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Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Checking In…with the Stars of Fox’s Lesser-Known Sunday Night Shows

When you think of post-NFL Sunday nights on Fox, you think of The Simpsons and Family Guy first, then Malcolm in the Middle, Married…with Children, The Critic, King of the Hill, Futurama, Arrested Development, and American Dad in some order. (You might also think of The X-Files, but for the sake of this article, don't, and please, never think of The Cleveland Show.) But in the 17 years since The Simpsons moved into its 8 p.m. timeslot, many lesser sitcoms have come and quickly gone. Below are six such examples, with some faces you might just recognize. Heyyy, Casey Klein.

Jon Patrick Walker and Jennifer Westfeldt, from Holding the Baby
Thanks to the power of The Internet, the old headlines from 12-year-old articles about the cancellation of Holding the Baby can still be seen. Naturally, there’s a lot of: “Fox TV Bounces ‘Baby'.” Classic People. Needless to say, the show, about a businessman whose wife walks out on him, leaving him to raise their baby alone, wasn’t a ratings smash. Starring as the businessman was Jon Patrick Walker, who’s gone on to make mostly small appearances in dramas, like Rubicon and Law & Order, and Jennifer Westfeldt as the nanny he falls for. Westfeldt not only co-wrote and co-produced the rather excellent Kissing Jessica Stein; she’s also in a long-term relationship with the always excellent Jon Hamm. Her next movie, Friends with Kids, starring her and Hamm, as well as Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, and Megan Fox, is set to be released in April 2012.

Grant Rosenmeyer, from Oliver Beene
Before its premiere aired on March 9, 2003, Oliver Beene had something going against it: it was the show that replaced Futurama on Fox’s schedule. No pressure. Surprisingly, though, Oliver was actually pretty solid, with a theme song by the Solids, a.k.a. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, the creators of How I Met Your Mother, who also wrote for Oliver Beene. Plus, it was created by Howard Gewirtz, who penned episodes of Taxi and The Simpsons (“Homer Defined”), and narrated by David Cross. But the show’s true star, its titular star in fact, was youngster Grant Rosenmeyer, who portrayed an 11-year-old boy growing up in the early 1960s. Rosenmeyer, now 20, appeared in “The Smoking Jacket” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and played Macduff’s son in a Broadway production of MacBeth. (Before Oliver, he played Ari, one of Ben Stiller’s sons in The Royal Tenenbaums.) In 2008, his movie, Fugue, won Best Student Film at the Connecticut Film Festival, and he’s currently enrolled at NYU.

Dylan Baker, Lizzy Caplan, David Henrie, and Kellie Waymire, from The Pitts
Nope, it wasn’t about the money-balling, fight-clubbing, vampire-interviewing lifestyle of Brad Pitt; rather, The Pitts (co-created by Simpsons showrunner Mike Scully and Simpsons writer Julie Thacker, a husband-and-wife duo) was about a family with bad luck, kind of like The Stupids, but no Tom Arnold involved, for better or worse. But it did star Lizzy Caplan in her first featured role (it came out a year before Mean Girls, too), as well as Dylan Baker (best known as the pedophile from Todd Solondz’s Happiness, he recently finished a season-long arc on Damages and can soon be seen in 2 Days in New York with Chris Rock), David Henrie (Ted’s Future Son on How I Met Your Mother, who also starred on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place), and Kellie Waymire, who sadly passed away from cardiac arrest in 2003.

Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward, from Too Something
Isn't Too Something, like, the most 1990s title of a show EVER? It was also a Seinfeld and Friends-ripoff, about a group of people, in particular a writer who hardly wrote and photographer who wouldn't show his photographs, chilling out, relaxing in their 1990s-decorated New York apartment. No Brooklyn for them, thank you very much. Eric Schaeffer, the creator of Starz's Gravity, about a group of suicide-survivors, and Donal Lardner Ward, a staff writer for How to Make It in America, starred, as did Lindsey Bluth herself, Portia de Rossi, who is now writing and creating a sitcom with her wife, Ellen DeGeneres, about sisters with a contentious relationship.

Anita Barone and Michael Rapaport, from The War at Home
Compared to the other shows on this list, Long Island-based sitcom The War at Home, which ran from 2005-2007, was a huge success. It actually aired for two seasons and forty-four episodes! Anita Barone and Michael Rapaport starred, and they've gone on to having a recurring role on Disney Channel's Shake It Up! (Barone) and have a featured role in Big Fan and direct the documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, about the great hip-hop group (Rapaport). But to some (me), Rapaport will always be Danny Hanson from Boston Public, another Fox show.

Tim Conlon, Jana Marie Hupp, Paula Marshall, and Paul Rudd, from Wild Oats
Fox’s Sunday night schedule in September 1994: The Simpsons (season six!), The Critic, Married…with Children, and…Wild Oats? Guh? It was about a group of wild and crazy twentysomethings living in Chicago who always had wild and crazy sex on the brain. One of the wild and crazy sex fanatics was every boyfriend’s girlfriend’s secret boyfriend Paul Rudd, a year before he played Josh (not me) in Clueless. The rest of the foursome was made up of Tim Conlon (Glenn from Curb Your Enthusiasm), Jana Marie Hupp (Nancy on Ed, as well as Sasha, the woman who wanted George to convert to Latvian Orthodox on Seinfeld), and Paula Marshall (Kate from Nip/Tuck, Sonja from Californication, Allison from Gary Unmarried, etc.). Christine Cavanaugh, the voice of Chuckie Finster and Babe, also appeared on the now-mostly forgotten show.

Josh Kurp is younger than The Simpsons, and that terrifies him.

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  • cellardoor

    I vaguely recall that "Too Something" held a contest to find a better title. The winner was "New York Daze." The show was promptly canceled after that.

  • Crackerjacker

    "…she’s also married to the always excellent Jon Hamm."

    Who, better not tell Jon Hamm that, he's always running his mouth around town that he's with some broad he doesn't feel the NEED to marry. Hang on, I'll just Google her name…..Seriously, it's no bother, it's the least I can do…..Ah.

    • Crackerjacker

      @Crackerjacker I see the correction.

  • JenW

    I was all set to hate Oliver Beene for replacing my beloved Futurama, but it was a really good show. I knew Ari looked familiar when I saw him in The Royal Tenenbaums, but I never realized why.