In 1988, Tom Hanks captured Hollywood's attention with standout performances in "Big" and "Punchline," two radically different films that proved the actor could handle more than mermaids and bachelor parties.
It was also a huge year for Michael Keaton. Like Hanks, the actor was previously called upon for lighthearted comedies like "Mr. Mom" and "Night Shift." But while Hanks was channeling a 13-year-old boy, Keaton was playing a wisecracking demon in "Beetlejuice" and a self-centered alcoholic in "Clean and Sober." He would put on the Batman costume the following year.
Both actors wowed me in the '80s, but if you had asked me to bet on who would have a more fruitful future, I would have gone with Keaton. That didn't turn out to be the case. Hanks would become a national treasure. The other slipped off the radar.
Now he's all the way back.
"Dopesick," an eight-part series that starts streaming Wednesday on Hulu, is just the latest chapter in one of the most satisfying second acts in Hollywood history.
Keaton, who also serves as an executive producer, plays Samuel Finnix, an Appalachian doctor with the bedside manner of Marcus Welby. But his judgment flies out the window when he starts prescribing OxyContin to patients — and eventually gets hooked on the drug himself.
Finnix's downfall is one of many compelling stories in this miniseries, created by Danny Strong ("Empire") and featuring one great performance after another. Kaitlyn Dever's turn as a fellow addict is heartbreaking. Rosario Dawson is so fierce as a DEA agent that you'll wonder why she hasn't been invited to join the Avengers.
But it's Keaton who draws you in the most. Early in his career, he relied so much on smirks and cockiness that he was already spoofing himself in 1984's "Johnny Dangerously."
This time, there are no tricks. Finnix is too beaten down to turn on the charm. In a scene at a rehab center, he meets with the pharmaceutical dealer who first introduced him to the opioid. Instead of reading the young salesman the riot act, the disgraced doc begs him to sneak in some pills. He's about as far from the caped crusader as you can get.
Keaton has often been compelling, even during his decades in the wilderness. Check out the 2002 HBO movie "Live From Baghdad," in which he plays a CNN producer coming to terms with the growing power of cable news. He mined laughs out of the usually thankless role of a police captain in 2010's "The Other Guys."
But the return of MK really began with his Oscar-nominated work in 2014's "Birdman" — and he's been on a roll ever since. You've most likely seen "Spotlight." But he's even better in "The Founder," playing McDonald's magnate Ray Kroc, who was better at pulling off cons than flipping burgers.
"Worth," which debuted on Netflix last month, is a gem, thanks largely to the actor's portrayal of a well-meaning bureaucrat who falsely believes he can fairly compensate the Sept. 11 victims' families by simply applying a mathematical formula.
That's a streak as impressive as any in Hanks' career.
There's a lot of excitement about Keaton reprising the role of Bruce Wayne for "The Flash," scheduled for release next year. But as far as I'm concerned, he's already returned to superhero status.