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Fall TV 2009: TV veterans return

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ABC has recruited some of the most beloved television stars of the past decade for new sitcoms — and you can see them all back-to-back on Wednesday nights.

Kelsey Grammer
HANK
New Comedy — 8-8:30PM — ABC
Kelsey Grammer plays a CEO named Hank Pryor who suddenly loses his gig running a sporting-goods chain. His wife, Tilly (Melinda McGraw), and kids blanch at the prospect of having to downsize their lives Grammer — whose last comedy, Back to You, was well received but lasted only one season on Fox — is glad to return to TV. ”I don’t have to like the things that take place in the business,” he says, ”but I’m good at telling stories in a world where stories make sense and are, hopefully, funny. It’s what I do.” Sept. 30

Patricia Heaton
THE MIDDLE
New Comedy — 8:30-9PM — ABC
Add the words ”Malcolm in” to the title of this comedy, and you get the idea. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond plays the middle-aged mom, Frankie, who has a blue-collar husband, Mike (Scrubs‘ Neil Flynn), three oddball kids, and a desire to make the best of her clan’s modest life in Orson, Ind. ”When my agent gave it to me, he said, ‘You’re gonna hate this.’ He thought it was talking down to Midwesterners,” recalls Heaton. ”But it wasn’t that way at all.”

Ed O’Neill
MODERN FAMILY
New Comedy — 9-9:30PM — ABC
Ed O’Neill (Married…With Children) stars as sixtysomething Jay, who’s married to a Colombian beauty half his age (Sofia Vergara). ”Jay didn’t have a clue in his first marriage” — his ex will be played by Shelley Long — ”and now he’s in this other one for obvious reasons.” Theirs is one of three interlinked households struggling with modern family issues, from texting adolescents to gay adoption. ”Most scripts people send me, I know it’s a no. When I read this, I thought, ‘Jeez, I guess I have to go to work now.’ ” (Sept. 23)

Courteney Cox
COUGAR TOWN
New Comedy — 9:30-10PM — ABC
Everyone involved in Courteney Cox’s new comedy swears it isn’t just about a woman hunting young prey: Real estate agent Jules (Cox) struggles with motherhood, dating (men of all ages), and getting older. To wit, it opens with a scene in which Cox glumly examines the folds of flesh on her stomach and elbows (she swears the shots are really of her). ”I’m not sure the world needed to see the real me,” she says, ”but it is the core of what I hope the show is: funny and believable.” (Sept. 23)

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