An ensemble cast is a group of actors in which each character/actor is assigned an equal level of importance to the story. Sometimes even if there is an established "main character," a show can be considered an ensemble because individuals are treated with the same care and development as everyone else on the show.
This sort of cast style gives the audience a chance to connect with several different characters rather than just one; if a viewer does not like one of the characters or cannot relate to them, there will be several more to choose from. It creates very broad storylines and various plot lines, and it is currently favored in modern television.
Here is a look at some of the best ensemble casts currently on television, although there are many others. Desperate Housewives
"Desperate Housewives" began in 2004 on ABC, and in 2007 it was named one of the most popular shows in its demographic throughout the world's audience. It began with 13 main characters, all billed in the opening credits, and by the third season boasted 17 starring roles, including the younger actors on the show. It specifically focused upon the lives of four interesting women: Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher
), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman
), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross
) and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria Parker
). Other stars are Nicollette Sheridan
, Doug Savant
, James Denton
, and Ricardo Chavira
This show is about mystery, lies, adultery, scandal, love, and the 'truth' behind suburban doors. It's a dystopian society, and everyone has something to hide. It can be a little too mysterious and feel like an endlessly winding road, but in the end the show is truly about the lives and downfalls of four women who on the outside might seem like they have it all. On Wisteria Lane, nothing is what it seems.
Premiering in 2004 on ABC, "Lost" has become one of the most critically acclaimed and favored shows on television. It has won a Golden Globe, an Emmy, a SAG award, and a handful of other accolades and nominations over the four years it has been on television. It is a sci-fi drama show about a group of people who survive a plane crash on a mysterious deserted island. They find many dangers upon the island as well as true miracles, strange illusions, ghosts, and many other bizarre encounters.
It started as the second largest speaking role cast (after the aforementioned "Desperate Housewives"), and it only grew from there with cast changes in each season and a great deal of regular guest starring roles. Several characters began as side characters, such as Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick
) and Ben Linus (Michael Emerson
) but emerged as break out roles that earned them both a great deal of attention, as well as an Emmy nod to Emerson. The regular cast includes former "Party of Five
" star Matthew Fox
as Jack Shephard, Canadian Evangeline Lilly
as Kate Austen, "The English Patient
" actor Naveen Andrews
as Sayid Jarrah, southern charmer Josh Holloway
as Sawyer, and that is just the beginning of a long list. Each and every character adds to the general storyline, and they each are given their own flashback episodes and purposes within the show.
Based off a British comedy of the same name, "The Office" took the genius of Ricky Gervais
and paid a loving tribute while broadening the show to the American public. Starring Steve Carell
, John Krasinski
, Jenna Fischer
, Rainn Wilson
, B.J. Novak
and a handful of others, this NBC sitcom managed to charm millions of people from the very beginning. Not unlike the movie "Office Space
" it centers on the average work place with the every day workers and problems they run in to between one another and in general. Often the crew responds to Carrell's thoughtless and troubled Michael Scott, and he either creates the obstacles they need to overcome or just generally makes a mockery of himself and the typical business world. Smart and funny, it uses a single camera documentary style with no laugh track, and one of its most interesting qualities is that several of the show writers play regular characters on the show as well.
A person does not have to love comic books to secretly desire the ability to fly, or soak in fantasy in order to enjoy an imaginative story. "Heroes" received an average 14.3 million viewers in its first season, which was the highest rating for any NBC premiere in years. Perhaps it is because a part of every viewer dreams of having super powers themselves, so when they see an average man like Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar
) go shooting into the air, they imagine what it would be like. Whatever the reason, audiences swarmed to this hit television show about ordinary people who develop super powers. It could also be the all-star cast that shot to stardom due to its popularity: Masi Oka
, Hayden Panettiere
, Leonard Roberts
, Greg Grunberg
, Milo Ventimiglia
, Ali Larter
… this list could go on all day. The cast shimmers with a warmth that draws fans to them, and it probably helps that most of them are very, very pretty.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
When thinking about ensemble casts, it is difficult to not immediately think of the "CSI" franchise. With two spin-off shows, it juggles a crime and punishment genre with mystery and a 'who dun it' attitude. The show centers on a Las Vegas team of forensic scientists who use detective skills as well as scientific discovery to unravel murders, suicides, and other fatal crimes. The first season cast included William Petersen
, Marg Helgenberger
, George Eads
, Paul Guilfoyle
, Jorja Fox
, and Gary Dourdan
. It has several recurring guests and cast members who came and went, but they still make guest appearances when the show allows. "CSI" is on its ninth season and still going strong, and both "CSI: Miami
" and "CSI: New York
" have been renewed for a seventh and fifth season respectively. The cast is so beloved that when Jorja Fox was reported to be leaving the show, the fans responded by raising over $80,000 to try and persuade CBS to keep the actress and her character Sara on the show.
Arguably one of the best sci-fi shows on television, "Battlestar Galactica" is a revival of a show that aired in 1979 but only lasted 24 episodes in its first season, and then it was brought back in 1980 for 10. Both times it was cancelled due to a lack of high ratings, although it gained a great deal of cultish status in the sci-fi fandom. In 2003, a mini-series was imagined and it brought "Battlestar Galactica" back to the mainstream, starting a very successful version with a large cast and new storylines. The plot is that the human race was attacked by the robotic creatures called the Cylons and what few survivors there are flee from their vindictive enemies. They are searching for a new Earth to call home and a way to stay alive since the Cylons intend to wipe out the race entirely. It stars Edward James Olmos
, Mary McDonnell
, Katee Sackhoff
, Jamie Bamber
, James Callis
, and Tricia Helfer
to name but a few of this eclectic cast.
"Mad Men" is a brand new series on AMC that has been renewed for a second season and is notable for winning two Golden Globes in its very first year: Best Television Series-Drama and Best Actor in a Television Series-Drama. It takes place in the 1960s at a New York City advertising agency surrounding the life of executive Don Traper (Jon Hamm) and the people in his life and at the office. "Mad Men" gained very high regard in critics for its historic portrayal of the 1960s and the accuracy of which it shows the decade both personally, racially, and countrywide. Besides Hamm, the cast has Elisabeth Moss
, Vincent Kartheiser
, January Jones
, Christina Hendricks
, John Slattery
, and a handful of others. The cast swallows whole the decade for which they represent, and this is a series for people looking to be nostalgic or fascinated by the differences in a culture just forty years ago.
Honorable Mentions: 30 RockGrey's AnatomyBoston LegalThe CloserUgly Betty
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Story by Chelsea 'Dee' Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer