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October 9, 2015

Look Who's Back! '90s Stars Return to TV

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 30th 2011 4:00PM
With the US networks' upfronts completed, it's time for us TV writers to start picking out trends from the announcements. Is the crime drama dying? Is comedy 'back'? One trend for 2011's fall TV that's hard to miss is the return of a large handful of '90s and early 2000s TV stars who've been away from the small screen.

It's sort of like all the popular kids from high school went off to college, where they majored in things like the comedy-horror movie, highly publicized relationships and dubious art house films, and now they're back -- a little older, a little wiser and with way better hair. Welcome home, kids.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in 'Ringer,' The CW

Plot Summary: Gellar plays twins -- one a washed-up recovering alcoholic, the other a high-society wife. When wifey disappears under mysterious circumstances, Miss Intervention takes her place, only to discover her sister's life is way more messed up than her own.

Recommended if you like: 'Alias,' 'Buffy' (natch)

Prospects: This show got a ton of attention at the upfronts, thanks to Gellar's iconic small-screen status and long time away. The previews look slick and well-produced, but there is something about Gellar's performance that leaves me cold. I loved her as Buffy Summers, but she has in common with other Joss Whedon heroines (Eliza Dushku, for example) an inability to disappear into her character. It's not exactly that she's a bad actress, because I've been incredibly moved by her performances as the Bufster, but maybe she needs a tailor-made script to get there. The show definitely skews older than most CW fare, which will either do what it's supposed to do (namely attract an older audience to the network) or turn off the hordes who tune in for 'Pretty Little Liars' and its ilk.

James Van Der Beek in 'Apartment 23,' ABC

Plot Summary: A NYC dweller fleeces her roommates by accepting first and last, then driving them so crazy they move out -- but she's also funny and charming. James Van Der Beek, playing himself, lives down the hall and is her friend/ex.

Recommended if you like: 'How I Met Your Mother,' 'Seinfeld'

Prospects: I now it sounds a bit weak, but casting goes a long way to mending fences here. Krysten Ritter (Gia on 'Veronica Mars') plays evil queen very well -- what she does here reminds me of how Anna Kendrick steals every scene in the 'Twilight' saga. And the "Beek from the Creek" (as she calls him) plays himself, crossed with a healthy dose of Barney Stinson. Previews include multiple jokes about his history as a teen idol and his time on 'Dawson's,' and I guess it could get old, but one would have thought Barney's schtick would have become tired by now, yet he's the only thing holding 'HIMYM' together. Let me put it this way: Imagine 'HIMYM' without Ted's simpering voiceover, in fact without Ted at all. Not awful, right?

Rachel Bilson in 'Hart of Dixie,' The CW

Plot Summary: A snooty, newly minted doctor from New York winds up a co-owner of a small practice in small-town Alabama. Some people are mean to her, and others are nice.

Recommended if you like: 'Everwood,' 'Grey's Anatomy'

Prospects: Bilson is reunited with Josh Schwartz, the man responsible for 'The O.C.,' 'Gossip Girl' and 'Chuck.' Basically, the man has never had a TV failure. But boy, does this sound boring! The fish-out-of-water plot has been done to death, and this one isn't particularly original. Then again, Bilson has shown surprising depth before. The slow transformation of Summer Roberts (of 'The O.C.') from cold-hearted snob to fun-loving overachiever was well-played, and Bilson's garnered similar reviews in other roles. Like 'Everwood,' which Schwartz says is a reference, this show may just need time to grow into itself. But as we all know, time is at a premium on TV.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar & Breckin Meyer in 'Franklin & Bash,' TNT

Plot Summary: A pair of smarmy lawyers best a big firm in court, and the firm decides to hire them to shake up its staid image. Hot tubs, pool tables and many magnums of champagne are involved.

Recommended if you like: 'Boston Legal,' 'Entourage'

Prospects: Gosh, I like these two actors an awful lot and want to root for them, but this show is not for me. It's got the humor of a beer commercial, and treats women with about the same level of sophistication. I guess girls in hot tubs are to male viewers what all those shoes were for us women on 'Sex and the City.'

Not only is this show playing strictly in the shallow end, it's yet another quirky lawyer comedy. I'm flummoxed as to how this became a standard genre -- I thought it was just a by-product of David E. Kelley's highly public therapy, which he calls a career. Meanwhile, the timing feels off on this too; the celebration of excess that can at least be considered social commentary on a show like 'Entourage' is completely out-of-step with the recession-scarred mindset of viewers.

'Franklin & Bash' debuts Wednesday June 1, 9 PM ET/PT on TNT. For the rest you'll have to wait til the fall.

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How exactly is Rachel Bilson a 90s star?

May 31 2011 at 5:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The most important return has to be Kristen Bell's return.
Oh how I've missed her on my TV!

May 31 2011 at 3:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Looking forward to Sarah's return.

May 31 2011 at 3:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why have there not been "What's on tonight" posts lately?!? It is the only thing worth coming to this site for for me, and over the past week they have been missing :( So much more helpful to check the post here then look through each channel or a whole TV guide to see what prime time shows are new and what is on rerun.

May 30 2011 at 7:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Alex's comment

The person who wrote What's On Tonight (me) was let go last week. If you need this resurrected please contact the editors.

May 30 2011 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RKBEAR's comment

Oh goodness.... I am so sorry to hear that.... I will be contacting the editors because it was really then only part of this blog worth visiting.

May 31 2011 at 12:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

It's June. Nothing is on tonight nor will be on until September.

June 02 2011 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan but I don't see how Ringer will fill out one season let alone multiple seasons. I hope the people behind this series have developed a strong story that can withstand 20-22 episodes per year or not even Gellar will save it.

May 30 2011 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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