Jennifer Connelly of the defunct ''The Street'' is one, says Ken Tucker

By Ken Tucker
Updated December 12, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Connelly: Timothy White/Fox
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Consider this a two part broadside: Great Performances You’re Missing and Good Actors in Canceled Shows You Ignored. Here are two examples of each.

? Evan Rachel Wood, ”Once and Again” I figure from the slumping ratings that you’ve consigned this to your ”who needs it?” category of TV watching, but I’m telling you, young Wood, playing a 14 year old with an eating disorder, transcends the ABC Afterschool Special theme to give a tremulous, heartbreaking performance. With her delicate hatchling vulnerability, Wood has always been the child most wounded by the fractured family structure of this show — the character who most suggests that the joyous middle aged romance between Sela Ward and Billy Campbell does damage to the children of divorce. I hope casting directors are looking at these episodes, because Wood is a child actress capable of enormous emotions.

? Rex Linn, ”The Fugitive” I know from the plummeting ratings that you think CBS’ new ”Fugitive” is a cold leftover, but check it out now. On Dec. 1, the show introduced a new character, a bounty hunter named Carl Vasick, who has instantly jolted the show with his devilish, violent, swift methods of tracking down Tim Daly’s Dr. Richard Kimble. Linn, his bald head revealing veins pulsing with cruel energy, is making Mykelti Williamson’s Lt. Gerard look like a plodder. Vasick keeps a car trunk full of guns, crowbars, and sheets of plastic to wrap bloody bodies in — he means business, and he’s making ”The Fugitive” nearly as exciting as the show that follows it, the hit ”C.S.I.”

Now, the canceled shows stuff:

? ”The Michael Richards Show” was the very definition of a one man show; the writers’ attempts to make an interestingly prickly comic relationship between an old African American man (Bill Cobbs) and a young one (Tim Meadows) was a good idea, but doomed by Richards’ incessant interruptions. More ridiculously, William Devane (”Space Cowboys,” ”The Hollow Man”) was given nothing to do as Richards’ boss; the producers might as well have hired a cardboard cutout of the actor and let Richards fumble and rant at that inanimate object, for all the freedom Devane was allowed. You know what the irony is here? A pilot starring another ”Seinfeld” graduate, Wayne Knight (Newman the postman) was said to be far superior to Richards’ pilot, but it got deep sixed because NBC thought Richards was the bigger draw. They were right about that (viewers tuned in the first week, out of curiosity, then fled), but here’s a clear lesson the network probably won’t learn: Given the choice of two shows, one of which seems of higher quality but contained lesser star power, maybe you ought to go with quality next time.

? ”The Street,” Fox’s Wall Street soap, was axed because viewers didn’t care about any of these selfish, snotty losers. Lost in the shuffle: Jennifer Connelly. If you doubt Connelly’s talent, go see her strung out junkie in the current feature film ”Requiem for a Dream.” But on ”The Street,” saddled with the role of TV’s umpteenth ”I can be a strong woman by talking tough and still wear miniskirts to pull in the adolescent geeks” characters, Connelly was more degraded as a performer than she is in ”Requiem”’s harrowing scenes in which she barters her body for drugs. ”Requiem” has a point; ”The Street” was pointless. On to better things for her and the rest of the show’s talented cast, I say.

Once and Again

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