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Dear Oscar: You're Welcome

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 31, 2006

Once again, the Academy Award nominations are out, and once again we should expect a big thank-you from the Oscar folks to those of us who watch television.


After all, we're supporting a medium where Oscar nominees get their start, hone their skills or amuse themselves while waiting for another movie to come along.


This year, television even gave the movies a subject, with ''Good Night, And Good Luck,'' about the great Edward R. Murrow.


George Clooney is also nominated for directing ''Good Night.'' No recitation of his long TV credits is necessary here. All right, maybe it is. As an actor: ''ER,'' which made him a star, ''Roseanne,'' the live version of ''Fail-Safe'' and other shows. As a producer: ''K Street,'' ''Unscripted,'' ''Fail-Safe.'' As director: ''Unscripted.'' Note that some of those TV credits came after Clooney entered the top ranks of movie stars; he obviously still likes many aspects of TV.


Speaking of actors, here are some best-actor nominees and their TV credits: Philip Seymour Hoffman (''Empire Falls''), Terrence Howard (''Lackawanna Blues,'' ''Their Eyes Were Watching God''), Heath Ledger (''Roar''), Joaquin Phoenix (''Morningstar/Eveningstar,'' when he was still Leaf Phoenix), David Strathairn (''Big Apple,'' ''Master Spy,'' ''The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.'')


Best actress: Judi Dench will always have a following for the British series ''As Time Goes By,'' Felicity Huffman has ''Desperate Housewives'' right now, Keira Knightley did ''Doctor Zhivago'' for TV Charlize Theron played a recurring role on ''Arrested Development,'' Reese Witherspoon was in ''Return to Lonesome Dove'' and had a recurring role on ''Friends.''


Supporting actor: There's Clooney again. William Hurt was also in ''Master Spy.''


Supporting actress: Amy Adams was in ''Dr. Vegas'' and has a recurring role in ''The Office.'' Michelle Williams spent far too many years on ''Dawson's Creek.'' Frances McDormand was the narrator of the sweet, overlooked ''State of Grace.''


So, as I said, television plays a major role in sustaining the movie business. And it's not just a place where actors start their careers, then abandon once the movies beckon. As the notes above show, many of the most highly regarded actors come back to TV, sometimes in roles and productions that are as interesting as the ones they do for the big screen.


So don't buy it if you hear some movie-centric character praise his pet medium by knocking the small screen. Instead, let's hope that Oscar is big enough to give thanks to TV. Maybe even send it one of those gift bags.

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