Curtis Armstrong has been on my mind lately.
Curtis was a regular in supporting roles of the teen flicks of the early ’80′s. In Risky Business, for example, he’s the guy who is badly dubbed in the TV version to say “Sometimes you gotta say ‘what the heck’!” It was the sort of work that has been the start and end of many a young actor’s career.
And yet, Curtis got a strong second act. He was the one actor added as a regular to the run of Moonlighting after it launched, going in as Burt Viola. To a certain degree, he was part of the bane of serious Moonlighting fan, since Burt and his gal Agnes would be the lead in occassional episodes, letting the producers shoot an episode with them while also shooting one with the real stars of the series, in an attempt to catch up on their problem schedule. (To be fair, one cannot blame Burt for these filler episodes; they started before he came on board, with an Agnes-and-her-mom episode.)
After that series ended, Curtis would be seen from time to time (and sometimes heard but not seen, as he did a fair amount of voice work for animation), but generally in cheap comedies, nothing that added up to much.
In the past couple years, Curtis seems to have built a real third act to his career. He’s showing up in places like Ray and now Akeelah and the Bee, respectable dramas where he plays the likable, well-intentioned regular guy. He fills the role well. When something like this happens, one wonders if there’s some key casting director who has been turned on to Curtis, or if something like Ray just suddenly made everyone consider him a bit differenly. In any case, it’s kinda nice to see this happen.
The other thing that brought Mister Armstrong to mind is a notice that they’ve now announced a remake of Revenge of the Nerds. I’m dubious that this will work, and not just because producer McG seems likely to turn out a slickened, charm-impaired breast-fest without the goofy charm that made the originally endearing to those of us it endeared. No, its because the idea of the nerd seems to have changed within the youth culture of today. Knowing how to do odd stuff with computers seems the basis for social inclusion rather than exclusion. I’m not saying that there aren’t outsiders and insiders in the teen scene, just that the dividing line doesn’t seem nearly as strongly placed along the academic achievement line.
(For those who have not sampled the film, the original is worthwhile for those of us who connect to nerdom, even if some of the assumptions that underly the film are of dubious value and some of the stereotypes that pervade it are harmful. The theatrical sequel felt like a letdown. The third film, a made-for-TV movie from many years later, is actually surprisingly non-sucky, despite its need to aggressively disavow the drug use scene of the original, and its seemingly purposeful decision to recast one of the original actors with someone overweight, as if to insult the original actor for not choosing to be involved. The second TV follow-up, not so non-sucky.)