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TV's Comeback Kids

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Jun 02, 2011 | 8:20am EDT

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

Eddie Cibrian playboy club

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

Wilmer Valderrama Awake Fez

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

Katharine McPhee American Idol Smash

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

laura prepon donna that 70s show are you there vodka

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

Rachel Bilson hart of dixie the oc

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

Debra messing smash will and grace

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

Tim Allen Home Improvement Last man standing

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

Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy Ringer

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

Mark-paul gosselaar zack morris franklin and bash

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

Dawson crying James Van der beek apartment 23

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.

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