David Bowie: Extras (2006)
Of course, they all had a cameo in Ricky Gervais’s TV industry sitcom. But even in this crowded field, Bowie stole the show. After all, funny as Ross Kemp was, he wasn’t going to be able to perform a delightfully cruel song (“It’s banal and easy, it’s a huge waste of space”) poking fun at the comedy hero. On a show about empty fame, Bowie was a reminder of what talent really means.
Mark E Smith: Ideal (2007)
God moves in mysterious ways. And like most religious front men, your child can demonstrate in any form. If, like Moz from Johnny Vegas, you were a filthy stoner looking for guidance, why wouldn’t Jesus take on the guise of Fall’s leader? Bathed in a heavenly glow, Smith swears lustfully while giving enigmatic advice.
Joe Biden: Parks and Recreation (2012)
Amusingly, Leslie Knope begins the scene containing Biden’s cameo by pondering the possibility that he may run for president in 2020. She then meets the man we now know as president-elect, and their encounter suggests that despite the allure from Leslie, when America made the right choice when it came to taking down Donald Trump.
Ben Kingsley: The Sopranos (2006)
Kingsley is very much in Hollywood luvvie mode here, not Don “Sexy Beast” Logan mode. He was approached to star in the Christopher Moltisanti film Cleaver, but the idea does not impress him. His dismissive tone leads Christopher to revert to gangster type, as Kingsley’s guest star Lauren Bacall discovers at his expense.
Kylie Minogue: Doctor Who (2007)
Created specifically for Minogue by Russell T Davies, waitress Astrid Peth was a temporary companion to David Tennant’s Doctor in the 2007 Christmas special. Although we barely got to know Astrid, she managed to save the world. Even then, the reviews were mixed. Tough crowd.
Taylor Swift: New Girl (2013)
Part of the appeal of Swift is her quality of being both surprising and deeply normal. So her brief cameo on New Girl, where she suddenly changes Cece and Shivrang’s wedding by declaring her feelings for Shivrang, worked out perfectly. His appearance provided both a startle and a knowing smile.
Brian Eno: Father Ted (1998)
The “blink and you’ll miss it” quality of this cameo adds to its appeal. In the latest episode of Father Ted, “Father Brian Eno”, as presented, is on the screen for a couple of seconds. In the days leading up to broadcast, when seeing something again meant waiting for it to repeat itself, you might even wonder if it happened.
Serena Williams: Law & Order – Special Victims Unit (2004)
Just as The Bill was an essential stamp in the passport of any young British actor, so it was in America with Law & Order. The show always liked a cameo, but even viewers accustomed to surprising guest appearances did a double take when tennis star Serena Williams appeared, playing a basketball player and victim of revenge porn.
Brad Pitt: Friends (2001)
The premise of this cameo was that Will (Pitt) was an old friend from school whose dislike for Rachel had led him to start a rumor that she was intersex. It’s offensive and surprising in equal measure, but back in 2001, the main source of intrigue was the fact that Jennifer Aniston was starring alongside her husband in real life.
Graeme Souness: Boys from Blackstuff (1982)
“You look like me. Magnum, too.” The nightclub encounter between Bernard Hill’s tragic hero Yosser Hughes and Liverpool FC’s tough, mustachioed man, Graeme Souness, is both funny and deeply sad. Hughes is a desperate man, stripped of agency and identity by forces beyond his control; Souness is both a point of aspiration and a focus of your anger.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism