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CCH Pounder = A People’s History of the Past 30 Years of TV and Film

January 29, 2010

When the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) hit the tuberwebs in 1990s, film geeks like myself were in absolute awe of its mighty power. Prior to IMDb, the art of intentionally avoiding work required so much effort, it should have counted as a second full-time job. Then, like the Medici patronage and the Renaissance, the Procrastination Era was thrust upon us cubicle-dwellers with a fury of unproductive Friday afternoons. Generations Y and Z might find it quaint that my cohort’s best source of movie-oriented information was a phone-book sized tome entitled Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. While extremely useful in providing a source of info for a massive number of cult films, we still were left with an inability to cross-reference movies by actor, director, producer, key grip, gaffer, fluffer, and best boy. Enter IMDb, and its ridiculously-awesome accoutrements.

Sure, the site is useful for cinema junkie-type information, like Location, Aspect Ratio and Alternate Foreign Titles (how else would I know that the Paul Newman/Tommy Mapother pool-table thriller was called The Colour of Money in the UK), but my first instinct is to check the plot keywords. Oh yes – this is the new comedy, and it’s happening right now.  Some enterprising, unemployed Bringer of Sarcasm (sorry kids, but “snark” is not a word, it’s a failed cartoon character, combining the schlock factor of Scrappy-Doo with the annoyance of Matthew Lesko – yes, indeed a Voltron of Suck) should create a book that categorizes the most bizarre and/or obvious of these. Always seeking politeness and decorum, IMDb occludes this line with a “spoiler alert!” warning – how thoughtful – but a quick mouse scrolling will reveal that there are no spoilers, and no need for alerts. Some of my favorite examples of unnecessary obscuring:

When in Rome: Chick Flick – City Name in Title

Jaws III in 3-D: Shark – Sea – Underwater

Caddyshack II – Golf – Golf Ball – Box Office Flop

Blues Brothers 2000 – Strip Club – Dry White Toast – You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself For Watching This

More importantly, IMDb allows us to cease the practice of “conversations” like this one:

You: “No way…that was totally Leo DiCaprio on the last season of Growing Pains

Your confused friend: “Bullcrap! Admit it – you are totally, like, getting him confused with Jonathan Taylor Thomas.”

Now, instead of having to endure an entertaining discussion about cinematic minutiae, you can fire up the smartphone, where the truth lies. Haha, you showed ’em! While it does not approach the same death-grip like that modern statistics have placed upon baseball arguments (“Sorry, but Derek Jeter’s ‘range factor’, coupled with a middling VORP, Makes him only the 4th or 5th best shortstop in the AL, end of story”), IMDb has pushed us into a more reality-based world. So I aim to embrace this new frontier, first by finding the most interesting IMDb profile.

While this in no way is definitive – I am merely basing this assessment on the few examples of my perusing – I would gamble that few carry the TV/movie resume of Carol Christine Hilaria, also known as CCH Pounder. In case you’ve spent the past 25 years avoiding police procedurals and / or Avatar, you might be flummoxed at this actress’ identity, and her solid performances. From big hits to massive flops, she’s got ’em covered. Here’s a small sample of Pounder’s work:

Successes:

Avatar. News flash! James Cameron’s epic of epic proportions recently eclipsed his previous epic to become the highest-grossing film in history. Pounder plays Moat, one of the many characters within this film that I have yet to see. (IMAX is in the cards, though).

ER. The longest-running prime-time medical drama, Pounder portrayed Dr. Angela Hicks for 24 episodes during the first three seasons. Some credit this show for changing the pace and subject matter of modern TV, although I think it has to be joined by…

The West Wing. Perhaps the most successful program in TV history based on a non-eastern-oriented section of the White House, Pounder was a finalist for the role of C.J., President Bartlet’s wisecracking press secretary. Writer, producer, and driver of the Winnebago, Aaron Sorkin leaped past the ER template, cramming enough ideas into 44 minutes that second and third viewings were equally rewarding. It is amazing that Martin Sheen was able to ascend to the Presidency, merely a dozen years after his son was caught up in Gordon Gekko’s Teldar stock scam (#Winning). Never say that America does not have the capacity to forgive, damnit.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Currently the highest-rated of the three L&O franchises, featuring Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch, a character lifted from David Simon’s Homicide: Life on the Streets. L&O: SVU was originally titled Law and Order: Sex Crimes, but NBC brass, made of bigwigs and smaller wigs alike, knew that America was not ready for a show with the word “crimes” in the title. What is with the Law and Order imperialist expansion? Let’s do the list: L&O – Criminal Intent, L&O – Trial by Jury, Conviction, New York Undercover, L&O: UK (I’m assuming they do not mean “University of Kentucky”), and L&O: Second Life, where her “Avatar” brings the digital pain to shut-ins and virtual cheaters worldwide.

Pounder’s character (Carolyn Maddox) has only made four appearances throughout the multi-year run of SVU, but the resulting “hey! She’s back!” is not unlike greeting a relative you only see every other year. This is common theme within Pounder’s career. In LA Law, she appeared four times between 1986 and 1992 (interestingly, the cast featured President Bartlet’s Chief of Staff McGarry and successor Matthew Santos). For Hill Street Blues, Pounder pops by three times within six years. Pounder became Steven Bochco’s go-to bad-ass (we will get to Cop Rock).

The Shield. Another critical fave, setting a record for Emmy nominations for a show in its first season. Unlike L&O SVU, where she’s utilized as often as the third-string quarterback, Pounder appears in 89 episodes of the police procedural drama’s seven seasons.

Valerie. She made one appearance on the Jefferson Starship of television programs (“People always playing/corporation games/who care’s they’re always changing/corporation names”), before the show made the Weird Move amongst Weird Moves, keeping the name of the star in the title, all while killing off the star in the title. Valerie’s Family? Who the hell came up with that one? Who were they fooling? Evidently, most of us, as the show maintained its hit status for a full season under the ominous title before being rechristened The Hogan Family: Not Including Valerie, Who Is Dead, Remember?

She also appears in a few CBS After-School Specials, although it is not specified if she shows up in Tina Yothers’ rom-com: you know, the one that ends with a ironic rap that aims to summarize the eventual fate of every character (like the on-screen descriptions that conclude Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but fails gloriously? Example:

..And here IS SOMEthing…you’ll think is great…

MasLANsky got to Mich-i-gan State!…)

Not-quite Successes.

I know what you are thinking – CCH Pounder is the anti-Ted McGinley! Instead of jumping the shark, her mere appearance causes sharks to return to their home in the sea. Well, in most cases, you are correct – especially in the realm of programs that involve social services. But there are a few flops – and whoa Nelly, are they!

Cop Rock. The Jupiter of Flops, and the item most often left off Bochco’s resumes, np show ever was as audacious and ridiculous at once (Not even My Mother The Car).  Pounder appears in three episodes, but without a name for her character. Pounder is savvy – I wonder if this was intentional, allowing the ultimate “out” – “What are you talking about, Cop Rock? Can you name my character?”

Sliver. Never mind the film’s 13% score on Rotten Tomatoes, or 7 Razzie awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst BDSM Stunt Doubles (I’ll admit that the competition was not as rough ‘n tumble for this category). I love that someone said, “Hey Robert Evans and Roman Polanski, let’s make another Basic Instinct! Well, Polanski eventually had to bail (a past transgression?) and Evans – well, you’ll just have to trust me.

Women in Prison. For those who excitedly watched the Fox network’s initial foray into prime-time, we were rewarded for our efforts with edgy programming like The Tracey Ullman Show, Married With Children, and soon-to-be-classics like Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Get A Life, In Living Color, Roc, and Herman’s Head. We also got to witness one season of this, um, spectacle (?). While her regular character made the show somewhat watchable, it was still a weird concept for an evening that would eventually showcase a groundbreaking animated series (I can’t recall its title). Yes, kids, Women in Prison beat Oz to the punch by a decade, and allowed millions of Bart-n’-Lisa fanatics to view what might possibly become their future (thanks a lot, Proposition 13).

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One Comment
  1. Paul permalink*
    January 29, 2010 4:05 pm

    She also plays “Mrs. Frederick” in the great new sci-fi series Warehouse 13,.

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