When you start out on a really popular television show, it's great. You have regular work, people start to know your name, you get recognized as your character everywhere you go. But what about when the show ends? Then what happens?
Those stars are remembered as their former characters for almost the rest of their lives. Hell, even Neil Patrick Harris, who's grown his stardom and made a name as a completely new character on How I Met Your Mother, still has to endure being referred to as Doogie Howser. Jenny Garth will always be Kelly Taylor. Alfonso Ribeiro will always be known as Carlton and he'll probably always have to deal with people teasing him about that fantastic Tom Jones dance. But how do you continue a career after you've charmed the masses as a single character for so long? Well, for some folks, hopping right back into television is the answer, and if the slate of new shows from the major networks and a few of the cable ones is any indication, that's the name of the game for the summer and fall television seasons.
It's a great time to be a comeback kid, so we've put together a list of our top ten not-so-new television faces that you'll soon find on the boob tube. Is it just us, or are a lot of these comebacks just grown-up versions of these actors' original roles?
10. Eddie Cibrian
Known for: Third Watch, CSI: Miami, CHEATING ON HIS WIFE WITH LEANN RIMES.
Characteristics: CHEATED ON HIS WIFE.
New role: Playboy Club key-holder, and Don-Draper-wannabe Nick Dalton (NBC's The Playboy Club).
New Characteristics: Nick's not married, but come on, he's a Don Draper-esque character in a club full of scantily-clad women. He would totally CHEAT ON HIS WIFE -- if he had one.
9. Wilmer Valderrama
Known for: Playing Fez on That 70's Show, dating Lindsay Lohan for three seconds.
Characteristics: Fez was generally desperate and pervy, his real-life relationship with LiLo didn't help dispel the theory that he wasn't acting
New role: Detective Efram Vega (NBC's Awake).
New Characteristics: Details are few and far between at the moment, but it's a drama that looks pretty fantastic. We're guessing there's little room for Fezzian shenanigans -- though there is room for the signature Fez look of confusion -- so we might see some serious acting from the former campy comedy star. I still hope he sneaks in one "Goodday."
8. Katharine McPhee
Known for: Losing to Taylor Hicks on Season 5 of American Idol.
Characteristics: Aesthetically pleasing, decent singing voice, accused of making it to top two for her looks.
New role: The underdog, a Broadway actress who miraculously scores the lead in a musical about Marilyn Monroe (NBC's Smash)
New Characteristics: Aesthetically pleasing, decent singing voice, is propositioned by the director because of her looks.
7. Laura Prepon
Known for: Playing (Hot) Donna on That 70's Show.
Characteristics: Spunky redhead, tomboy, outspoken, understated babe.
New role: Reincarnation of Chelsea Handler...also named Chelsea (NBC's Are You There, Vodka?)
New Characteristics: Spunky blonde, semi-tomboy, outspoken, understated babe, alcoholic.
6. Rachel Bilson
Known for: Playing Summer on The OC.
Characteristics: Bratty, spoiled, prissy, headstrong, obsessed with her long-term, super-nerdy boyfriend, but somehow ultimately lovable.
New role: Zoe Hart, headstrong, big-city doctor plopped into a small town (CW's Hart of Dixie).
New Characteristics: A little spoiled from big-city living, headstrong, lovably outspoken with a hint of bratty, surrounded by cute men.
5. Debra Messing
Known for: Playing Grace on Will and Grace.
Characteristics: Talented, artistic, perpetually single middle-aged New York woman surrounded by talented, successful gay men and Karen.
New role: Julia, a lyricist writing a Marilyn Monroe musical (NBC's Smash).
New Characteristics: Talented, artistic, middle-aged New York woman working with her talented, successful, gay song-writing partner, Tom.
4. Tim Allen
Known for: Playing Tim "The Toolman" Taylor on Home Improvement (and of course playing Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, but we're not focusing on that on that right now).
Characteristics: Grunts often, doesn't understand women, doesn't actually know how to use the tools he hosts a show about, has a wife and kids who love him anyway.
New role: A marketing director for big ol' sporting good store (ABC's Last Man Standing).
New Characteristics: Complains often, doesn't understand women, actually knows a thing or two about sporting goods (maybe a little too much), has a wife and kids who love him anyway.
3. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Known for: Kicking vampire ass as Buffy on...Buffy.
Characteristics: Dark, brooding sexpot with a killer instinct, a troubled past, and lots of trouble in her future.
New role: One of two twins who steals her deceased sister's life in order to escape her own demons (CW's Ringer).
New Characteristics: Dark, brooding sexpot with a killer instinct, a troubled past, and lots of trouble in her future (minus the vampires, ghosts, hellmouths and actual demons).
2. Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Known for: Stealing teen hearts as Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell, and continuing to be known as Zack Morris because his name is so hard to remember.
Characteristics: Charming, cocky, girl-crazy, very proud of his stupidly large cell phone.
New role: One half of a lawyer duo who refuses to play by "the rules" (TNT's Franklin and Bash).
New Characteristics: Charming, cocky, girl-crazy, thankfully has a very normal-sized cell phone.
1. James Van Der Beek
Known for: Crying incessantly on Dawson's Creek, abnormally large forehead, having little ability to translate Dawson fame to future career.
Characteristics: Whiny, sad, artistic (but overly confident about it), whiny, sad, whiny, SAD.
New role: A hyper-stylized, dickish version of himself (ABC's Apartment 23) .
New characteristics: Snarky, funny, not completely deplorable and not the reason I'll stop watching after Pacey and Joey break up.
On the outside Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) couldn’t be further from the mold of a “normal teenager.” He wears a suit everywhere he is precocious and he has a spring in his step that suggests oblivion to his high school surroundings. Of course Charlie isn’t really at all oblivious and at his core is very much that “normal teenager”: He wants only to be popular. After starting anew at a public school--because he got kicked out of yet another private school for distributing fake IDs--Charlie is promptly pummeled for the way he dresses by the school’s bully (Tyler Hilton). He complains to his psychiatrist whom his mother (Hope Davis) keeps on retainer. The shrink decides to put Charlie on Ritalin. Ever the entrepreneur Charlie tries to parlay his easy access to drugs into popularity and it works like gangbusters. Before long “Dr. Charlie” is listening diagnosing and prescribing drugs to the entire student faculty. He’s got the popularity the trust and the girl (Kat Dennings) the latter of which just happens to be the principal’s (Robert Downey Jr.) daughter. And that relationship--not to mention the slight legality issue of prescribing controlled substances to minors--threatens to ruin his whole operation. Yelchin (Alpha Dog) is a Hollywood rarity: He’s an ‘it’ boy because of his acting not his looks (sorry Anton). Rarer still is the fact that Yelchin’s actual age is near that of Charlie Bartlett and not since the days of Freaks and Geeks has that industry taboo been broken so successfully. It’s all a credit to the young actor who in the span of Bartlett oozes everything from vulnerability and precociousness to Ritalin-induced mania and the theatricality of a much older actor. There’s nothing he can’t do in this movie; the same goes for his acting future. And the same goes for his adversary in Bartlett Downey Jr. although that’s been abundantly clear for decades now. Downey Jr. is famous for making seemingly effortless work of a complex character which is precisely what he does with Principal Gardner--a concerned parent recovering alcoholic and dutiful high school enforcer/villain. He’s a force to be reckoned with on screen and when Yelchin’s Charlie finally squares off with him the scene is a thing of beauty. As an essential link between those two characters Dennings (40-Year-Old Virgin) is a credible charmer and refreshingly the rare non-ditzy non-clichéd high school-portrayed girl we’re used to seeing. Rounding out the cast is Davis (American Splendor) aka Laura Linney-in-waiting. Her clueless alcoholic mom is a source of laughs and ultimately sobriety--for the character and us. For the first time in his decades-long career Jon Poll trades the editing room for the director’s chair. And after seeing Bartlett it makes sense that Poll who has edited movies like Austin Powers in Goldmember and Meet the Parents/Fockers is a behind-the-scenes veteran but a rookie helmer. His debut is fresh and loose but also very sure-handed. The movie is constantly a pleasant unclassifiable surprise spurning both the raunchiness of teen comedies and the pretention of psychology dramedies. The result is something far less precious and opaque than Wes Anderson’s Rushmore--to which Bartlett bears a broad thematic resemblance--yet a sharp commentary nonetheless. To that end Gustin Nash’s debut screenplay is just as impressive as his director’s rookie effort. His writing is clearly steeped in satire namely how loose today’s doctors are with the prescription pads--especially when it comes to our children--but it’s also able to be sweet and real when necessary. It’s the most impressive screenplay debut we’ve seen in a while--gold standard Juno notwithstanding--and the directorial one isn’t too shabby itself.
What No Reservations needs is a smell-sensitive rat who can cook. Instead we get head chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) a perfectionist who runs the kitchen of a swanky Manhattan eatery with an iron fist. Let’s just say she’s in desperate need of an attitude adjustment so in pops new sous-chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart) a free-spirited fellow who cooks by the seat of his pants. Soon he’s got the whole kitchen staff laughing and loving him way more than Kate. Nick tries to charm Kate too but she won’t have any of it. To top it off Kate unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her 9 year-old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) after her sister dies in a car accident. The understandably distraught Zoe is having a tough time and won’t eat any of her aunt’s highfalutin cuisine. The little girl only likes fish sticks—and as it turns out spaghetti a Nick specialty. Yes Nick finally melts Kate’s heart when he gets Zoe to eat a hearty bowl of spaghetti. You can see where this is going right? Love—and tomato sauce—conquers all. When you have two incredibly attractive people onscreen together you want the sparks to fly. Think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. True those two were falling in love for real but still it makes for a more fulfilling and cinematically romantic experience. But alas it doesn’t always work out and in No Reservations’ case the love story between Zeta-Jones and Eckhart deflates like a fallen soufflé. On their own they each hold up well: Zeta-Jones is good at being steely but emotionally stunted when it comes to matters of the heart while Eckhart’s easy-going charm and great smile make his Nick an obvious choice for any woman. Get them together however and things sag like a wet noodle. Too bad. Breslin is her usual cute self playing it a little more somber than she did in Little Miss Sunshine but the little actress ought to be careful not to pigeon-hole herself into the “eccentric but affecting” kid role. No Reservations also has another knock against it: It’s a remake of the German film Mostly Martha a far more stellar—and original—effort. Natch. Turning a hit foreign film into a studio picture rarely works out; something always gets missed in the translation which for No Reservations is surprising since Mostly Martha writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck is listed as the co-writer. What Nettelbeck did with Mostly Martha is revolve her story around master chef Martha (played brilliantly by Martina Gedeck) and her quirks and anxieties over suddenly having to raise a child. The love story with the Italian chef is more a pleasant surprise than the driving force. But of course with No Reservations the romance is played up for that certain chick flick appeal with two people who have no chemistry. Maybe Nettelbeck was lured into Americanizing her original. For his part director Scott Hicks (Shine) is definitely capable enough to carve out what he can from this predictable set up even adding some flair to the kitchen scenes but he can’t quite push No Reservations past its banality.
Nice guy Jerry (Matthew Lillard) is the same numbingly trite character we've seen in hundreds of other movies. He faces 30 with uncertainty. He doesn't know if he should propose to his beautiful girlfriend Denise (Bonnie Somerville). He just can't commit darn it! Oh life is so confusing! Meeting up with his best buds Tom "the rebel" (Dax Shepard) and Dan "the runt" (Seth Green) at the funeral of their dead friend Billy they reunite in the-what else?--tree house of their youth. There they discover a map of Billy's longtime obsession: The disappearance of hijacker D.B. Cooper with $200 000 cash. (Never mind that the real Cooper's flight took off in 1971 well before any of these characters would be born.) So these three friends set out on an expedition from the heart and learn a few valuable life lessons along the way. They embark on a canoe trip in the Pacific Northwest in search of Cooper's lost treasure with a very large bear and two even larger hillbillies in hot pursuit. Which is of course just a big excuse for some crazy hijinks in the woods the obligatory stoner sequence gorgeous but unshaven tree-huggers living atop a redwood a crazed mountain man the usual.
Lillard has an off-kilter charm that works in his supporting roles but not so much as the lead. One imagines the producers offering the role first to Adam Sandler and then to Vince Vaughn or Luke Wilson before finally settling on Lillard after they all refuse. His overbearing earnestness in the role recalls his work in SLC Punk straining for normalcy when something completely off-the-wall would work so much better. Shepard (from MTV's Punk'd) fares better he is amusingly annoying but at least he takes a side. Green is usually funnier than this but he doesn't usually have to lug an inhaler around with him as a prop or constantly stoop for laughs as the token scaredy cat. The three of them do have an easygoing chemistry that makes them good company. Burt Reynolds turns up with a foot-long beard as the mountain man who might know something about the treasure. It is certainly the most vanity free performance of Reynolds' career and while it doesn't amount to much it's a step in the right direction for a guy who could still be a great character actor if he could finally get over the fact that he is no longer Stroker Ace.
Steven Brill is best known as the director of the first Adam Sandler movie that didn't reach nine figures at the box office Little Nicky and he hasn't exactly advanced the art of screen comedy here. Nevertheless the pacing is brisk the timing is crisp and the repartee (credited to five writers) is snappy. Even the action comedy sequences mostly running away from the bear and the hillbillies are convincingly done. But make no mistake this is clearly the work of a man hell-bent on paying homage to The Goonies and for that miniscule target audience that not only saw The Goonies in the theater it can also differentiate the Coreys. Of course '80s music has been back in vogue for several years so it's inevitable that the '80s comedy embodied in this movie The Girl Next Door
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and others would return. But somebody had better make a good one soon or it will disappear faster than you can say Kajagoogoo.