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With Kirstie, TV Land Opens The Door For All Unemployable Sitcom Stars

And Tara has some ideas about which comedy train wrecks will land there next.

Since the indomitable Betty White propelled it into the original-sitcom space by headlining Hot In Cleveland as Aunt Sassy or whatever, TV Land has evolved from being a channel where viewers could watch old sitcoms to a channel where viewers can watch old sitcoms' stars in new sitcom vehicles. White's Cleveland gig finds her acting opposite Jane Leeves (Frasier), Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me) and Valerie Bertinelli (One Day At A Time); The Exes has revived the careers of Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From The Sun), Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), and Donald Faison (Scrubs), while Reno 911! star Niecy Nash stars in the TV Land original The Soul Man.

Last night saw the premiere of what may be TV Land's boldest experiment yet. Sure, Kirstie co-stars three mainstays of NBC Must See Thursday sitcoms from back when that actually meant something. But since they appeared on Cheers and Seinfeld, respectively, Kirstie Alley and Michael Richards have had some...PR challenges. (The third performer is Alley's Cheers co-star Rhea Perlman, who as far as anyone knows is a perfectly normal and respectable person.) Alley is an outspoken Scientologist who has protested antidepressants and reportedly carried on a vendetta against Leah Remini since the latter left the church. And while his old friend Jerry Seinfeld has tried to rehabilitate Richards's image by having him as a guest on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, everyone still remembers that thing he said that time. For TV Land to give one of them work would be generous. But to put two such lightning rods in the same show, and risk that their real-life reputations might repel viewers, is a gamble.

But: Richards and Alley do have records to run on, and if Kirstie proves to be a gamble that pays off, TV Land could offer a home for other former comedy stars who've run into trouble of late. I think it might go a little something like this.

Andy Dick in Hardly Working

NewsRadio alumnus Andy Dick plays Dirk Foster, a washed-out ad copywriter who returns to his hometown of Rochester, NY, when his father dies and Dirk inherits the family hardware store! After a long and (for a while) successful stint in Chicago, Dirk does his best to downshift to life in the Rust Belt (there's Starbucks, but not many and they're so far!), enduring the ribbing of old high school friends who think he's gotten too fancy for upstate New York while trying to learn the hardware business he did his best, throughout his teen years, to escape. But just as he's considering a buy-out offer from a larger chain, he finds out he does have a reason to hold onto the store and stay in town: his high-school girlfriend Sally (Missi Pyle) wants him to get to know Cheryl (Daveigh Chase)...the daughter he never knew he had!

Victoria Jackson in Church Ladies

Former SNL star Victoria Jackson is back with Church Ladies, a sitcom that plays off what the public knows about her Christian faith, but shows that she can also laugh at herself! Jackson stars as Darleen, one of several executive assistants working for Rev. Wilford (Christopher McDonald), the spiritual head of an Omaha megachurch. And even though Darleen doesn't have any actual qualifications (though she's a heck of a typist!), the Pastor has such a large flock, and if he can't manage to counsel all his parishioners about their problems and Darleen jumps into the fray to help, is it really the worst thing in the world? Too bad most of Darleen's advice just ends up making her fellow congregants' problems worse! (Dana Carvey recurs as his SNL Church Lady character, the pastor's now-retired former secretary who still comes by from time to time to judge.)

Martin Lawrence in Going Great Guns

Outrageous comedian Martin Lawrence is, as you may recall, no stranger to small arms, and his new TV Land sitcom brings together his real life interests with those of his fictional alter ego! Going Great Guns stars Lawrence as Bill Remington, the owner of an Indianapolis gun shop that, as the only still-extant business on its block, has become the unofficial hangout spot for Bill's friends. While various customers come and go, giving Bill the backstory on what they need guns for, Bill and his passel of pundits joke around about who or what is going to be on the business end of a Smith & Wesson later that week! But as for Bill: he goes home every night to Natalie (Regina Hall), Indiana's most powerful anti-gun lobbyist!

Amanda Bynes in Wigging Out

Who better than Amanda Bynes, one of today's most famous wig wearers, to play the owner of a wig store? In Wigging Out, Bynes stars as Jenny Wigglesworth, owner of a fabulous wig shop that caters to all of Nashville's wig wearers — and as you'd expect, her clientele runs quite the gamut, from opinionated drag queens to Orthodox Jewish women to stylish black women who like to keep all their hairstyle options open. In the middle of her customers' wacky and hilarious life situations, Jenny offers sensible advice and a lot of wisecracks of her own — but ultimately, they look up to her for being a great friend and having made such a good life for herself — and at such a young age!

Bob Crane's Skeleton in No Bones About It

We've seen workplace sitcoms set in offices, TV stations, bars, and schools but No Bones About It takes us to a setting never before used in a sitcom: the archaeology department at a major university! In this comic retelling of the discovery of an ossuary alleged to contain the bones of Jesus' brother, Drs. Margaret Ellis (Crystal Bernard) and Pete Sanford (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) of Boston's (fictional) John Quincy Adams University are confronted with a mysterious object and charged to authenticate it. But soon, they discover that this ossuary is different from ones they've examined before, because the bones (remains of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane) can speak for themselves! Bonesy, as the doctors call him, is always breaking into their conversations with clever and timely jokes (actual Crane dialogue clipped from Heroes), and while he's loaded with personality, it's a constant battle to keep him quiet when any of their colleagues enter the lab! Tune in to No Bones About It, and get ready to die laughing!

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