'NYPD Blue' Recruits Rick Schroder
Leave it to Steven Bochco to make the riskiest casting choice of the year: pick-ing Rick Schroder—Ricky to his fans from his preteen-idol days on Silver Spoons—to replace Jimmy Smits on NYPD Blue. Bochco knows how to generate headlines (remember the storm of controversy over Blue‘s nudity?), and the ploy worked again. Schroder went from the where-are-they-now file to the front pages, and Blue flew from is-that-show-still-on to I-gotta-see-this status all over again. Admit it: You want to check out what Little Ricky looks like all grown up (and butt naked).
Schroder is the most surprising new actor joining an old show, but he’s far from the only one. Another aging crime drama, Homicide: Life on the Street, is hoping that an infusion of fresh blood will help ease the pain of losing the powerful Andre Braugher. Giancarlo Esposito will join the cast as the long-estranged FBI-agent son of Lieut. Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto). Esposito’s best known for his work in Spike Lee movies. Plus, he’s got cop-show cred, having played Ron Eldard’s partner in the short-lived but much-loved Fox sitcom Bakersfield P.D. The other new addition to the Homicide squad, Michael Michele, has an iffier background—she was a regular on Central Park West. But I’ll reserve judgment until I see what this innovative series has cooked up for her (she’ll play a beauty queen-turned-detective).
The talented writers of NewsRadio are also facing a daunting challenge: how to deal with the death of star Phil Hartman, who’ll be replaced by his old SNL pal Jon Lovitz. Word is Hartman’s character, Bill McNeal, will expire, but don’t expect a Very Special Episode—this sitcom is much too smart and cynical to slip into sentimentality. The question is, Will the histrionic Lovitz push the series (which started to flirt with surrealism last season) from sublime to ridiculous? It would be a shame if a show this sharp became as silly as, say, 3rd Rock From the Sun.
Two other NBC series, ER and Working, are adding familiar faces, but for very different reasons. After shelling out $13 million an episode for TV’s No. 1 drama, the Peacock wants to ensure ER’s popularity. So the net chose an actress with broad, middle-of-the-road appeal, Kellie Martin (Life Goes On), to play a new med student and help fill in for future movie star Maria Bello, who, sadly, split after one season. Working, meanwhile, failed to find a personality—or an audience—in its first season, so producers are hoping Debi Mazar will provide both. Her office-set sitcom, Temporarily Yours, bombed on CBS in 1997, but she costarred in NBC’s May hit Witness to the Mob, so the network’s high on her.
Finally, Beverly Hills 90210 wants to prove it’s not just for kids—especially now that it’ll face off with The WB’s teen steamroller Dawson’s Creek—so the show’s added two vixens with experience on more mature soaps, Melrose Place‘s Laura Leighton (for a six-episode guest stint) and General Hospital‘s Vanessa Marcil (as a regular). With Jason Priestley leaving this season, 90210 needs more star power than nepotism poster girl Tori Spelling could ever muster.