The 4 Best Times Sitcom Legends Guest-Starred on Another Sitcom
As BoJack Horseman’s Mr. Peanut Butter loved to say, “What is this, a crossover episode?”
Longtime sitcom fans will notice that, despite the seemingly endless stream of new sitcoms coming out each year, networks tend to double dip on guest actors and guest stars and hire main cast members from beloved shows to play supporting roles on other sets. With all the hundreds of thousands of eager comedy actors waiting for their big breaks in Los Angeles and New York, whenever a sitcom script calls for a character to play an important role in a single episode, the most common method of casting the one-off role is to poach talent from another sitcom. Case in point: Before Breaking Bad, it sure seemed like the number one question asked by sitcom casting directors was, “Where’s Bryan Cranston?”
Between the lack of creativity in casting and the now out-of-style sitcom crossover, so many sitcom stars have made memorable guest appearances on shows other than the ones for which they’re best known. Over in the sitcoms subreddit, TV comedy fans recently submitted their answers to the question of, “What’s your favorite time a sitcom actor showed up in another sitcom?” Here are their top picks, starting with…
David Hyde Pierce on ‘The Simpsons’
It’s only fitting that, in Kelsey Grammer’s second greatest performance as Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons, his character’s brother should be played by none other than Niles Crane. In the fittingly titled Season Eight Frasier homage “Brother From Another Series,” David Hyde Pierce plays Bob’s brother, the dam-builder and double-crosser Cecil, who gives Bob the rare opportunity to save Bart Simpson’s life instead of trying to snuff it out. And yet, Bob still ends up in prison by the credits.
Helen Hunt and Leila Kenzle on ‘Friends’
The running gag of Phoebe Buffay having an identical twin sister officially linked Friends to Mad About You in the Season One double-episode “The One With Two Parts,” in which Jamie and Fran stumbled into Central Perk only to have a bizarre encounter with “Ursula.” It also unofficially linked Friends to Seinfeld in a roundabout way — in the Mad About You episode “The Apartment,” an appearance from Michael Richards establishes that Paul once lived in Kramer’s apartment, right across the hall from Jerry Seinfeld.
James Avery on ‘Family Matters’
Apparently, Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was friends with Carl Winslow. In the closing credits of the 1993 Family Matters episode “Scenes from a Mall,” Avery stomped on set with his hands on his hips and his eyebrow cocked like he's The Rock, surprising the entire live studio audience — and Reginald VelJohnson, who didn’t know about the walk-on until Uncle Phil was standing in his living room.
Suzanne Pleshette on ‘Newhart’
Truthfully, this list would be complete if Suzanne Pleshette on Newhart was the only entry. The finale of sitcom legend Bob Newhart’s second hit show Newhart is the greatest final episode in the history of comedy television because, in the closing scene, Newhart wakes up on the set of his first sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show, next to his original on-screen wife, played by Pleshette. It’s revealed that the entirety of Newhart was just one long dream of Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley in the single greatest crossover event in sitcom history.