'Super Fun Night' stars Rebel Wilson as Kimmie Boubier, a junior attorney and social recluse longing to break out and have fun. / Colleen Hayes / ABC
This fall’s schedule boasts more than its share of returning stars. But TV never just recycles — it also creates. When it comes to starmaking, odds are good that this year will be no exception.
Who will shine brightest? Here are five faces to look for come September:
Rebel Wilson, Super Fun Night (ABC)
Who she’ll play: Kimmie, a junior attorney and social recluse longing to break out and have fun — and hoping to take her two best friends with her.
Why you might know her: A buoyant Australian actress, writer and stand-up with a big personality, Wilson is best known for her roles in the films Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect.
Why you might want to know her: Sometimes TV makes stars. And sometimes it merely uncovers them.
From the moment Wilson comes on screen in this chaotic sitcom, you know you’re in the presence of someone special. She’s doing an American accent she has not yet polished. She’s stretching for a few jokes that might be better left out of reach. And yet there’s something about the way her character’s underlying sweetness blends with the performer’s utter fearlessness that makes you want to embrace her and stick with her.
Granted, it would help if Super Fun Night made that easier to do. There are too many times in the pilot when the show’s crudeness and artificiality get in the way of its star’s very real appeal. Yet even in a show that has not yet come together, there is something about Wilson that just stands out.
She’s a star. The only question now is whether Super Fun Night is the best way to prove it.
Anna Faris, Mom (CBS)
She plays: In this latest sitcom from Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), Faris is a newly sober single mom dealing with her own newly sober mother, played by Janney.
You might know her: Younger viewers most likely know her from the Scary Movie franchise; or fromThe House Bunny. older ones may recognize her as the woman who gave up her baby to Monica and Chandler in Friends.
Star turn: If you want to be a TV star, it helps to team up with a producer known for creating them.
No one is much better at making and nurturing talent than Lorre, who has proven equally adept at showcasing established stars and launching new ones. Which is one very good reason to bet on Faris. If anyone can turn Mom into a hit, and Faris into a star, it’s Lorre (well, with a considerable assist from CBS).
The other reason to bet on Faris, obviously, is Faris. Faris takes a character who could be gratingly irresponsible and wildly unsympathetic and turns her into a sweet, troubled woman who is doing her best to improve. And she does so while holding her own in her scenes with Janney, which is no small accomplishment.
All she really needs now are viewers and time — and it’s a good bet CBS will provide both.
Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Who she’ll play: Detective Rosa Diaz on Samberg and Braugher’s cop comedy.
Why you might know her: She played Gloria’s jealous, woebegone sister on Modern Family — though you might not recognize her, because Modern Family made her look plain and put-upon. Which couldn’t have been easy.
Why you might want to know her: As Rosa, Beatriz takes a familiar character — the tough-as-nails woman with a heart of gold — and breathes fresh life into her with a performance that is a little scary, appropriately sexy and very funny. It’s not easy creating a character who gives off a don’t-mess-with-me vibe that you can’t help wanting to mess with, but Beatriz pulls it off.
Given the world of sitcoms, it should come as no surprise that Rosa’s co-worker/admirer is the meekest cop in the squad (Joe Lo Truglio’s Detective Boyle). The surprise is that Beatriz makes you believe they could bond over classic old movies, despite Rosa’s insistence that Citizen Kane is “terrible.”
Orson Welles himself might be afraid to argue.
Lorraine Bruce, Lucky 7, (ABC)
She plays: Denise, a lottery-winning gas station cashier with a positive outlook and a negative marriage.
You might know her: Fans of British TV will recognize her from a stint on Dalziel and Pascoe or from the British original on which Lucky 7 is based, The Syndicate.
Star turn: Sometimes stars shine brightest in contrast to their surroundings.
There isn’t much good to be said for Lucky 7, a dispensable soap that easily ranks among the season’s weakest pilots. But amid all the silliness and stereotypes, Bruce creates a character who seems rooted both in truth and in the real world: a lonely, overweight woman in a bad marriage who hasn’t given up her dreams of happiness. And she makes you root for her.
It helps that she’s so believable. Too many people on television look as if they’ve spent their whole lives being groomed to be on television (the CW is an entire network built around them). Bruce looks like what you’d think a woman with Denise’s life should look like — and has the talent to make us feel the toll that life has taken.
So take a look — quickly. And then hope she’ll be given another American chance to shine.
Tom Mison, Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
He plays: Ichabod Crane. Yes that Ichabod Crane.
You might know him: He starred in the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and played Sylvia’s mustachioed twit of a paramour, Potty, on Parade’s End.
Star turn: Say this for Mison — he has come a long way from Yemen and Potty.
For this fantasy reset of Washington Irving’s tale from Fringe producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Mison plays a resurrected Ichabod Crane — re-imagined here as a demon-fighting, hunkified Revolutionary War hero. That’s a lot for one lead to carry, but Mison does so with a goodly amount of charm, credibility and wit. (Note to the producers: Increasing the wit quotient in future episodes would not be a bad idea.)
He also is probably the best-looking Ichabod most people have ever seen. In many households, that will help.