Sunday, November 07, 2010

Shows with Great Guest Stars Updated: Part I

I've done this a couple times before, where I look at guest stars who've been on comedy shows. Here's a more thorough listing I'm working on. I am also hoping to mine some good article fodder out of this raw data.

^-Very minor part/Cameo
In Bold=Recurring role (There's not a set number of episodes for a role to be considered recurring. It's a judgement call)
*=Stars who played themselves

Arrested Development's Notable Guest Stars:
The Roster: Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball), Amy Poehler, Andy Richter, Bob Oderink, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Charlize Theron, Carl Weathers*, Dave Atell, Ed Begley Jr, Frankie Muniz*^, Henry Winkler, Heather Graham, Ian Roberts, Jane Lynch, Judge Reinhold*, Judy Greer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Jeff Garlin, John Michael Higgins, Justine Bateman, Jack McBrayer^ (30 Rock), James Lipton , Liza Minnelli, Martin Mull, Marty Shore, Mo Collins (Mad TV), Russell Simmons*, Ron Howard*^, Scott Baio, Simon Helberg^ (Big Bang Theory), William Hung*, Zach Braff

Stars who played themselves:
1. Russell Simmons appears in a flashback commercial for the highly dangerous cornball cooker contraption
2. Frankie Muniz has a brief cameo on the studio lot
3. Carl Weathers serves as an acting coach to Tobias who'll do anything for free food
4. Ron Howard has a cameo as an executive in the last episode.
5. William Hung is involved in a courtroom episode for the sole reason of being able to use the gag "Hung Jury"
6. For the same reason, Judge Reinholdt is used as a judge in the same episode
Stars who possibly played themselves:
7. Andy Richter plays various fictional brothers of the real Andy Richter. It's possible that at one point in the episode he was the real Andy Richter.
8. Jeff Garlin plays a studio executive who mentors Maybe. Garlin does work in Hollywood so that could possibly be him.

Notes: The show was so good at inserting stars in the right places that they were able to create meta-jokes based on casting alone: James Lipton is a prison warden who aspires to be a pretentious screenwriter. Amy Poehler, the real-life wife of Will Arnett, gets involved in a haphazard marriage to Gob. Scott Baio succeeds Henry Winkler as attorney just as Baio succeeded Winkler as the star of "Happy Days." Lastly, Justine Bateman (Jason's sister) stars as a mysterious woman who might or might not be Michael's sister.

The show's writers also had a lot of fun with naming characters. Aside from using Judge Reinholdt and William Hung solely because their names could set up a running punchline, Scott Baio was called "Bob Laublau" and to add icing to the cake, it was later revealed that his primary hobby was blogging on the "Bob Laublau Law Blog." Giving Liza Minelli's character the name "Lucille" also led to a lot of Freudian ambiguity between Buster's girlfriend and his mom (later compounded by the fact that Buster named his turtle Lucille).

The best: Charlize Theron plays a love interest to Michael in a six-episode arc who may or may not be a spy for a British rival. Later is revealed she may or may not be mentally disabled. Theron played the ambiguity with finesse.
If there was some type of popular vote by AD fans, the winner might be Henry Winkler or Judy Greer as George's flirtatious secretary and mistress who is often introduced on talk shows as "Judy Greer from Arrested Development" despite a pretty lengthy career.

Frasier's Notable Guest Stars
The Roster:Aaron Eckhart, Anthony LaPaglia, Amy Brenneman, Bebe Neuwirth, Bill Campbell, Brian Cox, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bryan Callen (Mad TV), Christine Barinski, Felicity Huffman, Harriet Samson Harris, Jane Adams, Jane Kaczmarek, Julia Sweeny. Kristin Chenowith, Laura Linney, Laurie Metcalf, Mercedes Reuhl, Millicent Martin, Patrick Stewart, Patricia Clarkson, Rene Auberjonois, Rita Wilson, Saul Rubineck, Sela Ward, Tea Leoni, Teri Hatcher, Teri Polo, Victor Garber, Virginia Madsen, Wendy Malick, Zooey Deschannel

Also from the show Cheers: George Wendt, John Ratzenberger, Rhea Perlman, Shelley Long, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson

Notes: Being a spin-off of "Cheers," it was fairly inevitable that former barmates would visit Frasier in Seattle. Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson got entire episodes. Former flame Dianne (Shelly Long) appeared in Frasier's imagination in addition to actually being in Seattle. Bebe Neuwirth's Lillith, being the ex-wife of Frasier and mother of his child, was somewhat of a recurring character on the show and the dynamic evolved between the two considerably.

Frasier has very good taste in women. Four of his girlfriends (Virginia Madsen-2004, Laura Linney-2004, Patricia Clarkson-2003, and Felicity Huffman-2005) would go on to be nominated for an acting Oscar. Another love interest, Mercedes Reuhl was also an Oscar winner in 1991 for "The Fisher King". Other very talented and beautiful girlfriends of Frasier include Teri Polo, Sela Ward, Amy Brenneman and Teri Hatcher. Julia Sweeny (The Androgynous Pat from SNL) played a fairly undesirable date of Frasier's.

Perhaps, the most memorable guest role was one left up to our imagination: Maris never made an onscreen appearance and it was doubtful she would ever live up to the hyperboles Niles and others used to describe her physical appearance and mannerisms.

The Best: The bombastic Patrick Stewart has a one-episode stint as a gay symphony conductor with whom Frasier gets into a sticky situation. As for recurring characters, Wendie Malick provides much of the heart of the final season as Martin's companion. The biggest audience favorite was probably Harriet Samson Harris who was used sparingly but effectively as Frasier's ruthless but strangely charming agent Bebe Glazer. When Frasier had enough of Bebe, Kristin Chenowith in all her pint-sized-perkiness came along as Bebe's intermediary in an somewhat underrated role.

3rd Rock From the Sun:
The Roster:Ana Gasteyer*, Bryan Cranston, Chris Hogan, Christine Lakin (Step by Step), Cindy Crawford, Courtney Peldon, Darrell Hammond*, Dennis Rodman*, David DeLuise, Dom DeLuise, Elaine Stritch, Evlsi Costello*, George Takei*, Jan Hooks, John Cleese, Kevin Nealon, Kurtwood Smith (That 70's Show), Laurie Metcalf, Miguel Ferrer, Mike Ditka, Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), Phil Hartman, Wayne Knight, Tracy Morgan*, William Shatner

People who played themselves:
1. Ana Gasteyer was herself when the Solomons went into an alternate universe where Tommy was a cast member of Saturday Night Live and Ana's boyfriend (Tracy Morgan and Darrell Hammond also appeared in much smaller roles)
2. George Takei appeared as himself checking out of a hotel in a Star Trek convention
3. Dennis Rodman is referenced to as being an alien ("Men in Black" also made this joke) and Rodman appears as himself in two episodes.

Notes: The show was created by former "Saturday Night Live" writers Bonnie and Terry Turner which allowed them fairly easy access to SNL alums such as Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman and Kevin Nealon. Everyone's favorite tomboy from "Step by Step," middle child Allie, pops up in a family reunion episode. The show also tapped into the sci-fi fanbase with highly publicized appearances by George Takei and William Shatner as "The Big Giant Head"

Chris Hogan, David DeLuise (Dom's son), Ian Lithgow (John's son), and Danielle Nicolet played a quartet of perpetual students of Dick's, that served as stand-ins for pretty much the entire unviersity's student body.

The Best: John Cleese played a rival alien who was even weirder than the Solomons but better able to fit in. Runner-up would either be Shatner or Cindy Crawford as a model from an alien planet who botches a plan to take over the world by falling in love with Harry. The sight of Crawford and French Stewart got enough laughs alone because it was such an extreme "beauty and the geek" scenario.

Coming up, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Monk, Pushing Daisies, Newsradio, Spin City, Friends, 30 Rock, My Name is Earl and much, much more

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