Garner blows into ‘Chicago’

Rosenberg joining thesp

Emmy-winning thesp James Garner is returning to live-action series television for the first time in nearly 20 years, signing up for a recurring role on the CBS medical drama “Chicago Hope.”

Garner will join the cast of “Hope” this spring, appearing in the final four segs of the skein’s sixth season. He’ll play a strong-willed multimillionaire who takes over as the new owner of Chicago Hope Hospital.

In addition, series producers confirm that Alan Rosenberg (“Civil Wars,” “L.A. Law”), who has made several appearances this season as attorney Stuart Brickman, is joining the show as a regular.

As for Garner, if the thesp and “Hope’s” producers like the way things go after the four segs — and if the show gets picked up for a seventh season — Garner has tentatively agreed to return in the fall. “It’s a honeymoon period to see if we want to get married,” said “Hope” exec producer Michael Pressman.

Garner said that “Hope” deals with issues he enjoys exploring as a thesp.

“The show deals with the human condition and issues of right and wrong. It’s the kind of thing I like to do,” Garner said. “It is entertainment that leaves you thinking.”

While Garner’s last major series role was in the 1981 NBC oater “Bret Maverick,” his aud appeal has not diminished. Thesp’s appearance with Julie Andrews in the CBS telepic “One Special Night” averaged 25.9 million viewers last November — the Eye’s most-watched pic this season.

“Hope” exec producer Henry Brommell called Garner’s arrival “thrilling.” telling Daily Variety, “We grew up with this guy.”

“Hope” creator David E. Kelley, who has taken a more active role in the running of the skein this season, began talking to Garner last year about the possibility of working on one of his shows.

“It’s not every day that you get to work with an actor like James, who’s not only popular, but brings a humanity to every role he plays,” Kelley said. “It’s a privilege to have him on our show.”

Moving experience

Since moving to Thursdays at 9 p.m. this fall, the Twentieth Television-produced “Hope” has been a solid performer for CBS. Last season, the series was ranked No. 61 among all primetime shows, but by October of this year was breaking into the Nielsen top 20. Show has suffered somewhat since “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” moved into the timeslot.

In addition to his trademark role on “The Rockford Files,” Garner is known for his starring roles in the skeins “Maverick” and “Nichols.” His slew of feature credits include “My Fellow Americans,” “The Great Escape” and an Oscar-nominated role in “Murphy’s Romance.”

Rosenberg, who earned an Emmy for a guest stint on “ER,” is repped by Sanders Management and the Gersh Agency.

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