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The top ten 2019 performances in peak TV are actors over 40

The best roles and performances are being turned in by the over 40 crowd these Peak TV days Pic credit: FX/Netflix
The best roles and performances are being turned in by the over 40 crowd these Peak TV days Pic credit: FX/Netflix

Monsters and Critics takes a look at the current newsmaking roles and careers of the over-40 actor – these already established stars we’ve come to count on for scene-stealing award-winning performances and iconic characters.

Peak TV is an industry coined descriptor to describe the huge amount of great television programming that at times feels overwhelming. We don’t want you to miss one great show that features these incredible artists.

The best and most interesting performances on scripted TV series’ this year are solidly in the “over 40” category and make their respective shows the ones to watch.  And compared to the frequently noted up-and-coming talent roundups doled out by the trades and celebrity rags that salute the under-30 talent in comedy, acting and music, we chose the former, the established talent that eats up every frame they are in.

The idea is that women (and men face this to a lesser degree) are often mocked as casualties in the behind-the-doors chatter at agencies, studios and networks that rank them based on a number. Actors are a commodity, marketable in an industry that overvalues youth, shockingly even in the writing rooms of comedies and dramas.

Many artists and fans decry the death knell sounded for anyone over 35, but by whom? If you ask us, complete morons.

Monsters and Critics salutes these astute artists who are talented beyond measure and eternal stars, who we hope will follow the Betty White school of working until they drop, giving us all characters and moments we can savor for a long time.

In no particular order, at the moment this mid-point of 2019, we are absolutely loving:

Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos as patriarch Felipe Reyes. Pic credit:: James Minchin/FX
Edward James Olmos as patriarch Felipe Reyes. Pic credit:: James Minchin/FX

Actor, activist and star, Edward James Olmos is currently the patriarch of the Reyes family, Felipe is an ensemble character wild card and not just the doddering dad of the two hunky stars played by Clayton Cardenas and J.D. Pardo.

No sir, this man is a lethal weapon and the underestimated wildcard that we hope showrunners Kurt Sutter and Norberto Barba spool out in a more complex way in Season 2 of Mayans M.C.

Of note, award voters from all organizations usually overlook this Sons of Anarchy biker yarn legacy from Sutter, but they should remember Olmos as this cryptic and cautious father trying hard to keep his sons alive.

Polly Walker

Don't play pop music around Peg Sykes, she;s not having it. Polly Walker's Peg in full rage against Bet. Pic credit: Epix
Don’t play pop music around Peg Sykes, she’s not having it. Polly Walker’s Peg in full rage against Bet. Pic credit: Epix

From vixen to viperous femme fatale, Walker was the alpha and omega of HBO’s Rome from Bruno Heller. Now she shines in a smaller role in Epix’s Pennyworth, cast as Peg Sykes, the dominatrix who serves up tea and Hob Nobs while counseling her deranged sister Bet (Paloma Faith).

Peg is trying hard to keep her sadistic sister Bet from the clutches of England’s brutal long arm of the law. Peg Sykes is both maternal and as lethal as they come, and Walker still chews up the scenery as this East end doyenne of BDSM who keeps her harnessed and bound charges busy tidying up the house. Her “Kray mum” accent is spot on too.

Holt McCallany

McCallany shines as the FBI agent trying to keep a work home balance constantly. Pic credit: Netflix
McCallany shines as the FBI agent trying to keep a work home balance constantly. Pic credit: Netflix

Dead sexy and deeply charismatic, Holt caught our attention hard in FX’s Lights Out as Patrick Leary. His role as Bill Tensh, the wizened and world-weary head of the fledgling behavioral unit at the FBI is deeply satisfying to watch. Netflix’s Mindhunter shines not just with David Fincher’s precise direction but primarily with McCallany and his co-stars played by Jonathan Groff and Anna Torv, as they plan the interview sequences with monstrous killers.

McCallany’s Tensh is a seemingly solid family man who seems bound to his high strung wife solely over the concern of their extremely troubled adopted son.  He’s trying really hard to be the father, husband and leader at work who keeps in the good graces of an almost Doctor Evil-like boss Ted Gunn (Michael Cerveris), who is frighteningly hyper-aware of their unusual work within the agency. Holt is always a focal point in any and all scenes.

Katey Sagal

Sagal cast as Teresa is the Golden Ticket for ABC's breakout hit series Grand Hotel. Pic credit: ABC
Sagal cast as Teresa is the Golden Ticket for ABC’s breakout hit series Grand Hotel. Pic credit: ABC

Comedy, drama and even beautiful singing, Sagal is always welcomed in any ensemble we find her in. The sexy queen of the 1 percenters is still pined for by Mayans M.C. fans, all hungry for a riveting female lead in that Sons of Anarchy followup on FX.

Showrunner Kurt Sutter gave his wife a great gift by writing that juicy role for only her. Nobody can fill those Gemma shoes, so perhaps Gemma will reappear once again after a brief blip in Season 1 on the southern Cali biker drama’s Season 2.

The smart money is always on casting Sagal and she is perfection in any role batted her way, even in comedic voice-over roles on the animated Futurama. Meanwhile, we can dine on her performance in Grand Hotel as Teresa, a boss lady who can hold her own with anyone.

Louie Anderson

Louis Anderson stars in Baskets on FX
Louis Anderson is one of our notable stars over 40 for his role in Baskets. Pic credit: FX

Louie Anderson is a treasure and according to Neal Justin’s interview with the Emmy winning Minnesota native, ripe for a series of his own.

Zach Galifianakis’ beautifully wrought Baskets on FX showed the world a guileless mother who doted on her kids, didn’t see race and who was cheeky in her humor and impeccably cheerful.  Late in life love rewarded this Kirkland brand champion mum whose family was everything.

Louie is a malleable talent, as this comedian-author-actor has often used his real-life family as fodder and muse for his stand-up, memoirs and character development for this TV series. Louie based Christine Baskets as a loving composite of his mother and other beloved female relatives and has created a beautiful flawed loving TV mom we will miss now that Baskets is ending.

George Takei

George Takei in AMC's Horror: The Infamy
George Takei is a smallscreen star again in his AMC hit. Pic credit: AMC

Activist, humanitarian and actor George Takei is blessed with great health and a focus that rivals those half his age. We spoke to Mr. Takei at the recent Television Critics’ Association press tour ahead of the premiere of AMC’s The Terror: Infamy, a percolating anthology series that sets the tale in the unimaginable historically accurate Japanese-American internment camps that robbed people of their livelihoods, homes and sense of place in their country.

Mr. Takei was cast as Motohiro Yamato, an elder and retired fishing captain who regales with his big fish stories as supernatural events are befalling all the displaced residents of Terminal Island.

In real life, Mr. Takei was five years old when he was first sent to Santa Anita to live in a dirty horse stall, then sent onward to Arkansas for a few years while World War II was in effect.

Now his vitality is matched by his acute awareness that history repeats and uses his platform of fame to re-energize and educate.

Geena Davis

Sandy supports GLOW and works with Bobby to keep the drag review going at the Fan Tan Pic credit: Netflix
Sandy supports GLOW and works with Bobby to keep the drag review going at the Fan Tan Pic credit: Netflix

GLOW on Netflix brings us the delicious lady boss of the Fan Tan. This former 1962 best showgirl of Las Vegas winner has bought into the Sebastian Bash-produced lady wrestler show and also supports her more underground drag queen revue at the casino in a business suffering a deglamorization of the Strip.

Baby strollers, flip flops and the poorly dressed now want to roam the city where Sandy remembered that the once chic and sharply dressed called their adult playground. Davis plays Sandy Devereaux St. Clair with clever comedic zingers and is a fantastic addition to a third season that beats the first two, not easy to do in a scripted series on television.

Marc Maron

Maron is a key focal point in GLOW, as the third season is loaded with award deserving performances. Pic credit: Netflix
Maron is a key focal point in GLOW, as the third season is loaded with award deserving performances. Pic credit: Netflix

Comic, podcaster, author and actor, Marc Maron shines in a cast of giants in Netflix’s refreshing female-heavy cast of GLOW. And the evolution of director and father Sam Sylvia continues to blow us away.

Ask any woman who watched the scene as Maron tells Alison Brie’s Ruth that he loves her. The raw straightforward rough-around-the-edges part of the ensemble has become a topic of conversation with women who hunger for that kind of up-front soul-bearing love. Maron kills it in this role in a superb season three that deserves a lot of Emmy and other award consideration for not just him, but for Brie, Betty Gilpin, Britney Young and Sydelle Noel.

Kia Stevens

Kia is another gem in a cast of giants on GLOW. Pic credit: Netflix
Kia is another gem in a cast of giants on GLOW. Pic credit: Netflix

A trifecta from Netflix for the series GLOW, where so many outstanding performances demand to be noted. In our specific category as outlined, Kia, a talented real wrestler by trade, is cast as Tammé Dawson.

She is a dog-tired working mother who is acutely aware of her age, aches and pains in the show that depicts female wrestlers trying to make it big in entertainment.  Stevens is known as Awesome Kong in professional wrestling circles and dives into her stereotypical tweak heel “The Welfare Queen” on GLOW.

Dawson is hanging by a thread this entire season yet puts on her game face as she cleverly reinvents her character to prolong her place in the physically demanding review now doing nightly shows in Vegas.

Alan Arkin

Arkin kills it as Norman Newlander in a series about friendship and keeping life in perspective. Pic credit: Netflix
Arkin kills it as Norman Newlander in a series about friendship and keeping life in perspective. Pic credit: Netflix

Sure, Michael Douglas is brilliant in scene with Alan Arkin, cast as Norman Newlander, his unflappable uber-agent in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method. But Arkin gets us right in the feels with his portrayal of the grieving and possibly neurologically faltering widower who now is tasked by his late wife to take care of his pain-in-the-ass friend and client Sandy Kominsly.

Nothing is easy for this wealthy guy and master of the entertainment universe whose daughter is an abject failure at life. He desperately misses his true partner in life and is navigating being solo in his seventies.

Sandy’s a handful too, a man-child who needs advice, money and constant reassurances that his acting career is still relevant. Arkin is full of one-liner snark, heart and soul and we cannot wait to see him paired with Jane Seymour in the coming Season 2 this October.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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