If there’s one actor out there consistently worth rooting for over the years, it’s Giovanni Ribisi. When a character actor comes along who can tackle gritty drama and quirky comedies equally, and with such engaging magnetism, that talent is one that begs to be reckoned with. And in television especially, it feels as if any performer with those types of tools at their disposal should find a quick trajectory to superstardom.
And yet, while Ribisi has racked up an impressive slate of work over the past three decades, we haven’t seen him hit it big on the small screen in quite a while. But Amazon’s new original series “Sneaky Pete” is here to change all that.
The last time Ribisi had a lead role on a TV show, it was on FOX’s “Dads,” where the network’s attempt at an updated “Odd Couple”-style chemistry between him and Seth Green ultimately failed to connect with audiences. Still, it was a refreshing change for Ribisi, who hasn’t really appeared steadily on a sitcom since his performance as Frank Buffay Jr. on “Friends.”
Now, as audiences wait for “Sneaky Pete” to premiere to Amazon in the coming weeks, we have to praise Ribisi’s return to television with what is sure to bring in shining reviews aplenty.
The basic gist: Con man Marius (Ribisi) is finally getting out of prison. To stay hidden from a criminal boss he wronged years ago, he assumes the identity of his cellmate, Pete. Taking on that role means moving in with Pete’s long-estranged family — and being sucked into their cut-throat bail bond business. What could go wrong?
If that synopsis piqued your interest, here are a few other tidbits that are sure to whet your whistle. “Sneaky Pete” was co-created by Bryan Cranston — who not only has a recurring role on the series, he also wrote some episodes — and “House” creator David Shore… But wait, there’s more! “Justified” alum Michael Dinner flexes his directing muscles on the new series, and that show’s former EP, Graham Yost, is the showrunner. All in all, an impressive collection of talent.
At the center of it all is Giovanni Ribisi as seasoned con man Marius. From the episodes we’ve seen, “Sneaky Pete” looks like the perfect vehicle to put Ribisi back on the TV map. With support from other extremely talented folks — did we mention the great Margo Martindale is also a regular here? — the sum of the Amazon series’ parts is looking to equal some television greatness.
For an actor who got his start on the small screen — “Highway to Heaven” and “The Wonder Years” come to mind — we have high hopes that television will welcome Giovanni Ribisi back with open arms. He’s deserving of the work and, in turn, we deserve to receive the gifts of his impeccable talent.
“Sneaky Pete” Season 1 will premiere on Jan. 13 to Amazon Prime Instant Video.