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.
With big screen hits from Step Brothers and The Overnight to surprising parts in The Aviator and Black Mass, Adam has always returned to the smaller, more comfortable screen. The actor just seems more at home as that friendly colleague you see week to week than the big Hollywood celebrity. As our opening line shows, he’s been working on shows from humble beginnings to even humbler current day, and his early work has been TV gigs so far.
He had a strange yet memorable role in the short lived MTV drama Dead At 21 and a smaller yet more prestigious part in E.R. His next stint would actually have him return to our living rooms a little more regularly, though only for a while as we find out.
Devon: Let’s open this with an honesty that feels distinct in this instance. Neither of us having really seen E.R. seems fine, and yet me admitting to having never seen Boy Meets World as a child feels sacrilegious. Revisiting a series aimed at youths in which you have no personal nostalgia for is very strange. That being said by someone who’s revisiting a children’s show for a small part played by Adam Scott. Tell me about what you know of the show then, because I’m meeting all these characters for the first time.
Alexander: It’s probably been a good fifteen years since I’ve seen Boy Meets World, but it follows the struggles of a Horny Little Boy and his dumb friend. You’ll see from the four episodes we’ve got that the horniness is rife. This boy can’t stop thinking about dames! But the one he loves, the Rachel to his Ross, is Topanga, which is not, as far as I know, a real human name.
D: Watching as an ‘adult’, this series did get me by surprise with the fairly raw depiction of early male pubescence. I look back and question whether every sitcom tackled aging this on the nose, how could I forget the classic Home Improvement when Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor built a Chevy engine powered fleshlight for his three boys. My memory of childhood is always hazy, most likely unconsciously shielding me from embarrassment, but I assume the dilemma of a growing lad is your mind is somehow evolved for rampant procreation and yet you’re also setback with the dumbass brain of a growing lad who knows literally nothing.
A: And when we get to the character of Griff, it almost becomes a parody of these child characters barely being written for the age they are. I’m not sure if it’s the American education system or just TV hiring standards, but I find ages very hard to gauge here; there is no way in hell Adam Scott and Ben Savage should be in the same school.
D: Which confuses me more because the we cover parts of season two and three and they essentially are kids. From what I’ve read, this series ends with them married with children of their own by the end of seven seasons.
A: I’m more familiar with the later years, when they adopted a funky theme tune, but surely they’re about thirteen here so they’re getting married extremely young? Unless this show plays fast and loose with time like LOST, where we’re flashing sideways to when Mr. Turner didn’t end up in a coma and just leave the entire show.
D: I did read about that, and that was a bonkers way to leave a character, especially a teacher’s fate when you’re a child viewer. In the interest of honesty, I have to say I did not like the titular Boy and his pal when I started the first episode. Took until the third before I started relating to the character and got an idea of how people revere the series. Boy Meets World definitely was a start in television addressing that annoying, overbearing younger brother front and center, which would become staple with Malcolm In The Middle and Even Stevens.
A: If this had been an ’80’s sitcom he’d have been the little twerp brother like how Urkel was used to punch up the comedy wherever needed. This was the ’90’s, though, and you needed jerks and dweebs to sell your show.
D: After four episodes I see the appeal of it now! This appears to be a good show that dumps a dose of reality on the protagonists a little harder than other kid-friendly sitcoms, it’s very relatable for those ordinary outcasts who aren’t wildly weird but just kinda mediocre. For American audiences, they’d be thinking ‘these kids are me’, and for us pallid British kids it was ‘I wish that were me’. Bart Simpson definitely became the zenith of teen boy attitude whereas Boy Meets World treated Cory and Shawn as if they were both the Milhouse of that high school.
A: Which dovetails nicely into this series’ Bart Simpson, or so they intended, it’s Griff Hawkins. Well, Griff and a no-name bit part.
“That was one of my first jobs ever. I was 20, maybe 21. It was a great job to get. He was the ladies’ man at the high school or junior high—I don’t remember. It’s hard doing an audience, multicam show like that. Having almost no professional experience and having to hit jokes in a certain way was tough. The audience would not laugh if you just leaned on one word instead of another. It’s really strange. The director would tell you which ones to lean into and like a switch, the audience would laugh.
I still get asked about [the show] all the time. It’s something I did 20 years ago. It didn’t help my career at the time, and it was a little unsatisfying because no one I knew watched the show. But weirdly it’s the thing that’s lived the longest. They actually asked me to do the new Girl Meets World to reprise Griff, but I didn’t have time.” – Adam Scott, Elle
A: I love that little note at the end there, “sorry guys, you want the Griff back? The Griff is working in Hollyweird USA, he doesn’t have time for your childhood buffoonery”. He’s too busy with the next big show people will be asking him about in 20 years, Ghosted. I do hope they ask him back for Ghost Meets World.
It’s an odd thing, but if you have a part in a sitcom, even just one episode, through syndication your face will be burned into people’s brains. Almost every day I’m watching someone and struggle placing them until it turns out they were one of Seinfeld‘s many dates but her fingers were too long or something.
D: As someone who watched this back in the day, do you place Griff as a part of the classic Boy Meets World, uh, world?
A: I’m sad to say I do not remember Griff at all. A strange part looking back; from first appearance, it’s a run role, a heightened ridiculous character, but then the last appearance is like three episodes later. He must’ve shown up in syndication a LOT because he comes and goes with no ceremony. Actually, I think I’ve just figured who Griff is; he’s cool, he’s hot, he’s the hip new character meant to shake things up… he’s Poochie.
D: Griff didn’t even get the courtesy of dying on the way to his home planet, he just straight up disappeared from the show. Now there are a couple references to him in later seasons, so they kept him in heart but obviously not enough to actually bring Adam back to set. I‘d love to see in around season four someone asking where that kid Griff went off to and they just casually joke he got hit by a semi while skateboarding.
Or better yet, continue Griff’s role with just a hastily cast body double; cut to a kid sitting with a magazine over his face but he’s got a rebellious t-shirt on with “I don’t really view communism as a bad thing – Whoopi Goldberg”.
Season 2, Episode 8 ‘Band On The Run’
D: As for the real Adam, his first appearance is about as glamorous; a walk-on spot near the start of season two, sporting a grunge look with floppy hair and even floppier clothes. Strangely, he looks far older in this than later as Griff; he’d maybe sell you his brother’s joint, but this dude is selling you his uncle’s speedball.
A: This look had me wondering why this twenty something burnout is hanging out in a small children’s… bar? Coffee house? These social areas are always a lame attempt at revamping a series with fresh sets. There’s something about the Fresh Prince starting work at that coffee place, or when the Seinfeld gang abandoned Tom’s Restaurant for WWF New York.
Sitcoms outside of the workplace struggle to bring people together in one scene in the long run because of a simple conflict, you want the characters to progress and that usually means moving from situation to situation. That’s especially true when it’s a youth centered sitcom because unless they’re delinquents, they’re not staying in school for the entire series. Home Improvement honestly has one of the best excuses when Tim regularly destroys and rebuilds his house.
D: American comedies usually fail to establish a real exterior existence, just beyond the backyard lawns and school hallways is a studio warehouse. Occasionally some try, Frasier and Friends would often travel outside their coffee spaces, and Seinfeld did a decent job at walking around the streets below his apartment. Perhaps as two Brits watching this, we’re not being representing our authentic childhood chugging Relentless energy drinks at the Morrison’s car park while biking around in front of people trying to park.
A: From REM to MTV, music really is ingrained in his character. As for Adam, this may have offered a brief thrill in acting as a rock musician, something that I’m pretty sure he hasn’t done since despite his life long love of good rock and roll, uh, music.
Season 2, Episode 20 ‘Pop Quiz’
D: Nearing the end of the second season, assuming people won’t instantly recognize that iconic role, Adam is double cast in another role. Either a good sign that someone in casting thought he was a good enough actor for a bigger role, or they just had his name on a list and needed someone pretty hastily. And this is definitely not a hastily introduced character right at the end of a season! Yeah, Adam Scott is not Urkel here, Griff as a written character feels just too out of touch and is used about effectively as Poochie.
A: The B-plot sets up his introduction as the replacement little-man-in-charge after the resident bully is sent away. Except the thing is this kid is too cool to bully, in fact, he’s too laid back to do just about anything. You can tell he’s designed for wild and wacky jokes but he never gets to explode onto the screen like Jaleel White, he’s more like if DJ Jazzy Jeff never got thrown out the house and just awkwardly hung around the kitchen.
D: He’s not exactly wacky, and he’s only cool by reputation; in a very risque introduction, it’s implied Adam Scott has fucked Mr. Feeny’s assistant before smugly meeting him. It’s fair to say Adam is a handsome man, but he’s still portrayed as decidedly youthful here, so his immediate character quirk is he’s wanton jail-bait.
A: I love Adam as much as the next Scott, but I just don’t see him as the bad boy pussy magnet seducing Mrs. Robinson between classes. Ninety percent of ’90’s acting is all in the hair, though, and Adam was looking much fresher than his initial appearance.
D: Such a bombastic opening for a new random character; with a dedicated guy for taking his place at events, fucking whoever he wants, and attracting cliche lackeys like honey. At this very point in the discussion, I can almost imagine this character working, but then the show writers seem to think differently. He must’ve been just filler because his involvement in the scant episodes is flimsier than hip vests.
Case in point, how do they follow up such a farcical introduction? Well, an unimpressed Mr. Feeny just gives him detention. Will this punishment prove to be a much needed attitude adjustment? We’ll never know because everything this character does has zero consequences or impact, once he’s off-screen it’s as if he was never there at all. And that is not how I want Adam Scott to be treated.
A: Griff was too busy hanging out with Ethan Suplee for detention! He knows this guy is money, one of the only other actors in these episodes that has probably done the most afterwards.
D: Funnily enough, a quote I’ll expand on later from Adam does say he became friends with him during this.
A: So it wasn’t all bitter rivalries and mailbombs between him and the cast then.
D: Oh, well we’ll get to that in time, that is also what the mentioned quote goes into.
A: If we were to breakdown the role of Griff as charming weasel it could be seen an archetype role that Adam would perfect in later years. He manages to get out of being decked by Eric Balfour here, a fate Eric Andre would avoid in later years, too.
So with a whole subplot dedicated to one man’s introduction, the rise and fall of Griff is about to reach it’s premature peak. Not only is he in the very next episode, but his antics are front and center so for a hot second these writers may have actually tried to use him well.
Season 2, Episode 21 ‘The Thrilla In Phila’
A: A very loose caricature of him getting massages and having lobster for lunch. Is he supposed to be wealthy? He likes the finer things in life? But he doesn’t come across as the typical upper-class snobby type. It’s somewhat unclear, and because of that, such an odd way to show the kids that this guy? He rules. I bet you wish you could have lobster for lunch.
D: There’s really nothing to his character which must be the the main reason they just dump him. There comes a real point of sink or swim in this episode when Mr. Feeny brings up that he could get expelled for, you know, doing all this ridiculous shit and Griff just casually admits that its totally possible. Is this a bluff? Is he trying to get expelled? That would’ve been an entertaining side character; the kid that drifts from school to school whose rich parents don’t really care but Feeny decides that keeping him there and punishing him in different ways might be a way to teach him something.
A: Fundamentally, what we’re dealing with here is a nihilist. He doesn’t care about the system, he’s not aggressively anti-establishment, he just does these things to feel something. You could’ve dug into the trauma that made him so aloof and detached, maybe he was bullied mercilessly for that ugly brown vest he wore so he got rid of it, changed his name, and became a Lothario.
D: His fashion sense does suck in this and he never does actually appear that cool. Apparently he’s cool enough to book Bob Goulet to sing at a local child wrestling show. The other episodes we’re barely scratching but being two marks for the world of wrestling I did find this episode fairly funny. There’s Bob Goulet who I’m sure every child was delirious to see, Yasmine Bleeth of Baywatch fame, and the deceased, furious wrestler Vader who seems so genuinely angry all the time that it’s frightening, especially around children.
A: But Feeny gracefully enters the ring to take him on which is pretty entertaining. A real heel move from the usual good teacher in threatening to reveal his shoot name, which is actually kayfabe Leslie in the show, and Leon in reality. Mr. Feeny is surprisingly agile getting over those ropes, is it too late for him to join the 205 Live roster?
D: Adam may say he doesn’t really remember much of shooting this, but being on a TV show at twenty and getting to kiss Yasmine Bleeth must’ve been pretty cool for someone still so early into their career.
A: That was surprising and quite jarring. I just don’t think you’d get that kind of thing on a show now; that kind of rampant, open horniness. Even here, she addresses why she would appear at a one match wrestling show in a school gym, and Griff’s answer to that is making out with her. We can only imagine what he owes Goulet.
D: I guess that moment plays into what is pretty noticeable in these episodes that there are no good parts for girls or women. I know Topanga is a big role, and people who have watched the entire series could comment, but she doesn’t get much to do here. Then there’s the girl named Candy who “follows the jacket” in the wrestling team. She does crush two cans over her head though, and I want to see that in actual wrestling.
A: It says something when Vader gets more story arc than any girl that goes this school.
Season 3, Episode 4 ‘He Said, She Said’
A: Onto the final episode, and by that I mean a random episode of season three. Griff’s last known sighting. If you had to describe his clothes to police, you’d say he was dressed like someone at a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies concert. We can only imagine how lame Scott Aukerman dressed at this period if this is what “cool” Adam Scott is.
D: We’ve seen Scott’s hair, glasses and jumper choice in his brief Just Shoot Me role, and I’d have to guess those were his street clothes. Here, Adam has got that look of new-swing that was big in the ’90’s; wallet chain, bowling shirt, slicked back hair. There’s a lot going on, his look is as loud as his actions. Once again, the story line of him confronting the lackey’s old boss, the big bad bully, would seem like a good opportunity to build his character, how does the rich kid weasel come off as impressive to his new ‘friends’? Apparently, he pulls a Wakefield and just walks out of his life never to be seen again.
A: There is no satisfying show down, he doesn’t learn anything, he doesn’t use his skills, he’s just a bit of a shit. His sliminess here though is a precursor to some of his later roles, particularly in Step Brothers and Torque. He’s very good at being a slime bag, slime ball, or any other measurement of slime.
D: I feel like Griff definitely died and became the demon Adam in The Good Place. His ending is so unceremonious here; he doesn’t even get the last line of the scene, it’s questionable if the writers literally gave up on him mid-scene and almost stole The Sopranos’ finale. I think it was best to let him go, as much as I enjoyed Adam here, I think he brought a lot of charisma to a role that had very little there. Aside from being a sex fiend, of course.
A: For a role he doesn’t remember well, he did a good enough job that fans of the series have remembered him all these years. Whereas E.R. used him effectively in the sense that it was a small role and he did it dutifully, this was a missed opportunity. There was some charm and humour to him at this age that could’ve been expanded on but it seems Griff as a character, regardless of the actor, was always going to fail. You can tell he is going to do more, and if you didn’t know any of these actors, I’d say you’d point at him as the most likely to become a star, or at least a TV regular.
D: A very interesting point of his career looking back at it; from MTV to E.R. to this, if he had been a little more cocksure of himself he might’ve actually become the smug asshole he so often plays up rather than the humble goof he is off screen.
A: That’s true, he does have versatility there, and maybe applied to a show that knew how to write him better, a Griff type character could’ve worked. But from this, you could easily imagine him getting parts on Friends or Will & Grace, I’m surprised he didn’t, maybe he was a touch too young? I could easily imagine him being a boyfriend of one of the lady friends.
D: Even if the ’90’s weren’t his boom period, he put in the work and it definitely paid off, though I would love to see more slimy, floppy-haired Adam making his way through the sitcoms, maybe Dharma & Greg & Griff. Well, now that we gave him a positive review, let’s see why he didn’t fall into this cool guy persona:
“When that was on TV, it was on Friday nights at eight o’clock or whatever, and it was for little kids, so, career-wise, it might as well have been projected on the side of a building in the elementary-school playground or something. It didn’t have any significance.
I always checked the [online] message boards, which were still this kind of mysterious thing – and I remember reading someone posting that they were friends with the girl that played Topanga, and Topanga had told this person that no one at the show liked me very much. And I remember just being crushed, but it also all kind of made sense, because I was definitely on the outside of whatever was going on there. They were all friends and I was just kind of there and would hang out with Blake Soper and Ethan Suplee.
I didn’t know if it was real or not, but kind of felt like it was … The Internet or these message-board things were still kind of small enough that it felt genuine. And sure enough, the next episode they wrote me off.” – Adam Scott, Vulture
A: Can someone check in on Adam and give him a hug? It might be decades late but it sounds like he needs one. That’s a real bummer because, by all accounts, Adam seems like a very sweet guy. Not that they were openly shitty to him, but man, as they said at the time, “that’s gotta hurt”.
D: It’s especially sad to hear how down he was on his career at that point. I would say it’s a working man’s gig but what’s so particularly interesting is there’s been some real fun opportunities for a young actor here. It’s such a shame they were tainted by this self doubt and uneasiness, which in a sense was the foundations of the man he is today.
A: I’m always more interested in the Oscars for Best Supporting than the big lead, and that just speaks to the fact that character actors are often far more interesting than superstars. The path for an actor like Adam Scott is filled with a lot more specific details and tribulations than for someone who just rocketed to stardom; real people tend to go from job to job to job and so did he. There’s something a lot more relatable and personable in the actors that, while obviously having good or bad memories on the job, do the work that supports the group effort of a whole production.
D: Something we’ll find doing this are a number of great roles along the road where every time it seems like it’s finally his time, the work just continues and I wonder how many people I know actually ever saw that role of his. I have to assume he isn’t too down on reminiscing on his career, more he just doesn’t have that juicy gossip or shocking revelations behind the scenes. A late night host could ask him about kissing a Baywatch babe, and to him it was just what the script called for.
A: Griff was but a stepping stone on the way, and like a stepping stone, Griff will submerge under the water and be forgotten forever. The next big step in his career will be when he really has those positive things to talk about in a role that he was allowed creative input and invest himself. It may or may not be the next TV role, with an increasing screen presence of six episodes now, it’s the adult crime drama Murder One.
D: In which the violent murder of Griff is finally revealed!
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