This last year has been one of the most competitive in the history of television. Cable series are stepping up to receive critical acclaim and streaming networks are dishing out new shows left and right. It's a tough game to play, as everybody's looking for the right projects to steal viewers out from under their competitors.
Even the major network channels are looking for ways to keep their ratings up, and it looks like they're relying on star power to do it. A significant number of established TV actors have new primetime shows premiering this fall on network TV.
Here's a look at seven actors returning to the small screen in September.
1. Michael Weatherly
Original NCIS cast member Michael Weatherly shocked audiences back in January when he revealed that he would be bidding farewell to his charming, quixotic Special Agent Tony DiNozzo character in May. However, fans won't have to miss Weatherly too long. In fact, right after they catch the 14th season premiere of NCIS, they don't even have to change the channel to see his new show, Bull.
Inspired by stories from the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, the series follows Weatherly's titular Dr. Jason Bull, the charming leader of one of the most successful trial consulting services of all time. The trailer promises intrigue and wit, as can be expected from Weatherly by anyone whose ever caught him on the most watched show in the world.
2. Wilmer Valderrama
Weatherly left some big shoes to fill over on the NCIS front, and with three newly promoted cast members, speculation is crazy. Perhaps the biggest name thrown around is Wilmer Valderrama, who will join the cast as Nick Torres, a deep cover agent with a mysterious past. Showrunner Gary Glasberg promises a new kind of character in Torres, whose motives will draw skepticism from his familiar new team.
Viewers will certainly recognize Valderrama, who made himself famous through his portrayal of Fez on the popular sitcom That '70s Show, which ended 10 years ago. Since then, Wilmer has appeared on From Dusk 'Til Dawn: The Series and Minority Report before being cast as a new NCIS agent.
3. Matt LeBlanc
Matt LeBlanc has been in and out of the spotlight since Friends ended back in 2004. After a short-lived spin-off revolving around the lovable Joey Tribbiani and small roles in films like Charlie's Angels and All The Queen's Men, LeBlanc finally found success again playing a fictionalized version of himself in the HBO hit Episodes, which ran for five seasons.
Now, CBS is dragging him back into the sitcom game in Man with a Plan. LeBlanc plays Adam Burns, a family man whose life is turned upside down when his wife goes back to work and he becomes a stay-at-home dad. While this isn't the most original project we've heard of, it is new ground for the actor and we're interested to see how he tackles the role.
4. Rob Lowe
In addition to the various films on his resume, Rob Lowe has had more than his fair share of regular television roles, including those of Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, Robert McCallister on Brothers and Sisters, and Chris Traeger in Park and Recreation. He most recently starred alongside Fred Savage in the legal comedy, The Grinder, which, despite critical acclaim, got cancelled by Fox earlier this year.
Come Fall, Lowe will be joining the cast of Code Black, a CBS medical drama set in an LA emergency room with more patients than staff. He will portray Dr. Ethan Willis, a Colonel from the US Combat Casualty Care program. Lowe's role is expected to be one of many game-changers in the series's second season, as it lost a number of first-year cast members due to changes in the creative and production processes.
5. Kevin James
Unfortunately for fans of The King of Queens, funnyman Kevin James has been in a bit of a career slump these last few years. He seems to have gone down the Adam Sandler path of popping out comedies that cost more than they make, with films like Zookeeper, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Pixels underwhelming both audiences and critics while also underperforming at the box office.
But it looks like Kevin's old network is supporting his return to the sitcom game. Kevin Can Wait follows James's newly-retired New York police officer as he tries to adjust to a quiet, family-man lifestyle. But, as we all know, a sitcom family's life is never easy or quiet.
6. Damon Wayans
You may know him as the bumbling Michael Kyle on My Wife and Kids, or from his days of performing on In Living Color. You may even know him for his roles in various comedic films like Major Payne or Bulletproof, or even the Shane Black action-comedy The Last Boy Scout. But this season, Damon Wayans is tackling both the dramatic and comedic challenges of a role you definitely should know.
Damon will star as Detective Roger Murtaugh, as made famous by Danny Glover, in the upcoming Fox adaptation of the Lethal Weapon series. In this version, Roger has recently recovered from a heart attack and, with a newborn on the way, is trying his best to maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle. As we all known, his life offers some crazy obstacles, the most notable of which being his crazy partner Martin Riggs, now played by Clayne Crawford in place of Mel Gibson.
7. Bill Paxton
He's appeared in The Terminator, Aliens, Weird Science, Twister, and Titanic. He starred in all five seasons of the HBO drama Big Love and earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries. Now, Bill Paxton is filling Denzel Washington's shoes in a present-day reimagining of a cult classic.
The new CBS series Training Day stars Bill Paxton as Frank Rourke, a veteran police detective with a questionable moral compass. He shares the screen with Justin Cornwell, who plays rookie Kyle Craig. Craig will test the madness of his new partner's methods, and the pair will inevitably have a strong impact on each other's lives and careers.