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Took the Bad Film Seriously

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"Every actor has to make terrible films from time to time, but the trick is never to be terrible in them."

Despite their best wishes, every performer who is not John Cazale will end up acting in at least one bad movie in their career.Explanation  Some are wise enough to notice this going in, and decide to have fun while getting paid for it (lucky bastards). Not this guy though. They act with sincerity and conviction for an overproduced, over-hyped, and shoddily-written movie.

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The reasons for this vary: they may have extreme professionalism in every role they take to keep their reputation, they could be desperate to prove something (either a young actor who's still new or someone Playing Against Type desperate to show they're able to play multiple parts), there was Executive Meddling afterwards that hurt the film, or they honestly couldn't tell from ground level that the movie wasn't True Art but a glorified B-Movie.

The net effect is very Narmlike, with audiences becoming amused that this guy is putting so much effort into a flat role for a dud movie. This makes the actor/character stand out and seem out of place: they aren't like the other bad actors on set with their dull detachment, but they aren't hamming it up either. They may even seem to be overacting by comparison because they're the only ones really acting. If enough of the cast do it, the movie itself may become So Bad, It's Good as it crosses the threshold from bad to surreal with actors giving Oscar grade performances for a throwaway summer Action Movie. On the other hand, this trope can very occasionally make the movie worth watching solely for the actor's performance, if it is good enough. They might even rescue the film from being So Bad, It's Horrible.

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Contrast Ham and Cheese, which features a Large Ham in a badly-received work, whereas this trope involves a serious performance in a work with the same reception.


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  • The corny Heineken tie-in commercials created for Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace have this in spades. The making-of video for Royale's commercial shows everyone involved in the production treating it like a serious mini-movie, with production crew talking about injecting "high drama and wit", and Steven Gaghan (the director of Syriana) being hired to direct the clip. It seems a bit much in light of the corny subject material, which has...Vesper knock out a goofy-looking waiter and bring a Heineken to Bond's room. The Quantum commercial is even worse - the actors and crew are taking a commercial about a grocery store clerk who daydreams he's a spy absolutely serious, and lead actress Olga Kurylenko discusses at length how this commercial is so important for women. Notably, for the release of Skyfall, Heineken did away with the making-of completely and dropped the pretenses about the corny material.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Takehito Koyasu and the rest of the Weiß Kreuz cast, likely because Koyasu created it as a way for himself and his cool voice actor friends to show off. This accounts for a good bit of the charm of the series.
  • The Transformers wiki suggests Garry Chalk and David Kaye as Optimus Prime and Megatron in Transformers: Energon. Brad Swaile puts on a similar performance as Kicker Jones; and he later cited it as a key factor in disowning the role after he was cast as Light Yagami in Death Note, which made him a mainstream success.
  • Macross Delta: The effects of Executive Meddling really show on the second half of Delta, but that doesn’t stop the cast from giving it their all. Special mention goes to Asami Seto, whose interrupted Love Confession in episode 20 was filled with genuine emotion and sincerity.
  • The voice acting in the 4Kids dub of One Piece left a lot to be desired. Most of the time, the performances (especially of side characters) sound incredibly dopey if not outright stilted. Other times, they're hamming it up to the point of yelling half their lines (Luffy and Usopp are noticeable standouts). Combine that with some of them adding strange accents that don't fit (Robin and Sanji are also standouts). However, Marc Diraison's performance as Zoro (or Zolo) has been considered the best out of all of them as he has a lot more range of emotion in his performance without overdoing it in spite of the cheesy script he was given. Some people even prefer him over Christopher Sabat, Zoro's voice actor in the much better received Funimation dub.
  • Almost all of the cast in the 4Kids' dub of Sonic X put a good amount of emotion into their lines. Especially Lisa Ortiz as Amy Rose, despite not having much to do aside from being a Tsundere. Even then, when she was pissed, there was a lot of energy, and in rare moments like when she finally sees Sonic again after waiting three years in the finale of season 2, her crying love confession sounds genuinely sweet.
    • Likewise, Mike Pollock as Dr. Eggman is usually considered the best 4Kids castings for Sonic X. When the Sonic characters were officially recast again back in 2010, fans were pleased to know that Pollock was the only actor from the 4Kids cast that retained his role.
  • Out of the four Yu-Gi-Oh! dubs that were localized by 4Kids, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's had the absolute least amount of effort put into it. But the cast for the dub pulled a very great performance, especially Bella Hudson as Aki, whose performance was more emotional than her Japanese voice by Ayumi Kinoshita.
  • In yet another example, the DiC Entertainment dub of Sailor Moon is generally regarded as corny at best with a lot of Totally Radical dialogue and censorship, but it's clear that behind the slavish working hours and terrible scripts, the cast was at least trying with the material they had to work with. Especially Terri Hawkes, who restored a lot of Usagi's heroism and conviction Tracey Moore lacked. In an unexpected way, Stephanie Beard also managed to do a great job as Chibi-Usa of all characters after the cast turnover Cloverway took over dubbing the S and Super S seasons. Especially compared with Tracey Hoyt who played her as whiny and abrasive, Beard's voice work as Chibi-Usa was legitimately cute, had some nice range on her spotlight episodes which was especially good as Super S mostly revolved around her, and has many fans who still consider her the definitive voice even after the respected re-dub brought in Moe powerhouse Sandy Fox.
  • Magical Warfare: One of the anime's saving graces is that the voice actors do their best to bring their characters to life, even if the story doesn't actually go anywhere.
  • Blood-C: The entire cast, particularly Nana Mizuki, really did their best in their performance despite the mediocre reception of the show. At least, Mizuki's songs for the show sold well.
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    Films — Animation 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends:
    • In-universe, Gary Oldman's character, the one that was in Joey's overbudget (and nonexistent budget) World War I epic.
    • Also in-universe, Jeff Goldblum plays an award-winning actor who takes a strange amount of pride in some obnoxious cellphone commercials he appeared in.
      Leonard Hayes: Are you making fun of me? Because I am not a sell-out! I didn't do that for the money - I believe in those phones! I almost lost a cousin because of bad wireless service!
    • Additionally, in a first season episode, Joey was supposed to play Al Pacino's butt but was fired for acting too much.
    • There's also the episode where Joey was going to work in a film with the basic "driver meets a hitchhiker, gives her a ride, she disappears, then he's told that she was Dead All Along" as its whole plot, which he insists will be his big break.
      Chandler: It doesn't even sound like a real movie!
  • Robert Reed of The Brady Bunch did this as long as he could, before finally snapping and firing off an angry memo to producer Sherwood Schwartz when the show finally became too silly for him.
    • Reed refused to appear in the final episode of the fifth season and wound up being fired because everyone else involved was simply tired of dealing with him. The series' cancellation a few months later meant that they never had to find a replacement.
  • The entire cast of Robin Hood in the third season, bless them. What had been a silly, campy show for its first two seasons (and which somehow managed to pull it off, thanks to the dignity of the actors) was now asking to be taken deadly seriously...whilst still including ridiculous scenarios such as a lion so old that it couldn't even walk in a straight line and Robin hang-gliding from the castle parapets. In fact, Allan-a-Dale's WTF reaction to the hang-gliding is clearly the moment when the actor decided he was quitting.
  • In the DVD Commentary for the Farscape episode "Jeremiah Crichton" (subtitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Shows"), the four people commenting (two actors and two producers(?)) generally agree that too many people involved took an ultimately goofy episode too seriously, which contributed to its epic badness.
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special: Bea Arthur and Art Carney may not have belonged in a Star Wars related work but they were the only ones turning in nuanced and engaging performances (Arthur more so than Carney as Carney was expected to do schtick to fill long stretches of the special.) That was probably because Arthur had no clue she was doing the Holiday Special. Several times afterward, she said she had no clue she was doing anything related to Star Wars, and just thought she was singing to people with funny-looking heads. She probably just did what any professional would do, give it her best effort, and didn't realize it would become what it was.
  • Tina Louise, who played Ginger, on Gilligan's Island. Not by the standards of any other show, mind you, but she's still downright kosher compared to her castmates. This may be part of the reason that she became so resentful of it in her later years.
  • Francia Raisa on The Secret Life of the American Teenager especially after her character Adrian loses her baby. Her more dramatic scenes are quite jarring compared to everything else on the show.
  • Patrick Stewart personifies this trope so completely that it's been called his greatest strength as an actor: he can deliver bad dialogue with utter conviction. Sometimes this allows him to elevate the material above what it could have been otherwise, but not always. Said to be one of the main reasons he was asked to voice Deputy Director Bullock, was that Seth MacFarlane could put any string of words together in front of Stewart and he would read them with straight conviction. Probably the same reason he narrated Ted.
  • Even during the weakest seasons and episodes of 24, Kiefer Sutherland was constantly praised for delivering great performances and making Jack Bauer a sympathetic, well-rounded character (no mean feat, considering that Jack is a Memetic Badass Torture Technician).
    Ken Tucker: [reviewing the series finale] Lead actors in good TV dramas have to pace themselves, knowing that a season has a shape and that it’s a smart idea to avoid keeping the same tone or intensity hour after hour. But the very nature of 24 didn’t give Sutherland that artistic option... [he] probably portrayed intensity with more shades and variations than any TV actor. He rarely went overboard; he never succumbed to melodrama. The plots around him may have, but not Jack.
    • Similar comments were directed at Cherry Jones for her consistently brilliant performance as President Allison Taylor during seasons 7 and 8. This is unsurprising when you learn that Ms Jones is more or less considered the Meryl Streep of the American Broadwaynote  stage.
  • Lorne Greene in Galactica 1980. As one of the few members of the main cast that came back at all, and the only one who agreed to still BE in the main cast, armed with a genial new Santa beard, he tries hard to convince the audience they're still watching the same show, but...
  • Neil Hamilton really didn't have much fun portraying Commissioner Gordon on the 1966-1968 Batman (1966) TV series, primarily because of this trope. He believed that the pseudo-serious performances actually were supposed to be serious, and he would get angry when other cast members were caught snickering at the inanity of the dialogue between takes, believing they were being disrespectful. Even so, Adam West has admitted that Hamilton was one of the most accomplished actors on that show.
  • Lecy Goranson's too-serious Becky Conner in Roseanne. It was okay at first when the sitcom was a good show that slightly resembled the real world, she seemed more and more out of place when the show became super cheesy and kitsch during its final moments, leaving Lecy to be the only real thing left in the show. (Ironically, when Goranson returned for the revival and the subsequent Spin-Off series The Conners, she portrayed Becky in a much more hammy style.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Tomb of the Cybermen", despite its Nightmare Fuel visual setpieces and Gothic Horror vibe, has a nonsensical Idiot Plot, leaves Jamie and Victoria standing around with nothing to do for most of the plot, and is incredibly racist even by 1967 standards, and the under-rehearsed cast veers between Large Ham and Dull Surprise. It's also the episode where Matt Smith fell head-over-heels in love with Patrick Troughton's masterful performance and called up Steven Moffat to gush about how brilliant it was, insisting on using that version of the character as the basis of his own take on it. The scene where the Doctor gives a speech to Victoria about how 'no-one else in the universe can do what we're doing' is performed beautifully by him despite being a last-minute Padding scene added when the episode underran and is one of the Second Doctor's best scenes because of it.
    • Even Patrick Troughton doesn't bother putting in much of an effort in atrocious, fascist nonsense "The Dominators" (the second least-popular Troughton story), but Ronald Allen as Navigator Rago, in a giant foam collar and eyeliner, plays his part with such Creepy Monotone conviction he almost saves it.
    • In "The Space Pirates" — a story voted the least popular Troughton story in the 2014 DWM poll, a story rushed out during a period of Troubled Production when the show was almost canceled, and a story where the Doctor is mostly playing Pinball Protagonist and has very little screentime while various more dynamic guest characters carry the plot — Troughton's performance of the scene where he realizes he's made a mistake and has trapped himself and his companions on board a fragment of space debris with rapidly depleting oxygen and hundreds of miles of open space between it and the TARDIS is absolutely heartwrenching, and a rare example of the Second Doctor ever being completely serious.
    • "The Ark in Space". Faced with glaringly bright sets, a new Doctor who, while good, hadn't quite found his feet in the role yet, a very plastic alien and a Body Horror Virus made out of packaging material, Kenton Moore as Noah plays his role so passionately and convincingly that he turns a cliffhanger of him taking his hand out of his pocket to reveal it's wrapped in green bubble wrap from Narm to the sofa-chewing Nightmare Fuel of a man enduring a slow and excruciating transformation into a creeping wasp monster. Tom Baker's performance of a Patrick Stewart Speech in the first episode is also very strong and does a lot to show what the then-new Doctor can do.
    • "The Power of Kroll", a story with lots of Special Effect Failure written by a burned-out writer who hated working on it so much that he ended his association with the show for six years afterward, casts Philip Madoc in a minor role as the character Fenner. Madoc thought he was getting cast as the Big Bad Thawn, which would have suited him better, and was so outraged with his minor role that he also ended his association with the show. Not that this stops him giving his all — he has clearly decided he's going to do the best damn thing in the story despite what boring part they put him in, and plays him with a charisma and repressed, seething anger that's bizarre to see coming from a generic Doctor Who Mook Lieutenant Bit Character.
    • Even though "Meglos" is usually considered a boring fluff piece with tone problems due to a Genre Shift mid-development, Tom Baker actually does some of the best acting of his whole tenure in it, and in a season often criticised for Baker's lack of enthusiasm to boot. This is probably because he has something interesting to do — he has to play the Doctor, the Doctor's Criminal Doppelgänger Evil Twin, and each one pretending to be the other — so Baker had more room to show off range and subtlety than he usually got. (The fact that he'd spent the last few seasons mugging for the sake of it makes this even more striking.) In the review book About Time, Tat Wood observes that Baker "is having fun finding ways of suggesting he's a mad cactus". Jacqueline Hill, who played the companion Barbara Wright back in the First Doctor days, also returns here playing a completely unrelated character and imbues her with infinitely more dignity and interiority than the script gave her.
    • One of the more common opinions about the TV movie in the fandom is that, while the movie is generally cheesy and nonsensical, Paul McGann gives a charming and believable performance as the Eighth Doctor which is about the only thing worth watching in it. Sylvester McCoy also delivers a likable and moving performance despite being in a film that, according to him, shouldn't even have had him in it. His last scene before he regenerates, as he is on the operating table trying to tell the medics he's an alien and they're killing him, shows some of his best acting, from an actor who before this was largely known for vaudeville.
    • The Monks Trilogy three-parter midway through Series 10 of the revival started well with "Extremis" before succumbing to first Idiot Plot in "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and then a brutal case of both They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot and Third Act Stupidity in "The Lie of the Land". But praise was virtually unanimous for Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Pearl Mackie (Bill), Michelle Gomez (Missy), and Matt Lucas (Nardole) for wringing real thrills, chills, laughs, and heartache from the half-baked scripts. The standoff between a desperate Bill and the Doctor, who has become a coldheartedly pragmatic Propaganda Machine for the aliens who have enslaved her kind, on a prison ship in "Lie of the Land" is a brilliant showcase for their actors even as it ends with the reveal that the Doctor is faking his villainy — and a regeneration — to test her, after she passes by shooting him with a gun that was really full of blanks.
  • In Comrades of Summer, the first Soviet Olympic baseball team play an exhibition game against the world-champion New York Yankees. Russia had no tradition of baseball, and their team was made up of athletes drafted from other sports (hockey, track, tennis, swimming, and so on); they had only one "real" baseball player, and he learned the game playing little league while living in the US with his ambassador father. Going into the game against the Yankees, everyone but the Russians knew that the game was going to be a crushing defeat for the Russians. Except no one told the Russians, who went in and played their hearts out. As a result, while the Yankees still won the game, they held the world champion New York Yankees to only a one-run lead.
  • It would seem that every version of Star Trek has somebody who does this.
    • Star Trek's DeForest Kelley was well-known for giving every single episode his all, even if he and everyone else on set knew it was a turkey. Best shown in "Spock's Brain", where he's displaying profound conviction even though nobody else in the series was able to see a script where space bimbos steal, well, Spock's brain and react without sniggering.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation greatly benefitted from Patrick Stewart, especially in the early years, with his well-known talent for delivering even bad dialogue with utter conviction.
    • Variation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: instead of an actor, it was the director, Alexander Siddig, who did this in the notoriously bad "Profit and Lace", viewing an admittedly bad farce as instead a dramatic piece. As a result, even the bits that could have worked ended up not working.
    • Star Trek: Voyager isn't so much a bad series as it is a very polarizing one, but it is a case where the technical achievements of the show overwhelmed the story. That didn't stop Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway) from throwing every bit of talent she had into the stories, even as she grew increasingly frustrated about Janeway's inconsistent characterization. Most of the other cast members did this too, putting in great performances even in the show's weakest episodes — see, for instance, Robert Duncan McNeill acting the crap out of his scenes in the legendarily terrible "Threshold" (the effects/makeup team also provided a non-acting example in that episode, creating genuinely great makeup for the sequences where Paris is slowly turning into a lizard after traveling at infinite speed. Seriously). The major exception is Robert Beltran, who, by his own admission, loathed the series and his role, and was on "not giving a shit" mode in almost every episode.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise:
      • Dominic Keating put a lot of effort into fleshing out the character of Malcolm Reed, viewing him as a lonely man who disproportionately magnifies the few emotional connections he's able to make, only to spend most of the first two seasons as "that stuffy British guy who gets Worfed all the time".
      • Jolene Blalock was a self-described Trekkie and studied Leonard Nimoy's performances as Spock and learned Vulcan to play T'Pol, even though as Ms. Fanservice was stuffed into a ridiculous catsuit and often put into situations where she was stripped of it.
  • Many reviews of the short-lived GSN game show How Much Is Enough?, which was literally 30 minutes of contestants hitting buttons to stop a money clock, noted that the show's only saving grace was Corbin Bernsen's charismatic hosting.
  • By their own admission, neither Robert Vaughn nor David McCallum had much emotional investment in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. towards the end of its run... and it shows. Fortunately, not everyone who appeared during the final season shared this approach — witness guest star Leslie Nielsen in the two-part Series Finale "The Seven Wonders Of The World Affair" as a renegade general involved in a plan to use a docility gas on the world's population and take over. Thanks to his committed turn, you actually feel sympathy for him when he gets trapped in the gas-emitting device and goes from a power-hungry military man to a quiet individual who won't do anything, including come out of the device, unless someone tells him to do it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Even though a large section of the fandom were very unhappy about the Adaptational Villainy of Stannis Baratheon, Stephen Dillane is widely considered one of the best actors. The scene where he burns his daughter Shireen, even if not in the books and one of the most controversial moments in the show, is brilliant to watch because of Stephen's acting. Even though the next episode has him getting killed in an incredibly ignominious fashion that has many of his fans practically foaming at the mouth his acting sells the scenes and makes him Unintentionally Sympathetic despite the writer's intentions.
    • You felt really bad for Alexander Siddig on how his character, Prince Doran Martell was used in the widely despised Dorne arc in Season 5 and 6 as his acting and lines are one of the good things compared to the Sand Snakes' awful acting and the Idiot Plot surrounding this storyline.
    • General reception of Talisa Maegyr was that the character wasn't written that well, but Oona Chaplin did a very good job with what she was given. And Talisa's shocking death managed to move even her many haters.
    • Ellaria was originally a fan favorite when she showed up and became The Scrappy only because of the atrociously written arc she was put through in Season 5. Still, if Indira Varma doesn't try her hardest.
    • The last half of Season 8 took very little time to be labeled the worst part of the series's run, for its contrived plotting, baffling developments, and character assassination. But Emilia Clarke largely repeated Stephen Dillane's feat, managing to sell Daenerys' utter grief and shock at the multiple Diabolus ex Machina thrust upon her and making her twist far more sympathetic than was probably intended. Especially impressive, considering she had to deliver a lot of her dialogue and pivotal scenes while sitting on a lime-green lump that'd be turned into a dragon in post.
    • Even Pilou Asbæk was apparently disappointed by Euron's Adaptational Personality Change and Adaptational Wimp status, going from a terrifying mage-pirate to an annoying Jack Sparrow knockoff with decidedly inconsistent motivations and wildly varying skill levels. Nonetheless, he still put enough effort into the performance to end up rewriting Euron's final moments to be more in-character.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • The only thing that saves Rumpelstiltskin is Robert Carlyle's performance. Despite the inexplicable Face–Heel Revolving Door, Carlyle makes the character so wonderfully evil (and yet Woobie-ish at the same time) that he comes close to salvaging it.
    • Season 5 was noted to be a huge case of Seasonal Rot, with the only thing keeping the show together being Lana Parrilla's charisma as Regina.
    • Earlier Season 2 entered a massive Kudzu Plot that was made watchable by Barbara Hershey's performance making Cora a Magnificent Bitch. When they killed her off, the rest of the season flopped.
  • Downton Abbey suffered Seasonal Rot from the third season onwards — with characters changing motivations, plots becoming ridiculously melodramatic and Character Development becoming non-existent. Yet the cast continued to shine with whatever they were given — the likes of Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt being nominated for several awards (and Smith winning many of them).
  • It's pretty obvious that Tracy Spiridakos is trying hard - perhaps a bit too hard - to inject some sort of life into her character on Revolution, but the writing makes her out to be a whiny, incompetent Jerkass with a penchant for getting captured and starting brawls.
  • Happens In-Universe in Garth Marenghis Darkplace: the cast of the titular Show Within a Show are mostly non-actors doing a terrible job, either sleepwalking through their lines or hamming it up. The guy playing the Temp, however, is an actual actor who's clearly doing what he can with the stilted material he's been given. Naturally, all he accomplishes is showing just how awful the other actors are, especially the arrogant head writer/star, who quickly kills him off.
  • The actors involved in Inhumans created an entire sign language for Anson Mount's mute character. In any show other than the dramatic nadir of the MCU, this would be impressive; as it stands, it's just kinda sad.
    • Many people have also praised Iwan Rheon's performance as Maximus, saying he was a fantastic choice for the role and did the best he could with what he had. Many have said that, due to his performance and the way his characters was written, the show would have been considerably better if it had focused on Maximus and made him the hero and made the Inhuman Royal Family the villains.
  • In Search of... was widely criticized in its day for many of the same reasons that Ancient Aliens is today, engaging in copious amounts of absurd conjecture and holding up any and all random explanations as equally valid, legitimate answers. Nevertheless, Leonard Nimoy, never one to half-ass anything, takes his role as the host very seriously and delivers a completely serious and compelling narration that never gives way no matter how bizarre or implausible the things he's describing get, making the series a joy to watch in spite of its abundant flaws.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • Depending on the Writer the show's writing ranged from tolerable to downright atrocious (Status Quo Is God, Idiot Plots everywhere, negative continuity). But it's agreed that the show managed to endure precisely from the effort of the actors involved. Arthur and Gwen's terribly written 'romance' was in fact pulled off by the talents of Bradley James and Angel Coulby.
    • Emilia Fox's unbridled charisma as Morgause made her the favorite villain on the show, even if her plots in Season 3 became increasingly convoluted. Doubly impressive considering she was several months pregnant at the time.
  • Schitt's Creek: In-Universe, Moira Rose is cast as Dr. Beatrice Mandrake in The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening and takes it very seriously, even going so far as to rewrite her dialogue and making up a middle name for her character. Rather than ridicule her for it, the show portrays this as an admirable trait since Moira is aware that this is likely the best she can do as an actress so she intends to do it well.
  • Even at The Vampire Diaries' lowest points, Nina Dobrev received a great deal of praise for her complex, multi-layered portrayal of Elena and her various doppelgangers.
  • Mr Selfridge suffered from soap-opera-ish writing, ham-handed plotlines, and sometimes quite frankly inane dialogue... which didn't keep the immensely talented cast from giving the show absolutely everything they had anyway, with the likes of Jeremy Piven, Katherine Kelly, Amanda Abbington, Aisling Loftus, Gregory Fitoussi, Frances O'Connor, Kara Tointon, Samuel West, and Amy Beth Hayes somehow elevating mediocre-at-best writing into truly touching and dramatic performances.
  • I Shouldn't Be Alive is a series of survival stories compiled from the testimony of the survivors - coupled with "Dramatic re-enactments" of lookalike actors. Most series with "Dramatic Re-enactments" are not known for the quality of their acting - often coming off as unintentionally hilarious or melodramatic. However, this series in particular manages to shine out when the actors give genuinely shocking, heart-wrenching, or depressing performances. What's extra impressive is the fact that these aren't professional actors - they were literally cast because they look like the survivors (and the deceased).
  • A documentary based upon the French Revolution featured some of these "Dramatic re-enactments", but the actress who played Madame Du Barry manages to give a very chilling performance of her trying to escape and screaming.
  • Saturday Night Live: In one sketch during the 2019 episode with Emma Stone as host, she played an actress who does this with her bit part on a gay porn shoot. Her "role" is simply being the wife who's cheated on by her husband with her godson, appearing only briefly twice (to leave, then come back and catch them together). However, she goes all out trying to connect with her character, imagining her entire backstory and is moved to tears at the end (though the director doesn't care at all, her fellow actors are impressed).
  • While practically every element of Riverdale has been mocked to hell and back, most people stop short of criticizing any of the acting. General consensus is that while the actors themselves are good and clearly trying to make something salvageable out of the show's plotlines, they're bogged down by bad writing and could be much better if they were given good material to work with.
  • Home Movie: The Princess Bride: Most of the fun comes from an All-Star Cast of various actors who know perfectly well that a home movie version of The Princess Bride with all the budget of 'stuff found around the house' would look totally ridiculous, and both made absolutely no attempt to hide the nonexistent production value and did their level best to give Oscar-worthy performances.
  • Gotham: One of the frequently cited criticisms of the show's first season was that every actor seemed to think they were in a completely different kind of TV show — Jada Pinkett Smith was going full camp, Donal Logue was basically playing Jerry Orbach's Law and Order character in a Batman universe, Cory Michael Smith was a romantic comedy protagonist, etc. And then there was Ben McKenzie, playing Jim Gordon, who seemed to sincerely believe he was in a serious prestige drama about a good man's tragic fall and triumphant rise. As the show evolved and finally settled on a consistent tone (a kind of gleefully over-the-top dark camp), most of the actors eventually found that groove. McKenzie, though, kept playing it completely straight, even in the face of the show's intentional ridiculousness.

    Music 
  • Soul music great James Carr sang the Narmy lyrics of "A Man Needs a Woman" with the same sincerity and conviction as his other songs. The lyrics go from "Just like a vampire needs blood/Like a dead dog need them bugs" to the utterly hilarious "I need a little love/Like the soldier needs a gun/Like a hamburger needs a bun".
  • Songs in the Sonic the Hedgehog series are known to have cheesy lyrics, but Johnny Gioeli from Crush 40 sure knows how to take the cheesiest of lyrics and make them sound sincere and epic.
  • Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt fame) had trouble producing what was intended to be her second solo album in 2005, and in lieu of that, she started performing Narm-filled cover versions of songs that were outside her genre while at a Los Angeles nightclub. One of these, a completely uncensored cover of N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" is performed as a "coffeehouse" version that's just as serious and melodic as her previous works, with lines like "My AK-47 is a tool, don't make me act like a motherfucking fool" played entirely straight.
  • Richard Harris manages to sing the ridiculous lyrics of MacArthur Park with sincere passion and conviction. The result is one of the most infamous Narm performances in music. Many fans of it today adore it as Narm Charm.
    • One documentary says that Harris picked the song especially because Jimmy Webb told him it was ridiculous, implying that Harris sang it all that way knowing how narmish it would be but loving every minute of it.
    • Waylon Jennings did a Country Music Cover Version a year later and similarly treats the lyrics seriously, but goes the opposite direction of Harris and sings it with a tone of subdued anguish over lost love. It helps that he skips the overly-florid first verse and starts with the more reflective and evocative second verse.
  • Before she went into acting Sissy Spacek tried a music career, and in 1969 was talked into recording a song meant to cash in on the John and Yoko Two Virgins controversy, called "John, You Went Too Far This Time", credited under the name Rainbo. The song itself is pretty hokey, with lots of lyrical and musical references to The Beatles (mostly Paul songs, ironically). But her impassioned vocal and the elaborate arrangement make it oddly compelling.
  • Reportedly Leiber and Stoller wrote "Jailhouse Rock" as deliberately silly, tongue-in-cheek narrative goof in terms of lyrics (including an implied gay pairing in the third verse). Elvis Presley, however, took it and performed it as a straight rock and roll song, missing all the deliberate humor and innuendo in the lyrics. It's believed that Elvis' straight delivery prevented the song from getting censored.
  • Watch the 'Making Of' video for the infamously bad Coming Out Of Their Shells concert tour. Assuming it's not meant as a joke, it's almost disturbing to watch grown men and women talk about a cheaply made kids' musical with terrible costumes as if it's the second coming of the Beatles.
  • Just about any film composer you can name has this in their job description.
  • For the Live Aid concert in 1985, most artists went into it out of touring shape and saw it as more about expressing solidarity with the cause than putting on a good performance. Queen, fresh off of a difficult world tour, put on what has been described as "The Greatest Twenty Minutes in Rock", performing with enough passion and energy to directly instigate a comeback for the band east of the Atlantic.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling gimmicks are so known for this that fans have to suspend their disbelief. During the decline of WCW, many found it difficult because the writing was so bad (covered in the book The Death Of WCW).
  • Chris Jericho stated in his interview on The Broken Skull Sessions that this is what he aims for. No matter what kind of match he's booked in- a 30-second squash or a twenty-plus minute epic- Jericho's aim is to always be memorable.
  • Dolph Ziggler is known for this. No matter how cheesy an angle or low on the card he is, he manages to put out believable promos
  • Edge, whether it was a ridiculous feud with Kane where he pelted Paul Bearer with dodgeballs or arguing with a laptop, put everything into each feud he had.
  • Diva Dirt noted that though the 2010 'feud' between LayCool and Kelly Kelly was moronic in concept - Michelle and Layla making fun of Kelly for smelling bad and calling her 'smelly Kelly' - the three women put as much effort into it as they could. After Kelly's title match against Layla - her first Women's title shot in fact - they remarked: "she came out of it looking like a top Diva."
  • Emma's gimmick was thought of as a joke when she debuted. She was a bad dancer who thought she was good. Fans embraced the idea and the dance suddenly got over, which was helped due to Emma's genuine talent as a wrestler.
  • While working as The Shark of the Dungeon of Doom in WCW in 1996, John Tenta sat for a 24-hour process to have his LSU Tigers tattoo turned into a shark. Not long after that, he stopped doing the gimmick.
  • Sid Vicious, so, so much.
    • During Ric Flair's "A Flair For The Gold" on WCW Clash of the Champions 24, August 8, 1993, Sting, Davey Boy Smith and Dustin Rhodes were there to introduce the fourth man for their team against The Masters of the Powerbomb (Big Van Vader and Sid Vicious) and Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) in War Games at WCW Fall Brawl 93 on September 19th. Sting announced that their partner would be The Shockmaster. Some pyrotechnics went off, and The Shockmaster started to walk through a wall, and tripped and fell on the floor. His helmet came off, revealing himself to be Fred "Tugboat"/"Typhoon" Ottman. While everyone else was laughing, Sid still acted scared.
    • On the November 15, 1999 WCW Monday Nitro, Kevin Nash was imitating Sid in the ring. Sid came out and cut a promo which included him saying, "You are half the man that I am, and I have half the brain that you do."note  Despite Sid's history of botching his promos, this one was not his fault, as professional moron Vince Russo actually wrote it that way and Sid took it and did the best job he could with something that was completely moronic.
  • At Extreme Rules 2014, Hornswoggle teamed up with jobber stable 3MB to take on El Torito (a mini wrestler in a bull costume) and Los Matadores on the preshow in a "WeeLC Match" where the ring announcer, referee and even the commentators (Micro Cole, Jerry Smaller and JBElf) were played by little people. Despite this uninspiring idea, the performers involved decided to put their heads together to come up with the best WeeLC match they could. What should have been a lame, farcical waste of everyone's time actually turned out to be a genuinely entertaining comedy match with some really good ring work from the two mini wrestlers and the supporting players bumping like mad to get it over (including Hornswoggle smacking Heath Slater in the stomach with a steel chair and sending him backwards off the ring through two tables, and a horrific spot where El Torito and Los Matadores gave Jinder a Doomsday Device off the ring apron through two tables and two ladders!). The crowd even gave them a "This is awesome!" chant after Hornswoggle gave El Torito an elbow off the ring through the mini-announcers' table. When 3MB and Hornswoggle reunited to rewatch the match in 2018 they were genuinely proud of what they'd accomplished with such a stupid concept.
  • Ethics about them aside, most are in agreement that the shows WWE put on in Saudi Arabia are glorified house shows with WrestleMania levels of spectacle, with many wrestlers flying in for an easy paycheck and some free exposure. As a result, majority of the matches tend to be mediocre at best, with some of the company's worst matches of the decade taking place there. However, possibly bolstered by it being their first time in the country since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Crown Jewel 2021 turned out to be a surprisingly good affair, with excellent work from the likes of Drew McIntyre, Becky Lynch, Bianca BelAir, Roman Reigns, and especially Edge and Seth Rollins, the latter two's Hell in a Cell match being regarded as one of the company's best matches of the year.
  • A lot of times, an inherently stupid stipulation could be elevated if the performers in question still manage to sell it like a legit wrestling match. Case in point, the Eye for an Eye match between Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio Jr. where the objective is to force your opponent's eye out. Pretty much everyone agrees regarding this match that the stipulation itself? Stupid and nonsensical. The match itself and the story told throughout? Surprisingly good, but given the experience and caliber of both performers, a decent-at-worst match was gonna be a given regardless of the stipulation.

    Radio 

    Sports 
  • As many prospects or fringe players often don't get much playing time except in "garbage minutes" (i.e., after a game is so lopsided the result is beyond doubt), they will often put in a top effort even when the rest of the team has checked out. For instance, it is not uncommon to see a backup goaltender in hockey play exceptionally well after the starter has been pulled and the game has become a blowout. Of course, it's a Justified Trope in this case, as a good showing after the starter's been pulled may result in a new starter being chosen.
  • The captains of bad teams tend to do this, especially if they're also the leading scorer. A few historical examples:
    • Barry Sanders, of American Football's hapless 1990s Detroit Lions, was the workhorse and only good thing on a team that roundly sucked. He managed to be one of football's top running backs despite being on a team considered lucky to ever post a winning season, let alone get a playoff berth. He eventually grew so frustrated that he quit football instead of persisting in this exercise in futility.
      • Wide receiver Calvin Johnson did the exact same thing, playing for the Lions from 2007 to his retirement in 2015
    • Walter Johnson, star pitcher for Baseball's Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927, was widely recognized as one of the great pitchers of his era, with a then-thundering 91-mph fastball that struck out large numbers of the greatest batters in the American League. However, Johnson, being a pitcher, couldn't be in every game, and even when he was, the Senators sometimes failed to produce enough runs to win. His Senators only ever went to the World Series twice: in 1924, when they won, and 1925, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Otherwise, being a Senators fan was better known as "an exercise in futility" for his entire tenure.
    • Also from baseball, the late 1990s-early 2000s San Francisco Giants could never...quite...get...enough...wins to make it all the way—despite Barry Bonds' massive exertions. As one Bay Area sportswriter put it, Bonds was one of several "compensations" for never having a World Series (along with Bonds' father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays)...until the Giants won in 2010, three years after Bonds retired.
    • Mike Trout is one of the definitive modern cases of this. Those fond of the Game of Nerds have noted Trout's Wins-Above-Replacement to be among the best of his generation, despite him being on a team that has failed to win a playoff game even once during his lengthy tenure with them and frequently posts losing seasons.
  • December 23, 1982: the top-ranked team in college basketball, the University of Virginia Cavaliers, had just played in a tournament in Japan and on the way back home scheduled a game in Hawaii against the Silverswords of Chaminade University (which had a total enrollment of around 800 at the time). The game was supposed to be an easy win for Virginia after spending the day hanging out on the beach. Chaminade was supposed to be in awe of their guests and happy to just have the chance to be on the same court as national Player of The Year Ralph Sampson. But Chaminade had suffered their first loss of the season a few days before, to a team with a losing record, and they were looking for redemption. They came into the game intensely focused, and won 77-72 in what is usually considered the biggest upset in the history of American college basketball.
    • At least until 2018 when Virginia became the first ever (and to date, only) #1 seed to lose in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, not only losing but getting completely blown out by #16 seed UMBCnote , 74-54. Virginia would bounce right back this humiliation and win their first ever NCAA men's basketball title in 2019.

    Theater 
  • Shakespearean experts like Harold Bloom believe that The Merchant of Venice was a case of this for William Shakespeare. It was only made as a commission from someone else and Shakespeare isn't known to have held any real anti-Semitic beliefs. Yet he still put the same level of effort into it as any of his other plays, doing things like giving the stereotypical Jewish villain a sympathetic backstory. Bloom has noted how this regretfully gave pantomime anti-Semitic caricature a longer life in popular imagination than it really should have had. It's hard to combat stereotypes when they are given depth and good writing by one of the most beloved scribes in history.
  • Many productions of Love Never Dies fall into this, but it's particularly evident in the Melbourne production that was actually filmed. It's quite clear that everyone involved, especially Ben Lewis as the Phantom, is desperately trying to wring something out of the material; even the costumes and sets are incredibly elaborate. This is likely at its most evident in Beneath A Moonless Sky, where Ben Lewis and Anna O'Byrne are throwing their entire lungs into a seven-minute-long opera ballad about how they had a one-night stand ten years ago.

    Video Games 
  • The Fight: Lights Out is a near-launch PlayStation Move fighting game that had a very negative reception, mostly due to bad controls, lousy hit detection, and boring gameplay. The highlight of the game is the tutorial which features an FMV of Danny Trejo doing his best "tough-as-nails" act as your trainer. However, he also does this incredibly intense performance while clutching the rather silly-looking Move controllers, and at one point equally intensely warns the player to not move his feet because otherwise, the game breaks. It's so ridiculous it becomes awesome.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Adventure: The English dub is infamous for its poor acting and awkward-sounding, poorly translated dialogue, compounded by strange character animations in cutscenes. Despite this, Knuckles' actor gave many self-reflective monologues on his purpose guarding the Master Emerald. Likewise, while a bit stiff along with the general cast, Tikal's shtick as a mysterious, otherworldly maiden works, most memorably when she's explaining the famous "the servers are the seven Chaos" speech to Tails, and her horror at the end of Sonic's story when her tribe was decimated by Chaos and the shrine's in ruins. It helps that some of the awkwardness stemmed from the voice actors having been given poor direction and no context for any of their lines; those lines were self-explanatory, and it was therefore possible to give them proper inflection, unlike most of the dialogue.
    • Sonic Adventure 2 is remembered fondly for its admittedly somewhat rushed and badly-edited cutscenes, but they work in spite of their problems based off of Rouge and Shadow's good lines, managing to sell the former as a classy, intelligent spy and the latter having many sad, occasionally profound moments. While much of Shadow's later developments are seen as melodramatic and his reputation tanked later on, David Humphrey is considered the first and best portrayal of the character that found a comfortable spot between his angstiness, mysteriousness, and coolness, injecting a playfulness and genuine melancholy that won the character his fans in the first place.
    • Lacey Chabert in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) gave the most emotion to her character in the game. Her performance doesn't stop her storyline from coming across as a Romantic Plot Tumor, and despite how infamously cringeworthy her kiss was with Sonic, her speech imploring him to wake up is surprisingly moving if you can look past the visuals.
  • Joseph Kucan's performance as Kane in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight was on the same level as his performances in the previous games. Too bad the same thing cannot be said about the game itself.
  • While many people will cite Johnny Yong Bosch's best roles as being Adachi or Narukami, Ichigo Kurosaki, Lelouch, or even Guy (within the Tales Series fandom), it's pretty obvious that he was really really taking the role of Emil Castigner, Ratatosk, and Aster seriously in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. This was a game intended to be a Gaiden Game that failed to get most of its English voice actors back due to more-limited production values and a reduced budget for localisation, resulting in some obvious oddities when characters speak with a different voice, or perhaps even sounding like they're just reading off a script. Even to the end, when Emil no longer sounds as wimpy and no longer goes Large Ham in combat, Bosch gives both of his characters distinctly different voice sounds.
  • The quality of Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) is contentious at best, and the game’s story mode is considered an abysmal Cliché Storm. Yet the voice actors all turn in fantastic performances, managing to make even the weakest dialogue sound halfway decent. Matthew Mercer, in particular, was praised for stealing the show with his performance as Luke Skywalker.
  • Hunt Down the Freeman:
    • One of the more tragic things about the game is how, despite the actual character being abysmally written, Mick Lauer is clearly giving his damnedest in his performance as Sgt. Mitchell, and is valiantly struggling throughout the game's nonsensical plot to add any humanity he can scrounge up to such a thoroughly unlikable character.
    • Additionally, ignoring the infamous "Black Messah" misstep, the G-Man's voice actor "Rick" easily gives the best performance in the entire game, with it being very easy at some points to forget that it actually isn't Mike Shapiro voicing him.
    • Paul Humphrey (the game's main music composer) made some surprisingly memorable music for the game and even tried to give a Mitchell a fittingly melancholic Leitmotif.
  • Postal III is pretty much universally considered the low point of the series, to the point that even the owners of the property regularly issue it Take Thats, and one particularly onerous decision was the recasting of the Postal Dude (which, to be fair, wasn't the fault of the developers, as Rick Hunter was in the midst of a Creator Breakdown). Despite this, most fans will admit that Corey Cruise, the replacement voice actor, clearly did the best with the material he was given, and often wish he was in a better game. In fact, future entries in the series, such as the Brain Damaged expansion and the fourth game, managed to bring him back in some form, more or less acknowledging him as merely a different take on the character rather than something best left forgotten.
  • YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG' while the game is mostly derided for its poor acting and voice direction, many actors themselves put in very good performances for the lackluster material they have. Vella and Alex sometimes show good examples of this, but Anthony Sardinha playing Claudio is a stand-out. He's clearly having fun with the role and sometimes even seemingly goes off-script, injecting a lot of life into the game from his performance alone.
  • Jurassic Park: Trespasser is widely considered one of the worst video games of all time, with a severe Troubled Production and overly-ambitious physics system rendering it nigh-unplayable without extensive moddding. But there's one point where the game truly shines; the haunting, beautifully-written, and remarkably well-acted narration by the incomparable Richard Attenborough, reprising his role as John Hammond from the films. Many who have played the game consider said narration to be so good it actually justifies playing through the whole buggy mess, and lament that it didn't have a better game to be in.
  • Despite its infamously buggy and unfinished launch, Cyberpunk 2077 has become famous for how ecstatic Keanu Reeves was when promoting it at E3 2019.
  • Ripper has a star studded (well, mostly B-List actors) cast that was notable for 1996. Most of them act like they're just collecting a check (Karen Allen, Ossie Davis, Tahnee Welch), hamming it up (Christopher Walken, Jimmie Walker, Burgess Meredith), or doing their best but limited by their skills (Scott Cohen), but damn it if John Rhys-Davies, Paul Giamatti and David Patrick Kelly aren't giving pretty good performances in this crappy little game.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Dangeresque films mostly feature Bad "Bad Acting", with a lot of monotone performances, Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud, and characters forgetting or misspeaking their lines. Yet, curiously, the King of Town delivers a fairly good performance as main antagonist Perducci, committing none of the above sins and pulling off a convincing Villainous Breakdown in the third film. Marzipan also seems to be oddly enthusiastic and competent in Dangeresque 3, Acting for Two as a Femme Fatale and a Distressed Damsel and playing both parts fairly convincingly (though she does go off-script to try to add a Green Aesop while playing the latter). Homestar and Strong Bad try for this, but they're quite bad at it.
    • In the Cheat Commandos cartoon "The Next-Epi-Snowed!", writer A. Chimendez is shown to take his job as a writer of an incredibly dumb Merchandise-Driven cartoon with complete professionalism and regards the character of Gunhaver as a great military leader. The conflict arises because of the guy who plays Gunhaver phoning it in so hard that he gets bored and asks if he can start voicing the rhyming guy instead.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Ultra Fast Pony: Happens In-Universe in "Stranger than Fan Fiction". The show's usual writers are indisposed, so everyone else just uses a fan's script for the episode. It turns out to be a Self-Insert Fic riddled with mistakes. Most of the cast break character to comment on the script or just phone in their performance. However, Blue Twilight and Spike stay in-character the whole episode, and they're the only ones to really sell their roles (as the villain and the hero's sidekick, respectively).
  • The Transformers: Combiner Wars: It seems to be a tradition for the actors who portray Optimus and Megatron to give it their all no matter the quality of the series, as Jon Bailey and Jason Marnocha are clearly doing their best and doing quite well.

    Western Animation 
  • The My Little Pony 'n Friends cartoon was a largely serviceable adventure show that was made to sell toys like most other '80s cartoons.
    • The voice work was often passable, but Sarah Partridge, the voice of the pony Wind Whistler had some especially nice moments in her focus episodes and occasional banter. Amusingly as The Spock, her character displayed the least obvious emotion, but it made her sarcasm and sense of humor a joy to watch. It's also ironic that in a show full of grating singing, her actress was a professional jazz singer and never got a song.
    • There's also Bettina Bush, who played the farmgirl Megan. While she was barely 12 at the time, she easily spoke the most as the lead character who popped up in most stories and had a lot of enthusiasm and pep that probably made viewers actually like her compared with most Token Human characters in merch-driven series.
  • Toon Makers’ Sailor Moon, the infamous North American live-action adaptation of Sailor Moon often incorrectly called Saban Moon, was the handiwork of Toon Makers Incorporated. As noted by its presenter in the private showing, and as can be seen even through the distorted perspective of the camera that captured it all, the people doing the computer graphics special effects really do seem to have given it their best effort. (See especially Sailor Moon's live-action-to-animation transition near the end.) Added to that, many of the monsters seen are actually based on the Monster of the Week villains from the original series. The writers evidently just didn't care and went with a horrific Totally Radical approach to the show and especially its opening theme. Much to the company's regret and everyone else's relief, as noted, the adaptation was scrapped in favor of just dubbing the original show. The video of it however, continues to circulate on the Internet, much to the amusement of everyone who sees just how bad it was.
  • In-universe, in The Simpsons episode "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show", Homer gets a job voice-acting the character of Poochie, a designed-by-committee and Totally Radical character who speaks entirely in dated catchphrases and immediately gets a withering critical response. Despite this, Homer does his best with the material and capturing the feel of the character, and even petitions the executives for ways to improve the character rather than killing him off. It doesn't work. Lisa even reassures him when he gets sad about the response, pointing out that it wasn't that Homer did a bad job; he just had nothing at all to work with.
  • Though not a bad show, especially by the standards of its time and genre, The Transformers isn't a show that most people would go to the hilt for. Despite this, Peter Cullen puts some real work into the role of Optimus Prime, claiming to have based Prime's voice off his older brother (who was a war veteran), and giving the Autobot leader a constant sense of inner sadness and gravitas even while playing basketball or fighting big game hunters.
  • DuckTales (2017) features an In-Universe version regarding a Darker and Edgier reboot movie of Darkwing Duck. The lead actor (who was a big fan of the original show when he was a child) openly admits to having a low opinion of the project but wants to give the best performance possible to inspire a new generation the same way the original inspired him.
  • Loonatics Unleashed is a rather polarizing show, but one of the few things that are seen as good is the voice acting. All the main voice actors (Charlie Schlatter, Jessica DiCicco, Jason Marsden, Rob Paulsen, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Candi Milo) give their A-game despite their characters not being anything too special.
  • While no one will deny RoboCop: Alpha Commando didn't help with the Dork Age the RoboCop franchise found itself in since RoboCop 3 (presenting Murphy akin to Inspector Gadget didn't help), but one of the few saving graces was David Sobolov as the titular character, as he managed to successfully capture Alex Murphy's humanity.


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