Five Great Michael Bell Guest Appearances
Today, we look at five great Michael Bell guest appearances on TV shows.
This is “Following a Star,” a new feature where I spotlight five great guest spots by an actor who frequently did/does guest spots on TV series in their careers. It doesn’t mean that they’ve NEVER been regulars on shows, but obviously I’m not looking to spotlight people who are better known for their regular TV roles (like no Jason Alexander or Florence Henderson, for instance).
I don’t recall if someone suggested this one, but perhaps it was just someone mentioning one of his guest spots recently that made me think about him. In any event, Michael Bell is a famed voiceover actor, perhaps best known for his role of Duke on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero animated series, but really, he is just an excellent voice over actor who you’ll constantly hear on any number of cartoon series. However, he has also had a number of strong roles in live action series, as well, and I’ll spotlight five of his best jobs now.
THE MONKEES (ARTIST)
On the over-the-top sitcom about a pop rock band, The Monkees, Bell naturally played a very over-the-top character. In the episode, “Art for Monkees’ Sake,” Peter becomes an artist, but gets caught up in a forgery scheme. While the other guys are trying to find him, Mickey walks into the studio of an unnamed artist played by Bell, who is doing a total Jackson Pollack riff.
He smears paint on Mickey’s shirt and then insists that Mickey pay him $1500 for the “painting” he just did on his shirt. Funny stuff.
WILLIE STRATTON (M*A*S*H)
Looking back on his live action acting career, I would have to imagine that Bell would single this Season 5 M*A*S*H episode out for probably his finest performance. In the episode, “Souvenirs,” he plays Willie Stratton, an affable chopper pilot who also sells, well, you know, souvenirs. The problem is that his souvenirs generally involve spent shells and stuff like that, and he pays young Korean kids to collect the materials for his little side hustle.
The M*A*S*H gang tries to convince him to abandon his little enterprise, but he refuses. The last straw is when one of his workers is badly injured in an explosion while trying to collect materials. Stratton is upset, but not THAT upset. He gives the kid a lighter as a token of his sorrow, and Hawkeye and B.J. finally get him to stop by telling him that that they will report that he is too ill to fly if he doesn’t drop his business. He agrees, and there’s a great bit where he tells them that they’ve only shut down this one operation. People are doing similar things all across Korea. They respond that at least their own backyard is a little better now. It’s a great performance by Bell, as Stratton is so likeable and yet, well, you know, so UNlikeable, as well.
Bell used his vocal talents in this Season 1 episode of Benson, “Checkmate,” as he plays Petrov, a Soviet agent in charge of a touring Soviet chess wunderkind. The boy tries to defect, but in reality, he just wants to stop playing chess and be allowed to return to his family. There’s a great scene with Benson and Petrov meeting in secret on a park bench at night (after Petrov accidentally mugs a guy that he assumed was his contact, telling him, “Do you have what I want?” and the guy hands over his wallet and runs away). As it turns out, Petrov isn’t a bad guy, he’s just stuck in a bad spot. He agrees to send the boy home if Benson can return him without it being turned into an incident. Benson cleverly sets Petrov up as a hero who was secretly hiding the boy from an attempt by the Chinese to kidnap him. There’s a nice bit from Petrov about how trusting each other is a good thing that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could learn to do.
MICHAEL (THREE’S COMPANY)
Just like how he did a Pollack riff on The Monkees, in 1981, Bell then did a Bob Fosse riff on Three’s Company, playing a dance instructor who makes Janet part of his next production, but he clearly just wants to take advantage of his relationship with her to, well, you know. This is one of the rare episodes where Jack overhears something that turns out to be true, the guy really IS trying to take advantage of Janet.
BORUM (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE)
This is a smaller role than the non-Monkees one, but it’s a meaty one (Bell had appeared in the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation in a good role, but it was a BIT too similar to the Wille Stratton role, so I figured I’d go with a different Star Trek choice). In the Season 2 opener of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Kira receives an earring belonging to a Bajoran war hero who was believed to be dead. In reality, he is in a prison work camp with some other Bajorans, including Bell’s Borum. Borum smuggled the earring out of the camp to get word that the man, Li Nalas, was still alive. He seems like the only person who could halt the burgeoning Bajoran civil war. So Kira and O’Brien went on an off-the-books mission to rescue Nalas. Once they arrived and freed the prisoners, they received heavy resistance. Borum insisted that the most important thing was getting Nalas to safety, so Borum volunteered to hold off the Cardassians with a couple of other prisoners to cover their escape. In the end, the Cardassians were forced to release Borum and the other prisoners as this was an unauthorized prisoner camp. Li Nalas was a wasted character, as he dies at the end of this arc, which is only annoying because the show was forced to basically then just come up with ANOTHER former war hero who must unite Bajor in the following season.
If you have any other actors you’d like to suggest for this feature, drop me a line at email@example.com!
2 thoughts on “Five Great Michael Bell Guest Appearances”
Great post! Met Michael at a convention a few years ago and he was super kind and cool!
Michael Bell also had a funny guest stint in the third season of “GET SMART,” playing a biker in “The Mild Ones.”