Back in the day, Steve Buscemi was just a weird little character actor who found his niche (and a cult following) making unconventional films with quirky directors. Occasionally, he’d pop up in a “mainstream” flick (like Con Air, or every single Adam Sandler movie) playing some weirdo or another, but he was never the leading man. So if I told you in 1998 that the creepy little kidnapper who gets put through the wood chipper at the end of Fargo would be the star of the hottest, most critically acclaimed television show of 2011, would you have believed me?
Nevertheless, next Friday you can catch the inimitable Mr. Buscemi reprising his role of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the season two premier of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Personally, I’m not surprised Buscemi has found his greatest fame on television. In my humble opinion, he should have made the transition to the “small screen” years ago. Can you imagine how amazing he would have been playing some of the most beloved characters in TV history?
Well, in case you lack the faculty of imagination, I did a little photoshopping to give you a peak at what might have been.
Baywatch, a show about lifeguards, was the most-watched television series of all time, with over 1 billion viewers (no, really, 1,000,000,000) tuning in around the world each and every week. And that was with David Hasselhoff. Could you imagine how popular the show would have been if, instead of the Hoff, the show’s producers had cast chronically pasty Steve Buscemi to star along side Pam Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth? I bet the show would still be on today.
Rascally Beaver Cleaver (a name that could only have been cooked up in a genuine age of innocence) was always getting into some sort of trouble. Luckily, he had parents Ward and June to guide him through the trials and tribulations of life in suburban 1950s America. Hugh Beaumont was quite steady as Beaver’s all-American dad, but there was always something a little bland about good old Ward.
You know who would have spiced the character up a bit? Yep, Steve Buscemi. Obviously, he’s not old enough to have played Ward Cleaver, but every night in my dreams I watch serial killer Garland Greene from Con Air explain life to his sons, Wally and the Beave.
Remember ABC’s TGIF Friday night lineup? Of course you do. Who could forget classic sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step and, last but not least, Perfect Strangers?
These shows were overflowing with schmaltzy plots, corny catch-phrases, and zany characters. And no one was more zany than the lovable Myposian, Balki Bartokomous, from Perfect Strangers. Sure every episode was the same—Balki does something silly, embarrassing Cousin Larry; Cousin Larry gets bottles up his rage until he flips his lid; Balki sulks; Cousin Larry apologizes; everybody is happy again!—but that’s what made it great (according to memories formed by my 10-year-old self).
Still, as much as I loved watching the under-appreciated Bronson Pinchot ham it up week after week—the guy should have been indicted for grand larceny after stealing scenes from Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop—I think I would have enjoyed Steve Buscemi in this role even more. If nothing else, I feel like shit would have gotten a little more real.
The Brady Bunch was actually a pretty risky show when it first aired, given that it strayed from the “wholesome family” sitcom archetype by depicting—gasp!—a blended family. Fortunately, civilization didn’t collapse when widowed architect Mike Brady married divorcee Carol Martin, and The Brady Bunch turned out to be just as trite and saccharine as just about any family sitcom that had come before it. Of course, all that would have been different if Steve Buscemi played Mike Brady instead of Robert Reed. Could you imagine if dear old dad sat Greg, Peter, and Bobby down and taught them life lessons like this?
Oh, the irony (and hilarity) of former hippies having a Reaganite for a son! So many opportunities for comedic situations! But how different would have been the rapport between mom, dad, and son had the latter been played by Steve Buscemi rather than Michael J. Fox. Instead of a run-of-the-mill Young Republican, the Keatons probably would have had a squirrelly libertarian conspiracy theorist on their hands with Buscemi. In fact, I’m pretty sure, Alex P. Keaton would have ended up in a militia instead of Wall Street.
Tom Selleck wrote the book on manliness in the 1980s. Every women wanted to be with his mustache, and every man wanted to be have his mustache. Moreover, to this day, he’s probably still the only guy who ever looked cool in an Aloha shirt.
In case you’ve forgotten, Magnum, P.I. was an hour-long comedic drama centered around the professional and romantic adventures of debonair ex-Navy SEAL and current private investigator Thomas Magnum. Who lives in a rich guy’s guest house. And gets to use his Ferrari. In Hawaii. (Magnum was obviously a big inspiration to OJ’s pal Kato Kaelin.) For whatever reason, Magnum didn’t really have to work, but he did from time to time, whenever a hot babe would come along with a mystery that needed cracking.
To get a sense of what Magnum, P.I. would have been like with Steve Buscemi playing the title character, all you have to do is have a look at the second and third seasons of 30 Rock. Buscemi guest stars as a private investigator named Lenny Wosniak, who gets around New York on his bicycle and is not allowed to carry a gun by his pastor because he suffers from depression. So Buscemi would have done Magnum a little differently, to say the least.
Television shows don’t get more wholesome than The Andy Griffith Show. Little Mayberry, North Carolina, was a bedrock of real American values back in the 1960s, what with Aunt Bee bakin’ pies, little Opie goin’ fishin’, and Sheriff Andy git’n after moonshiners resolvin’ town conflicts.
Of course, there was also bumbling Sheriff’s Deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts, whose numerous accidental firearms mishaps would surely have gotten him fired (and probably killed several people) if the Mayberry Sheriff’s Department was actually in the business of promoting public safety. Still, if Barney had been played Steve Buscemi, Mayberry would have had a deputy that looked like a pedophile. It’s kind of hard to say which is worse.
Steve Buscemi as Danny Tanner on Full House? Let’s just dive right in.
First of all, if Buscemi played widower Danny Tanner on Full House, depending on makeup and lighting, your first thought might very well have been, “well, he probably killed his wife, right?” If the production crew managed to get his makeup and lighting just right, Buscemi could probably have pulled off “sad and lonely,” but I doubt he could ever do “jolly” like Bob Saget. So there goes the tone of the entire series right there.
Second, no matter what they did with the makeup and lighting, they still would have had to re-write Danny’s character a bit, because there’s no way anyone would ever buy Buscemi as a TV personality. A radio shock jock, sure, but a news anchor? Yeah right.
Third, would people have believed this guy could have such cute kids? I didn’t think so. So if Buscemi was Danny Tanner, they would have had to recast the whole Tanner family. Where would the Olsen twins be today if they had to cast less cute twins to play Michelle Tanner? (Did you just say “a strip club”? Wow, I can’t believe you went there.)
The actual Mr. Rogers was just about the nicest, most gentle guy ever. He taught several generations of children how to be nice and share through the cunning use of hand puppets and make-believe.
Also, he had an awesome collection of cardigans.
So what if Buscemi had charged with instilling morals in our children on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood? Well, for starters, we’d have a lot of messed up 30 and 40-year-olds walking around today. Instead teaching kids not to litter, he probably would have taught them about the intractable pain of being, or some other topic not suited for youngsters.