It’s pilot casting season, the magical time of year when the networks create buzz for their yet-to-be-developed shows by attaching to them familiar names and faces, which allows you to make preemptive judgment based solely on their stars’ past work and the goodwill they’ve already garnered—or, the opposite of that. Let’s look at some of them, with the famous names in bold so you can skip right to those that interest you, if any.
In keeping with those recent attempts to revisit the golden age of ’80s and ‘90s, when the Tim Allens and Kirstie Alleys and Jim Belushis and Roseanne Barrs and John Stamoses freely roamed the television plains, new shows are in the works for sitcom veterans Matthew Perry, Christopher Lloyd, and Phylicia Rashad. Perry will star in the previously reported Go On from his former Friends writer Scott Silveri, playing a sportscaster who moves on from a personal loss with the help of group therapy sessions in what sounds like a Dear John for the new millennium. Does Perry’s character description have the obligatory mention that he is sort of a jerk but also very charming? Yes.
Unfortunately there are no such assurances that Lloyd—making his first return to sitcoms since the Pamela Anderson-starring Stacked—will be kooky and absent-minded in his role on ABC’s Only Fools And Horses, an adaptation of the British series where he plays the grandfather to a scheming John Leguizamo, but let’s just assume that he will. Similarly, let’s assume that putting up with nonsense won’t be in the cards for Rashad, who could end her long post-Cosby absence from TV with ABC’s Do No Harm—one of the several Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde-inspired projects that have appeared recently—by playing the boss of a surgeon with a self-destructive split personality. And hopefully one of those personalities likes to eat delicious hoagies, and Phylicia Rashad will not stand for that, because that is like that thing she did on The Cosby Show.
Drawing from a more modern yet no less recognizable pool, new dramas are in the works with both Hellcats star Aly Michalka and her fellow cheerleader, Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere. Michalka will star in Rebounding, yet another “grieving guy gets over loss thanks to the help of a larger group and also sports” show (It’s a trend!) about a guy who deals with being a widower thanks to “the idiots on his pickup basketball team,” with one of those idiots having Michalka for a girlfriend. And Panettiere will star in ABC’s Nashville, a soap opera set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that, no, has nothing to do with Robert Altman’s Nashville, but a lot to do with letting Panettiere sing again. Oh, and The Wire’s Robert “Bunny Colvin” Wisdom also just joined that cast, if that’s more your thing.
Speaking of folks culled from cable shows we like, Giancarlo Esposito will potentially get a better post-Breaking Bad consolation prize than his current stint on Once Upon A Time, moving over to a lead role on J.J. Abrams’ umpteenth high-concept series in development, NBC’s Revolution. Esposito plays “a hard-as-steel military man with a genteel Southern manner who may not always be what he seems,” which no doubt causes consternation for a group of fellow survivors in a world in where all forms of energy have ceased to exist, except for crackling dramatic silences.
And from Justified, both Emmy winner Margo Martindale and non-Emmy-winner-but-still-pretty-great Natalie Zea have new shows in the works. Zea will hopefully somehow balance Justified with her new gig on that Kevin Williamson “social media serial-killer” show that stars Kevin Bacon. And Martindale will similarly balance both a regular role on the ABC comedy Counter Culture, playing the eldest of three sisters running a West Texas diner, and a guest-starring spot on Showtime’s Masters Of Sex alongside the previously reported Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, as well as a just-cast Beau Bridges. And while we’re on the tangential subject of Showtime, Weeds alum Elizabeth Perkins will join Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke on the fairly self-descriptive sitcom How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life—also on ABC, which is really rounding up all the free-agent famous people this season.
For instance, that network also just nabbed Cary Elwes for its new comedy Prairie Dogs, where he’ll play “a German eccentric who wears turtleneck sweaters and kilts” and is also the boss to Kal Penn’s “office drone,” who takes advantage of recently having his identity stolen. ABC also grabbed Twilight star Ashley Greene for its Americana pilot, a soap opera in which she plays the upstart new addition to a famous, family-owned fashion company headed by Anthony LaPaglia and “turns the label inside out,” according to the always-hilarious Deadline. And finally, that network also has The Smart One in the works with David Arquette, a comedy in which Portia De Rossi plays a sharp, sharp-tongued Portia De Rossi type who ends up working for her ditzy former beauty queen turned big-city mayor sister played by Malin Akerman. Arquette will be Akerman’s husband, as well as the source of a lot of uncomfortable network press junket questions whenever he ends up sharing a dais with Courtney Cox.
There are several other movie stars moving to TV who, Dancing With The Stars measures aside, are more famous than even David Arquette—stars like Dennis Quaid, who will star in CBS’ previously reported Ralph Lamb drama from Goodfellas writer Nicholas Pileggi, and butt heads with a mob enforcer played by Michael Chiklis, who will win if it actually comes down to head-butting. Or Cuba Gooding Jr., who will continue a trajectory that began with Snow Dogs by starring as a disbarred lawyer in Fox’s legal drama Guilty, where he will exact revenge on those who framed him for fraud using “unorthodox methods,” which is different from all those other strictly by-the-book lawyers already lawyering on TV.
And finally, Gooding’s fellow Oscar winner who never quite panned out the way people thought she would, Mira Sorvino, is also making the jump to formulaic TV with CBS’ Trooper, playing a “common sense mom” who becomes a New York state trooper and, presumably, struggles to balance motherhood with trooper-ing using her mom common sense. Given that Sorvino recently let it be known in our recent interview with her that she was looking to jump to TV, we'd like to take both the credit and the blame for this.
Anyway, hopefully these famous people will all catch a break. Best of luck to them.