Welcome to TV Guide's 12 Days of Chris-Mas, a festive celebration of famous dudes named Chris. Every day leading up to Dec. 25, we will honor a single Chris, counting down to the best Chris of the year. Today, that honor goes to Chris Meloni, the sixth best Chris.


It has been seven years since Chris Meloni left Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but in the minds of many Meloni still is and always will be Det. Elliot Stabler. Meloni has worked consistently, including in several high-profile projects, since leaving SVU, but more people probably know about his latest reunion pic with Mariska Hargitay than they do his recent IMDb credits. And you know what? That's a damn shame, because Christopher Meloni's career is one wild ride, and it's time we give it the appreciation it deserves.

12 Days of Chris-Mas, Explained

I'm not saying we shouldn't all worship at the altar of Det. Stabler, merely that Chris Meloni has been serving up a lot more looks than Catholic Crime-Solver Who Ignites Your Daddy Issues over his 30-year career. So if you only know him as Olivia Benson's hot-headed partner, it's time to change that. And to make it easy for you, we've put together this chronological viewing guide to help you get to know the beauty, the grace, the absolute weirdness that is Christopher Peter Meloni, actor-at-large and your low-key favorite Chris.

Dinosaurs

What It Is: An ABC sitcom about a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs, portrayed by animatronic puppets. The series ran for four seasons and famously ended with a series finale that saw the dinosaurs' irresponsible actions toward their environment causing the Ice Age that led to their own extinction. Dark stuff.
Who Meloni Played:
Spike, the trouble-making friend of the family's eldest son Robbie. He appeared to be a Polacanthus dinosaur if you're into that kind of trivia. This role is really just great because Meloni is playing a slang-slingin' teenage bad boy, which is pretty much the last thing you'd picture when you think of Meloni.
Where to Watch:
Hulu

12 Monkeys

What It Is: An Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning science fiction film in which a man, James Cole (Bruce Willis), is sent back in time to prevent the release of a deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity. While in the past, Cole kidnaps but ultimately teams up with a scientist, Dr. Railly (Madeleine Stowe), to try and prevent the apocalypse.
Who Meloni Played:
When you think of 12 Monkeys, you think of three people: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt. You definitely do not think of Meloni, but that doesn't mean he didn't play the small role of Lt. Halperin, aka that guy who investigates Railly's abduction by Cole. It was very much a "that guy" role for the "that guy" stage of Meloni's career.
Where to Watch:
Starz, Hulu with Starz add-on, Amazon Prime with Starz add-on

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

What It Is: The adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's iconic novel of the same name that your college boyfriend was probably obsessed with. Johnny Depp stars as Raoul Duke, a Gonzo journalist who goes on a surreal and psychedelic exploration of Las Vegas in a drug-induced haze.
Who Meloni Played: Sven, an embattled desk clerk at the Flamingo who has a heated confrontation with a guest before checking Raoul Duke in. It's a very small role, but Meloni brings such intensity to it that when acting teachers say "there are no such things as small parts, only small actors," they're probably thinking of this.
Where to Watch:
Starz, Hulu with Starz add-on, Amazon Prime with Starz add-on

Runaway Bride

What It Is: A beloved Garry Marshall rom-com starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in which Roberts plays Maggie, a woman who has jilted three men on her wedding day but is finally planning to make it down the aisle... that is until she falls in love with the reporter (Gere) who is covering her wedding.
Who Meloni Played:
Maggie's fiancé! With an ensemble cast that also includes Joan Cusack and Rita Wilson, Meloni's performance as Maggie's latest fiancé, high school football coach Bob Kelly, is often overlooked — much like how Bob Kelly overlooked the fact that Maggie fell in love with someone else right up to the moment that they started making out in front of him.
Where to Watch:
Starz, Hulu with Starz add-on, Amazon Prime with Starz add-on

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Wet Hot American Summer

What It Is: David Wain and Michael Showalter's satirical comedy about the jam-packed and surreal last day at a summer camp in 1981. The beloved film features an all-star cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Rudd as the camp's counselors and staff. Although the 2001 film flopped when it was released, it developed a cult following over the years and has since spawned a Netflix prequel series, First Day of Camp, and sequel series, Ten Years Later.

Who Meloni Played: Gene, the shell-shocked Vietnam vet and camp chef who develops a close friendship with a talking can of mixed vegetables and who would prefer fondling sweaters and humping fridges to dealing with actual people most of the time. Of all of Meloni's many, many eccentric roles, this one definitely takes home the top prize and really is a must-watch for anyone who is having a hard time imagining Meloni as anything other than the super serious Stabler.
Where to Watch: Netflix, Starz, Hulu with Starz add-on, Amazon Prime with Starz add-on

Oz

What It Is: HBO's first hour-long drama series ever, Oz is about the experimental unit of a maximum-security state prison, following the lives of those who were imprisoned there and those who worked there. The series was known for its brutality and refusal to shy away from harsh real-world issues, but this violence was balanced out by a heightened sense of surrealism and even a dose of well-done camp.
Who Meloni Played:
Chris Keller, a charming but ruthless murderer who develops a complicated romantic relationship with fellow inmate Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen). The couple's intense on-and-off love story provided much of the heart of the series (and much of the heart-wrenching betrayal). Other than Stabler and Benson, this is probably the role and the pairing Meloni is shipped hardest for.
Where to Watch:
HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Hulu with HBO add-on

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

What It Is: The famous stoner comedy starring John Cho and Kal Penn as a pair of friends whose quest to get White Castle leads them on several misadventures. There really isn't much more to the film than that.
Who Meloni Played:
Freakshow, the boil-riddled tow-truck driver who picks up Harold and Kumar and tries to have a foursome with the duo and his sexy wife. And if you forgot this was Meloni or didn't realize it was him, we forgive you because the prosthetics and makeup Meloni wore for this role were so good/disgusting that they actually made it a little hard to look at him. Meloni also played a different role, that of a KKK Grand Wizard, in the sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
Where to Watch:
Amazon Prime (for purchase)

This Daily Show Sketch

What It Is: After a cop named Anthony Bologna was recorded using pepper spray on Occupy Wall Street protestors in 2011, The Daily Show imagined what a police procedural about Tony Bologna would look like.
Who Meloni Played:
Tony Bologna, obviously. And while the sketch is solid overall, really, the best part is when they credit the actor as "Chris Melogna."
Where to Watch:
YouTube

True Blood

What It Is: A sexy supernatural drama about a small-town waitress (Anna Paquin) from Louisiana who falls in love with a vampire (Stephen Moyer) and then a lot of murder and orgies ensue. But, more importantly, this HBO series features Alexander Skarsgard as a vampire so hot he can even pull off a tracksuit.
Who Meloni Played:
Meloni joined the cast in Season 5 as Roman Zimojic, an ancient vampire leader who would do anything to foster peace between vampires and humans. This definitely wasn't True Blood at its peak (not even close), but it's worth noting that this does mark Meloni's first post-SVU role. Not the most memorable way to kick off the new era of his career, but it was quite a buzzy casting at the time.
Where to Watch:
HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Hulu with HBO add-on

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42

What It Is: Chadwick Boseman stars in this biopic about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. It was a box office success and is every bit as earnest and inspirational as you'd imagine.
Who Meloni Played:
Leo Durocher, the Dodgers manager who insists that Jackie Robinson plays with the main team. It's not a huge part or anything like that, but if you're craving some Prestige Meloni, some Get This Man to the Oscars Meloni, this should definitely be at the top of your to-watch pile.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (for purchase)

Veep

What It Is: This hit political satire stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the vice president (and later president) of the United States. She and her team attempt to create a lasting legacy while subjecting anyone within earshot to their brutal, artful insults. The HBO comedy has won 17 Emmys so far, which is probably a record when it comes to shows that include the phrase "Jolly Green Jizzface."
Who Meloni Played:
Finally a role that takes advantage of Meloni's best asset: his butt! In Season 3, Meloni recurred as Ray Wheelans, Selina's personal trainer with whom she begins a sexual relationship. The role required Meloni to deliver a lot of hilariously ill-informed lines, but more importantly meant we got a lot of scenes of him wearing spandex, other tight clothes and sometimes no clothes at all.
Where to Watch:
HBO Go, Amazon Prime with HBO add-on, Hulu with HBO add-on

Underground

What It Is: A critically acclaimed historical drama about a group of runaway slaves who escape a Georgia plantation and attempt the 600-mile journey to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
Who Meloni Played:
August Pullman, a bounty hunter who catches runaway slaves and returns them for profit. But credit to the writers and to Meloni's performance, August isn't the one-dimensional villain his character description would imply. So if you thought Meloni didn't play enough fascinating antagonists, well, you thought wrong.
Where to Watch: Hulu

This YouTube Video

What It Is: A game Meloni played while appearing on Steve in which Steve Harvey challenged the actor to juggle, do the dougie and do the splits. If that doesn't get you to click, I don't know what you're even doing reading this list.
Who Meloni Played:
Himself, which means he wore a very questionable hat. Don't fight it. Just accept it. Meloni is who he is and that's why we love him, hat and all.
Where to Watch:
YouTube

Pose

What It Is: FX's groundbreaking drama follows the juxtaposition of several segments of New York society in the late '80s, including the black and Latino ball culture, the downtown social and literary scene and the uptown yuppies. The series broke ground by featuring the largest cast of transgender actors in a narrative series.
Who Meloni Played:
Elektra Abundance's (Dominique Jackson) mysterious sugar daddy, who keeps the ballroom queen dripping in jewels but refuses to finance Elektra's gender confirmation surgery. As for how Meloni landed the small but crucial part? Executive producer Janet Mock said that she wanted to cast "a man where no one would question his sexuality." But also, Mock added, "I was like Zaddy," which really does sum up Meloni in a nutshell.
Where to Watch:
FX+, Amazon Prime (available for purchase)

Happy!

What It Is: A bizarre black comedy based on the comic series of the same name, Happy! is about a disgraced detective turned hitman who teams up with his estranged daughter's imaginary friend — who appears as a small, blue, winged unicorn — in order to save his daughter after she's been kidnapped by an evil man dressed as Santa Claus. Remember when we called this show bizarre? That might have been an undersell.
Who Meloni Played:
Nick Sax, the alcoholic cop with a chip on his shoulder and an imaginary sidekick. Of all the credits to his name, this one feels like the most Meloni role of them all, even more so than Stabler. It blends everything Meloni is great at: gritty cop 'tude, electric intensity that can boil over into violence at the smallest provocation, over-the-top comedy and just generally being really, really weird with impressive conviction.
Where to Watch:
Amazon Prime (available for purchase)

But look — if you still aren't convinced that Meloni is anything more than Det. Stabler, all of SVU is available to stream on Hulu now. Trust us, though, if that's all you know him for, you're missing out.

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