Top 40 Most Valuable Actors Rankings [#20 to #11]

20 down, 20 to go. No fancy introduction needed this time around. You know what we’re here to do. Nonetheless, if you wish to refresh your mind on the process, you can go here. If you wish to see the previous twenty, try here and here.

(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))

20. Damian Lewis – Homeland (VORA Score: 10.02)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.48
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 1.5

The case for Damian Lewis’s value to Homeland is a strange one. Without a doubt, the performance of Lewis as Sergeant Nicholas Brody was one of the more dynamic and nuanced performances in television from 2011-2012. However, it’s pretty easy to argue (and I certainly have) that the continued presence of Brody is a detriment to the show. While narratively speaking that point is true, watching Lewis’s performance helps you understand why he’s still a part of the series. He’s a tremendous actor capable of creating some truly memorable moments. This season should be the last we see of Nicholas Brody in the Homeland universe. While it’s best for all parties involved, Lewis has cemented his status as one of the most valuable actors working today.

19.(tie) Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family (VORA Score: 10.11)
 

Modern Family Season 5 Episode 8 ClosetCon '13 (7)

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

Modern Family is a show that has undergone many changes to its characters while trying to maintain the levels of quality it they set in its television infancy. Some of the changes and course corrections have been successful (Claire is not as big of a harpy), but somehow Stonestreet’s character, Cam, has been irrevocably ruined. Cam has gone from an amusing character with actual depth and shading into a character whose traits come and go depending on what punchline is needed for the scene. It’s a real shame. Even the academies have noticed since Stonestreet failed to get nominated for an Emmy for the first time this past year. As such, he’ll probably continue to slide down this list when VORA 2.0 comes out in 2014. A true shame.

19.(tie) Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men (VORA Score: 10.11)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.39
Star Power: 2.5
Awards Points: 1

I think Elisabeth Moss is a really talented actress, but she’s too high on this list. Mad Men isn’t a one man show, but Jon Hamm is the clear standout. The rest of the ensemble is capable of carrying several scenes at a time, but Hamm is so good he diminishes the value of those around him. Still, Moss adds the strong female star power desperately needed in a show filled with overt sexism. Her exceptional performance and continued Emmy nominations further the prestige of the show. She’ll never eclipse Hamm (or come close), but very few people would.

17. Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory (VORA Score: 10.54)
 

Range: 1.5
Ratings Against Average: 3.29
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 1.83

See my comments in the Johnny Galecki section of the previous post in this series. Admittedly, Parsons work does go slightly beyond that of Galecki. The show absolutely doesn’t go without him. Parsons is excellent in his performance, but his limitations as an actor limit the amount of places the show can go. That being said, I’m sure the executives at CBS couldn’t give less of a crap about going anywhere else but to the bank. It should also be noted that Parsons has a mantle full of Emmys and a Brinks truck in his backyard, and I’m a jackwagon with some webspace. Parsons 1, Czar 0.

16. Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation (VORA Score: 11.30)
 

Parks and Recreation season 6 episode 8 & 9 Fluoride/The Cones of Dunshire (30)

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.7
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 1

Amy Poehler can do absolutely anything on a television screen. She doesn’t have a Range Rating of 4 because her greatest talents make her a comedic genius, but keep her from exploring other avenues. She’s chronically underappreciated by the Academy. Despite her slew of nominations, she has yet to take home the top prize. Given her amazing performances in season four, it seems like an egregious oversight she doesn’t have an Emmy award. She and the rest of her cohorts on Parks and Recreation continue to go unappreciated by NBC and the world at large. I’ll never fully understand why Parks isn’t a bigger hit. It’s consistent excellence is something television shows dream about. Still, it toils in obscurity on the dead zone that is NBC Thursdays. It will be sad when NBC finally gives up airing this gym of comedic television. Rest assured, Amy Poehler won’t be out of work long.

15. Lena Dunham – Girls (VORA Score: 11.55)
 

Range: 2.5
Ratings Against Average: -0.95
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 2

Though it seems like it’s been a minute since we’ve seen her, Lena Dunham remains one of the more polarizing talents in the medium. The main voice behind one of the more uncomfortable shows on television, Dunham draws rave reviews from her defenders and scathing attacks from her detractors. While I certainly have my opinions about Dunham, it doesn’t change her value. Girls doesn’t bring in a lot of viewers, but HBO couldn’t care less about viewers if a show brings the network a greater level of prestige and cultural awareness. Dunham does do that, but her skill as an actress can’t be undersold. Girls can be a difficult show to watch, but Dunham and her colleagues have such a clear artistic vision that it has to be respected. She’ll never have a 100% approval rating, but her value to her show is unquestioned.

14. Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie (VORA Score: 11.63)
 

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.97
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 1.2

As much as you may love Merrit Weaver, she’s not the reason Nurse Jackie is still on the air. The show has been a stalwart of quality for Showtime. People’s enjoyment of Carmela Soprano certainly varied, but on Nurse Jackie, Edie Falco has proven she’s capable of carrying her own show and doing it quite well. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a scene by the great James Gandolfini, but Nurse Jackie showcases Falco’s own capability for onscreen dominance. She roars through the screen in all her scenes, and the dry comedic moments showcase her versatility as an actress. It will be fascinating to see what Falco chooses to do next. She’s now fully established as a top shelf television star.

13. Kerry Washington – Scandal (VORA Score: 11.71)
 

Scandal Season 3 Episode 4 Say Hello to My Little Friend (12)

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: 1.21
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 0.5

Prior to two years ago, I never understood why Kerry Washington wasn’t a bigger star. She’s got everything you could ask for when people are searching for lead actresses. She’s got a great feel for the moment, an excellent dramatic voice, and she has the kind of smarts and timing that allow her to excel in the comedy realm as well. Oh yeah, and she’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. For the sake of society, I really hope it wasn’t her skin tone holding her back all these years (though some would suggest it was). That would be just plain sad. Talent is talent, and this woman has a lot of it.

That being said, she has finally gotten her big shot on Scandal, and is proving she has all of the superlatives listed in the previous paragraph. The show itself is entertaining nonsense, but Washington’s performance is able to elevate above the proceedings. In addition to the world at large paying attention, her performance also caught the eye of the Emmy voters who rewarded her with a nomination. If things continue as planned, expect many more.

12. Mrs. Coach Connie Britton – Nashville (VORA Score: 11.73)
 

Nashville Season 2 Episode 5 Don't Open That Door (5)

Range: 3
Ratings Against Average: -0.27
Star Power: 3
Awards Points: 1

At this point, it’s pretty simple: If you want someone to be the female anchor of your television program, you back up the Brinks truck (not Parsons’ personal one) to Connie Britton’s house. She’s probably the most consistently dependable female performer on television. She never misses a mark, a moment, or opportunity. She is absolute money in the bank. Cutting her teeth on Spin City with Michael J. Fox proved her comedic chops, but it’s her more recent work as the lead actress in Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story, and Nashville that have made her reputation. Though the ratings for Nashville aren’t through the roof, the show wouldn’t make it without Connie Britton. Claire Bowen and Hayden Panettierre should thank Connie Britton everyday they step on set.

11. Norman Reedus – The Walking Dead (VORA Score: 11.95)
 

Range: 2.5
Ratings Against Average: 6.95
Star Power: 2
Awards Points: 0

We mentioned in last week’s post that the stars of The Walking Dead are zombies and soul-crushing despair (in that order!). However, Norman Reedus’ Daryl is the one character that would make most fans of the show legitimately upset if he died. With a bunch of dour wet noodles surrounding him in the cast, Reedus’s likability makes him as close to indispensable as you can get on this series. He’ll never win an Emmy or even be nominated for one, but Daryl will remain a popular character on television for as long as the show airs. Reedus probably doesn’t deserve to be this high on the list, but he definitely deserves to be on the list.

The top ten is almost upon us. Who are you expecting to be named the most valuable actor in television? Let us know in the comments below.