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Paging Don Johnson, Cybill Shepherd? 10 stars we'd like to see this pilot season

March 15, 2011 |  4:59 pm

Johnson What, no Tony Danza?

Like spring, television's pilot season is in full bloom, and there are so many starring roles being doled out to actors of yesteryear -- dare we call them "of a certain age" -- that it's looking a lot like the '80s on shows that are elbowing for slots on networks' fall schedules.

Not that the stars have been in mothballs, necessarily -- some have been busy on film and stage -- but if their pilots fly, it'll be their first regular TV gigs in years. A few, film veteran Ellen Barkin and Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston, would be stepping into the medium as newbies.

[For the record, 9:31 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Anjelica Huston's last name as Houston.]

And in an ironic bit of timing, there are a couple of reformed bad boy actors and "Celebrity Rehab" alums  -- Eric Roberts and Tom Sizemore -- who've landed lead parts.

Here are the top 10 stars we'd love to see next season:

Cybill Shepherd: She's been cast as one of the overbearing parents in ABC's comedy "My Freakin' Family," which deals with the older generation's pull-and-tug on a young couple with a new baby.

Christine Lahti: The Emmy-winner for "Chicago Hope" will return to medicine for CBS' "The Doctor," in which she'll play the matriarch of a family of physicians who will try to work together.

Don Johnson: The NBC show itself, "A Mann's World," deals head-on with age and ageism, with Johnson starring as a Beverly Hills hairdresser and salon owner who's trying to stay relevant in a fast-moving fashion-forward world. The show comes from "Sex and the City's" Michael Patrick King.

FairchildMorgan Fairchild: Former soap star, TV movie aficionado and "Falcon Crest" glamazon, she's the lead character in an independently produced comedy called "Workers Comp." The show, looking for distribution, will center on a family insurance business that processes wacky on-the-job injury claims.

Fran Drescher: TV Land has been a pioneer in bringing back sitcom icons, starting with Betty White in the channel's first original comedy, "Hot in Cleveland." Also on that hit: Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli, with guest stars such as Mary Tyler Moore. The cable network also put George Segal and Jessica Walter in its newest half-hour, "Retired at 35." Word is executives are likely to order "Happily Divorced" from Drescher and her real-life ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson. The show mirrors Drescher and Jacobson's unconventional friendship. (Hint: She found out he was gay after they'd been married 21 years; now they're besties.)

Ted Danson/Mary Steenburgen: This is a combo entry, and it's already a foregone conclusion. The former "Cheers" proprietor, who broke new villainous ground on "Damages," stars in HBO's "Bored to Death," and for the season launching in the fall, his wife will too.

Sizemore Tom Sizemore: He's had his addiction issues, displayed on "Celebrity Rehab" season 3, and now he'll be starring opposite Ethan Hawke in Fox's "Exit Strategy," about an elite team of CIA agents.

Eric Roberts: Ditto what we just said about Sizemore. (His "Celebrity Rehab" stint is much fresher -- he was there last year.) The 55-year-old Roberts is at the center of ABC's "Grace," an "All That Jazz"-like drama about a philandering dance choreographer.

Tim Allen: The "Home Improvement" maven, after a string of successful movies, including last year's box office champ, "Toy Story 3," could be back in sitcom land with a project written for him at ABC. The show's still untitled.

Wilmer Valderrama: Though probably the youngest in this bunch by a mile, we’re including the former "That '70s Show" star because he's been AWOL from series TV. He's been cast as a detective in "REM," an NBC drama from the short-lived "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen. The series has been described as an "Inception"-style thriller, part of a larger trend in TV development toward supernatural, mysterious, twisty stories.

Honorable mentions

They might not fit into the top 10, but we'd be interested in these too:

Jean Smart, who's popped up in story arcs everywhere from "Hawaii 5-0" to "$#*! My Dad Says," could be working for NBC on a doctor-centric comedy, and "Six Feet Under" alum Frances Conroy may be part of the "Bad Mom" ensemble if that show moves ahead. Anjelica Huston could turn up on NBC in the musical, "Smash," opposite Debra Messing, another star we'd like to see again (sorry, "The Starter Wife" doesn't really count), and Ellen Barkin is slotted to pay Johnson's ex-wife in NBC's "A Mann's World" if it sees the light of day.

How about it, Show Trackers? Who do you miss and who do you think should get a return engagement on the small screen?

-- T.L. Stanley

Top photo: Don Johnson in 2010. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

Middle photo: Morgan Fairchild in 2004. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Tom Sizemore in 2011. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press