This past fall stars a number of stars who I have missed are returning to TV in a new role:
-Keri Russell, previously of Felicity comes back in the form of Running Wilde
-Will Sasso, previously of Mad TV and Less than Perfect, now comes back on Shit my Dad Says
-Will Arnett, previously of Arrested Development comes back on Running Wilde
-Maura Tierny of ER and Newsradio comes back to TV in The Whole Truth
-William Shatner, previously on Star Trek and Boston Legal comes back in Shit my Dad Says
-Skeet Ulrich of Jericho comes back in Law and Order: Los Angeles
This inspired me to make a long somewhat frivolous list of TV actors and actresses currently not working in TV as a series regular, who I wouldn't hesitate to watch the pilot of if they were cast in a new series. I'm including TV shows on their filmography that I've personally seen them in (not their entire filmographies):
AJ Langer: It’s Like You Know, Three Sisters-The vet of My So Called Life is very charming and has a good free-spirited ditzy vibe to her. She is also beautiful in a very Earthy way.
Alan Ruck-Going Places/Mad About You/Spin City-If anything, Spin City was not the right role for this guy. He's a lot gentler (think "Cheaper by the Dozen") than his Stuart character and there's a good role for that somewhere.
Andreas Anders-Joey, The Class, Better off Ted-The perky girl next door type is rediculously easy on the eyes and can play a love interest or foil to the protagonist like no one else. She's adept at playing those situations in sitcoms where the characters find themselves over their heads and on verge of panic.
Anna Belknap-Deadline/Handler/CSI: New York-Not particularly well-known, I was drawn to her in The Handler because of the way she conveyed a lot of emotion without ever taking over a scene. Like Mary McCormack or Amy Brenneman, she's capable of being bigger if the right part every suits her but she might got stuck in supporting roles for a while.
Amber Tamblyn-Joan of Arcadia-She was good in Joan of Arcadia and that TV show earned great reviews. There's no reason why she can't give TV a second try and play a character a little older.
Amy Peitz-Caroline in the City, Aliens in America, The Office-Her sexy Midwestern mom on Aliens in America was Emmy-worthy. There aren't many actresses at her age who could pull off grounded sex appeal so well.
Cheri Oteri-Saturday Night Live/Just Shoot Me/Sit Down Shut Up/Life and Times of Tim-This woman is simply nuts. Her characters are high energy and wonderfully absurd.
Chris Parnell-Saturday Night Live/30 Rock/Miss Guided-I see him as the perfect off-kilter straight man. With Leo Spaceman, he's the straight man to Tracy Morgan's character but he himself is a little bit off as well. He serves scenes well.
Christina Applegate-Married with Children, Jesse, Samantha Who-Has rebounded nicely from projects which didn't work out and her performance in Anchorman shows she can mold herself to whatever comic situation a script needs her to be.
Faith Ford-Murphy Brown/Maggie Winters/Hope and Faith-A competent lead who's worked in a number of shows.
Fred Willard-Roseanne/Maybe It’s Me/Everybody Loves Raymond/A Minute with Stan Hooper/Back to You/Modern Family-The man from Christopher Guest films is a witty improviser and digs his teeth into absurdity. If the show centers too much around him in a highly-anticipated way like "Back to You," it doesn't work as well.
George Takei-Star Trek/Heroes-He's like Betty White or David Hasselhoff in being a guy who gets a lot of random love later in life. He's a cult hero of sorts. I'd like to see him take that energy to a TV show. Besides if Shatner's on the air, why not Takei?
Harriet Sansom Harris-It’s All Relative/Frasier-She has a wonderful provincial accent that generates half the laughs you need alone.
Heather Page Kent-Life with Roger/Jenny/Stark Raving Mad/That’s Life-She was on four shows between 1996 and 2000 and then I have no idea what happened to her. In That's Life, the show that centered around her, she was a vulnerable spunky semi-independent woman in the mold of Ally McBeal and all the female heroines going back to Mary Tyler Moore.
Jamie Pressley-Jack and Jill/Happy Family/My Name is Earl-My Name is Earl deservedly won her an Emmy but she's played more dialed-down roles pretty well in the other shows I've listed.
Jennifer Esposito-Spin City, Samantha Who-With her Jersey accent, she has a little bit of an acerbic Chelsea Handler vibe to her and can play vulnerable just as easily as she can play condescending.
Joe Pantolillio-Handler/Sopranos/Dr. Vegas-In Handler and Dr. Vegas, he was less of a ham than James Caan is in Las Vegas as the tough guy in charge. I think he can depict more shades of grey in the kinds of cop procedurals and dramas that require someone to look serious and act as if they're doing something of grave importance.
John Stamos-Full House/Jake in Progress-Like the Hasselhoff, Stamos is turning into somewhat of a novelty item on TV. Seeing him appear on screen is an event in and of itself. He earns my fondness because he's self-conscious of his negative association with the schlock of "Full House" and the fact that the last time he was the epitome of cool was 15 years ago.
Jacinda Barrett-Real World/D.C./Citizen Baines-Like A.J. Langer, I've seen her play the ditzy, free-spirited girl to great effect but she also can do more, I'm sure. Another one of those cases of a personal crush as well.
Jessalyn Ginsing-Boston Public/Prison Break/Heroes/Glee-Ginsing is great at grey areas. She was the sort-of-heroine of Boston Public and can play dramatic in Heroes or melodramatic as in Glee. She was the "hot"-but-tepid teacher on Boston Public and hasn't faded.
John Michael Higgins-Arrested Development/Raising the Bar/Kath and Kim/Community-Many actors from Christopher Guest's list of actors can be plugged into a sitcom with good results (fun fact: Jane Lynch was primarily known for her association with Guest before Glee). John Michael Higgins is one of those guys that is great in a lot of things. He's particularly good as dumb boorish figures who don't second guess themselves.
Judy Greer-Arrested Development/Miss Guided/Archer-Miss Guided convinced me that she can play a very likable lead in a Mary Tyler Moore mold. Come to think of it, a great great number of female TV leads are in the mold of Mary Tyler Moore.
Julia Sweeny-Saturday Night Live/Maybe It's Me/Frasier-Most famous for her androgynous character Pat on SNL, Julia Sweeny was actually one of the more underused actresses on SNL and one who tended to enhance a sketch more often then detract from it. She can be a good side character and I have no doubt she can make that character funny and/or interesting. Interesting tidbit: She beat out Friend's Lisa Kudrow for her Saturday Night Live spot.
Lori Loughlin-Full House/Hudson Street/Spin City/90210-In retrospect, I've discovered Full House was an awful show if you're over 12 years old. Tanner, Coulier and Stamos were all pretty corny but Lori Loughlin's acting still holds up suprisingly well.
Mark McKinney-Kids in the Hall/Saturday Night Live/Wanda at Large/Studio 60-Nostalgia for the 95-96 season of SNL will go a long way with me. McKinney is a funny guy who can also play a good straight man and blends in on comedies pretty easily.
Paula Marshall-Cupid, Snoops, Webber Show, Gary Unmarried-She's bounced around on more pilots and guest spots that I have room to list here and she's had a few roles that have given me somewhat of a crush on her. She's versatile and has some degree of sex appeal.
Rachel Bilson-The O.C./Chuck-How often is the rich and shallow girl who's been cruel to the hero his whole life been the girl you root for in a love triangle? That's what Rachel pulled off on the first season of The O.C. She's sassy, smart, can play young and she can convincingly be a vehicle for Juno-esque dialogue.
Rena Sofer-Saved by the Bell/Just Shoot Me/Coupling/Heroes/24-Her New York accent might have been much in Just Shoot Me, but for the most part, she's an actress who always seems to be the best part of the show she's in.
Rene Auberjonois-Star Trek DS9/Frasier/Boston Legal-I loved him in the Rob Altman movies as well as Star Trek and his penchant for good material is as good as his ability to make characters more complex than they look on paper.
Robyn Tuney-The Prisoner/The Mentalist-I'd be equally happy seeing her in movies. I think she might be more of a movie person, but there's no reason that I wouldn't be happy to see her on a TV show. She's shined even in small roles (i.e. Hollywoodland, The Mentalist)
Taylor Howard-Boston Common/Two Guys a Girl a Pizza Place/Monk-Howard played the Mary Tyler Moore-type in Boston Common and played one of the guys in Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place. In Monk, she generated a lot more chemistry with Tony Shaloub than Betty Schram in my opinion. Very competent
Terry Farrell-Star Trek: DS9/Becker-Perhaps the best and strongest female character of all the Star Treks (when two of the three females before her were a glorified secretary and a glorified school guidance counselor, there's not too much competition) in playing Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Farrell comes across as self-assured and interesting.
Thomas Haden Church-Wings/Ned and Stacey-He's played the boor and the dumby pretty well. Since Sideways, I think he can return to TV and be more than that
Wendy Malick-Just Shoot Me/Frasier/Jake In Progress/Hot in Cleveland (short-lived)-It wasn't the lines on Just Shoot Me. It was her: She was a riot. Her melodramatic brand of desperate egotism made her one of the best characters on TV and she's been able to repeat that magic elsewhere. I can see her as an authoritative figure in charge as well.
Tony Shaloub-Wings/Stark Raving Mad/Monk-We've seen him as a scene stealer in one sitcom as well as a guy who can carry a show on his back.
Thomas McCarthy-Boston Public/The Wire-Most high school football coaches are supposed to be macho so I'm glad that McCarthy played the part against type on Boston Public.
Vanessa Marcil-General Hospital/Las Vegas-Playful and sexy, she delivers lines with tremendous assurence.
Vicki Lewis-News Radio/3 Sisters-In Newsradio's Beth, Lewis can lay claim to being the queen of all ditzy characters to ever appear on TV.
Will Forte-Clone High/Saturday Night Live/Sit Down Shut Up-The star of the McGruber movie, by now, has his own screen persona down. He's the confident yet clueless schlub. In voiceover work in Clone High and Sit Down Shut Up, he's been a riot.
Read my column: www.examiner.com/x-3877-dc-film-industry-examiner