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Is 2015 the year of Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton?

For years, Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton have been doing consistently outstanding work—and almost no one has noticed. Yet with the duo taking their last stand as Sgts. Michael Stonebridge and Damien Scott in Cinemax’s Strike Back this summer, and then jumping to the already buzzed-about NBC pilots The Player and Blindspot this fall, can 2015 please be the year where the mainstream sits up and realizes just how good these guys are?

Strike Back doesn’t get enough credit anyway, being an action show on a network that’s overshadowed by big sibling HBO. But Winchester and Stapleton are the primary reasons why it’s also so much more than an action show. Following in the footsteps of original series leads Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln was no easy task, yet these two rose to it and then some. Stonebridge and Scott have proven that characters on a series of its type can have the same amount of development as those on a conventional drama. They have complex story arcs, witty comebacks and surprising moments like your Good Wife or Orange Is The New Black. They just happen to be being shot at a lot more often.

With its fifth and final season launching in July, Strike Back certainly isn’t going to leave anything on the table. Not on the show that opened its Cinemax run with a story that involved Stonebridge literally catching a bomb. Cinemax season four will kick off with Stonebridge, Scott and the rest of elite British military unit Section 20 tasked with investigating a mission persons case in Bangkok, then send them across Asia and back to Europe tangling with the likes of the Yakuza and the mafia to sort out one more massive terrorist plot. Just from the teaser released two weeks ago, we’re already biting our nails. Video:

This should be a huge and intense swan song for a series that never pulled any punches in the first place, so it will also provide one more opportunity for audiences to see everything that Winchester and Stapleton are made of. They’re veterans when it comes to the show’s action sequences, able to make running gun battles, thorough fistfights and driving through minefields look easy. Sometimes it takes a moment to remember that they don’t actually save the world for a living, especially if you’ve ever stood next to either one of them and realized that they really can kick your butt into next Tuesday. (She says, speaking from experience and still trying to get feeling back into one of her hands.)

But where these two are really brilliant is in being quality actors. They’ve handled just about everything a TV show could throw at their characters, from Stonebridge having a harrowing near-death experience to Scott carrying around the guilt of work he did for the CIA, and more people dying than on any other show not named Game of Thrones. Winchester and Stapleton don’t just have one or two big moments; they’re doing heavy lifting every week, and they don’t just pull it off—they reach inside, grab your heart and yank. This is a show where you scream at your TV, you throw things, and you cry more often than you’d think. It really doesn’t get more intense. Yet somehow, these guys keep flying under the radar.

This year, though, things could be different. Not only will we get the final season of Strike Back, but this fall Winchester and Stapleton will each be leading their own NBC series. Winchester stars in The Player while Stapleton has Blindspot, and the projects couldn’t be more right for them. The roles are right in their wheelhouse; Winchester’s character is a Las Vegas security expert pulled into a game where people bet on crime, while Stapleton’s is a New York FBI agent investigating a Jane Doe dumped in Times Square, neither of those things a reach when you’ve spent four seasons playing elite soldiers—and both ensuring they should be able to bring both their action and dramatic talents to bear.

They’ve also been surrounded by the right people for success. The Player comes from two executive producers of The Blacklist and Leverage co-creator John Rogers; Blindspot is executive produced by Arrow and The Flash guru Greg Berlanti, and has already snagged NBC’s coveted post-The Voice time slot. The Player will get promotional mileage out of being the first TV lead role for Wesley Snipes, and don’t sleep on former The Divide star Damon Gupton once he gets in scenes with Winchester; Blindspot landed Jaimie Alexander and Without A Trace veteran (and Academy Award nominee) Marianne Jean-Baptiste. These two shows look incredibly good.

What it all means is that Winchester and Stapleton are going to bring the house down in the conclusion to one great show, then probably before that even ends we’re going to see them in the leads of two other promising series, in front of a network television audience, already getting votes of confidence from the network. If everything pans out, it doesn’t seem like there could be a more ideal situation—and that’s wonderful, because I also can’t think of two actors who deserve it more than Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton.

Strike Back premieres July 31 on Cinemax; The Player and Blindspot will air Thursdays and Mondays this fall on NBC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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