5 Big Names Returning to the Small Screen (And Why You Should Care)

On the cusp of another wave of corporate optimism in the form of fresh new TV shows, some surprisingly big names have popped into shows both new and old. At a time when every new show faces the guillotine if it doesn’t perform well right out of the gate, the networks are turning to the stars that have given other shows that magic spark of multi-season runs and hoping lightning strikes again in our hearts.

Here, just a sampling of the names that will be leaping back into your living rooms this fall and why you ought to stay tuned:

1. Christina Applegate, Up All Night

Everyone loved her 90s caricature Kelly Bundy, and some of us even liked her in her single-mom comedy Jesse, her guest spot on Friends, and her short run as Samantha Who?, but this season Christina Applegate will tackle life as a new mother and career woman in the comedy Up All Night.

Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame plays her husband, who stays at home with the baby while she produces a TV talk show by day. The focus of her work life is the diva-esque talk show host played by Maya Rudolph (indie comedy darling recently loved in this summer’s Bridesmaids). Come for the faces, bet you’ll stay for the witty, self-deprecating humor!

2. Christina Ricci, Pan Am

Christina Ricci’s best-known turn was as the creepy and astute Wednesday in The Addams Family. Since then, she has flitted from indie film to indie film, stopping off to guest on a few TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy. This season, she makes a bid to make a room of her own on TV as part of the cast of Pan Am, TV’s newest attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia for the 60s ushered in by Mad Men.

Based on the real life experiences of a flight attendant for the airline that used to be the only intercontinental game in town, this show seems poised to offer drama and intrigue in the friendly skies. Ricci will play one of the flight attendants, bringing her signature wide eyes and sarcastic smile to prime time television, reminding us that there was a time when security was barely visible in the airport and customer service was a priority in the airline industry.

3. Maria Bello, Prime Suspect

Her last big TV role was on ER, and since then her movie career has seen her roughing up men in Coyote Ugly, singing her heart out in Duets, and most recently taking her maternal instinct too far in Grown-Ups.

This fall, Maria Bello reinvents the role once famously played by Helen Mirren on British television in Prime Suspect. She plays a tough female cop who might love the job and the chase a bit too much, but proves that the feminine touch can come in handy even when kicking butt.

4. Kelsey Grammer, Boss

Kelsey Grammer made a name for himself as the sensitive, misunderstood Frasier Crane, but in his new show, Boss, he goes to the opposite extreme to play Tom Kane, power-hungry Chicago mayor. Touted as a violent political drama with an emotional punch, it is a perfect vehicle for Grammer to emerge from the shadows of producing recent hit shows like Medium and return triumphant – and deliciously slick – to television.

5. Ashton Kutcher, Two and a Half Men

One of the most talked-about casting decisions of the fall has created one of the biggest question marks in the TV lineup. In the wake of Charlie Sheen’s exit from Two and a Half Men, the highly rated show’s future was as unpredictable as the escapades of its fallen star. Then it was announced that Ashton Kutcher would be moving into the lives of the one-and-a-half remaining men, and speculation spread like wildfire.

Word has it that Charlie’s character will be blown up in the premiere. Kutcher’s character will somehow move into the house and become the dating wannabe who needs Jon Cryer’s help to get his feet back into the dating pool. There’s so much drama to see played out, both on-screen and off, that checking into this season is a no brainer!

What names are you looking forward to seeing return to TV this fall?