Full disclosure: I really like Tom Cruise as an actor. I actually always found him kind of underrated as a performer. Pure movie star charisma doesn’t come around a lot these days and he is one of those classic movie icons, like Bogart or Newman.
That being said: Tom Cruise needs to do television.
I’ve felt Cruise needed a career shake-up for a while now. I think it started around the Jack Reacher era of his life. That movie, which always sounded like the name of a really good carpenter and not an action franchise, felt like the moment when the material and Cruise stopped lining up. Then, came Oblivion, which looked like the equivalent of spending two hours inside an Apple Store. Now, Edge of Tomorrow I actually really enjoyed, but it was hamstrung by a horrendous title that sounded like a Journey song. But the movie that really sent me on my Cruise-to-TV crusade was this year’s The Mummy, one of the most ill-conceived, bizarre, dumb movie I’ve seen in years. Why did Cruise ever even sign on for that?
Then, on a recent flight back from Los Angeles, I re-watched Big Little Lies, which had just scored a plethora of Emmys, including one for Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman. That’s when I had my epiphany after a nice glass of wine: Tom Cruise should sign on for a TV show! Lies was, arguably, Kidman’s best and most talked about performance in years and was a savvy choice for her. (She also executive produced the HBO series.) When’s the last time you heard people discuss a revelatory Cruise performance? Or something that could put him in awards contention? His most recent film, American Made, has gotten him some positive reviews but it’s not exactly lighting the box office on fire, opening with only $16.8 million last weekend. Cruise needs a bit of a reboot, and TV could be his answer.
He doesn’t need to give up on movies, either. Maybe just a little dip into the waters of Netflix? Or a brief stay trip to HBO? I’m not saying he should be the lead of NCIS: Weehawken. TV takes so many forms now but a limited series would be the best choice IMO. I would love to see him work with someone like Noah Hawley or Ryan Murphy or Damon Lindelof — someone who could take him out of his action-hero comfort zone and showcase his skills. Maybe even play an anti-hero. Some of my favorite Cruise roles were when he wasn’t likable, like in Magnolia or Interview with the Vampire. How great would Cruise be in an American Crime Story season? Or even a new Fargo installment? Or True Detective 3?
In an age when Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and even Sean Penn are doing television/streaming projects, it’s time for Cruise to follow. There’s a whole world of great projects out there in TV land that thankfully don’t involve running from computer generated rats or wrestling a really hammy Russell Crowe.