Top 40 Most Valuable Actors Rankings [#40 to #31]

Before we dive into the first set of the VORA top 40, a few clarifications need to be issued regarding the process.[What is VORA]

1. Only actors with shows still on the air were included. Sadly, I had to exclude Breaking Bad. (Don’t worry, Cranston will get plenty of his due in my year-end awards.)

2. That being said, if your show was on the air, you were considered for a spot in the VORA top 40. At the end of the proceedings, I’ll post a spreadsheet listing the top 100 for people who are interested in such things.

3. Though the Range Rating is purely subjective on my part, the rest of the information used was culled from ratings information provided by my friend Matt, the show’s actor submission categories for this year’s Emmys (lead or supporting), and award nomination and wins according to the actor’s IMDb page and emmys.com. In a few instances, I used a well-informed committee of one (my Dad) to assist me with an actor’s Range Rating. Basically, it was a team effort and I wanted to thank everyone who contributed.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the top 40. Our first group in the top 40 featured several people who made their bones doing other things before they got their current gigs. It’s a group of very competent actors with a diverse array of skill sets. Some of them are being wholly underutilized in their new roles, while others are flourishing and doing some of the best work of their careers. Many actors just outside of this group are doing the better quality of work, but there is no doubting the value these actors bring to their respective programs.

(Note: In case you want to work it out for yourself, the formula for an actor’s VORA score is Range(Star Power + Awards Points) + Ratings Against Average (RAA))

40. Ted Danson – CSI (VORA Score: 7.52)
 

Range: 1.5
Ratings Against Average: 0.02
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 0

Ted Danson is one of the more disappointing actors on this list. He’s a man with a ton of talent and range (Sam Malone, anyone?), yet CSI just uses him as the token bureaucrat who dispenses information to the particulars. There’s a definite argument to be made that the true star of CSI is the process, but Danson’s presence on the series would allow them to do some different things if they ever felt inclined to do so. Still, his Range Rating suffers because CSI doesn’t ask him to do very much. He may still have great chops, but we don’t get to see it much anymore.

39. Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory (VORA Score: 7.95)
 

Range: 2
Ratings Against Average: 3.29
Star Power: 2
Awards Points: 0.33

Though I am not a regular viewer of The Big Bang Theory, I can appreciate the talent of Mayim Bialik when I do catch the occasional glance. She obviously benefits from a massive RAA score (the second highest on the board), but she gets nominated for awards and has provided a boost for a show that needed more talented people to ease the burden on Jim Parsons.

38. Demian Bichir – The Bridge (VORA Score: 8.13)
 

Range: 3.5
Ratings Against Average: -0.62
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 0

You’re damn right I gave Demian Bechir a 3.5 (out of 4) for his Range Rating. For those that regularly read my reviews of The Bridge, it comes as no surprise I think very highly of the man’s acting ability. He’s the lynchpin of that show. I liked Diane Kruger’s performance more than most, but the show comes apart at the seams without Bichir. I’m not sure if he’ll do enough to get nominated for awards in a loaded category, and The Bridge certainly wasn’t a smash hit for FX, but I’m certainly pleased that he made his way on to this list.

37. Zooey Deschanel – New Girl (VORA Score: 8.15)
 

Range: 2
Ratings Against Average: 0.15
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 1.5

There was a lot of debate in the TV Czar’s offices about Ms. Deschanel’s range. Many thought a 2 was too generous, while a few others thought a 2 was too low. The argument for a lower range ratings is pretty simple: As the Siri iPhone commercials would attest, Zooey is just playing a slightly tweaked version of herself on New Girl. In the first season, I probably would have agreed with that assertion. However, anyone who watched the second season and her budding romance with Nick could tell you Deschanel is a little more gifted than we give her credit for. We’re not talking about Meryl Streep here, but Deschanel has some legit chops that should be recognized.

36. Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope (VORA Score: 8.16)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.33
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 0.33

Martha Plimpton is the top 40’s first case of appearances across different television shows clearly affecting an actor’s Range Rating. With just her Raising Hope performance to go on, Plimpton’s range doesn’t seem quite as impressive. However, when you splash in appearances on The Good Wife, How to Make it in America (RIP), and a few other places, you start to see what all the hype is about. She’s not just average in these various roles either. She’s usually quite excellent.

35. Kevin Bacon – The Following (VORA Score: 8.18)
 

Range: 2.5
Ratings Against Average: 0.68
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 0

Mr. Bacon is another guy who is lucky I remember him killing it in various roles over the years. He’s definitely the best aspect of The Following, but the show is complete and utter hot garbage. I was professionally responsible for chronicling the 15 episode death march last year. It’s as close as I’ve ever come to outright quitting on reviewing a show.

However, when it comes to VORA, none of that matters. The fact is Kevin Bacon has some chops, and the show did well for Fox in the 18-49 demo. You hate it, I hate it, but Mr. Bacon has earned his spot in the top 40.

34. Tom Selleck – Blue Bloods (VORA Score 8.50)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.5
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 0

Between Tom Selleck and Demian Bichir, the first part of the top 40 features some quality mustaches. If Selleck didn’t make it, I was probably going to include is mustache just because. In any event, Mr. Selleck is not only the star of a decently performing CBS drama, but he has a long list of very interesting work. He’s done comedy, action, and romance, and done most of it quite well. I’m worried his Range Rating will continue to suffer if he doesn’t get more opportunities to flash the skills that made him a household name, but I still haven’t forgotten the things Tom Selleck is capable of in front of a camera.

33. Mandy Patinkin – Homeland (VORA Score: 8.52)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.48
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 0.5

Long the emotional (and mental!) stabilizer of Homeland, Mandy Patinkin has suddenly elevated himself to being MANDY PATINKIN. People can complain about the wondering mess that is Homeland, but any complaints about Saul could result in a vicious bottle attack. While Claire Danes lights the screen on fire, Patinkin is charged with making sure the whole house doesn’t burn down. Saul has been less effective this season since everything is turned up to 12, but Patinkin has been involved in the majority of the best moments of the season. It will be interesting to see what happens as his role within the show grows, but the problematic writing and subsequent plotting shouldn’t diminish the usually solid work of Patinkin.

32. Katey Sagal – Sons of Anarchy (VORA Score: 8.53)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: 1.33
Star Power: 2
Awards Points: 0.4

Seriously, this woman used to be Peg Bundy. The transformation has been nothing short of amazing. First introduced to the world-at-large on Married with Children, we’ve watched Katey Sagal progress through roles that required more dynamic range and ability. She’s definitely found a home on Sons of Anarchy, and the show always feels confident going to her in a big scene. How much she’s given to do is flexible based on the episode, or even the season, but she’s always a strong performer when called upon. That being said, she has the amazing ratings of Sons to thank for her spot on this list. It’s a cable juggernaut, and it managed to vault her into the top 40. She’s not undeserving, but it’s tough to know just how much of the Sons contingent watches the show because of her performance.

31. Ty Burrell – Modern Family (VORA Score: 8.61)
 

Modern Family Season 4 Episode 24 Goodnight, Gracie (9)

Range: 2
Ratings Against Average: 2.11
Star Power: 2
Awards Points: 1.25

As lovable goof Phil Dunphy, Ty Burrell has made himself quite a living on being an actor game for any bit of comedy the show needs. Modern Family is very uneven with his character (He’s smart and introspective one scene, a complete dolt the next), but Burrell keeps the pace of the show moving while drawing some of the biggest laughs. By their very nature, comedies rarely show off all the tools in an actor’s arsenal, but a show like Modern Family does give Burrell opportunities to stretch out a bit. When given serious emotional moments, Burrell can deliver. The show too often boils him down to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but Burrell is a guy with some ability that can elevate the show when needed. Thanks to a strong performance both in the ratings and on awards nights, Burrell has cemented his status as one of the most valuable comedic actors.

That’s it for our first installment of the VORA top 40. Keep coming back to see our countdown of the most valuable actors on television.