Though actor Christopher Meloni has had quite a few TV roles since vacating the role of Detective Eliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU, Syfy's darkly comedic thriller Happy! provides him his first chance to show off the full spectrum of his acting skills back in a leading role. Disgraced detective Nick Sax is nothing like Eliot Stabler, but that doesn't mean Meloni's star-making role doesn't factor into Happy!. Comic and show creator Grant Morrison spoke with CinemaBlend about his bonkers and faithful adaptation, and he agreed with me that Meloni's dignified work on SVU added another level to his performance.
While many actors bounce from role to role without ever necessarily landing a signature character, Christopher Meloni will likely always be remembered for his years on Law & Order: SVU. Not only because it's a show that's been watched by a bazillion people, but also because of the authoritative gravitas the actor brought on a weekly basis, much in the way his former co-star Mariska Hargitay is still delivering it. Having him go full-on wackadoo for Happy! likely would have come across as a misguided plan in the months after Meloni exited SVU.
But now, at a point in his career where he's shown off more of his dramatic talents on Underground and honed his comedic chops on quite a few shows -- he was one of the best parts of Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer shows -- Meloni is strengthened all the more by his past as Eliot Stabler, which serves as a fantastic way to almost unwittingly infer a backstory from Nick Sax himself. Even if the SVU vet wasn't playing another detective, I think audiences would still perceive Nick as a rough-edged hero rather than the permanently intoxicated assassin we're introduced to.
To give credit where it's due, we're only able to tack career nostalgia onto Christopher Meloni's performance because Grant Morrison & Co. were brilliant enough to land the actor in the first place. A comic icon whose library is full of adaptable works, Morrison told me it was co-writer and director Brian Taylor (of Crank and Mom and Dad fame) that played a big part in making that magic connection happen.
With all of the roles Christopher Meloni has played in his post-SVU career, the actor quite evidently strove to distance himself from being typecast in Eliot Stabler-type roles. He's not likely to return to Law & Order: SVU at any point soon, so Happy!'s Nick Sax might be the closest TV fans get to revisiting the actor's broadcast network glory days. But even if it isn't, this is a Chris Meloni that audiences have never seen before, so make sure you watch. (Read our review.)
Happy! makes its skull-smooching debut on Syfy on Wednesday, December 6, at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what other shows we'll be looking forward to in the future, head to our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.