The fall TV season is a time to discover fresh shows and faces that have never been seen onscreen before. But it’s also a time to rediscover well-known actors who are bubbling up on the cultural radar again thanks to one of this season’s new series. To borrow the wise words once rapped by LL Cool J, perhaps we shouldn’t call all of these “comebacks” since these stars have been here for years. But after either taking a break from regular series work or playing lower-profile roles for a while, it’s nice to see all the people on this list — from Donald Glover to Minnie Driver — back on television in such a big way this fall. Here’s a look at some of the season’s — sure, what the hell, we’ll call them that — comebacks.
After leaving NBC’s Community in the middle of its fifth season, Glover returns to TV in a major way, playing the struggling Earn in this sharply observed dramedy — one Glover also created — about the underground rap scene down South.
Photo: FX/Copyright 2015, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.
Hines spent eight seasons trying to steer Larry David toward normalcy on Curb Your Enthusiasm and two seasons as a divorced mom on ABC’s quirky Suburgatory. But her role in Son of Zorn, as an Orange County mother suddenly confronted with an ex-husband who happens to be an animated character that strongly resembles He-Man, has got to be the weirdest thing she’s done on TV.
Driver — who, in addition to many films, was seen in previous series The Riches and About a Boy — is back as the indefatigable mom to three kids, including one with cerebral palsy who becomes the focus of her aggressive, helicopter-mothering ways.
Photo: Kevin Foley/ABC
Sutherland hasn’t exactly disappeared from television; in 2014, he reprised his role as perpetually time-crunched CTU agent Jack Bauer in the limited series 24: Live Another Day. But Designated Survivor marks his return to serial drama, in a role that, once again, forces him to deal with high-pressure situations.
Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC
Mandy Moore made her voice heard as Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled and did an arc on Grey’s Anatomy a few years ago. But she’ll be seen and heard in a more significant way in this ensemble drama; in case you missed the 8,000 commercials that aired during the Olympics, she plays a woman preparing to give birth in the show’s pilot.
You may know Ventimiglia as Jess from The Gilmore Girls, or Peter Petrelli from Heroes, or, if you watch Gotham, from his recurring role as The Ogre. But now he’s back as a series regular in This Is Us, as the father of that child Moore’s about to deliver.
Photo: NBC/Ron Batzdorf/NBC
Her USA series Covert Affairs ended in 2014, but Perabo reemerges in this soapy look at the relationship between a TV producer (her role) and a lawyer (Daniel Sunjata). Something tells me there will be affairs of a covert nature on this show, too.
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/ABC
More than a decade has passed since Wayans starred on My Wife and Kids. This time he’s taking the action-comedy route and attempting to reinvent Roger Murtaugh, the cop first brought to life by Danny Glover in the movie franchise that inspired this series.
Photo: FOX/Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
Newcomer Kylie Bunbury is the star of this drama about the first woman to play major league baseball, but its cast features some comeback supporting performances, including one from Gosselaar, back in a major series-regular role for the first time since Franklin & Bash. (Technically, he was in the sitcom Truth Be Told last year, but it got canceled so quickly, it barely counts.)
Kevin Arnold’s dad has played plenty of roles since The Wonder Years went off the air, including one as a series regular on TBS’s Sullivan and Son. Still, it’s nice to see him again as the crusty general manager — is there any other kind of general manager in baseball? — of the San Diego Padres.
In Davis’s last series-regular turn on TV, she played the first female president on Commander in Chief. Now she’s back in a lead role — as a mother dealing with demonic forces in her home — just as the country is about to possibly elect its first female president. Coincidences are so freaky, aren’t they?
Photo: FOX/Photographer: Chuck Hodes
Ruck has played recurring roles on numerous shows but, aside from being Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he’s still probably best known for his work on Spin City. It’s appropriate that he’ll play the husband of Davis, another veteran of a politically focused ABC series.
Carrie Bradshaw is back! Okay, not really, but Parker is, as a woman on the precipice of a marital split in a half-hour dramedy with darker undertones than Sex and the City.
Church has tackled a ton of movie roles, particularly since his debauched turn in Sideways. But casting him opposite SJP gives him his first lead TV role since his 90s days Ned and Stacey and Wings.
Nolte is best known for his film work, but he’s done TV in recent years, too, including supporting turns on HBO’s Luck and the limited series Gracepoint. He’s the lead in this political comedy, in which he plays a former president attempting to atone for his policy sins. Ward, best known for Sisters, Once and Again, and, more recently, CSI: NY, plays the former First Lady trying to finally achieve her own political success. (Man, why does that sound so familiar?)
We haven’t regularly seen Thornton on TV since he creeped us out in the first season of Fargo. In this legal thriller from David E. Kelley, he looks less creepy and more burned-out as an attorney who’s recently been on more benders than trials.
You probably haven’t heard this news since it’s been kept super-under wraps, but: Gilmore Girls is coming back! That marks not only the resurgence of Lorelai and Rory, but also a return to TV for Graham, who’s been away since Parenthood ended nearly two years ago, and for Bledel, who appeared in a handful of Mad Mens but hasn’t had a TV role this major since … well, The Gilmore Girls.
Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
The high-note hitter and former American Idol judge gets back in the Mariah-Being-Mariah zone again with this eight-part series about what happens when Carey stops being a pop diva and starts acting real. Nah, just kidding, it’s mostly about her being a diva
Photo: NBCUniversal/Evans Vestal Ward/NBCUniversal
Shawkat, otherwise known as living Hollywood legend Maeby Fünke, gets the lead role in this mystery ensemble comedy, her first big breakout TV role since Arrested Development. There was only one thing to say to TBS when we heard she’d been cast: marry me
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