Because television casting is just one big popularity contest, rarely if ever decided by less superficial factors like academic achievement or personal essays, the networks continue to put famous people in their TV shows in the hopes that the non-famous people like us will be so impressed that we’ll just have to write about it. It’s a total sham and we refuse to fall for it, except in articles like this one and now this one, and most likely several more to come. Oh, we talk a big game, but deep inside we are so, so shallow. Witness our shallowness, laid bare for all to see in this rundown of bold names you may recognize who are joining various pilots, in most cases just because people like to look at them.
The return of ’80s and ’90s television stars—like a return to the stream by salmon who maybe didn’t have as big a movie career as they’d hoped—continues with Alyssa Milano, who’s booked her first regular series role since Charmed on ABC’s Mistresses, adapted from the British show of the same name. Milano will star as a “classy and elegant married lawyer at a top Los Angeles law firm,” though not so classy, elegant, or law-abiding that she refrains from having myriad “scandalous” affairs. The show also features a return to the network for Lost’s Yunjin Kim, who will draw upon her previous experience with adultery and staring pensively into space while she thinks about that adultery.
Also coming back to television (after a much briefer absence), Maria Bello is set to leave behind the failed Prime Suspect and hat jokes to join Fox’s Touch as a recurring guest star and potential series regular. Bello will debut later this season, transitioning from her usual ball-busting idiom toward playing an “earth-mother type” whose daughter shares the same gift as Kiefer Sutherland’s son, which suggests that she and Sutherland might do it someday. Also stepping even further outside his milieu, Hugh Dancy will continue moving away from costume dramas and follow his recent stint on The Big C with the non-Hannibal Lecter role on Hannibal, playing FBI profiler Will Graham as he first encounters the brilliant, cannibal psychiatrist and gets to know him, perhaps through a charming musical montage.
Like Bello, Jennifer Beals will follow her own canceled cop drama The Chicago Code with another chance at network TV stardom—promisingly, this time on a CBS cop drama, where cop dramas are immortal. She’ll join fellow perennial failed freshmen series victim Paula Marshall in Widow Detective—which is one of the more self-explanatory titles in the history of CBS’s self-explanatory titles, as it focuses on a detective (played by John Corbett) who looks after his late partners’ widows, two of whom are played by Beals and Marshall. Or, actually, we suppose the title would make more sense if the widows were doing the detecting, or it was a detective who only looked for missing widows. We hereby rechristen this show Guilt Cop.
Speaking of changes, there have been some since our last casting update like this: Amanda Walsh will get yet another chance to make Big Bang Theory producers rue the day they replaced her with Kaley Cuoco by joining Fox’s Will Forte sitcom Rebounding—this time getting her own sweet revenge by ousting Aly Michalka, who was booted after a table read. That same fate recently befell Abby Elliott on another Fox sitcom, Ned Fox Is My Manny, and now she too has been replaced: Dakota Johnson will continue the charmed, albeit probably pretty weird existence that comes from being Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s daughter, with the 22-year-old taking over the lead role of an “uptight single mother” that Elliott was supposedly deemed “too young” for—something that must sting a bit for Elliott, in addition to her own famous parentage being slightly less glamorous.
Perhaps Elliott can take some solace in retaining her Saturday Night Live job, or even in recognizing that there is usually a TV afterlife for the ladies of SNL—even the fired ones like Jenny Slate, who’s just landed a role on CBS’s Super Fun Night. Slate will star opposite Bridesmaids’ umpteenth “breakout” star Rebel Wilson as one of three nerdy girlfriends with a self-imposed rule of having “super fun” Friday nights. Or, actually, the official statement describes these nights as “funcomfortable,” as New Girl has demonstrated that girls + portmanteaus = viewers, apparently. It's called "smartketing."
Anyway, look at all those names! Those are definitely some names you may or may not recognize, and pretty soon they will be on television. That’s how it works.