Last night’s premiere of The Exes on TV Land featured yet another comedy ensemble composed of nineties and aughts TV stars — Kristen Johnston, Wayne Knight, and Donald Faison among them. This follows Hot in Cleveland, Happily Divorced, and Retired at 35, which all have a similar model. So we got to thinking: How hard could it be to assemble groups of former comedy (and a few drama) favorites and put them in lukewarm sitcoms? It turned out not to be that hard. Here are five of our fantasy casts, with a half-baked premise to boot.
Grant Shaud (Miles from Murphy Brown)
Michael Stoyanov (the oldest brother from Blossom)
Dan Cortese (from the 1990s)
Diedrich Bader (Oswald from The Drew Carey Show)
David Anthony Higgins (Joe from Ellen)
The pitch: Back in 1983, the Grantham Panthers were New Hampshire’s best high school basketball team. Now, its five starters all find themselves back in their hometown, but they don’t feel like the all-stars they once were — until they get back on the court together. Sometimes you can go home again, as long as home is team.
The ensemble: Ensemble comedies are built around ensemble players, and nothing screams “ensemble” like these guys.
Jonathan Silverman (The Single Guy)
Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa from The Cosby Show)
Jay Thomas (Cheers, Love & War)
Bronson Pinchot (Balki!)
The pitch: Eric (Silverman) and Andrea (Bledsoe) have it all: A loving marriage, a cushy new condo in Washington, D.C., and they’re both flying through the ranks as aides/advisers to a liberal senator (Pinchot). There’s just one hitch — Eric’s wayward dad, who lost his entire retirement. Now the conservative, un-PC Phil (Thomas) is crashing with his son and daughter-in-law, proving that family politics really does make for strange bedfellows.
The ensemble: Bledsoe spent a decade as the most neurotic of the Cosby kids, so she can go toe-to-toe with Silverman. And an angry/shouty Jay Thomas is a fun Jay Thomas.
Jaleel White (Urkel)
Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton)
Nichole Tom (the oldest kid on The Nanny)
Will Friedle (Eric from Boy Meets World)
Andrea Barber (Kimmie Gibbler from Full House)
Kathy Najimy (Veronica’s Closet)
The pitch: The violin section at the San Francisco Philharmonic is intense and competitive — but wonderful, if you get to play alongside your friends. Alex (Ribeiro), Jane (Tom), Logan (Friedle), and Trina (Barber) had a good thing going, until Lamar (White) shows up and disrupts their delicate ecosystem. Now the stern conductor (Najimy) is shaking up the pecking order, and everyone’s going to have to find a new way to play in harmony.
The ensemble: Urkel and Carlton, together at last. Whatever stigma alphadorkdom carried in the nineties seems to have abated, and the gawky have inherited the earthy.
Julie White (Grace Under Fire)
Jodi Long (All American Girl)
Harriet Samson Harris (Union Square)
Jasmine Guy (A Different World)
Delta Burke (Designing Women)
Kim Coles (Living Single)
Loni Anderson (WKRP in Cincinnati)
The pitch: Patients need to find good therapists. And good therapists need to find each other. At a practice with six shrinks who all have very different styles, things are bound to get a little bit crazy.
The ensemble: Sugar and spice and everything nice, blah blah blah blah eccch. Give us the women who can do lovable bitchiness, too, and give us all kinds of it: sardonic, exhausted, nice-to-your-face-but-mean-behind-your-back. Put them together with the cheerful, smiley types and let the games begin.
Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle)
Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity)
Lacy Chabert (Party of Five)
The pitch: The Morrissey women have always been close, but for the first time ever, they’re living far away from each other: Mom Yvette (Kaczmarek) is holding down the empty nest in South Carolina, while older daughter Eliza (Johnson) has moved to Chicago with her husband and young children, and younger daughter Meg (Chabert) continues to tour with her band. Thanks to cell phones, Wi-Fi, and sheer force of will, they’re staying in each other’s lives — maybe a little too much.
The ensemble: Look at them! Don’t you want them to play a family?