This week sees the return of two of the most entertaining escapist shows that premiered last season (and got their seasons cut short due to the strike), Chuck and Pushing Daisies. And you know what both of these shows have in common, apart from being entertaining and escapist? They both feature leading men who are what I might call Krasinskis.
What is a Krasinski? It’s a type of leading man (though the actual Krasinski isn’t the actual lead on his show) who, through a combination of the casting and the writing, relies more on charm and offbeat cuteness than the traditional TV leading-man toughness. This type of lead character is handsome but not ostentatiously handsome; frequently communicates through fast talking, mumbling, or goofy looks to the side; charms women through wisecracks and silliness rather than playing the dashing romantic lead; isn’t much of a fighter; frequently has a weird hairstyle; is played by someone who probably can act but isn’t required to show much range beyond “schmoopy” and “goofy smirk.” In short, they are not Kiefer Sutherland, let alone Hugh Laurie or Alec Baldwin.
Notable Krasinskis on modern TV, apart from the original, include Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Bret Harrison (Reaper). There are others; feel free to suggest other examples in comments.
I should add that this kind of part probably has more to do with the writing than the casting. That is, there seems to be a certain tendency among writers to write the hero as cute or goofy or wisecrack-y, rather than having the hero be the Manly Man, or even a more mature/world-weary wisecracker of the James Garner type. The new breed of TV hero is sort of the Luke Skywalker type, a callow, unexceptional youth caught up in bigger things than he ever expected to deal with. In fact, maybe these guys are “Hamills” rather than “Krasinskis.” Eventually there will be a backlash and we’ll start seeing more heroes who are rough, tough and crude, but these things go in cycles.
Or to put it another way, when you watch a show today, it’s likely to be a variation on this:
Or was that a promo for the new season of Chuck?