In Hollywood, when you’re first starting out, you’ll take pretty much any role that’s offered to you. Everybody wants to make their way to the big leagues, but not everybody can get there. In this feature, we’ll share ten of the entertainment industry’s biggest names who started out on some very odd TV shows. Most of them were quickly cancelled, but these stars bounced back. Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of 10 actors who got their start on obscure TV shows.
Joel McHale – Almost Live!
Is there anything Joel McHale can’t do? The dude is not only the capable host of "The Soup," he also stars on "Community" and even appeared in a few episodes on "Sons of Anarchy" this year. But Seattleites will always know him as the skinny kid on "Almost Live!," the legendarily corny sketch comedy show that aired before "Saturday Night Live" from 1984 until 1999. McHale left the show in 1997 to move to California and find his current success. As a footnote, "Almost Live!" also launched the career of Bill Nye the Science Guy, then a Boeing engineer who was persuaded by friends to try TV.
Adam Sandler – Remote Control
Back when MTV still played music videos, the few actual shows they had were pretty cool. One well-remembered relic from that time is "Remote Control," an oddball game show hosted by Ken Ober set in his mother’s basement that quizzed contestants on pop culture detritus. Before he became one of the highest-paid comedians in the world, Adam Sandler had a regular role on the show as Stud Boy, a bizarre lothario who claimed to have had relations with famous women who the player would have to guess. Bonus fact: "Remote Control" also launched the TV career of Denis Leary, who was Ober’s sidekick.
Jessica Alba - The Secret World of Alex Mack
It’s kind of hilarious how the career of Jessica Alba has progressed, but let’s take a quick look back at the sultry actress’s first role, as a villainous teen on a Nickelodeon superhero show. "The Secret World of Alex Mack" was about an ordinary California girl who gets superhuman powers from a chemical spill, and Alba was cast in a recurring role as Alex’s first school rival. Needless to say, she soon went on to bigger and better things, but her next role wasn’t much better – playing second fiddle to a dolphin in the '90s remake of "Flipper."
Jim Carrey – The Duck Factory
As an aspiring performer, Jim Carrey had a difficult time. After working as a stand-up comedian, he bombed his "Saturday Night Live" audition, which seriously demoralized him. In 1984, he was given the lead in his own NBC sitcom, the truly bizarre "The Duck Factory." Carrey played Skip Tarkenton, a young artist who comes to Hollywood and gets a job working on the production of a talking duck cartoon. It only lasted one season, but Carrey would bounce back six years later when he was hired for "In Living Color," which would make him one of the hottest comedians of the '90s.
Alanis Morissette – You Can’t Do That On Television
The life of a child actor can be a very strange one. For each one that goes on to adult stardom, many just burn out and fade into the real world. Canadian alt-rock singer and actress Alanis Morissette took a very unusual path to her current position, though. As a kid, she was on "You Can’t Do That On Television," a Canadian variety show that wrung endless laughs out of green slime falling from the ceiling. Alanis was only on the series for a scant five episodes before quitting to pursue her musical career, which was probably a smart choice. Slime isn’t too good for the skin.
Jeffrey Tambor – The Ropers
Spin-offs aren’t nearly as big a deal in the sitcom world now as they were in the '80s. It seems like back in the day, every popular show would spawn two or three more. Case in point: "The Ropers," a short-lived series that took the landlords from "Three’s Company" and assumed they could carry their own show. The series, which lasted just one season, is notable for one reason — it introduced the world to Jeffrey Tambor, one of the best comedic actors out there. You probably know him best as George Bluth, Sr., from "Arrested Development," but he has dozens of other TV and film roles. He doesn’t even need the money in the frozen banana stand.
Terry Crews – Battle Dome
Before Terry Crews was the Old Spice pitchman we know and love, he was a star NFL defensive end. But the transition from professional athlete to professional actor can be a tough one. After retiring from the game, Crews took his first gig as T-Money, one of the warriors on syndicated game show "Battle Dome." The show, a cheap "American Gladiators" knock-off, pit ordinary fellas against each other and the warriors in a number of physical challenges. T-Money’s signature event was the Rollercage of Fire, where contestants needed to wrestle him out of a revolving cage surrounded by flames before time ran out.
Angie Harmon – Baywatch Nights
Texas-born Angie Harmon was a child model and became well-known in the early '90s for her good looks, but a chance meeting with David Hasselhoff on a plane would change her life forever. The Hoff was busy putting together "Baywatch Nights," a bizarre spin-off of the popular beach show that put Mitch Buchannon in a new role as a private detective solving "X-Files"-like mysteries. Harmon played fellow detective Ryan McBride for the show’s two seasons, but went on to much more fame with long stints on two "Law & Order" shows as well as the current hit "Rizzoli & Isles."
Jennifer Aniston – Molloy
Before she became one of the highest paid sitcom actresses of her time on "Friends," Jennifer Aniston was cast as a snobby teenager on "Molloy," a short-lived Fox sitcom starring Mayim Bialik. Bialik was a hot property after her turn in "Beaches," so several networks competed to sign her to a deal. Fox won, putting together a show about a young girl who had to move to Los Angeles to live with her estranged father and his new family after her mother died. Aniston played Courtney, the valley girl older sibling who made her miserable. Unfortunately, "Molloy" was a huge stinker and got cancelled after six episodes, leaving Aniston to languish until "Leprechaun" came around.
Next: 12 Actors in Unrecognizable Movie Roles
George Clooney - E/R
No, not "ER." "E/R" with a slash mark through it. We all know that George Clooney became America’s heartthrob with his role as Dr. Doug Ross on long-running NBC drama "ER," but his first major TV role was actually ten years before that, on a short-lived CBS sitcom called "E/R." The show took place in a fictional Chicago hospital with a cast led by Elliot Gould and Conchata Ferrell. Clooney played Ferrell’s nephew, Mark “Ace” Kolmar, who worked with the hospital’s paramedics. The show only lasted 22 episodes, partially due to stiff competition from "The A-Team." Clooney would then go on to land recurring roles on "The Facts of Life" and "Roseanne."