Julia Louis-Dreyfus And Ted Danson Are The Two Best TV Actors Of The Modern Era

Cultural Critic
10.04.16 12 Comments


Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Ted Danson are the best TV actors of the past 30 years.

Nobody is going to argue with me on this, not even on the internet. I polled every single person online and we all agree — there are no other contenders. Not even Bryan Cranston, who like Louis-Dreyfus and Danson, has put together a résumé of multiple long-running TV shows, and played at least one all-time iconic TV character.

Nope, not a single argument is to be had here, not even from Cranston-heads. Louis-Dreyfus and Danson are at the top, all hail Louis-Dreyfus and Danson.

Louis-Dreyfus and Danson just have a certain symmetry. They both starred in hugely successful NBC sitcoms, they both avoided being typecast to star on additional successful sitcoms on CBS, and they both subsequently put that behind them to appear on still more successful shows. Just last month, Louis-Dreyfus won her fifth Emmy for Veep, and Danson launched a new sitcom, the very funny The Good Place, for NBC.

Louis-Dreyfus and Danson both are universally adored by critics and viewers, due to their thoughtfulness, range, and the all-around decency they project, even when they play despicable people. Put it this way: Nobody has ever wished for less Louis-Dreyfus or less Danson. They both make whatever project with which they are presently associated better.

So, let’s pose a followup question: Louis-Dreyfus or Danson?

Important decisions like this can’t be made willy-nilly. Let’s think it through.


Ted Danson has won two Emmys, out of 15 nominations, which makes me retroactively outraged. From 1982 to 1993, Danson was nominated every year for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy for Cheers, and lost to Judd Hirsch (okay), John Ritter (fine), Robert Guillaume (whatever), Michael J. Fox (okay), Michael J. Fox (um), Michael J. Fox (c’mon!), and Richard Mulligan (really?), before finally taking home his first trophy in 1990. (He won again in 1993.)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, meanwhile, has won ALL OF THE EMMYS.


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