Tom Wopat in: Flight of the Conchords

as: World Music Jam MC

Flight of the Conchords was one of HBO’s funniest shows, and though it lasted just two seasons (at the insistence of its stars/creators, not due to poor ratings), it left a lasting impression on many viewers thanks to its brilliantly funny songs and dry yet surreal sense of humor. And, it paved way for Bret McKenzie, one half of the titular duo, to win an Academy Award for his songwriting in The Muppets.

The Conchords in flight.

The Conchords in flight.

In the tenth episode of the show’s first season, “New Fans,” the Conchords perform at a “World Music Jam.” The host and MC of said jam is Daryl Hall of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Hall & Oates. It’s a small and fairly insignificant role, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from Wopatization.

Key Changes

It’s never pointed out in “New Fans” that it is, in fact, Hall as the MC. He’s essentially playing himself, but no one ever says, “Hey, it’s Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates,” and, in fact, this viewer had to check the end credits to be sure it was him. Part of the brilliance of the cameo is that it’s just so random.

Having Tom Wopat in the role would arguably be even more random, and therefore funnier. After all, Daryl Hall is primarily known for his musical career, so it makes some sense that he’d be hosting a mini-music festival, low-rent though it may be. Wopat is known mostly as an actor, of course, so his appearance would seem totally out of left field. “Wait, why is Luke Duke there?”

After his brief appearance at the World Music Jam, in which he quickly ushers Flight of the Conchords offstage after just a few notes of their first song, Hall’s MC is never seen again. However, with Wopat’s far more considerable acting chops, we think that the role could’ve expanded. Later in the episode, the band’s new fans (hence the episode title) try to convince Bret and Jermaine to partake in some typically rock and roll bedroom shenanigans, which the guys refuse. In our Wopatized version of the ‘sode, the Conchords would find out that Tom Wopat took the ladies up on the offer their stead. Some sort of humorous cutaway gag would be involved there, but we’re not comedy writers, so you’ll have to use your imagination on that one.

Photo credit: shelmac / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Tom Wopat in: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

as: Champ Kind

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one of the funniest films ever made by man or ape. We’ve seen it probably a hundred times, and we laugh our tuckuses off every. Single. Time. Great though it is, however, that’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. And we have one change in mind that just might’ve put Anchorman over the top from “one of the funniest” to “the funniest movie ever made.”

Don’t get us wrong: David Koechner is great. We like the way he’s put together. But Koechner wasn’t the filmmakers first choice for the role of Champ. John C. Reilly was originally cast, but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts (the other project Reilly wound up working on was The Aviator, and it’s hard to blame the guy for jumping at the chance to work with Scorsese [again]).

We’re convinced that putting Tom Wopat in Koechner’s place as Channel 4 Action News’ mildly deranged sportscaster Champ Kind would’ve been a home run. Whammy!

It always goes down smooth.

It always goes down smooth.

Key Changes

One of the most obvious differences between David Koechner and Tom Wopat are their looks. We’re not saying Koechner is a hideous CHUD or anything, but we’ve never seen him gracing the cover of any magazines, either. Tom Wopat, on the other hand, was and still is one of the handsomest dudes working in Hollywood. With the dashing Wopat in the role, the Champ character could’ve been written as more of a womanizer and a co-lothario with Paul Rudd’s character, “man on the street” reporter Brian Fantana. This would’ve opened up a lot of comedic opportunities for the two to play off each other, alternately wingmanning for each other and trying to sabotage each other’s chances with the ladies.

A second improvement would be the scene in which the news team break in to an impromptu, a capella rendition of the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight.” While it’s hilarious, and the four singers (Will Ferrell, Rudd, Koechner, and Steve Carrell) do manage to create some serviceable harmonies, adding an accomplished musician and singer like Tom Wopat to the mix would’ve made it sound much, much better. For my money, one of the best movie jokes ever is when a character (or characters) are unexpectedly and for no discernable reason really, really good at something random, like singing in four-part vocal harmony.

Photo credit: LauraGilchrist4 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Tom Wopat in: Major League

as: Jake Taylor

Major League is probably the best baseball movie ever. Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and the rest of the ragtag Cleveland Indians of the film are probably the most beloved baseball team in movie history. One player, however, should’ve been subbed out for a free agent signing.

Take a seat on the bench, Tom Berenger. We’re sending in Tom Wopat as veteran catcher and team leader Jake Taylor.

Why Wopat?

Truthfully, there wouldn’t be many changes needed to the script or any other aspects of the film with Wopat in the Jake Taylor role. Wopat is two years younger than Berenger, but at 38 (at the time Major League was filmed) he still would’ve been old for a professional athlete. At 6’1”, Wopat is two inches taller than Berenger, and slightly taller than the average catcher (they tend to be shorter because all the squatting they do game in and game out can take a toll on the legs and knees), but that’s not of much significance in a movie version of baseball.

Of the two Toms, Berenger was arguably the bigger star in 1989, having won a Golden Globe and been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Platoon just three years prior. However, Wopat was just four years removed from massive television success in The Dukes of Hazzard, which ended its run in 1985.

"Major League"-era Cleveland Indians mascot Chief Wahoo in all his cartoonishly racist "glory."

“Major League”-era Cleveland Indians mascot Chief Wahoo in all his cartoonishly racist “glory.”

As the film’s premise was based on the Cleveland Indians team being made up of unknown players and former stars, casting Wopat would’ve actually made more sense. There were multiple actors in the cast who went on to greater success shortly thereafter, just as their characters did (Snipes being the most notable example). Ergo, casting an actor who may have been seen as a few years past his prime* to play a ballplayer in the same situation would’ve been quite fitting.

Ultimately, we just want to watch Tom Wopat run around in a baseball uniform. To answer our question in the header above: Why the heck not Wopat?

* IRL, Tom Wopat is, and never will be, past his prime. “In his prime” is the only level he has or ever will operate on.

Photo credit: BGSU86 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Tom Wopat in: Galaxy Quest

as: Jason Nesmith

Galaxy Quest is a hugely underappreciated film, a pitch perfect parody of the original Star Trek series, its devoted fans, and the show’s stars (or at least the public perception of them). In Galaxy Quest’s show-within-a-movie, also called “Galaxy Quest,” Jason Nesmith was the William Shatner analog—a brash, bold actor of limited range whose ego was stoked by his role as Captain and whose career never escaped the shadow of his signature role.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith is portrayed by Tim Allen, who delivered a splendid, and splendidly Shatner-esque performance. However, we feel that a certain other actor, who himself has been pigeonholed by his most famous work, would have done an even better job. We are, of course, referring to Thomas Steven Wopat.

Why Wopat?

We previously speculated that Wopat would’ve been an ideal choice to play Captain Kirk on Star Trek, so why not cast him in a role that spoofs that character and show?

As mentioned, Tom Wopat will likely never be remembered for anything as much as his role as Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. This gives him the perfect amount of real-life insight to portray a character like Jason Nesmith, who is in essentially the same situation, career-wise. While Tim Allen is also very well known for one particular role (Tim Taylor on Home Improvement), he has also had a fairly successful movie career, starring in both the Santa Clause and Toy Story series, among other films.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith removes his shirt multiple times and with little to no provocation or actual need to do so, mirroring Shatner’s frequent shirtlessness. Though these scenes are played for laughs, it wouldn’t have hurt if the guy removing his shirt was a bit more fit and trim. Though he’s a few years older than Allen, Wopat is still in far better shape. A shirtless Wopat probably have been far better received by the film’s female viewers.

I would not have guessed that this film generated any "official merchandise."

I wouldn’t have guessed that this film generated any “official merchandise,” but there it is.

Nesmith is involved in a few fight scenes in the film, the choreography of which is intentionally clumsy and unimpressive, mirroring Kirk’s fight scenes on Star Trek. However, we feel it would’ve been even funnier to have the character be revealed to be an excellent fighter, kicking alien butt much to the surprise of his former co-stars. He would go on to explain that his fight scenes in the “Galaxy Quest” meta-show were crappy and poorly done only because of the limitations of the show’s director and budget. Someone like Wopat, who had a good deal of stage combat experience as a rough and tumble Duke boy, would’ve been perfect in such scenes.

Parenthetically

Wopat guest starred in a Season 7 episode of Home Improvement.

Photo credit: Jimmy Tyler / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Tom Wopat in: Fight Club

as: “Jack” (the Narrator)

Fight Club is one of those brilliant, truly unique movies that you cannot adequately describe to those who haven’t seen it. Despite the first two rules, you ultimately end up telling the person, “You just have to see it, man!”

In the film, the everyman main character is never actually given a name—in the script he was listed as “Jack,” so we’ll use that moniker for our purposes here. Jack was portrayed by Edward Norton, and, opposite Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden, was one of the founders of a fight club that gave similarly disillusioned men the chance to connect and experience something “real” in their lives by beating the tar out of each other.

While Norton’s performance is predictably excellent, I think that maybe, just maybe, Tom Wopat could’ve done it better.

Key Changes

JSYK: This section will include spoilers. But the movie’s 15 years old, so it’s not like you haven’t had the chance to see it. In fact, if you’ve never seen Fight Club, go watch it right now, then come back. Seriously. We’ll wait.

fight clubThe first key change is one of age. Norton was roughly 30 when Fight Club was filmed, which is right in line with the character as depicted in the Chuck Palahniuk novel on which the film is based. He’s a young, uninspired office drone doing thankless work for a company so big that the higher ups don’t know he exists. Tom Wopat was 48 at the time, so the character could’ve been changed to one that is higher up the ladder in the company, but who still feels that his life is going nowhere.

This would actually have made the character’s decision to leave his old life behind even more powerful. As is, Jack ditches a crappy apartment, crappy job, and crappy life to become someone new; as a higher-ranking, better paid member of the company’s management team, he would be walking away from a big house, fancy car, and comfortable lifestyle.

The age difference between Wopat and Norton would also affect Jack’s relationship with Tyler Durden. Pitt was about 35 when the film came out, so while the dynamic between the two characters could’ve remained largely the same, Wopat would still have been significantly older than his counterpart. When it is ultimately revealed that Jack and Tyler are two disassociated personalities inside the same guy’s head, I think that this would actually have a solid logic to it. Tyler is essentially the better looking, smarter, more adventurous person Jack wishes he were, so it would make sense that he would want to be younger, as well.

Photo credit: Shht! / Foter / CC BY