Hollywood stars may command big salaries and the attention of the tabloids, but movies that interest me most usually feature the dependable character actor. Character actor is a kindly code or euphemism for the guy with lines on his “interesting” face. It’s often a nice way of saying he’s not too good looking.
Who cares? Many character actors have turned their unglamorous dependability into star status. Names like Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”), Paul Giamatti (“Sideways,” “Win Win”) and John C. Reilly (“Walk Hard,” “Cyrus”) come to mind. But no character actor of the past quarter century has been so consistently good or appeared in as many great or at least interesting movies as Steve Buscemi. He’s one of those actors I’d watch in just about anything. And that includes “Con Air.” That also includes tonight’s “Who Do You Think You Are” (7 p.m., NBC), where the “Boardwalk Empire” star traces his genetic roots and family tree.
Praised, awarded and acclaimed for his more notable roles in “Fargo,” “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk,” Buscemi has done a masterful job as a leading man and supporting actor in both edgy, independent films and in summer blockbusters. My respect for him rose a thousand-fold when he accepted an award at the “hip” Independent Spirit Awards and then proceeded to thank Jerry Bruckheimer. It was, after all, Bruckheimer’s paychecks for big, dumb, lucrative movies (like “Armageddon”) that allowed Buscemi to pursue his own small, quirky projects.
Tonight, Buscemi plays himself in search of ancestors, who include a maternal great-great-grandfather with a rather questionable role in the Civil War.
• While we’re on the subject of character actors, look for Ken Leung, who played Miles on “Lost,” on tonight’s episode of “Bar Karma” (9 p.m., Current TV).
• After a sneak peak last Sunday, “Shark Tank” (7 p.m., ABC) premieres in its regular spot. Tonight, one of the potential investors may plunk down a record $4 million for one project. All of the “Sharks” seem to like one woman’s project. She thinks people will enjoy renting children’s toys in the same way that they borrow DVDs. The last time I checked, not that many renters chew on their DVDs.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson star in the 2008 historical drama “The Other Boyelyn Girl” (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Oxygen). Fans of “The Tudors” take note.
• The NCAA Basketball Tournament (6 p.m., CBS and TBS) has moved into regional semifinals. Check listings for particular matchups.
• A Bridgeport, CT brasserie faces a crisis on “Kitchen Nightmares” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Is there anyone left on Earth who hasn’t seen “Pretty Woman” (7 p.m. and 9:18 p.m., TNT)?
• The pace of life in the parallel world puts Olivia in peril on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Am I the only one who preferred Jesse Eisenberg in “Zombieland” (8:50 p.m., Encore) to Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”?
• Mechanical failure and torrential rains torment the “American Loggers” (9 p.m., Discovery).