It gives me no little happiness to announce that, in the upcoming new Kids in the Hall episodes, there will be an appearance by Kenneth Welsh. I’m less happy to inform you that it’s his final TV appearance, but if there had to be one, something so perfectly Canadian seems to be right. While his most known TV role is likely Windom Earle on Twin Peaks, he was one of many great Canadian actors, and my heart will always be with his appearance on that most Canadian of shows, Due South. Or, I suppose, that second-most Canadian of shows, but he was also on Murdoch Mysteries, so no matter which you consider, there he was.
Welsh was so good at being villainous that it seemed wrong when he wasn’t. He played Dr. Watson to Matt Frewer’s Sherlock Holmes a few times, and that was strange for both of them. It’s not that either was bad at the role; it’s that both had enough reputation for playing odd roles that it seemed a waste to make them play roles just anyone could handle. This is what fascinates me about his early TV appearance as D’Artangnan—how does that even work? And Christopher Walken is also in it? That must be the strangest Three Musketeers ever made.
What Welsh did best, better than anyone else—even Walken, even Frewer—is convey utter glee in malevolence. Not enough of you, I suspect, have seen Due South, but he ties Our Heroes together under a poncho in his second episode; they are attached to a bomb set to go off if their combined heart rate gets too high. Our Heroes are fighting at the time. It is magnificent, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and seriously, seek this show out and revel in his performance. He traps a whole bunch of Mounties, including Paul Gross and Leslie Nielsen, on a train, and there is singing, and it is glorious.
So why the Windom Earle picture? Because that’s what I could find in a timely fashion. It was probably the first thing I saw him in, too, and it took me longer than you might expect to realize that Randal K. Bolt was played by the same actor. (Much “gee, that guy looks familiar” involved.) And don’t get me wrong—I’m one of those people who still quite likes later second season Twin Peaks, and I think Welsh excelled in it. It’s just that it can’t quite compare to a train full of drugged Mounties.
Also, technically, I’m cheating in that first paragraph. What he was on was the original, mostly forgotten Murdoch Mysteries, not the version that’s run so long they’re basically going door to door recruiting Canadians to appear on it. (William Shatner as Mark Twain? Why not?) It is, in fact, considerably disappointing to me that he never did appear on the other version. It’s a missed opportunity on their part. As is the fact that his only appearance on Slings & Arrows was as himself.