Each fall season is marked by certain trends: The year there were 900 Friends knock-offs. The year there were 200 Lost clones. The year every network had fourteen gruesome crime procedurals. But this year doesn’t have that kind of genre repetition. Instead, the big trend this year is that every show seems to be populated strictly by familiar faces — and some shows populated by extremely familiar ones. Here’s a breakdown of the most familiar actors, and how far they’re are deviating from their previous roles.
Partners, CBS, Mondays at 8:30 p.m.
You know him from: Most recently as Jeff Daniels’s shrink on The Newsroom, but also from Numbers, Playboy Club, Harold and Kumar, and as the guy who stabbed Lucy and Carter on ER. And from Slums of Bevery Hills.
But here he’s … Still your average neurotic utility Jew.
You know him from: Ugly Betty.
But here he’s … Still your average neurotic prancy gay guy.
You know her from: One Tree Hill.
But here she’s … Still a nice girl! Though now she’s in a much more stable, normal universe.
You know him from: He was the most recent Superman. The one in the movie that no one really liked.
But here he’s … Michael Urie’s nurse boyfriend. Depature alert!
Revolution, NBC, Mondays at 10 p.m.
You know him from: Twilight, as Gary from 24, or maybe as one of the doctors from Wonderland. But you probably know him as Bella’s dad from Twilight, and it’s okay to admit that.
But here he’s … A gruff, reclusive guy with secrets and some serious sword-fighting skills.
You know him from: Breaking Bad, where he played the incomparable Gus Fring. (Part of us will always see him as G’s son from Homicide, though.)
But here he’s … Another ruthless villain, this time as the head of a militia.
You know her from: Lost, probably, where she was Juliet. She was also on V, the short-lived Lyons Den, and played Dr. Weaver’s girlfriend Dr. Legaspi on ER.
But here she’s … Two of the revolutionaries’ mom, who is apparently deceased. (We’ll see!)
You know him from: A million different comedy things, but most notably Wet Hot American Summer. (He’s the guy who says “You mean, penis-in-vagina?”)
But here he’s … One of the revolutionaries, in what seems like the Greg Grunberg role.
The Mob Doctor, Fox, Mondays at 9 p.m.
You know her from: My Boys.
But here she’s … A mob doctor. The name says it all!
You know him from: Have you ever seen a show with a creepy, elegant bad guy? It was probably him. He won an Emmy for Damages, but he was also on The Event, True Blood, Big Love, Heroes, Oz, 24, and as a good guy (A.D.A. Danvers) Homicide.
But here he’s … A doctor. So far just elegant, but maybe the creepiness and badness will come later.
You know him from: Friday Night Lights, as Matt Saracen.
But here he’s … A not-mob doctor. Still a sweetheart, but nowhere near as emotionally damaged as QB 1.
Vegas, CBS, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
You know him from: He’s Dennis Quaid. He’s famous!
But here he’s … A sheriff.
You know him from: The Shield, we hope, but also from No Ordinary Family and Fantastic Four. Oh, and he’s the Commish.
But here he’s … A tough-guy gangster. Did we even need to say “tough guy”?
You know her from: The Matrix, Memento, posters in dorm rooms.
But here she’s … A justice-oriented district attorney.
You know him from: Terra Nova, and other promptly cancelled shows Life on Mars, In Justice, and The Agency.
But here he’s … Less gruff than usual as Dennis Quaid’s chill brother.
Go On, NBC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.
You know him from: Friends. You know him from Friends. But you’ve also seen him on Studio 60, Mr. Sunshine, and a recent arc on The Good Wife.
But here he’s … Still a smug sarcastic guy. But now he’s a smug sarcastic guy in mourning.
You know her from: Broadway! She won a Tony for her role in Gypsy and was nominated twice before that for Into the Woods and Swing! She was on SVU last season, starred in The Playboy Club, and was also in a previous group-therapy show, Starved.
But here she’s … Less tortured than usual as the head of a support group.
You know her from: Grace Under Fire, but maybe Broadway, too: She won a Tony for The Little Dog Laughed. And she antagonized the Fischers as Mitzi on Six Feet Under.
But here she’s … A lesbian. But still fiery!
You know her from: Lots and lots of places, including yet another group-therapy show, Help Me Help You, as the principal on the wonderful-but-canceled 10 Things I Hate About You, and as Lily’s pediatrician on Modern Family.
But here she’s … Remember how David Krumholtz is the utility Jewish guy? Suzy Nakamora is the utility Asian woman.
Tyler James Williams
You know him from: Everybody Hates Chris, where he played the titular Chris.
But here he’s … Owen. Who is very sad.
You know him from: Eagleheart, where he plays Brett, or recently as the principal on The Inbetweeners. Bearded weirdos, if you will.
But here he’s … Yep, a bearded weirdo.
You know him from: The Harold and Kumar franchise, Star Trek, and FlashForward.
But here he’s … Matthew Perry’s boss. So far, no drug-use, but who knows.
The New Normal, NBC, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.
You know him from: The Book of Mormon and Girls. (He was Elder Price and Hannah’s now-gay college boyfriend, respectively.)
But here he’s … Another perky gay guy.
You know him from: The Hangover.
But here he’s … Andrew Rannells’s slightly more-macho half.
You know her from: She’s Ellen Barkin! She’s famous!
But here she’s … A great-grandmother who is super racist and homophobic and fancy.
You know her from: The Real Housewives of Atlanta. She also played a swim coach on Glee last season.
But here she’s … Pretty much just playing a saltier version of herself. And that is pretty salty.
The Mindy Project, Fox, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.
You know her from: The Office, and from her general pop presence.
But here she’s … Playing a woman named Mindy, who seems smarter than Kelly Kapoor, but no less enthusiastic about Beyoncé.
You know her from: The Good Wife, where she was Alicia’s leggy blond underling. She was also the preacher’s wife on True Blood and the naive model Don Draper seduced on Mad Men.
But here she’s … Mindy’s together-seeming BFF. She doesn’t seem evil and she doesn’t seem ditzy. Upgrade!
You know him from: If you consumed any entertainment this summer, you saw him: Damages, The Newsroom, Ruby Sparks, Celeste & Jesse Forever. He was also Claire’s republican boyfriend on Six Feet Under and the doting husband in Julie and Julia.
But here he’s … You guessed it: the Love Interest. Not in the sweet, loving way, though — in the romcom sarcastic scamp way.
The Neighbors, ABC, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m
You know her from: Still Standing, which was on television for 10,000 years even though no one can attest to ever having seen a full episode. She was also Muffy on Square Pegs if you want to talk about deep cuts. Also, The Lost Boys.
But here she’s … Another sitcom wife, this time one who tolerates not just general husband buffoonery but also living among aliens.
Nashville, ABC, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
You know her from: Friday Night Lights. Tami Taylor forever! She also scream-birthed a demon baby on American Horror Story last year.
But here she’s … More snooty. Rayna, the fading country star, has some serious ego, particularly compared to the generous Tami.
You know her from: Heroes. And the Amanda Knox Lifetime movie.
But here she’s … More skanky. Her Juliette character oozes sexual energy way more than the indestructible cheerleader ever did.
You know him from: Deadwood, 24, and everywhere else you might need a stern guy who can keep a secret. Especially a dark secret he can lord over you!
But here he’s … A stern guy lording things over people.
Animal Practice, NBC, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
You know him from: Weeds, Angels in America, and Jack & Jill. It’s okay, lots of people watched Jack & Jill.
But here he’s … A sardonic veterinarian. Less dopey than his Weeds character, but still that same kind of smug.
You know him from: The underrated Reaper and a slew of one-season shows (Mad Love, Sons of Tucson, Invasion). He was also one of James Franco’s associates in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
But here he’s … Another doofy sidekick.
You know her from: Reba, probably. She was also Vicki on Freaks and Geeks, Bree on Gossip Girl, the star of the criminally underwatched Privileged, and last year’s pretty awful Better With You. If you’re a Yankees fan, you might recognize her as Nick Swisher’s wife.
But here she’s … Meaner than usual as Kirk’s boss and ex.
Guys With Kids, NBC, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
You know him from: Law and Order, The Shield, and All About the Andersons, as well as dozens of other shows.
But here he’s … Sweeter and more gentle than his more recent cop roles, but about in line with who he usually plays on sitcoms.
You know her from: The Cosby Show. It almost doesn’t matter how many other roles she has, she will always be Vanessa from The Cosby Show.
But here she’s … Grown up. But she still seems like Vanessa.
You know him from: Bring It On. It almost doesn’t matter how many other roles he has, he will always be Cliff from Bring It On.
But here he’s … Grown up. But he still seems like Cliff from Bring It On.
You know her from: The Sopranos. It almost doesn’t matter how many other roles she has, she will always be Meadow from The Sopranos.
But here she’s … Grown up. But she still seems like Meadow.
Chicago Fire, NBC, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
You know him from: Sex and the City. He’s a bartender, and he’s cute. Oh, Steve.
But here he’s … A firefigher.
You know him from: House.
But here he’s … A firefigher, sans his Australian accent.
Last Resort, ABC, Thursdays at 8 p.m.
You know him from: Men of a Certain Age most recently, but Pembleton from Homicide more permanently.
But here he’s … A captain on a submarine. Intense and shouty, just like you’d think.
You know him from: Are you made of stone? You know him from Felicity.
But here he’s … Braugher’s second-in-command. Steelier than Ben, certainly, but the man can still crinkle his eyes like you wouldn’t believe.
You know her from: The OC, No Ordinary Family, Entourage. Anxious, with a sexy streak.
But here she’s … Yes, anxious with a sexy streak, and also some kind of weapons contractor. So with a dangerous streak, too.
Elementary, CBS, Thursdays at 10 p.m.
Jonny Lee Miller
You know him from: Dexter last season, and before that Eli Stone. And way before that, Hackers.
But here he’s … Sherlock Holmes. British accent and all!
You know her from: She’s Lucy Liu! She’s famous!
But here she’s … Joan Watson, sober companion and recipient of wisdom.
You know him from: A million places that you can never remember on the spot. Prime Suspect last season, Jonah Hex (just kidding, no one knows him from that), The Book of Daniel, Nine Lives, and historically Benny & Joon and Desperately Seeking Susan.
But here he’s … Pretty much the same cop he played on Prime Suspect.
Beauty and the Beast, the CW, Thursdays at 9 p.m.
You know her from: Smallville, where she was trapped in a doomed romance with Clark Kent. Otherwise you have probably not heard of her. She is very pretty.
But here she’s … A detective trapped in a doomed romance with the “beast.” She is still very pretty.
Malibu Country, ABC, Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
You know her from: She’s Reba McEntire! She’s famous!
But here she’s … Reba McEntire.
You know her from: She’s Lily Tomlin! She’s famous!
But here she’s … Reba McEntire’s stoner mom. Downgrade.
You know him from: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and host of the competitive dog-grooming series Groomer Has It.
But here he’s … Reba’s agent. Upgrade? Can one upgrade from playing oneself?
666 Park Avenue, ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m.
You know her from: Many places. Most recently as campy divas on Desperate Housewives, and before that Ugly Betty. And “Save the Best for Last,” obviously.
But here she’s … A maybe-evil campy diva who lives in a demonic fancy apartment building. Something about Vanessa Williams just cries out to be draped in finery!
You know him from: Lost. And maybe Millennium if you were dorky in the nineties. The man radiates “I am keeping important secrets, and also I have wisdom. Do you find me dangerous? Or alluring? Or both?”
But here he’s … Yeah, he’s still radiating that, now as the owner of the evil apartment building.
You know him from: ER, Make It or Break It, the terrific and never-talked-about Over There.
But here he’s … Less jerkish than usual. There’s still something vaguely jerkish about him, though.
You know him from: Brothers and Sisters.
But here he’s … Neither a brother nor a sister but a husband. The scruffiness remains.