Because I recently re-discovered my love for the SyFy (back then it was still Sci-Fi) Channel’s The Invisible Man, I’m giving you guys a Cool Actor two-fer this time around. And while Vincent Ventresca and Paul Ben-Victor have both done plenty of excellent work separately, I’m gonna focus on their work on I-Man — because, much like Hope and Crosby, you put ’em together in a room and the freakin’ screen lights up.
To crib from my piece on The Invisible Man that ran in The Weekly Alibi back in 2001 (and was reprinted in my book Unsafe On Any Screen):
Here’s your set-up: cat burglar Darien Fawkes (Ventresca) winds up in the slam when a burglary goes awry and the victim, an old man, suffers a heart attack. The cops arrive as Fawkes is trying to resuscitate the old guy, and he finds himself slapped with a molestation charge on top of B & E. Fawkes is sprung from the joint by “The Agency,” a super-secret (and under-funded — “It was the safe house or pay the electric bill,” the Agency’s top man says) organization working under the auspices of the Department of Fish and Game. Fawkes is implanted with a gland which causes his body to secrete a fluid called Quicksilver. The stuff bends light, turning Fawkes into the titular no-show. Fawkes wants the gland removed, but since that would kill him (and he needs regular injections to survive), he has no choice but to work with the Agency — and his wise-ass partner, former FBI man Bobby Hobbes (Paul Ben-Victor).
To the inexperienced, it probably looks like just another crap Sci-Fi Channel show, but what sets The Invisible Man apart is that it knows it looks like another crap Sci-Fi show, and the creators play with that every step of the way. Jokes about the Agency’s bargain-basement status fly fast and furious; Hobbes’ pay is constantly being docked to replace windows he’s thrown bad guys through, and the humiliation of flashing Fish and Game badges at crime scenes never lets up. What truly makes the show worth watching, however, is the interplay between Fawkes and Hobbes (a lot of which, I suspect, is ad-libbed). Ventresca and Ben-Victor riff like a house on fire.
Another plus is the lack of reliance on the invisibility gimmick — instead of turning it into a Hulk-out (“15 minutes left — he’s gonna turn into Lou Ferrigno!”), Fawkes’ shtick is more like Easy Cheese on the crispy cracker (once, when confronted with a particularly attractive woman, certain parts of Fawkes began to fade away, forcing him to don an apron and oven mitts).
Sadly, the series only lasted two seasons, but it’s got a rabid fan-following (including yours truly). One of those fans, Amanda Rogers, has actually taken on the mantle of film producer in an effort to reunite the cast of the series in a new project (unfortunately, Amanda was unable to acquire the rights to I-Man itself). Check out what Amanda’s up to at Shoom Zone Productions and follow her progress on her blog.
Meanwhile, season one of The Invisible Man is available on DVD, and both seasons are on Hulu. Give it a shot, it’s highly entertaining and the entire cast is terrific (and a couple episodes feature previous Cool Actor of the Week, Daniel Roebuck). As if that weren’t enough, Ventresca’s hair is absolutely hypnotic.