Whether adding a few well-timed zingers in a single episode or playing out a
dramatic arc throughout much of the season, these guest stars were an invaluable addition to their respective series.
“Sons of Anarchy”
Why: Under the guise of cigar shop owner and white supremacist, Arkin tried to control the drug trade in Charming, but was eventually smoked out by Samcro and the cops.
Why: Coiffed and polished on the outside, an insecure tiger on the inside, Banks’ Avery Jessup proved a worthy romantic interest for Alec Baldwin’s Jack.
Why: If you need a therapist who can parry with the force that is Hugh Laurie, then you need someone like Braugher, who warmed up for “Men of a Certain Age” by taming House.
“Parks and Recreation”
Why: One of the first signs that “Parks” had figured itself out and was on the verge of brilliance came through the sweet yet believable romance between his and Amy Poehler’s characters.
Why: If there’s anyone who’s a perfect fit for “Glee” — youthful in appearance with a stunning voice — it’s Chenoweth, who returned as a former student looking for redemption.
“The Good Wife”
Why: In a show that was already hugely entertaining, Cumming — who has been added as a series regular next season — gave things a burst of life as Chris Noth’s political consultant. His blunt approach with everyone from Alicia to his allies makes for continued “Good” viewing.
“United States of Tara”
Why: Davis, an Oscar nom for “Doubt,” develops a friendship with teenager Kate and Tara, who makes her realize the life she never had.
Why: In a two-part arc, Delany plays a fed who works with Castle and Beckett to hunt down a serial killer. She’s always been considered a top actress, and has made her mark on two landmark series: “China Beach” and “Desperate Housewives.”
“Friday Night Lights”
Why: After hurriedly leaving Dillon for Chicago, Gilford returns to his hometown and learns his father has been killed. The emotion etched into Matt Saracen’s face, conveying the repressed anger he holds for his dad, reminded us why Gilford was so brilliant on the first three seasons of the show.
Why: Southern-born and -raised Goggins, who wowed auds for seven seasons on “The Shield,” looks like he could be at FX a while longer. His inner-villain comes out in the exemplary “Justified,” and his scenes with Timothy Olyphant are some of the best on all of TV.
Why: A tour-de-force performance playing a version of himself, he gives over his birthday celebration to school the “Party Down” crew on acting and life itself.
Why: The button-down import to Sterling Cooper was anything but a stuffed shirt, providing some of the more poignant and then inspiring moments of the season.
Neil Patrick Harris
Why: Think being a nemesis of Will is a recipe for great fun? Absolutely. Harris seemed to enjoy it as much as Sue Sylvester does on a weekly basis.
Why: The disgraced President Logan returned for the last handful of episodes, and his confrontation with Jack near the end of the run was a moment worth recalling when discussing the season’s best scenes.
Why: You mean besides the “Friends” reunion? OK, Kudrow plays a tough-as-nails dermatologist who undergoes a battle of wills with Jules.
Why: Lauper plays a psychic in the season premiere who helps Booth — recovering from brain surgery — and Brennan examine their quirky relationship.
Why: Stage and small-screen vet Lithgow might have proven to be Dexter’s biggest adversary yet. The two played many wonderful amped-up scenes together, but the Thanksgiving episode might stand tallest as Lithgow learned not to underestimate his series rival.
Why: Dropping by to make amends for “the incident” at Jay and Gloria’s wedding, Long was well cast as Claire and Mitchell’s mother, who has a hard time dealing with the resentment her brood has for her.
Why: Not afraid to be combative with Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda, McDonnell approaches the Major Crimes division about a possible spousal abuse situation involving one of her officers.
“Drop Dead Diva”
Why: How could Minnelli be in any other show besides the perfectly titled “Diva”? Like Lauper in “Bones,” Minnelli plays a psychic who works closely with sister Delta Burke.
Why: She provided a hearty, chowdah-rich flavor to the love triangle faced by Jack (Alec Baldwin).
“Parks and Recreation”
Why: Mullally lit “Parks” on fire as Tammy, Pawnee’s sexually charged evil library director and ex-wife of Ron Swanson (played by Mullally’s real-life hubby, Nick Offerman).
Tim Blake Nelson
Why: Nelson gives off a creepy vibe as a guy who works in a horrible environment and conspires to rip off a co-worker. He ends up murdering him, and it all goes downhill from there.
Why: After beheading wife No. 5, King Henry VIII marries Richardson’s Catherine Parr, a woman closer in age than his usual fancies. Richardson has become more appreciated by U.S. auds after her long run on FX’s “Nip/Tuck.”
Tom Everett Scott
Why: Shot point blank in the chest in the season-one finale, Scott isn’t rushing back into being an LAPD detective. Despite the hopes and wishes of partner Regina King, Scott needs to return to the job at his own pace.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Why: While Seinfeld and Larry David worked together for years on the iconic NBC sitcom, they were never a team in front of the camera. Our loss. Their work this season on the pseudo-“Seinfeld” reunion gave auds a glimpse into what made them quite the hilarious pair.
Why: Sheen believes there’s chemistry between himself and Liz Lemon, and he won’t let anything get in the way. For an actor who has become the embodiment of someone as stately as Prime Minister Tony Blair on three occasions, it’s nice to know Sheen is just as perfect as a bumbling love interest.
Why: Hard to believe, but Shields has been in front of the camera for 36 years and has developed a nice comedic touch after appearing or starring in a handful of sitcoms.
Why: Six-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner Spacek played against type as a hard-edged, two-faced, manipulative Washington insider — in a sense, an actress in the role of another actress.
“Law and Order: SVU”
Why: Stone plays assistant district attorney Jo Marlowe for four episodes, a former cop who got tired of seeing the suspects she collared get leniency. In her zeal find a young boy, she puts herself and the squad in grave peril.
Why: Emotionally absorbing even when her character is working overtime to hide her feelings, Tierney was perfect casting to be a new love interest for Denis Leary.
WHy: It’s quite rare to see comedy legend Tomlin go the drama route, but the “Damages” casting team was proven omniscient in their selection of her as the wife of a Bernie Madoff-like character who kills himself rather than going to jail for swindling millions from investors.
Why: Wagner is a beloved TV icon, and the 80-year-old picks his spots carefully these days, so it was of interest that he chose “NCIS” to portray the charming swindler father of Tony DiNozzi.
“In Plain Sight”
Why: Beantown native Wahlberg, who as Mark’s brother doesn’t often doesn’t get the credit he deserves, plays a Boston crook who comes to New Mexico and tries to give up his life of crime for the sake of his teenage son.
Why: How can anyone deny White’s gargantuan year? “The Proposal,” “Saturday Night Live” and a guest spot here as an elementary school librarian who confronts Brick about his 31 overdue books.
Evan Rachel Wood
Why: Though Wood didn’t have too much to do as Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq except lay around the pool, the few scenes she did have brought enough electricity to make a huge impression.