Tom Hanks: A TV History

With Finch up next, we take a look back at Tom Hanks' lengthy history with the small screen

With Finch up next, we take a look back at Tom Hanks’ lengthy history with the small screen

It’s not how it was intended, but just lately Tom Hanks has become a ubiquitous TV presence again.

The two-time Oscar winner largely started his career on the home screen four decades back. Though he’s returned to television occasionally during that span, he seemed destined to remain primarily in theatres… until of course the pandemic, of which he and wife Rita Wilson became two of the earliest celebrity victims.

As a result, Hanks’ Second World War naval thriller Greyhound—for which he also wrote the screenplay—was rerouted from cinemas to Apple TV+, where it debuted in July 2020.

His subsequent film, News of the World, did get a theatrical release, but went to premium video-on-demand after only a few weeks. Now, another Hanks movie is premiering via the streamer route.

Anticipated to be released a year ago, Finch also ended up sold to Apple TV+, and the science fiction drama will debut there this Friday.

Hanks plays the title role: an inventor who’s the last man on Earth, prompting him to create an android (portrayed by Caleb Landry Jones) to join him and his pooch on a cross-country trek.

That said, Hanks’ relationship with TV audiences goes back quite a ways. It began in 1980, with a guest spot on The Love Boat, which was soon followed by a headlining gig on Bosom Buddies, the two-season comedy in which he and Peter Scolari played friends and co-workers who posed as women so they could live in an all-female hotel.

That show brought him guest-star work on such iconic series as Taxi, Family Ties and Happy Days; the latter show’s Ron Howard ultimately helped Hanks’ movie career get off and running by directing him in the 1984 hit Splash.

Even as the future Oscar winner was accruing feature-film credits, television work remained at hand, with NBC’s Saturday Night Live a definite factor. He’s hosted the sketch show 10 times (including last year’s episode that marked SNL‘s first to be done virtually during the pandemic) and appeared as a guest nine other times.

Hanks’ other television activity largely has been from behind the scenes. His company Playtone has produced several documentary series for CNN (The Sixties, The Seventies, etc.), and he’s been an executive producer of more than one Emmy-winning HBO drama: From the Earth to the Moon, on which he also acted and directed, was the first; Band of Brothers, for which he directed and wrote as well; and The Pacific came after that. Currently, the Oscar-winner has HBO’s military-themed Masters of the Air in the works, completing a Second World War trilogy-of-sorts with the premium cable network.

The streaming and cable worlds certainly seem to be bringing Mr. Hanks into our homes more often these days, but then… it’s not a place he’s unfamiliar with.

Finch debuts Friday, November 12th on Apple TV+