The Baldwins aren't coming. They're here.
Over the past few years, the quartet of movie-star brothers has worked its way from the big screen into your living room. With Alec and William Baldwin already appearing regularly on network shows, Stephen and Daniel have joined up in recent weeks with roles on "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Celebrity Rehab," respectively. If that doesn't make you love reality TV, nothing will.
But it all begs the question: How many Baldwins are too many Baldwins? And what it is about TV today that ensures a place for every Baldwin?
This, of course, isn't the first time the Baldwins have made their way onto television. Alec's career began in earnest with a spot as a crazy preacher on "Knots Landing," while Daniel's most notable career role was a two-year stint on the critically adored "Homicide: Life on the Street."
But the recent influx of Baldwins on TV — and the fact that they're all on active shows at the same time — is notable.
In the beginning ...It started, as most Baldwin movements do, with big brother Alec turning heads two years ago by taking a regular part on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock" as Jack Donaghy, the fictional GE vice president of East Coast television programming and microwave ovens. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.) Critics were in such amazement at his taking a TV job that one of their first questions to "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey upon the show's introduction was, "Will Alec Baldwin be on every show?"
He's not only on every episode, but the notoriously liberal Baldwin gets to flex his comedy muscles while playing a staunchly conservative New York Republican who brings a photo of Ronald Reagan to his barber for reference purposes.
In typical Alec fashion, he tested the waters of the current TV world, gained critical acclaim, won a Golden Globe, was nominated for an Emmy and told his brothers to come on in.
William arrived this fall on TV's juiciest new drama, ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money," which follows a rich New York family of five siblings and the kind of shenanigans that come along with extreme wealth and public exposure.
William, who once worked for a New York congressman in D.C., plays New York's attorney general. He’s a married man who's looking to make a run for a Senate seat, but has a transsexual girlfriend, which might throw a wrench into those plans. It's a part that benefits from the cool and panicked touches that a Baldwin can deliver, and William could soon find himself on award ballots for it.
Not to be forgottenBut that brings us to the lesser-known brothers, who've benefited from desperation on a couple of different levels. Stephen Baldwin was in the right place at the time when the floundering "Apprentice" franchise decided to try a celebrity edition.
At the same time, Daniel joined seven other fallen stars on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." Both are admirable, if surprising, ventures that could yield positive results in many ways.
Stephen, the youngest member of the Baldwin clan, is best known for his roles in "The Usual Suspects" and, of course, "Bio-Dome." He previously appeared on "Fear Factor" and, you're forgiven if you'd forgotten about this one, "Celebrity Mole." The initial shots at career re-invigoration via reality TV apparently didn't take, and he's now playing "Celebrity Apprentice" with 13 other celebrities — and former "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault Stallworth.
Stephen has already done some good on the show. As team leader during the first episode, he guided his team to victory in the first challenge put forth by Donald Trump: selling hot dogs in Manhattan. For the victory, Stephen received nearly $70,000 (the total amount of money earned by both teams in hot dog sales) for his charity, The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, and his mother appeared to accept the donation.
Last week, Alec made a cameo on "Celebrity Apprentice" to buy some printers for $1,000 each from his baby brother and bring a little star power to a Kodak printer display the team had set up on a New York sidewalk.
"It was very good to have Alec Baldwin there because, actually, it showed everyone what a real Baldwin is," said “America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan, who is Stephen's teammate, even though they have a brewing rivalry. "Because, choice: Alec Baldwin, massive TV star; Stephen Baldwin ... ?"
The stakes are more than fun and games for Daniel Baldwin, who's had a rough go of it since appearing on VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club" in 2005. Baldwin's widely reported problems apparently stem from a cocaine addiction he once told People magazine he's been fighting since 1989. In late 2006, Baldwin was arrested for stealing a friend's SUV, which resulted in a famously embarrassing mug shot that was featured in the series premiere of "Celebrity Rehab."
Baldwin, who said in the premiere that he's been sober since November 2006, is participating in the rehab program (that's being documented for the series) in order to maintain his sobriety, which he says is a constant struggle. As a longtime addict who seems to be on a genuine quest for sobriety, Baldwin looks to play a key role as he doles out advice to the other celebrity addicts in what turns out to be a genuinely captivating hour of television every Thursday.
The Baldwin crew has overtaken practically every aspect of television — the sitcom, the drama, the reality competition and the voyeur reality show. Alec might even have a future as a talk-show host, as he's scheduled to interview Gene Wilder on TCM's "Role Model: Gene Wilder" on April 15. All that remains is for mom Carol to start hosting a cooking show on The Food Network.
But as each of them fills his role so effectively across the spectrum of genres television has to offer, it turns out that TV is big and diverse enough to accommodate every Baldwin that comes our way.
And anyway, can you really ever have too many Baldwins?
Victor Balta lives in Philadelphia and is a regular contributor to msnbc.com.