Full disclosure: Matthew Perry was always our favorite Friend. So it was with unbridled enthusiasm that we tuned in to last night’s premiere of his new ABC series Mr. Sunshine, and y’know what? It’s pretty good. It has a bit of that fumbling-for-our-comic-voice thing that plagues just about every situation comedy pilot (including the aforementioned Friends — ever watch their first episode? Not promising!), but the writing is snappy, it’s an ideal vehicle for Perry’s dry wit, and it sports our new favorite TV theme song (watch the episode here). Best of all, the supporting cast includes Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) and Allison Janney (C.J. from The West Wing) — so it’s a show full of people we’re glad to see back on TV.
And that got us thinking about other actors we miss from TV shows past. Some TV folks graduate to movies (George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Jim Carrey) while others bounce from one series to the next (Edie Falco, David Duchovny, Kelsey Grammer, Betty White, Peter Krause). But some kind of disappear from sight — either by choice (Jerry Seinfeld), by making poor choices (most of his co-stars), or by never flipping from recognizable character actor to name brand. Whatever the reasons may be, we’ve compiled a list of ten of our favorite TV actors who are overdue for a comeback vehicle.
Self-deprecating stand-up comic Shandling starred in (and co-created) two of television’s best and most innovative comedy series: the fourth wall-shattering It’s Garry Shandling’s Show for Showtime (1986-1990) and the brilliant showbiz satire The Larry Sanders Show for HBO (1992-1998). The latter ended with some of its finest episodes (though the fanfare for its finale was somewhat eclipsed by Seinfeld’s around the same time). Word at the time was that Shandling would turn his attention to movies. He did, but without much success — he co-starred in the notorious flop Town & Country, while his starring vehicle What Planet Are You From? (which he co-wrote) didn’t do much better. And with that, Shandling pulled a bit of a vanishing act. He does occasional small film roles (as in last summer’s Iron Man 2) and will pop up at special events, or in the special features for his two shows’ indispensible DVD sets. Maybe now that they’re both finally out in full, he can focus on creating the next great TV comedy.