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October 30, 2014

Back in the Primetime Saddle

by Stephanie Earp, posted Sep 30th 2009 5:00PM
This season, some of TV's heaviest hitters have resurfaced with new roles and new shows. How will it pan out for our small-screen darlings? Will it be a full-fledged comeback (Alec Baldwin), a nice way to make a living for a few seasons (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) or a mere blip (Matthew Perry)? Here's my handicap.


Patricia Heaton returns in 'The Middle'
(Premieres Wednesday September 30th, 8:30 pm, ABC)

Type Cast? Heaton plays a flustered, harried mom in small town America, with a husband who helps out mostly with cutting remarks. And yet, this role is a big improvement over Debra on 'Raymond'.This season, some of TV's heaviest hitters have resurfaced with new roles and new shows. How will it pan out for our small-screen darlings? Will it be a full-fledged comeback (Alec Baldwin), a nice way to make a living for a few seasons (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) or a mere blip (Matthew Perry)? Here's my handicap.


Patricia Heaton returns in 'The Middle'
(Premieres Wednesday September 30th, 8:30 pm, ABC)

Type Cast? Heaton plays a flustered, harried mom in small town America, with a husband who helps out mostly with cutting remarks. And yet, this role is a big improvement over Debra on 'Raymond'. This character is quirkier, happier and more fun. She also has genuinely messy hair in almost every scene - like real moms. The show is an obvious 'Malcolm in the Middle' rip-off, but it has a gentler heart.

Supporting Players: Neil Flynn stole every scene he was in as the Janitor in the first few seasons of 'Scrubs' - now he finally gets a leading role here as Heaton's husband. He's playing pretty much the same guy, but it's even more fun to watch Flynn tease his wife than tease Zach Braff. The cast is rounded out by three seriously weird kids.

Botox or Bust: Heaton is one of the few celebs who is completely open about her plastic surgery - and she seems less plastic than any of them. She looks good, but she looks her age and she still has access to all her facial expressions.

Staying Power: A couple of seasons, at least.



Juliana Margulies returns in 'The Good Wife'
(Tuesday, 10 pm, Global/CBS)

Type Cast? Margulies plays Alicia, wife to a thinly-disguised Eliot Spitzer in this legal drama. Legal, because once the press frenzy and jail sentence come down, she goes back to work as a lawyer. Alicia is the strong silent type, and Margulies does here what she always pulled off in 'ER', that is, convey more with stillness than with action.

Supporting Players: Chris Noth plays the errant husband, and we finally get to see some of that rage you sensed was under the surface of Mr. Big. Think Clive Owen in 'Closer'. Plus the always-brilliant Christine Baranski is on board as Alicia's new boss.

Botox or Bust? Margulies looks different, no question, but it's hard to pin down why. Maybe it's just her straightened hair. If Margulies has been hitting the surgery office, the work she's had is as subtle as her performance.

Staying Power: High quality show, but is it another 'Commander-in-Chief'? I give it one season.



Paul Gross returns in 'Eastwick'
(Wednesdays, 10 pm, A/ABC)

Type Cast? Gross plays against good-guy type in the third attempt to take 'The Witches of Eastwick' to television. (The other two never made it past the pilot.) Gross's version of Darryl Van Horne clearly owes a lot to Jack Nicholson's performance in the 1987 film version, but if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

Supporting Players: Gross's most recognizable co-star is Rebecca Romjin, picking up where Cher left off. But it looks like the real sparks fly between him and Lindsay Price ('Lipstick Jungle').

Botox or Bust? Neither - our fresh-faced Mountie is all grown up and sexy as hell with his crow's feet and grey hair.

Staying Power: This could be the next 'Desperate Housewives'.



Jenna Elfman returns in 'Accidentally on Purpose'
(Mondays, 8:30 pm,Citytv/CBS)

Type Cast? You can say that again. Elfman plays Billie, a 30-something film critic who gets pregnant during a one-night stand with a younger guy, and decides to keep both the baby and the boy. It's like Dharma grew up, got a job and suddenly found herself the adult in the relationship. It's the same old Elfman, cute and wacky and full of energy - which is what won her so many fans in the first place. But it's not exactly a stretch.

Supporting Players:
Ashley Jensen ('Ugly Betty') plays Elfman's best bud and main enabler, and Grant Show ('Melrose Place') plays her ex. The rest of the cast is young unfamiliars, but at the up-fronts Elfman raved about the comedic timing of her cohorts. Hopefully she wasn't just blowing smoke.

Botox or Bust? If Elfman's hitting the needle, she doing it smart, sticking to the extreme upper hairline. She can still move her eyebrows - as you can tell from the photo.

Staying Power:
It's already lasted longer than the movie 'Knocked Up', which is pretty much the same thing with a better cast.



Courtney Cox returns in 'Cougar Town'
(Wednesday, 9:30 pm, Citytv/ABC)

Type Cast? It would be easy to say Cox's latest character is a grown-up divorced version of Monica Gellar, but that's just because neither character is all that fleshed-out. What we have here is a staple of the slightly older woman genre - a skinny sexy lady who spends half the show in her underwear yet complains that her body looks like "crap" (it doesn't) and that she can't meet any men (she does.)

Supporting Players: The most impressive member of the 'Cougar Town' team doesn't appear on screen. Producer Bill Lawrence is a veteran of very funny shows like 'Spin City' and 'Scrubs' - he even cast wife Christa Miller in this one.

Botox or Bust? Cox has always been big on gestures to get her comedy to hit home, and let's just say it's a good thing she has that to fall back on.

Staying Power? Early ratings have been good, so it could get picked up for a full season, but it likely won't last much longer than that.

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