At this early stage in the pilot casting process, it’s mainly female stars getting the jump on vying for spots in the 2012-13 TV season.
Kirstie Alley, Roseanne Barr, Jami Gertz, Judy Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Heche, Reba McEntire, Rhea Perlman and Sarah Silverman are among the noteworthy actresses with smallscreen pasts who are already attached to greenlit comedy pilots.
Bringing the most nostalgia is the pairing of Alley and Perlman, 19 years after the pair ended their run together on NBC’s “Cheers,” in ABC’s “The Manzanis.” Alley and Perlman will co-star with Robert Costanzo and Michael Rispoli in the comedy about a boisterous Italian family, written by Dave Flebotte and Marco Pennette.
Barr, star of another classic sitcom from that era, is reteaming with “Roseanne” exec producer Eric Gilliand on “Downwardly Mobile” for NBC, a multicam comedy about a surrogate mother in a mobile home park. Barr appeared on TV in last year’s Lifetime unscripted series, “Roseanne’s Nuts.”
McEntire, whose “Reba” ran for 125 episodes on the WB and CW, is starring in ABC’s “Malibu Country,” a multicam series from Kevin Abbott about a divorcee who moves with her kids and mother from Nashville to Malibu.
Greer, who starred in midseason comedy entries “Miss/Guided” for ABC in 2008 and “Mad Love” for CBS in 2011, will give it another go in “American Judy” for ABC. Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan wrote the pilot centered on a newly-married stepmother in the suburbs, a premise that makes the show a potential companion with ABC freshman success “Suburgatory.”
Moving in the opposite direction is Silverman as a newly single woman in the NBC untitled comedy she is co-writing for NBC, which also ordered pilot “Isabel” with Harden (whose dabblings in TV include a 13-episode arc on “Damages” three years ago). “Weeds” veteran Kevin Nealon will play Harden’s husband in a comedy, written by Howard Busgang and Tom Nursall, about middle-class parents of a daughter with magical powers.
Adding to NBC’s early run in the casting department is Heche, a regular on HBO’s “Hung” for three seasons who has the lead in NBC single-cam comedy “Save Me.” The John Scott Shepherd-written pilot revolves around a housewife who comes to believe she’s a prophet.
Twenty years after her TV breakthrough in the cast of CBS’ “Square Pegs,” Gertz has taken a lead role in the untitled ABC comedy from Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”) about a regular family whose New Jersey gated community has residents from another planet. Tim Jo, Toks Olagundoye and Simon Templeman have been cast in roles intriguingly named Joe Montana, Jackie Joyner Kersee and Wilt Chamberlain.
Meanwhile, Rebel Wilson (“Bridesmaids”) will star and write in CBS comedy pilot “Super Fun Night,” about a trio of friends who try to make every Friday evening a memorable one.
And even cable is getting into the act, with Lizzy Caplan (“Party Down”) joining Michael Sheen in the cast for Showtime drama pilot “Masters of Sex,” about 1960s researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Paul Bettany had been originally cast in the Masters role before pulling out.
Casting progress is further behind on network dramas, but hardly non-existent, with Kevin Bacon making a rare foray into the series world on an untitled Kevin Williamson project for Fox focused on an escaped serial killer.
Jason Ritter fronts “County,” Jason Katims’ hospital-centered project for NBC, while Frances Conroy and Toyah Feldshuh have joined the ensemble cast for the Peacock’s near-future fantasy drama “Beautiful People,” written by “MadTV” grad Michael McDonald.