****(out of four stars)
Top Billing is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the third season. The original air date was back in June of '91
John Lovitz plays Barry Blye, an unattractive actor looking to win a role in any film. His looks are always holding him back. But lately, Barry's luck is turning out to be worse than usual. His girlfriend is leaving him, his agent has no faith in him and the roles that he seeks are far reached.
With little hope left, Barry inquires about a role as Hamlet held in a run down theatre in the butt hole of NYC. Turns out that Winton Robbins (Bruce Boxleitner), is also there to audition for the role. Winton is better looking, but according to Barry lacks acting talent. Winton and Barry have a bit of history. Winton is looking to out shine the starving actor once again, like he did many years ago. That is Winton's only objective; to prove to Barry that he's better. A grade "A" dick move.
Once inside the theatre they meet the eccentric cast of Hamlet and the overly obsessive director of the play, Nelson Halliwell (Jon Astin). After a brief meeting with Nelson Halliwell, Barry is hurt to find out that Winton will win the role. Once again, Barry's look prove to be the downfall for his success. He just doesn't have the look for the part!
Out of jealousy (or desperation), Barry kills his nemesis by strangulation. He then tell Nelson Halliwell that Winton had the worst case of stage fright he's ever seen. This opens the door for a new talent to play the role of Hamlet.
Like most of these episodes, the twist is the key. It turns out that the role that was won wasn't for the part of Hamlet but rather for the role of Yorick. A character that has been dead for many years. This sets up the real twist, where we find out that all the actors are actually insane patients, who have killed the entire staff at the asylum which is the supposed theatre.
They kill poor Barry for the authenticity of the Yorick character.
I loved this episode and was delighted to revisit it. This episode is compiled with a bunch of great actors and a solid story. Jon Lovitz is great as the desperate actor who is willing to kill for the sake of his "art". Lovitz, known for his comedy, comes off more sympathetic in this role. There's a touch of humor, but it's played much more serious than expected. He realizes that acting is an art form and takes himself and the profession seriously. Even though those surrounding him are negative towards his ambition and efforts. This episodes has heart and at its very core shows sincerity for the art of acting. Top Billing is just one testament as to how genius the third season really is.
Other notable actors in this episode include: Louise Fletcher, Kimmy Robertson and Paul Benedict. They're all bit parts, but you'll still notice them.
Starring: Jon Lovitz, Bruce Boxleitner and John Astin
Directed by: Todd Holland
Written by: Myles Berkowitz
Original Airdate: 6/26/91