Tuesday night saw the series premiere of TNT’s anticipation-adjacent and vaguely prestige-scented new drama Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is “inspired by” David Michôd’s (excellent) 2010 thriller of the same name, and “adapted from” the Gchat archives of someone who’s watched Sons of Anarchy seven times. It’s pretty good.
Blah, blah, blah, SPEEDMAN BACK. Way more pressing than the sum of Animal Kingdom’s influences is the fact that it marks the beginning of Scott Speedman’s elusive second act. Yes, it’s true, Scott “Ben from Felicity” Speedman is back in the high life — or at least in the high channels — again: as Barry “Baz” Blackwell, the adopted son in Animal Kingdom’s family ensemble. He has a funny new haircut, a “keep your shirt on” directive and a highly ambivalent dad steez; it’s exciting.
Oh, and that sound you hear? Sorry, my bad — those are two sounds. The first sound, of course, is of children across America whispering, “Speedman’s back, Speedman’s back,” and changing the channel to TNT. But that other sound? That really loud one? That’s a rocket-launched missile.
And it has Scott Foley’s name on it.
I’d call Animal Kingdom a declaration of war, but you already know: It’s been war for 18 years. And it doesn’t end until there is only one Scott standing.
This is Scott Wars: Episode XIX — They’re Back on TV Shows and Shit. Let’s fight:
Felicity, if you’re not familiar, was a popular turn-of-the-century Sarah McLachlan delivery system that doubled as a scripted television show about conspicuous 30-year-olds at a made-up college in New York. The show earned its place in the WB-wave canon on the strength of a second-or-third-ballot (probably third) hall of fame love triangle among Felicity (Keri Russell), Ben (Scott Speedman), and Noel (Scott Foley). Felicity was the classic “traditionally attractive … genius … with a good heart … who had … no friends … in high school?” (it made sense at the time); Ben was the hot jock (a swimmer); Noel was the hot nerd (an RA). I’m being reductive, and Felicity was SHEER ART, but that was pretty much the idea.
Anyway, [spoiler alert] Ben should have won and won. Not to turn this into a YouTube comments section, but to turn this into a YouTube comments section, yo: Noel was kind of a diiiiick. He secretly really was. Was it even a secret? Noel was That Nice Guy Who Will Never Shut Up About What A Nice Guy He Is — until, when push comes to Goo Goo Dolls cue, he reveals himself as the same horny and petty monster as any other. Also, there is a scene when he stops hooking up with Felicity to brag about his iMac. (“It’s so fast.”) Also, he would wear henleys under struggle-flannels, which is a real “make sure you can pull it off” situation. Also, he would say things like, “I gave blood last month,” and, “I’m not a stalker.” Noel definitely grew up to have a well-regarded Twitter account. Worst.
Ben was so dumb and beautiful and right. After “fighting” with Felicity, Noel would knock on her door with grand, pedantic “I’m sorry” speeches; Ben would smile, put on a timeless fall jacket, and whisper, “Hey.” Ben was flaky and forgetful and a slow-twitch kisser who would get away with things “because he’s from California.” But it was fine. Ben didn’t know any better, which is one of the most impressive amounts to know. Also, he had a crippling gambling addiction, but only for a little while. Also, when Ben gives Felicity a film cannister as a gift and asks her, “Do you know what this is?” and she says, “Yeah, it’s a film cannister,” he replies, “No — it’s a time machine.” Sweet, sweet Ben. He was just a guy who wanted to write thoughtful notes in yearbooks and swim and wear every peacoat ever invented and make out. And he definitely grew up to not use Twitter.
Speedman had the Underworld franchise, which isn’t nothing. Also, he played the rich lawyer in The Vow that Rachel McAdams dated again after she got car-crash amnesia and her father decided that Channing Tatum’s musician wasn’t good enough. Fuck you, Sam Neill, love is music and music is love and love + music conquers all. But yeah, this is pretty bleak.
The movies never really tried to “make Scott Foley happen,” like they (let’s say) did with Speedman — but Foley was probably better off. He stayed his lane and put together a nice little career in TV: Scrubs, The Unit, Grey’s Anatomy, and True Blood — all leading up to his second real breakout, as Jake Ballard in Scandal.
This one’s a blowout.
3. Advanced Metrics:
The good people at celebritynetworth.com place Speedman at $3 million and Foley at $5 million. Foley is 2 inches taller but three years older. Speedman’s best IMDb trivia is: “Sometimes confused with Creed’s frontman, Scott Stapp.*” (*Not part of Scott Wars.) Foley’s best IMDb trivia is: “Used to work at Mrs. Fields.” Foley was Jennifer Garner’s starter husband. Speedman had an alleged “encounter” with Goop.
4. Wildly Informal Ringer Staff Poll:
5. Present Day:
I actually like Animal Kingdom a lot so far: The pilot gets to the point and with flair, the setup isn’t unpromising, and Ellen Barkin is a king. I’m cautiously buying Speedman futures. But Foley’s latter-day Scandal rebrand — as a HARDBODY ASSASSIN LOVER who Black Swans the president of the United States — has truly been something to behold. Tough but easy call.
Scott Foley is winning the battle — which is a really nice thing to be winning, and he should feel good about that.
But Scott Speedman is still winning the war.
SPEEDMAN 3, FOLEY 2