Tomorrow night marks the premiere of two new half-hour comedies starring performers who have each been out of the sitcom world for over a decade. NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show sees the title actor, who got his start on Family Ties, in his first leading role since stepping down from Spin City to spend more time with his family following a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2000, while CBS’s The Crazy Ones marks Robin Williams’s return to the format and his first regular TV role since Mork & Mindy went off the air in 1982. While it’s exciting to see Fox and Williams back doing the kinds of shows that gave them their breakthrough roles, here’s a list of nine more sitcom stars we’d also like to see make a comeback, including Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, and other people.
Sure, it would probably be hugely disappointing to see the star of one of the greatest sitcoms ever — hell, one of the greatest TV shows ever — make a disappointing sophomore series. That’s what’s kept Jerry Seinfeld away from trying to top Seinfeld, along with him being more interested in standup and personal projects like his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Still, with the right team of writers and supporting actors around him, Jerry Seinfeld could very well make a great sitcom again. Or at the very least, a good sitcom.
The Dave Foley-fronted sitcom NewsRadio was on the brink of cancelation the entire time it was on the air, so it makes sense that we haven’t seen him clamoring for another lead role in a network show since its demise. Foley has played supporting sitcom parts since then (like in CBS’s quickly-canceled How to Be a Gentleman), but it’s as the star of NewsRadio that he really shined. On that series, Foley displayed a rare ability to play an interesting straight man, with his character Dave Nelson grounding the crazy character-filled world around him while never coming off as bland. Boring straight men dominate the sitcom landscape, but Foley is the rare comedic actor, like Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, or Judd Hirsch, who can elevate a show by straight-manning instead of holding it back.
Shandling has never played the lead in a traditional network sitcom, but the two series he starred in and co-created, Showtime’s It’s Garry Shandling’s Show in the ‘80s and HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show in the ‘90s, proved he could effectively anchor a half-hour comedy. Since Sanders Show ended, Shandling unsuccessfully attempted to transition into movie stardom but hasn’t tried to get back into TV. If Shandling’s hypothetical third show were anywhere as excellent his first two, it’d be pretty great and he’d be great in it.
Like Jerry Seinfeld, Candice Bergen has only ever starred in one sitcom, Murphy Brown, but that show proved to be a massive hit and had an impressive decade-long run. Bergen’s most recent series, Boston Legal, was a mix of comedy and drama, but she’s great at the center of a full-on comedy too, as evidenced by Murphy Brown, tons of movie work, and her being one of (unfortunately) only two women to be a part of Saturday Night Live’s Five-Timers Club.
For the past two seasons, Ted Danson has been playing the lead on the long-running crime drama CSI, but sitcom acting is where he made his name. Danson has been wildly funny in recent supporting/guest starring turns on HBO’s Bored to Death and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The last network sitcom Danson headlined was the failed 2006 group therapy comedy Help Me Help You, but hopefully, he’ll come back to the fold at some point.
Arguably better known for his dramatic work at the time, John Lithgow made an unlikely sitcom lead when he was cast in 3rd Rock from the Sun in 1996, but he proved surprisingly effective there. Since the show went off the air, Lithgow’s only ever starred in one other sitcom — Twenty Good Years, a quickly-canceled 2006 buddy comedy with Jeffrey Tambor — but he can handle the job, especially if he’s playing an alien.
Longtime Conan sidekick Andy Richter demonstrated he was a talented actor who can do more than just make witty quips from two couches over with his first show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Unfortunately, that series didn’t meet the fate it deserved, and subsequent Richter vehicles — family sitcom Quintuplets and the Conan O’Brien-produced Andy Barker, P.I. — didn’t cater to his abilities as well as his first sitcom did. While game show host looks to be Andy Richter’s next move instead of a return to sitcom acting, hopefully, he gets to take another stab at a half-hour comedy.
Sure, Lisa Kudrow is already starring in a half-hour TV comedy — Showtime’s Web Therapy — but the web series-turned-pay-cable show is far from a traditional network sitcom in that Kudrow’s the only series regular and it’s improvised instead of scripted. The Friends actress was great in her first solo lead role in a TV show on HBO’s critically-acclaimed one season wonder The Comeback, and she’d be great as the lead on her own network sitcom as well.
Since he’s 76 years old and has been out of the sitcom game for over a decade, we’re probably not going to see Bill Cosby star in his own TV show anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be great at it. The comedy veteran is still very funny and on top of it. Check out his recent appearances on Late Night, busting Jimmy Fallon’s balls if you’re in doubt.