Saturday, March 11, 2006

"Other Guy" of the Month

Every month I pay homage to or catch up with some poor guy who had his chance to be a star but was overshadowed by someone else's fame instead.

Mr. March - Peter DeLuise
I'm sure everyone recognizes the DeLuise name, originally made famous by patriarch Dom DeLuise. While Dom was a well-known comedic actor, a big chunk of his career was spent playing second banana to Burt Reynolds. Apparently the "sidekick" act was passed along to his sons, Peter, Michael and the other one from the dog food commercial whose name I can't recall. It doesn't matter. Obviously, my focus here will just be on Peter.

Peter got his big break on the classic late '80s cop drama, 21 Jump Street. I absolutely loved that show. Never missed it. My sister, who was living in Texas at the time, suggested that I watch it because she had gotten hooked on it. As with most female fans of the show, she was quite smitten with the main character, Officer Tommy Hanson as played by the unreasonably gorgeous Johnny Depp. I certainly thought Johnny was cute when I first started watching, but as time went on I developed a major crush on his sidekick, Doug Penhall, played by Peter DeLuise. Even back then I went for the funny guys. DeLuise may not have been as Tiger Beat cover-ready as Depp, but he was still handsome and created a very endearingly goofy character in Penhall.

It seemed that after a while, Penhall became a huge fan favorite, so I'm not sure why Peter's star didn't burn as brightly as Johnny's. I guess it just all came down to looks, and even though Johnny Depp famously rebelled against his teen idol image, he just couldn't change that glorious face of his. It has to be tough to share screen time with a guy who looks like that. He couldn't help but be the center of attention. So even though Peter had a lot of fans, Johnny still probably had more and they were much more vocal.

The DeLuise/Depp appeal is best described this way. Imagine being a girl in high school with "Doug Penhall" and "Tom Hanson". Let's say you get to know Doug, think he's really cute and funny and basically a giant teddy bear. You just loooove him. You go on some dates and he's a total gentleman. He's the best. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Tom asks you to the dance. You've never spoken to him before and have no idea how he even knows who you are. What do you do? Say YES of course! LOOK AT HIM! Doug who??? You know it's completely rotten but this may be your only chance to go out with such a ridiculously beautiful man. The cheekbones win again. And you can tell yourself that it wasn't a completely superficial choice because Tom is a nice guy too, but you know that you've never even seen his inner beauty because the outer is completely blinding. Face it, you're shallow. But it's ok because you have the hottie.

This post is getting away from me. The bottom line is that Peter was popular, but he could never quite get out of Johnny's shadow. Then, the powers that be at FOX tried to bury him even further by bringing in vapid, pretty boy Richard Grieco as Booker. That didn't quite work. Even though Richard eventually got his own (lame) spin-off show, he was never fully embraced by Jump Street fans. Sure, he had the pack of girls who thought his dark and brooding, Johnny-wannabe schtick was adorable, but Peter's popularity was never in danger of being eclipsed by his. Besides that, most fans liked the rapport between Peter and Johnny. They made a good on-screen duo, and by all accounts they were good friends off-set. When Johnny Depp wiggled out of his contract and left the show, that was sort of the beginning of the end for Jump Street, but it wasn't all just because Johnny was gone. Peter DeLuise remained on the show almost until the end, and was still a big draw for many fans. However, the big problem was that they were bringing new people in and it just didn't have the same vibe as it did at the beginning. Once the team of Hanson and Penhall was dissolved, the show just wasn't as fun to watch. I think if DeLuise had left the show before Depp, it would've been the same. So, in the context of that show, DeLuise wasn't completely overshadowed by Depp, even though Johnny was the bigger star according to the media. On 21 Jump Street, they complemented each other.

However, once Jump Street was over, Peter DeLuise sort of faded away into the background as a bit player while Johnny Depp became one of the biggest movie stars and most respected actors of our time. I always thought that they would both break out in a big way after that show, but I guess Johnny's fame was too huge for anyone else to get around. He's really a special case though, because he has the matinee idol looks, but he's also amazingly talented. As much as I always liked Peter DeLuise, he definitely doesn't compare to Johnny Depp as an actor. Still, I think he could've had a better career than he has. He could've been a good character actor like Steve Buscemi or Joey Pants. I think he is at his best when he's playing the semi-tough goofball. I'm immediately reminded of his guest role on Friends, where he played a coffee shop bully who terrorized Chandler and Ross. He was really funny on that episode. More roles like that for Peter! Hopefully I'll see him on My Name is Earl one of these days.

I have discovered that while he may not be in the public eye very much, he's still keeping quite busy with the sci-fi series, Stargate, for which he has acted, written and directed. Another of my favorite ex-teen stars, Corin Nemec (aka Parker Lewis) used to be on that program as well. I just can't get into it. I've tried watching it, but they keep changing the cast and I can never
figure out what's going on. It's one of those shows that I'll start watching and then when a commercial comes on, I'll start flipping around the dial and forget that I was watching it and end up getting sucked in by something else. That's just the way it goes. Regardless, I'm glad to hear that Peter is doing well.

He's lost a little bit of hair (no longer sporting the kick-ass '80s mullet) but he's still a cutie-pie. And these days I would always go for the cute teddy-bear over the brooding hottie. Wow, I feel so grown up.


Brooks said...

Another good take on the "other guy". I always thought Peter DeLuise added much needed charm and personality to the show and was cute without being the untouchably cool hearthrob like Depp and Grieco were. Sometimes I think the famous parent is a curse and wonder if Hollywood just didn't want another #2 man named DeLuise.

Les Becker said...

Hasn't he done anything since then?

Writeprocrastinator said...

Hopefully Peter DeLuise will be able to get more work in the roles that they would've cast Chris Penn in. I think he has both similar range and body-type.

He did have impeccable comedy timing and it does make you wonder he never caught on when you see other actors whiffing a decent set-up.

Which DeLuise is the one that kinda looks like your Charlie Schlatter?

Lee Ann said...

Wow, in the first picture when he was younger, he resembles Dom in a major way.
Interesting, but good choice!

Bar Bar A said...

I WAS SO IN LOVE WITH PETER! My girlfriends could have Johnny Depp and Richard Greico, Peter was my man! Hmm is he married? I still think we'd make a cute couple. Johnny was, is and will always be unbelievably sexy and beautiful - but he's too skinny for me, I like something to hold on to.

Masha said...

since my parents don't have cable (i'm visiting them) this is my only outlet for humourous pop culture've saved me again!

Heather said...

I loved Penhall. (I'm a Johnny Depp girl all the way, but you've can't help but adore Peter DeLuise.)

Nice choice.

Teri said...

I LOVED 21 Jump Street.

mmmm, Johnny Depp!

Happy Villain said...

Yay, BeckEye! I just adored him on Jumpstreet and have always looked for a Doug Penhall-type guy for myself.

Sangroncito said...

A bit of trite of my very first boyfriends--an extremely cute boyfriend-- worked at a hotel in L.A. and he was offered money by Dom Deluise to go up to his room and have sex with him. This was many years ago, mind you.

Anonymous said...

i feel like peter deluise had so much going for him at the end of that show... but he seems to like directing and i'm glad that if he's not acting he atleast found something else he loves.

Doug Penhall will always be in my heart.


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