From Dead to Ghosted, Dead at 21 that is, we’re talking Adam Scott (actor). A comprehensive and curious retrospective through a working man’s on screen career.
In writing this, there may need to be an actual introduction for the man himself right at the start. I have a feeling we may need an introduction to what we’re even trying to accomplish with these discussions. We know who Adam Scott is, and if the people reading this do too, then what more can this give them?
As we find out, there is a versatility to the nice looking fellow known to the mainstream as Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation) and comedy nerds for “That’s Not Funny” Adam (Comedy Bang Bang, U Talkin’ U2 To Me?). We’re guessing most mainstream will ask their culturally educated friends while watching Step Brothers or Big Little Lies if that nice looking fellow is, in fact, Ben Wyatt, and hoping they’ll reply his name is Adam Scott.
Is this all Adam has to offer in his profession, to fill the welcome role of that nice looking fellow, alternating between snarky douchebag and affable goofball?
Alex: I think Scott is a bit of an enigma, you know? With character actors, they’re often ‘that guy from that thing’, I always want to dig a little deeper than that in appreciating someone. With the hints he’s dropped on podcasts towards his career, I’m intrigued to say the least. We want to know who Adam Scott is.
D: The most fame he holds in terms of recognition is safe to say Parks and Rec, I would go as far to assume the casual viewer of general entertainment would know him more as Ben than Adam. I would agree he can be a strange contrast of enigma and every-man, he’s a working actor who’s shown great comic performances, dabbled in drama, and achieved cult love in podcasts circuits. He’s found himself in some exciting positions and yet in every interview just appears the most down to earth guy.
A: He is exceedingly ordinary, and that’s why Ben is his touchstone, definitely his most well known role. I don’t think many people are watching TV and recognising Remy; Jennifer Lopez’s gay best friend from Monster in Law! If they shout that at him on the street, though, good for them for having such a robust knowledge of forgotten romantic comedies.
D: Commenters on videos often fall into two camps, the ‘Ben is so funny’ audience and then the fiery ‘That is Adam Scott, you ungrateful fools!’ fandom.
A: That does cover his career, still seeing him in actual movies on actual big screens to this day always makes me automatically laugh. He is a good actor but then he’s also Adam Scott, and he’s achieved that by being the polar opposite to certain people everyone knows, Christopher Walken or Danny DeVito.
D: He sits adjacent to ‘proper’ celebrities like Channing Tatum and could almost pass off as someone from the audience they’ve dragged up on stage. That’s a big part of what’s going to make this venture interesting is all those standout roles where he’s not been typecast. Action, horror, a Scorsese joint, even two HBO drama miniseries.
A: Adam has been around. He’s had his fingers in many film pies, wrist deep in Scorsese’s. The general public need to acknowledge this talented versatility. If they don’t know it, they’re gonna know it, whether they know they’re gonna know it or not. That’s the level of sense this series will make.
D: We’ve peaked the interest into the layers and range Adam can play, let’s delve right into his very first role. It’s safe to assume most people our generation reluctantly accept MTV as the channel that no longer shows M on TV, but far back in 1994 they were dominating the cultural scene in what’s hip to hop to. Then came the big decision to add narrative to the music they’ve been blaring all night every night. Dead At 21 was their first ever attempt at actual television.
A: Instantly it’s the most MTV thing I’ve ever seen, a far cry from series creator Jon Sherman’s Frasier. It lasted eleven episodes and tried it’s best to tap into the latest obsessions of today’s teens.
Ed Bellamy discovers on his 20th birthday that he was an unknowing subject of a childhood medical experiment. Microchips had been implanted in his brain, which make him a genius but will also kill him by his 21st birthday.
Accompanied by Maria Cavalos, Ed tries to find a way to prevent his death. The research center orders the termination of the project and the elimination of anyone involved. The center frames Ed for a murder and sends Agent Winston to capture him.
A: Now, was this really in that pilot? I struggled to pick up on much besides floppy haired teen likes grunge and babes.
D: That is actually a very accurate description of what happens and yet it feels as if literally nothing happened. It’s hard to blame the writing when most of the dialogue is buried in the constant actual MTV programming.
A: The style (for better or worse) completely dwarfs the substance when you get a five minute chase scene set to hard alt-rock shot like a low-budget skate video. It’s hard to let the ‘story’ breathe when it’s being smothered by a soundtrack of shouting men.
D: Speaking of screaming and music, what a particularly brazen opening even American Horror Story has yet to top. I couldn’t tell whether it was opening credits, a nightmare, or both.
A: It’s like Jacob’s Ladder meets The X-Files, which no doubt happened in at least one episode.
D: If it is the official credits to every episode, then I sure hope Ed wakes up each time with a variant of “no more pizza before bed”.
A: “No more plate of twenty two hard boiled eggs before bed”. To me it felt very in tune with the whole ’90’s paranoid, slightly supernatural pop-culture that X-Files kicked off. I haven’t made my mind up on whether those bizarre Tim and Eric art people are spookier than the warped face of the X-Files, that twisty man is so embedded in my brain since I saw it as a kid that nothing could topple him.
D: It felt The X-Files starring the kind of teens that watch The X-Files, and those crazy kids probably loved Hackers. The female lead strongly reminded me of Angelina Jolie in that film, which may be the most we mention her because she has next to nothing to do. Strange given Adam Scott brings the narrative despite only having one episode and her a series regular.
A: Very accurate, and in turn, it feels like something I would’ve caught at 1am on MTV. Makes me want to watch the series in case we get a Matthew Lillard inspired character. Adam is the one who kicks all the action off which is weird because you literally cannot see his face for the first eighteen minutes.
D: Let’s get full into Adam then. There are two discernible ‘plots’ in this episode, one of them being lil’ boy Adam constantly hounded by a trope authority figure and, between the thick VHS filter and frenetic camera work, is pretty impossible to discern if that was Adam.
A: We’re using IMDb for his roles and thank god, because it is hard to tell until a good fifteen or so minutes in. Thankfully for a character that’s been in an asylum, Adam has some very on-point, fashionable hair.
D: His name gets several variants, credited as Dan Bird, the chaser yells Daniel at him, but then he calls himself Dan “Beard”, which is absolutely the name you put on a fake ID.
A: “Hello my name is Dan Beard, I’m 40, I have four children, and would like eight cases of beer, please thank you”, which does sound like something Adam would have to try to this day.
D: Because he hasn’t aged a day since 1994, even his voice is identical, and yet on IMDb there are photos of him that have the uncanny valley vibe as if he had a brother, a long lost one named Dan Beard.
A: The two ‘stories’ of his pursuit and Ed just living life come together when Adam pulls a William Petersen through his window wielding a shotgun. For all our preamble of him being the gentle comedy pal, it’s pretty surprising to see such an action packed debut. In just ten minutes we get a foot chase, car chase, shootout, and defenestration. Setting Adam up for an alternate timeline career as an underdog action star, I would’ve wanted to watch more with him in it smashing through more objects, but nope, shot to death quite abruptly.
D: Yep, at about twelve minutes in we see the government baddie show up, take Adam’s shotgun, and then shoot him off-screen. I would say I was disappointed, but honestly I expected him just as a one minute Party Boy #2, this was actually a pretty entertaining debut to nab.
A: I figured those initial minutes of blurry footage would be all we’d get and seeing him escape had me nearly fist pumping, and getting blasted is a good way to end a first role and of course, But this is not the end of baby Adam, he’s pulled a Scream 3 on us and left some helpful exposition on a video tape. This is the official start to his comedy career.
D: I absolutely adore the “if you’re watching this, I’m dead” trope because that’s quite a presumption, like “if you’re watching this you found the tape, I’m just downstairs watching Seinfeld“. I would love for the inversion of that where the dude is standing beside them, “you can fast forward through this, it’s just a lot of crying and confessing to stuff you dont need to hear”.
A: “I lit this scene so badly, I was kinda going for a dogme 95 thing, I just – yeah, skip it”. For a young man who’s been in an asylum, he has a very savvy knowledge of how to shoot a confessional vid just like an MTV music video.
D: Luckily with lighting, if we couldn’t tell it was Adam prior, we get to see him on every TV in this store front and centre. In a real variety of outfits too; fashionable hats, that fringe and hoody combo, he’s got a real twink striped top at one part.
A: It’s the dream, an Adam on every screen. A president should run on that campaign; a striped top on every Adam,an Adam on every TV. It is hilarious this kid just had zero time to watch this tape and throws a trash can through a store window like their hockey team just lost the big match. To the rage of Radiohead no less.
D: There are some very dramatic moments intensified by incredible, if poorly mixed, music cuts. Using Radiohead is one thing but Thom Yorke whining he’s a CREEEEEEP so clearly over inconsequential dialogue is deliberate artistic intent. Reminiscent of the Bang Bang bar scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
A: Those constant needle drops, it’s like the producers were terrified to not fill every last second with moody rock. We get a tingle in the basement of our nostalgia as we get to Adam’s magnificent tape, the opening to Butterfly Wings. Fantastic use of an obscure band’s only recognisable hit with an obscure role in a recognisable actor’s filmography.
D: From what we know of Adam’s “rock and roll, uh, music” tastes, this is a band him or Scott Aukerman probably know more than one song of. I feel confident at least one of them have this one on their iTunes library, and Adam likely doesn’t even know he acted to it.
A: I want to know how he felt about this at the time, did he watch it back and think it was rad or goofy? more importantly, did he think the straightjacket express his twisted mind and that we were being welcomed to it?
D: From the few interviews of anyone mentioning this, most start with Boy Meets World (the journalistic cowardice), he hasn’t seen it since and can only assume it was terrible.
A: Well, he’s not wrong. It’s exactly the show reel material talk show hosts pull out to embarrass their guests, and yet it’s an interesting one for them all to overlook. Part of that recurrent TV bit is nostalgia in everyone starting somewhere and being relatable and this is such a time capsule. James Cordon would show five seconds,crack one joke about his hair, and then laugh for another five seconds. This isn’t just a cameo in some Tia Carrera music video (supposedly lost to the ages), it’s actually an enjoyable time.
D: To be fair, we have only addressed his looks so far, what about that monologue he’s unloading! Right off the top, he manages to follow up that dead line with a stellar delivery of “think you’re a regular kid? Sorry, think again, Bud“. He lays out the backstory for the entire series premise here, even with backstory to “plugging microcircuits into babies’ brains”. Under those Butterfly Wings flapping away he even manages to sneak in the age old trope of the ten percent brain myth, which this show presumes the other ninety percent is crammed with all the latest youth bangers.
A: That great period in ’90’s media where anything technical could be explained with microchips, with almost every portrayal being a fancy sci-fi version that was fifteen times smaller than the actual computing power they could muster. Even if those ‘chips didn’t kill them at 21 like the premise here suggests, give it a few years and Y2K would’ve done them in, just as it factually, historically did. Dead at 21 or Maybe a Couple Years Later at the Millenium isn’t as snappy.
D: These days, those ‘chips would have to be replaced every couple of months, am I right, Apple?!
A: Going back to his video diary, I love the immersive moment of him looking at a passerby off-screen to scream what they’re looking at. It’s fair to say that’s suggestive of his isolation and paranoia, but still feels unnecessary given how well he’s otherwise edited this audition to the next season of The Bachelor. He wanted this guy to know he’s the real deal, and if that means telling a person to bugger off, so be it.
D: Plot twist; there was nobody there and he just said it to make himself look tough. You know what does do that, calling himself and Ed Neuro Cybernauts! Whoever wrote that line was very pleased with it and Adam loved saying it, given the hearty emphasis on NAUTS. It could be a good name for those of us in the Adam Scott unofficial fanclub. Or a synthwave album.
A: As we discussed before, the best way to bring in the mainsteam TV audience to the proper passionate fandom is give it a title like that. You can just picture the neurocybernaut_honeybear_95 screen-names.
D: Which will not scare off a man like Adam at all.
A: Not any more scared than he was when he was being thrown through a window to the sweet tones of Alice in Chains. So his speech goes on, filling in what were his very brief scenes and setting up the just as brief series. That was Adam Scott (actor)’s first role.
D: From what we’ve viewed, would you say this is a good start to a career on screen? As fans, does it showcase the talents we know him for?
A: It’s a bold debut, and yet it doesn’t signal where his career will go, one that could’ve easily ended with this weird little character. Being able to discover it through a now known actor is a treat because, damn, it really does set up the stranger roles down the line i.e. Torque or Krampus. Does he run a lot in his typical performances? Does he even run in Torque? This definitely worked as a showcase for potential action roles if he were ever interested in pursuing them.
D: Even in Krampus I was surprised he was cast as a mostly serious dad and not the expected goofball, aside from the brief incredulous remark he acted quite seriously. The further we go into his career, the more we’ll be able to chart out whether he does do these distinct genre roles as much as his affable comedy. Even luckier, a quick check back to the start of his filmography shows bit parts in ER, Boy Meets World, Star Trek: First Contact, they may be brief performances but it shows a promising career. Party Down is generally the jumping off point for all interviewers, largely cementing his performance in charm and laughs, so we have a good, often overlooked section of his career to examine before he properly establishes himself in leading roles.
A: I like to believe he was cast less for the action, and more the fact he was a skinny, handsome, youth with floppy hair. He was the bad boy, Christian Slater in Heathers or Bobby in Twin Peaks, which is almost impossible to place him in these days.
D: If anything, he’s added neuro cybernauts to the cultural jargon, Adam Scott for Blade Runner: Bots and Replication.
A: Merriam Webster, stick that in your book and close it.
“I was a kid who had a microchip in his head, and I was going to die in, like, 24 hours, and I had to warn the lead of the show that he had a microchip in his head. Some weird nonsense like that.” – Harpers Bazaar
A: Burning some bridges there, Adam, keep that up and you’ll never be invited to work with Jack Noseworthy again. For someone who claims to haven’t seen it in years he nailed the concept, part of me hopes he’s hiding the fact he rewatches this religiously.
D: From the interviews I’ve read quizzing him on earlier roles he manages to recall tidbits on all of these, which is admirable and adds to the impression he feels fortunate for all the opportunities he’s been given. There’s very little, or any, pomp to his working attitude.
A: My favourite part from this other source implies people tuned in to Dead at 21 to watch people dance. Could you actually just tune in for a single scene in a series like this? Most of those scenes were confusing even in sequence, Adam jerking around weirdly in the party and reading The Matrix draft dialogue, the average channel hopper could easily slide in and out of this. Does it matter why this grungy teen just leapt through a window armed and screaming about “the man behind the curtain” when there is quintessential Bjork popping off in the background?
“I think I was 20, but I remember lying about my age and telling them I was 19, like – who knows why? I just thought it sounded better, so stupid. I remember getting the part and literally feeling like my life was going to change and I was going to be a giant television star, having no idea that people do guest spots all the time. I just thought, now I’ve done it, I can relax. It’s all gravy from here.
It was my first time coming in contact with professional TV actors — Lisa Dean Ryan and Jack Noseworthy just looked like perfect humans, like actor robots. I just felt like a shitbag standing next to them … It was interesting, and I think my acting in it is absolutely terrible. I haven’t seen it in fifteen years, but I’m sure it’s just godawful.”
A: It’s understandable he’d give a very self effacing statement, and if he doesn’t come off great in the show, I’d say the consolation is that nobody comes off well. Looking into this show there’s very little on it, but it does seem to have been a game changer in terms of MTV programming, which in itself was a major player in generational television, so Adam was part of a small revolution. It affirms our early considerations that Adam has had a surprising number of successful breaks which seem to go unappreciated.
D: His line of it all being gravy tests both sides of our thesis, in that he’s very humble and yet his younger self believed his career would come quite naturally, which from a general perspective it apparently has. Whether his internal expectations of success have been met or surpassed, judging from his earliest work it does appear he got his foot in the door and it’s been comfortably there ever since.
A: He doesn’t seem like a guy who struggles to get work and deservedly so. The funny image is he must’ve used this in a show-reel to somehow secure those roles on ER and Boy Meets World and then promptly scrubbed it clean. At the same time, after a while I prefer to imagine he doesn’t have any kind of resume and just stumbles on set and gets by on charm alone.
D: He seems a wanderer, just blows in on the breeze and people just have to have that nice bloke on camera. It’s an interesting mixture of him being a super hard worker and effortless casting, potentially on the merits of just being Adam Scott. We’ve talked prior to this article on how Adam was nearly in a role for Scream 2, which we naturally presumed went to Timothy Olyphant, and similarly that Jon Hamm was considered for his role in Step Brothers years later. We have to put this into consideration on the simultaneous challenge and skill for a perfectly ordinary guy to go against unreasonably handsome giants.
A: That being said, Olyphant gives a wonderful comic turn in Santa Clarita Diet, and Hamm’s a surprise comedy nerd even acting alongside Adam in The Greatest Event in Television History. We’ve joked about the parallel world of Adam as the Ghostface killer, but Don Draper? “Hey, Peggy, bro, this is some good rock and roll, uh, music”.
D: Adam Scott as an asshole ad man is incredibly believable and he definitely would’ve worked for Ted’s firm, “”Don, work for us and you could be earning beaucoup dolores”
The potential career path of Adam is just as wonderful as the existing one we’re embarking on. I think we’ve come to some great conclusions in the first investigation of this man’s career, and even casually perusing his filmography reveals a variety of interesting and view worthy performances.
It’s hard to track exactly how this series will evolve as the roles grow more into the limelight and media coverage becomes interested in his musings, but we’d like to end on a quote from Adam Scott which may illuminate the path ahead of us.
“Just the atmosphere and the environment. Maybe I was kidding myself, but in the playoff I felt everyone was supporting me – I don’t know, maybe they were supporting us, because they were enjoying the golf.”
Wait, hang on.