Each year since 1998, I’ve compiled a “10 to Watch” list of actors on TV. These are actors on new network shows who have the potential to go on to bigger careers even if their new series fails.
Past years have been easy. The first “10 to Watch” included Keri Russell, Kevin James and Sean Hayes. Even the cast of “That ’70s Show” was singled out and almost all of them have continued to work.
This year was a nightmare. The lower number of new shows, 19, would have made the task difficult enough. But the networks, particularly the CW Network, have not been real helpful in getting to see the new shows in advance.
So instead of trying to boil down dozens of potential actors with the skill to find real stardom, this year’s list is just the best of what is a very weak 2008-2009 television season field.
1. Kyle Bornheimer, “Worst Week,” CBS: Since he moved to Los Angeles from his hometown of South Bend, Ind., the actor has appeared in a host of shows from “The Office” to “Jericho.”
This comedy puts him in the spotlight. Because he is playing a guy who has nothing but bad luck, this is a chance to build some real empathy from the audience.
2. Justin Bruening, “Knight Rider,” NBC: Daytime drama fans know Bruening from his work on “All My Children.” But the former model is now getting the chance to build a larger fan base though this updated action series. The original “Knight Rider” made David Hasselhoff a star. And Bruening has far more talent than Hasselhoff.
3. Lucy Kate Hale, “Privileged,” CW Network: The actress began to get some attention last year playing Jamie Sommers’ little sister on the failed NBC show “The Bionic Woman.” She back playing another little sister but the role will give her a lot more to do.
She had a small role in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.” It was memorable enough to show she could star in “Traveling Pants 3” if such a film gets made.
4. AnnaLynne McCord, “90210,” The CW: The Atlanta native wants to become the new Angelina Jolie. She’s got a great start on fulfilling that dream. Fans of the FX Network series “Nip/Tuck” have already seen how McCord can heat up a scene. This series should establish McCord as one of television’s best bad girls.
5. Niecy Nash, “Do Not Disturb,” Fox: The firecracker comedian has built a small following through her work on “Reno 911.” Her sharp wit and comic timing is deserving of network exposure. She even manages to be funny when the comedy isn’t. (And this one wasn’t — Fox canceled it after three episodes.)
6. Jason O’Mara, “Life on Mars,” ABC: If the network does not mess up this American version of the British miniseries, the Irish actor should be able to write his own ticket for future roles.
He had a story arc in “Grey’s Anatomy” and was a recurring character on ‘Men In Trees.” Those were lightweight compared to this role as a police detective who finds himself in the wrong decade.
7. Anne Slowey, “Stylista,” CW Network: Everyone loves a villain.
The Fashion News Director of Elle magazine will fill that role in the new reality series. She’s going to be tough and demanding. Imagine a female Simon Cowell.
8. Anna Torv, “Fringe,” Fox: Female stars in J.J. Abrams series have gone on to fame and fortune: Keri Russell, Jennifer Garner, Evangeline Lilly. And this Australian actress has just as much talent.
Look for her to use the role as an FBI agent, assigned to a special detail that looks into the odd and creepy, as the start of much bigger things.
9. Tristan Wilds, “90210,” The CW: The New York native has already shown his acting abilities on the HBO series “The Wire.” But that series had a limited audience because it was on pay cable. His role on this high-profile show should launch Wilds into stardom.
10. Philip Winchester, “Crusoe,” NBC: This is the shakiest pick of them all. NBC has not let critics see the show. And there are no guarantees it will launch in October. But starring in a series where you are at times the only actor on screen will get anyone’s attention.