• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #144: Taylor Worth


Too bad he gets shot buying a flower for CJ Cregg

Worth Winning is a fairly run-of-the-mill 1989 romantic comedy with an improbably silly plot, and yet it's always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Mark Harmon is at his effortlessly charming best in the role of Taylor Worth, Philadelphia TV weatherman and confirmed bachelor. Taylor's friends, who are more or less happily married, envy and worship him openly. His well-earned confidence in his seductive skills leads the same friends to engage him in a seemingly-impossible wager: he has to secure wedding proposal acceptances on film from three women. And his friend Alan gets to pick the women.

What follows is classic late-80s sexual antics, and Worth technically wins the bet. The twist, of course, is that he actually does fall in love with one of the women, Madeleine Stowe at her most delectable and delightful. Everything unravels as the wager comes to light, and Taylor loses everything. In one of the great cinematic apology scenes, he publicly declares his own awfulness. It's not Shakespeare, but it's surprisingly worthwhile. Taylor engages in the time-honored conceit of fourth-wall-breaking, communicating his thoughts and plans with us in confidence, sometimes with only an exasperated glance. Harmon's charisma and skill makes him remarkably effective with this technique. Even though his character is morally questionable, it keeps us on his side throughout.

There's surprising depth to Taylor Worth. His life, while apparently dedicated to selfish pleasures, is not unconsidered. He can be contemplative, warm, even self-sacrificing. In the end, he even proves to possess courage and honesty. Look, it's a goofy 80s comedy. There's a lot of dated stuff here. But it makes me laugh, and sometimes that's all I'm looking for.

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