Breadalbane Says:

    Oh, Rob Ford may well *show up* to the Toronto Festival of Beer sober. Now, if you want a no-doubt, 100% slam-dunk guarantee, you want to bet on the condition in which he will *leave* the festival.

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