Classics, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: The Back to the Future Trilogy

as: Biff Tannen

Wopat as the villain? Back to the Future’s Biff Tannen is one of the all-time great movie bad guys—you couldn’t say he’s a villain, exactly, just a massive jerk who has a way with the word “butthead.” And great though Thomas F. Wilson was in the role, we think Tom Wopat would’ve given it a little something extra by not only making Biff a jerk, but a good-looking jerk. (Which is the very worst kind.)

back to the future

Wopat would, of course, portray the young, middle-aged, and elderly versions of Biff through the magic of movie makeup. He would also play Griff Tannen in Back to the Future Part II and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen in Back to the Future Part III.

Representative Scene: Café Kerfuffle & Skateboard Chase

Time-traveler Marty (Michael J. Fox) and George McFly (Crispin Glover) are at the counter at Lou’s Café, going over a plan for George to win the heart of Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson). In walks Biff (Tom Wopat) and his gang of teenage ne’er-do-wells.

“Hey McFly,” Biff Wopat yells to George, “I thought I told you never to come in here. Well, it’s gonna cost you. How much money you got on you?”

Biff advances menacingly toward George, but Marty sticks his leg out and trips him. Biff is quickly back on his feet and now stands towering over the much, much shorter Marty.

“All right, punk,” says Tom Wopat as Biff, “now I’m gonna—”

“Whoa, Biff,” Marty says, pointing out the window over Biff’s shoulder. “What’s that?”

Biff is momentarily distracted, and Marty suckerpunches him in the face. Using the catlike reflexes he displayed in his action scenes in The Dukes of Hazzard, Wopat counters with a jab of his own, then sends Marty flying through the window with a spinning karate kick.

Marty quickly gets back to his feet, shaking shards of broken glass off his jacket. He spots a kid riding a homemade scooter down the street. Marty stops the kid, commandeers the scooter, and breaks it apart, creating a rudimentary skateboard. “I’ll get it back to you, all right?” he says as he skates out of frame.

Biff Wopat and crew emerge from the diner to chase Marty down on foot. With the help of his skateboard and a passing truck, Marty quickly outdistances them. Biff et al get in Biff’s car, a 1940s Ford convertible, inexplicably painted bright orange and with “01” stenciled on the side. (No Confederate flag on the convertible top, though—Biff may be a jerk, but he’s no bigot.)

Biff and company now give chase through the streets of Hill Valley, though Marty continues to elude them. When it appears the bad guys finally have Marty dead to rights, he escapes and sends the Ford barreling into a parked manure truck.

Instead of swerving and crashing broadside into the truck (as in the original film), Biff Wopat guns the engine. The truck’s bed is tilted upward to facilitate the unloading of manure (used as fertilizer), and Wopat uses it to ramp off of, sending his car flying through the air where it lands safely on the other side. He and his goons survive to torment Marty and George another day (of course).

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

 

Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent

Tom Wopat in: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

as: Cousin Eddie

Yeah, we know that Christmas was a while ago. But actually, now that the 2015 holiday season is well behind us (that $#!t seems to drag on forever), we thought now would be a prime time to revisit what is arguably the best installment in the Vacation series.

With this flick, it was a no-brainer as to whom we’d be replacing with Tom Wopat, and thereby vastly improving the movie in the process. Randy Quaid is great as Cousin Eddie, but given the actor’s recent real-life woes, it might be best to retroactively remove him from the Vacation universe. Besides, good as Quaid was, he’s no match for Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

In the original version of Christmas Vacation, Cousin Eddie is a prototypical white trash bumpkin, thoroughly lacking in self-awareness and, from the look of it, personal hygiene. That works perfectly fine with Quaid in the role, as it fits fairly well into his acting oeuvre. However, the Wopatized version of Cousin Eddie would have to be more charming and less rough around the edges; no one would buy the dashing Tom Wopat as a slovenly hillbilly.

With that in mind, Cousin Eddie Wopat would be more of the free-spirit, hippie type. He still drives an RV, still dresses strangely, and still lives by his own weird rules, but because he wants to, man, not because he’s a bumbling dipstick who doesn’t know any better. We’d add a brief backstory explaining that Cousin Eddie is independently wealthy—almost ridiculously so—thanks to some random, convoluted invention that was popular just long enough for him to make his fortune.

We’d take his family out of the equation, and have him be a roaming, roving ladies’ man. This would set up ample comedic opportunities for him to harmlessly flirt with Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo), his cousin Clark (Chevy Chase)’s wife. Eddie Wopat would do this will no ill intent, just to get his cousin’s goat, which it would never fail to do.

Additionally, we’d add another bit of backstory establishing that Eddie and Clark have a cordial but contentious history of competition. This would make the above land that much harder (and funnier), and set up additional gags where the cousins try to one up each other in holiday festiveness.

"Ha! Amateurs." - Clark Griswold

“Ha! Amateurs.” – Clark Griswold

Representative Scene

If you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, you undoubtedly remember the sledding scene, in which Clark, Rusty, Cousin Eddie, et al adjourn to the local sledding hill for a bit of outdoor hijinks. Our version would play out much the same, with one key element added.

From the outset, Cousin Eddie Wopat would challenge Clark to a downhill race. Clark would politely decline, but each time he set off on a run, Cousin Eddie would jump on his own sled and overtake Clark on the way down. At the bottom, he’d chalk up a point for himself and challenge Clark to a rematch. Clark would again decline and climb back up the hill, only to have the process repeat itself over and again.

Finally, Clark, having lost every “race”, would’ve had enough. That’s when he’d break out the aerosol can containing one of the experimental non stick coatings his company has been working on, spray the bottom of his saucer sled, and zip off down the hill at an insane speed.

After Clark had skidded the highway and crashed to a stop, Cousin Eddie Wopat, still standing at the top of the hill with Rusty, would remark, “Okay, that’s one point for your dad, I guess.”

Photo credit: Srini Sundarrajan via Foter.com / CC BY

Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: The Office

as: Outside Sales Rep Gerhardt Brown

Though its later seasons saw a noticeable decline in quality, at its peak, The Office was among the best shows on television. (And could everyone stop with the “British version was better” BS-crap already?) The stellar core cast was the key to the show’s success, but some of the smaller, only-periodically-recurring characters did a lot for the show, as well. David Koechner’s boorish Todd Packer and Michael Schur’s Mose Schrute were among the most memorable of these minor characters, delivering memorable performances in the space of just a handful of appearances spread out over The Office’s nine seasons.

The show also hand a propensity for putting big guest stars in small, one-off parts. Will Ferrell, Idris Elba, Jim Carrey, and Warren Buffet all made cameo appearances on The Office. Who better to play a memorable minor character in three to seven episodes than the one and only Tom Wopat?

Plot Outline: Gary’s 3rd Appearance on the Show

Like Todd Packer, Wopat’s Gerhardt “Gary” Brown would be an outside sales rep with Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Unlike Packer, he wouldn’t be a sexist, racist, alcoholic a-hole. Instead, he’d be a total charmer, with good looks and a winning smile that makes him extremely successful in his career. Men, women, children, animals, the elderly—everyone loves Gary Brown! He’s one of those guys that could, as they say, sell ice to a polar bear.

In his previous appearances, Gary has proven to be much “cooler” than branch manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), as well as much more popular with Michael’s coworkers. Unsurprisingly, Michael is not a big fan of Gary. He even attempts to discredit his excellent salesmanship skills, saying that it’s easy to sell paper because everyone needs paper.

the office

Sensing an opportunity for a never-before-attempted office prank, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) good-naturedly challenges Gary to try to sell Michael something he doesn’t need. Gary ups the stakes by suggesting it also be something completely impractical, something that Michael could never possibly use in normal circumstances.

It doesn’t take long before Gary has convinced Michael to purchase a modular office, despite the fact that the show is called The Office and the Dunder Mifflin crew works in a perfectly good office building, in which Michael has his own office. Determined to not look a fool, and to show that’s he’s in on the joke—which he 100 percent is not—Michael plants the modular office in the building’s parking lot and sets up shop there for a week.

At the end of the episode, after Michael’s week of self-imposed exile, Jim notes that it’s the most productive week the Scranton branch has ever had.

Photo credit: Kumar Appaiah via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: That ‘70s Show

as: Red Forman

Make no mistake, Kurtwood Smith could do more with the word “dumbass” than most actors could do with an entire page of dialogue and a samurai sword. As Red Forman in That ‘70s Show, he was nigh perfect as the old school, tough love-dispensing father to the show’s main protagonist, Eric (played by Topher Grace).

But, what if that same no-nonsense character was given a bit more charm and a whole mess more good looks? Had Tom Wopat portrayed Red, it’s possible that the elder Forman would have gradually become more of a focus on the show, squeezing Eric out to supporting-player status (much like Homer squoze out Bart over the course of the first several seasons of The Simpsons).

Key Changes

No offense to Kurtwood Smith, but Tom Wopat is a much better-looking dude. That in itself paves the way for running jokes throughout the course of the series. Specifically, we envision lots of references by Eric’s girlfriend, Donna, and friend who is also a girl, Jackie, to Red’s attractiveness. Mostly, it would be a way for the gals to needle Eric, who himself was sort of a goonie-looking guy. There would almost certainly have been a storyline somewhere in the show’s eight seasons where Jackie actually developed a harmless, minor, if misguided, crush on Red.

In this same vein, the other guys in Eric’s group of friends, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez, would have turned to Red Wopat more often for advice on the ladies. “Red, you’re a good-looking guy,” Hyde/Kelso/Fez would undoubtedly have begun at some point (or multiple times—that’s how running gags work, after all), before asking Red what he should do in whatever the situation was.

Next, it should be noted that Wopat is about nine years younger than Smith. This isn’t really a problem as far as “being old enough to be Eric’s parent” goes, as Wopat and Debra Jo Rupp, who played Eric’s mother, Kitty, are the same age. However, it maybe would age Red out of having served in both WWII and the Korean War—with the younger actor in the role, Red probably would’ve been written as only a Korean War vet. This wouldn’t change the character much, as few if any of Red’s storylines hinged on his military service, but it may have necessitated a slight re-write of Kitty’s and his “meet-cute” story, one of the best (and most perfectly cast) flashbacks the show ever did.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Finally, while the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that Red bequeaths to Eric in the series pilot is a perfectly fine automobile… well, come one. This is Luke Duke we’re talking about here. It would’ve been an absolutely fantastic gag had Red Wopat instead gifted his son with a competition orange Dodge Charger. It would’ve been anachronistic, as well, seeing as how The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t premiere until 1979, but hey, if don’t overthink it, it’s a pretty rad setup. Eric and friends would’ve gotten up to far more hijinks with a hot rod to drive around in.

Photo credit: wbaiv via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Animation, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Futurama

as: Himself (Head in A Jar)

The brilliant, yet woefully underappreciated, animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama had more than its share of celebrity guest stars during its run. Despite being set 1,000 years in the future, the show brought in such modern-day figures as Al Gore, Beck, and (almost) the entire cast of the original Star Trek series—and all of them played themselves.

Well, technically they played their still-living, detached heads in jars, which was one of the series’ most used (and least explained) futuristic technological advancements. Even historical figures who, in reality, died many years before the show began—and, therefore, prior to the in-series invention of technology that keeps heads alive in jars—popped up from time to time.

So, why not Wopat?

Futuramafitti

Episode: Good Ole Bots

Futurama’s protagonist, Philip J. Fry (usually called just “Fry”), was an ‘80s kid who was accidentally cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and unfrozen on New Year’s Day 3000. Fry’s penchant for the pop culture of his youth came into play in a number of episodes, encompassing everything from his days in a breakdancing crew to his love of Katrina and the Wave’s “Walking On Sunshine.”

In “Good Ole Bots”, Fry and the Planet Express gang would attend a fundraising gala at the Smithsonian. An auction is held to clear out some of the museum’s older exhibit pieces (a thousand years in the future, they have more stuff than they know what to do with) to make way for new items of historical significance.

Fry is delighted to learn that the original General Lee is one of the items to be auctioned off. Few, if any, people in the year 3000 share Fry’s enthusiasm for The Dukes of Hazzard, so he wins it with a bid of $8 (every penny he currently has to his name).

After the event, Fry’s co-worker/love interest Leela suggests that they load the General Lee into the cargo bay of the Planet Express ship and simply fly it back to New New York. Fry has other plans, however—as it was and is one of the greatest automobiles in television history, he wants to drive it back home from Washington D.C. Bender, the lovable, beer-swilling, cigar-smoking robot, decides to join him on his road trip.

Shortly after they set out, Fry and Bender hear unusual noises coming from the trunk of the car. They pull over, open the trunk, and discover living-head-in-a-jar versions of Tom Wopat and John Schneider inside. They explain that they (in their jars) have been in the Smithsonian just as long as the General Lee, as part of the same exhibit. Eventually, they were placed in the trunk to save space and forgotten about.

Now riding in the front seat between Fry (driving) and Bender (shotgun), the erstwhile Duke boys regale their new friends with tales of their TV adventures. This inspires a typically-mischievous Bender plot: he convinces Fry that the two of them should run a load of moonshine north as they go. Unsurprisingly, Bender “knows a guy” in the moonshining business.

Numerous hijinks ensue, with the quartet dodging local law enforcement (a robot sheriff that closely resembles Rosco P. Coltrane, along with his deputies), rival bootleggers, and an amorous ladybot with eyes for Bender en route to Planet Express headquarters.

Ultimately, Fry, Bender, Wopat, and Schneider find themselves in a high speed chase with the sheriffbot in hot pursuit. By a happy coincidence, a road construction project on the streets of New New York has created an ersatz ramp. Fry guns the engine, the General Lee goes airborne, and, just as the four of them are about to crash into the Planet Express building, the scene freeze-frames.

“Looks like them Duke boys have got themselves out of the frying pan,” The Balladeer states, “and into the fire.”

End credits.

Photo credit: Mayu ;P via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Action and/or Adventure, Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Magnum, P.I.

As: Thomas Magnum (duh)

The original run of Magnum, P.I. of course overlapped with that of The Dukes of Hazzard. But in an alternate universe, Tom Wopat was available for both series. As the titular character in Magnum, P.I., he would’ve given the character the same laid-back, easygoing sensibility that Tom Selleck did, but with more made-for-Hawaii good looks.

Wopat as Magnum would also have eliminated the scheduling conflict that caused Selleck to turn down the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. What a different world American cinema would’ve been had Tom Selleck become as massive a movie star as Harrison Ford did following that film’s success.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

Key Changes

For one, it’s doubtful that Wopat would’ve worn a ‘stache like Selleck’s. That seems to have been brought to the character solely by Selleck—Magnum wasn’t necessarily written as having a mustache.

Second, Magnum’s Detroit Tigers baseball cap would likely have been replaced with a Milwaukee Brewers one. Selleck, having been raised in Detroit, also added that touch himself. (If memory serves, the pilot script had the character in a New York Yankees hat.) Wopat, born in Lodi, Wisconsin, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is more than likely a Brewers fan.

Also, while Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum wore Aloha shirts almost exclusively, Tom Wopat’s Thomas Magnum would probably have appeared shirtless much more often. The weather in Hawaii is certainly conducive to this, as are Wopat’s dashing good looks. The show got good to great ratings as it was; with every episode featuring scenes with a shirtless Tom Wopat, ratings would’ve been through the roof!

Additionally, while Selleck certainly had his share of rough-and-tumble exploits as Magnum, Wopat’s stunt work in Dukes suggests the even more action-oriented Magnum, P.I. that could’ve been. I know I saw a few karate moves in Luke Duke’s fightin’ repertoire—imagine Thomas Magnum spin kicking a guy right into the ocean!

Other than those few tweaks, the show could’ve been largely the same. Except ten times better, because Wopat.

Photo credit: heldermira via Foter.com / CC BY