We loved them, they went away, we forgot about them, they came back, and now we think about them again. It’s tough to discuss actor comebacks without names like Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr., and Alec Baldwin popping up. With the exception of Rourke, however, these actors never went away. Their reputations may have taken a few hits, their human errors exposed and magnified by the media, and while it might seem like they made comebacks as actors, the truth is they have simply hit their stride: they are peaking. The contrast between their awesomeness now and their mediocrity before is so stark that they make all the “celebrity comeback” lists, but they were never gone, they were just getting better. The following is a list of television actors who might not be on the forefront of everyone’s minds when it comes to prodigal children returning to glory, but they meet all the criteria of a true comeback: we loved, they left, we forgot, and now they’re back.
We loved him as FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, to the tune of 2 Emmy Award nominations, as well as 3 Golden Globe nominations, one of which he won back in 1997. After a decade of virtual obscurity, making occasional appearances on shows like Sex and the City or in films like Zoolander (admittedly, still one of my favourite HD DVD movies), Duchovny is back with arguably his best character to date: the sharp-witted, booze drinking, pot smoking, Porsche driving, sex addicted, every-dude-secretly-wishes-they-could-be-more-like, book author Hank Moody. Since airing in 2008, Californication has not only earned Duchovny 1 Golden Globe Award and 3 consecutive nominations, but it portrays Duchovny as we all suspected he was like in real life. So in 2008 when Duchovny checked into rehab for sex addiction, our suspicions were indeed confirmed.
Robert Sean Leonard
For the first half of the first season of House, every time Dr. James Wilson reminded Dr. House of what a total jackass he’s being I asked myself: “Where the hell do I know this guy from?” To be honest I was pretty impressed with myself when I finally figured it out, considering I hadn’t seen him on screen for nearly two decades. “Holy ****!” I declared to an empty apartment “He’s the kid from Dead Poets Society who shot himself ‘cause his dad was the villain from Robocop!” After winning multiple Tony Awards for his work in the theatre, it’s great to see Leonard make his on-screen comeback, hitting pay dirt with such a fantastic show.
Did you know?
Lisa Edelstein, who plays the sexy Dr. Lisa Cuddy on House, is the very same Lisa Edelstein who played one of George Costanza’s girlfriends on Seinfeld. In the episode where Elaine admits to “faking it” with Jerry, Lisa’s character kicks George out of her life when he accuses her being a faker as well.
Also…both she and Peter Jacobson, who plays Dr. Chris Taub on the show, are harassed by Jack Nicholson in the 1997 film As Good as It Gets.
Easily earning my vote for “Hottest Lois Lane of All Time,” (bring it on Bosworth and Durance lovers!) Teri Hatcher made every man and several women wish they were superhuman journalists from the planet Krypton, even more so than they already did before Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was released in 1993. Other than her role as Bond girl and one of Jerry Seinfeld’s real and spectacular girlfriends, Hatcher remained relatively anonymous until 2004 when Desperate Housewives hit the air. Since then she’s been nominated for a total of 17 awards, winning 1 Golden Globe, 1 Teen Choice, and 3 Screen Actors Guilds for her role as Suzan Mayer. Great to have ya back Lois…er I mean…Teri.
Proving after all these years that he can still dork-things-up, Jon Cryer took the Outstanding Supporting Actor Award at the 2009 Emmy’s, for his portrayal of Alan Harper; the less-than-Charlie-Sheen-brother of Charlie Sheen on the hit primetime comedy Two and Half Men. Nearly a quarter of a century ago he danced into the hearts of nerds across the globe when he played Phil “Duckie” Dale in the ultimate 80s teen flick Pretty in Pink.
Co-star Molly Ringwald has also made somewhat of a television comeback on the show The Secret Life of the American Teenager where she plays Anne Juergens, the mother of pregnant teen Amy Juergens.
Maintaining the spirit of 80’s-film-dweebs-turned-television-hot-shots, we turn our attention to McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey. As Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey has practically wiped the nerd-slate clean, almost making us forget that he paid a cheerleader $1000 to help make him popular in the 1987 classic Can’t Buy Me Love. Since then he’s made forgettable appearances in films like With Honors, Outbreak, and Scream 3, with a handful of roles on made-for-television movies. Since earning his title as McDreamy in 2005 he’s really hit the ground running and has received several nominations for Best Actor and Favourite Male TV Star Awards.
Neil Patrick Harris
In 1993 he had it all. At 20 years old Neil Patrick Harris was four years into his full time gig as Dr. Doogie Howser, a teenaged-genius who was performing surgeries when his friends were dissecting frogs in high school. By 1994 ABC had cancelled the show due to low ratings, and Harris nearly fell off the planet, or at least the side of the planet that most of us are familiar with. He would pop up from time to time in television and films, most notably when he parodied himself in the two Harold & Kumar movies. But it would not be until he “suited up” as the woman hunter and trapper Barney Stinson, on the CBS television series How I Met Your Mother that the word “comeback” could be stamped on his career. He made such an incredible second impression that he was invited to host the 2009 Tony Awards as well as the Primetime Emmy Awards.