Actors who found success on multiple TV shows
HBO

Actors who found success on multiple TV shows

Having one successful TV show is impressive. Doing it more than once? Now you’re in rarified air. A smattering of TV actors have found success with multiple shows. For the purposes of this list, the actor had to be one of the stars of all the shows involved, and they have to be hit shows or critically-acclaimed shows. Spinoffs count, but being on “Saturday Night Live” and then getting your own sitcom does not. With those parameters set, here are some of TV’s most successful actors, and proof that lightning can strike (at least) twice.

 
1 of 25

Ted Danson

Ted Danson
NBC

Danson first rose to prominence as Sam Malone, the womanizing bar owner from “Cheers.” In recent years, he got a ton of love for his role as Michael in “The Good Place,” a critically-acclaimed series. Also, while it wasn’t as popular, we have to acknowledge that Danson starred in “Becker” for 129 episodes. Will his new sitcom “Mr. Mayor” be his next big hit?

 
2 of 25

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
NBC

Louis-Dreyfus is the one who ended the idea of the “Seinfeld” curse for good. While “According to Christine” was a successful sitcom, it’s really “Veep” that turned her into an Emmy-winning force. Somehow, Selina Meyer may now be even more iconic than Elaine Benes.

 
3 of 25

Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart
CBS

Bob Newhart knew a thing or two about self-promotion. First, he starred in “The Bob Newhart Show,” which was a big hit. He followed that up with “Newhart,” which was nearly as successful. Sure, his follow-up “Bob” only had a brief run, but two hit sitcoms with your name in the title are more than enough.

 
4 of 25

James Garner

James Garner
NBC

It’s not all sitcom stars that have more than one big show. Take Garner for example. He charmed as the wily gambler “Maverick,” and then was perhaps the best private detective in television history as Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files.”

 
5 of 25

Kelsey Grammer

Kelsey Grammer
NBC

Like we said, spinoffs count, especially when they are just as successful as the show they spin-off from. Dr. Frasier Crane began life as a character introduced in the third season of “Cheers,” and Frasier definitely made an indelible impact in that ensemble. Then, Frasier moved back to Seattle to reconnect with his brother Niles and his dad Martin on “Frasier.” That show ran for 11 seasons and 264 episodes, winning many Emmys in the process.

 
6 of 25

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore
CBS

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a tremendous sitcom, and a few names on this list hit it big on that show. Mary Richards was an important character in the changing landscape of television, but that wasn’t Moore’s first time on a hit sitcom. Prior to getting her own show with a name in the title, Moore was on “The Dıck Van Dyke Show” was Laurie Petrie. It was a big show for Moore, and for Capri pants.

 
7 of 25

Betty White

Betty White
NBC

White is such a TV legend, she got her first sitcom, “Life with Elizabeth,” way back in 1953. Let’s fast forward to the ‘70s when she joined the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker, a great addition to the ensemble. Of course, in the ‘80s there was “Golden Girls.” If that wasn’t enough, White was one of the stars of “Hot in Cleveland,” doing 128 episodes of TV despite being in her eighties.

 
8 of 25

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston
AMC

This is our first actor who found success in both comedy and drama. Cranston got his start doing sitcoms, including playing the wacky dad in “Malcolm in the Middle.” If you watched him on that show, you might not have ever imagined his performance as Walter White in “Breaking Bad.” That’s one of the all-time beloved dramas, and Cranston has the Emmys to prove it.

 
9 of 25

Tony Danza

Tony Danza
ABC

There are a couple of actors from the “Taxi” cast we could have included. Danny DeVito joined the gang on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” in the second season and has been doing that for a decade. Judd Hirsch has had a couple of his own sitcoms as well. However, the most successful show to be headlined by a “Taxi” actor has to be “Who’s the Boss?” which ran for 196 episodes.

 
10 of 25

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox
ABC

Fox had a massive movie career, especially the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Surrounding that movie career were two successful sitcoms. When Fox was still a kid he starred in “Family Ties,” and his star power was so clear that the show was basically rebuilt around Alex P. Keaton. As a little older of a man, Fox returned to TV with “Spin City.” While it was a hit, and Fox was great, he, unfortunately, had to leave the show after its fourth season due to his Parkinson’s symptoms.

 
11 of 25

Jeffrey Tambor

Jeffrey Tambor
FOX

Hey now! Tambor’s best work in his career was arguably as Hank Kingsley, the sidekick of Larry Sanders on “The Larry Sanders Show.” Or maybe it was as George Bluth, patriarch of the Bluth family in the cult classic “Arrested Development.” Then again, it’s his turn on “Transparent” that got him his Emmys. It’s a real stumper to say what is his indelible performance.

 
12 of 25

Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox
NBC

“Friends” was a massive hit, as you surely know, and the main six actors all went off in different directions. The level of success varies by actor. Cox headed into films, but other than the “Scream” series it didn’t quite work out. You may try and argue her sitcom “Cougartown” didn’t really hit either. Well, it ran for 102 episodes and critics actually came around on it after it ditched its initial premise, so we’d argue otherwise.

 
13 of 25

Jane Curtin

Jane Curtin
NBC

No, like we said we aren’t including her time on “Saturday Night Live” as one of the original cast members. Curtin was one of the two titular stars of “Kate & Allie,” which won her an Emmy. She also co-starred in “3rd Rock from the Sun” for 137 episodes. While she wasn’t a member of the Solomon family and got overshadowed a bit by the hammy performances of John Lithgow and company, she did win a Satellite Award for the show.

 
14 of 25

Edie Falco

Edie Falco
HBO

As Carmine Soprano, wife of Tony Soprano, Falco was nominated for six Emmys and won three of them. “The Sopranos” is considered by many the best TV show ever. Then, Falco followed up with the “comedy” “Nurse Jackie.” We put that in quotes only because it was more of a dramatic show, but it was only a half-hour long which put it in the comedy categories at the Emmys. Hey, Falco still managed to win an Emmy for “Nurse Jackie” out of six more nominations.

 
15 of 25

Jack Klugman

Jack Klugman
ABC

Klugman played Oscar, the gruff slob, opposite Tony Randall in the TV version of “The Odd Couple.” After that, and after getting his then-wife Brett Somers her spot on the “Match Game” panel in the ‘70s, Klugman became the star of “Quincy, M.E.” The show, a mystery drama about a medical examiner, started as one of the TV movie series on the “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie” show. It got spun off and ended up running eight seasons.  

 
16 of 25

Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr
NBC

Burr was an imposing figure, which helped him in roles like, say, “Rear Window.” However, in television Burr spent most of his career as guys on the right side of the law. He was the star of one of the first successful legal dramas on TV, “Perry Mason.” After that, he starred in “Ironside,” which got him six more Emmy nominations.

 
17 of 25

Ed Asner

Ed Asner
CBS

We are going to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” well once more, but that’s because Asner’s story is particularly notable. His spinoff of “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Lou Grant,” was a drama based on a sitcom. Not only that, it was a successful drama. It ran for five seasons and won two Outstanding Drama Series awards. Asner won two Emmys as well for the show.

 
18 of 25

Larry Hagman

Larry Hagman
CBS

Hagman played astronaut Tony Nelson on the high-concept ‘60s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” where he hung out with Barbara Eden as Jeannie. It was a silly sitcom, but lots of people loved it, and people still remember it fondly. Hagman quickly moved into another show when “Jeannie,” ended, playing J.R. Ewing on the primetime soap “Dallas.” You may recall when he was shot.

 
19 of 25

Julianna Margulies

Julianna Margulies
CBS

Margulies was one of a few breakout stars from “ER,” including Noah Wyle and George Clooney. While Clooney went onto massive movie stardom, Margulies finally found herself another hit show to star in. She was the star of the legal drama “The Good Wife,” which lasted for 156 episodes and won her two Emmys.

 
20 of 25

Keri Russell

Keri Russell
FX

“Felicity” was popular enough that people flipped out when Russell’s character cut her hair. It wasn’t a huge success, but it did last for four seasons and turned Russell into a star. However, “Felicity” is a far cry from “The Americans,” a bleak spy drama. Dark as it was, “The Americans” was a critical darling for its entire run.

 
21 of 25

Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss
AMC

“Mad Men,” along with “Breaking Bad,” turned AMC into a staple of dramatic television. Right alongside Jon Hamm as Don Draper there was Moss as Peggy Olsen. “Mad Men” won a ton of Emmys, and Moss’s followup show “The Handmaid’s Tale” also won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, the first for Hulu.

 
22 of 25

Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman
FOX

Batman got his start as a child actor, appearing on shows like “Silver Spoons” and “The Hogan Family.” There were a few attempts at sitcom stardom after that, but things didn’t really click until “Arrested Development,” though that was more of a critically-loved show than a huge hit. This time, the movie career did work out, but Bateman has returned to TV again with Netflix’s “Ozark.”

 
23 of 25

Cybill Shepherd

Cybill Shepherd
ABC

Due to a lack of streaming offerings – blame music rights – people of a certain age haven’t really had a chance to watch “Moonlighting.” It was a really inventive show, and also the jumping-off point for Bruce Willis’ career. Shepherd followed “Moonlighting” with the sitcom “Cybill.” It ran for 87 episodes, not a huge run, but Shepherd did get three Emmy nominations in three seasons.

 
24 of 25

Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck
CBS

While he was starring on “Magnum P.I.,” Selleck was famously offered the opportunity to star in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but it didn’t work out. Had that happened, what could have been for Selleck’s career? He probably wouldn’t be currently starring on “Blue Bloods.” Sure, it’s one of those CBS dramas that have a reputation for only being watched by old people, but the fact remains Selleck is the star of a show that has run for over 220 episodes.

 
25 of 25

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball
CBS

Ball was one of the first sitcom stars thanks to “I Love Lucy,” and she never really left the format. Ball followed “I Love Lucy” with the “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.” That was followed by “The Lucy Show,” which ran from 1962 through 1968. This was followed by “Here’s Lucy,” which aired from 1968 through 1974. Ball gave it one more shot with “Life with Lucy” in 1986, but it was canceled after 13 episodes. Still, that’s four sitcoms where Ball starred and had her name in the title.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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