Networks bet on returning stars
Terry O'Quinn heads back to ABC, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman reunite, and more stars nab roles in upcoming pilots
Expect the new shows to have familiar faces this fall. Networks are filling hot pilot roles with household-name actors, defying the old Hollywood casting mantra that TV makes stars, not vice versa. Leading roles have been snagged by Terry O’Quinn (Lost), as the owner of a haunted building on ABC’s 666 Park Avenue; Kal Penn (House), as a corporate drone who takes advantage of his own identity theft on ABC’s comedy Prairie Dogs; and Ali Larter (Heroes), as a CIA agent on Fox’s The Asset. They join a bevy of 1990s-era celebrities getting another shot at prime time, like a reunited Roseanne Barr and John Goodman (Roseanne) on NBC’s trailer-park-set Downwardly Mobile, Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman (Cheers) on ABC’s half-hour The Manzanis, and John Stamos (Full House) on the Fox mismatched-sibling show Little Brother. Even youth-targeted The CW is avoiding total unknowns, casting Bridge to Terabithia star AnnaSophia Robb as a young Carrie Bradshaw on its Sex and the City prequel. With broadcast ratings sagging, a popular actor can get away with delivering a fraction of the audience of a previous hit. Tim Allen‘s new comedy, Last Man Standing, doesn’t attract nearly the number of viewers that Home Improvement once did, but it doesn’t need to. ”Having a marketable star is very important now because the landscape has gotten so competitive with cable,” explains one top talent agent. Not that having a big name guarantees a series order, as Ethan Hawke discovered last year when Fox dumped his pilot Exit Strategy. You know it’s a tough economy when even stars get pink-slipped.