On the eve of the 5th-season premiere of “Burn Notice,” we count down the actor’s most memorable small-screen performances
Bruce Campbell, "Burn Notice" stud and all around good dude, turned 53 today.
We would have sent our favorite cult hero a triple-tiered cake with a ton of candles on it if we'd thought something like that would have survived the harrowing trip to Miami, where Campbell is in production on the fifth season of his hit USA Network series (which has its premiere Thursday at 9 p.m. ET).
And we'd love to give the birthday boy an Emmy nomination as a present — he's earned it!
Instead, we'll settle for throwing the "Evil Dead" legend a virtual bash in the form of a tribute to his five best TV roles — a list, we'll hint, that is not topped by Sam Axe, the beer-swilling babe-hound he plays so scene-stealingly on "Burn Notice." Drumroll, please!
5 — The Old Spice Guy (Old Spice ads)
In 2007, before "Burn Notice" turned him into a cable darling, Campbell hawked cologne you figured only your burly uncle used. The B-movie poobah retains his time-tested smart-aleck persona in the two clever ads, only now he's a rich cheeseball who knows how to play "Hungry Like the Wolf" on the piano. His hilarious debut spot has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, which makes us wonder: Why haven't more advertising agencies taken a drink from the River Campbell?
4 — Autolycus ("Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess")
On "Hercules" and spin-off "Xena," both executive-produced by Campbell's "Evil Dead" pals Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi (the latter also of "Spider-Man" directorial fame), the big-chinned Michigan ham played jokey antihero Autolycus, the so-called King of Thieves. The twin syndicated TV phenomenons excelled at light-heared action — making them the perfect conduit for a recurring character who speaks primarily in Campbell-friendly one-liners.
3 — Jack Stiles ("Jack of All Trades")
If only Campbell's highly enjoyable 2000 action-comedy "Jack of All Trades" had been produced today, it might have been welcomed with open arms by no end of cable networks. Instead, this half-hour gem, set in the fictional French-occupied island Pulau-Pulau in the 19th century (and again produced by Tapert and Raimi's Renaissance Pictures), was overlooked by all but the most loyal of Campbell fans. At least we can revisit Campbell's sarcastic secret agent whenever we want on DVD — which we do with shocking regularity.
2 — Sam Axe ("Burn Notice")
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Campbell is the most compelling thing about "Burn Notice," a rollicking spy series that would still be compelling without him. So popular is his puckish supporting character that USA Network even gave him a stand-alone prequel film in April. Axe and the gang return Thursday for more Florida shenanigans.
1 — Brisco County Jr. ("The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.")
In a kinder, gentler world — one not concerned with "ratings" or "advertising dollars" and other TV buzzwords that often ruin hopes and dreams — "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." might have been the toast of television. Alas, Fox cancelled the groundbreaking 1993-94 series after just 27 episodes. As a Harvard-educated lawyer-turned–bounty hunter, Campbell mugs his way across the Wild West unleashing smarter-than-thou wisecracks and thwarting black-hatted baddies. "County" made for a perfect follow-up to his winning turn in Raimi's 1992 "Evil Dead" sequel "Army of Darkness" and should have turned Campbell into a mega-star. But to those in the know, he already was — and always will be. Happy birthday, big guy!