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The 8 Best '90s Sitcom-Character Reunions on TV

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By Lauren Hansen

Man, do we love our '90s sitcoms. Boy Meets World gets the green light for a spin-off/sequel hybrid show on the Disney Channel and fans go into an internet frenzy. While such reunion spin-offs are the exception, TV producers have taken notice of our torch-carrying for the old Must See TV and TGIF lineups and characters. Putting that nostalgia to good financial use, networks have made it a more regular practice to inject their struggling sitcoms with cameos that reunite beloved '90s characters.

Take Matthew Perry's new show Go On, for example. Despite high hopes and a fall premiere, the show's ratings are at an all-time low. Enter special guest star Courtney Cox. After months of hype, Cox will finally make her appearance Tuesday, portraying a manic widow set up on a blind date with Perry's character, widower Ryan King. See the teaser clip:

The likely ill-fated match is a play on their Friends' characters, Chandler Bing and Monica Geller, who went from best friends to secret lovers to a happily married couple on the long-running show. The pairing is a nostalgic cameo set-up done right. The rekindled on-screen romance between Cox and Perry is a "wink, wink" to devoted Friends fans who followed Monica and Chandler's love story and who might find themselves feeling an instant affection for these new characters. Meanwhile the network gets an episode-boost and may come away with a few more viewers who now care enough to check in on Perry's show.

What other former TV favorites are popping up in current sitcoms? Scroll down for more.

1. The Cosby Show sisters on Guys with Kids

The former characters: On the beloved sitcom The Cosby Show, Tempestt Bledsoe and Keshia Knight Pulliam played sisters Vanessa and Rudy Huxtable. Vanessa was Cliff and Clair Huxtable's studious fourth child who often fought with Rudy, the baby of the family, over childhood problems like their shared bedroom and telephone time.

The reunion set up: Nearly two decades later, the actresses are reunited as on-screen sisters in the NBC comedy Guys with Kids. Bledsoe is a starring character on the sitcom, playing Marnie, a hard-working mother of four and wife to her stay-at-home husband Gary (Anthony Anderson). In the season 1 finale Knight Pulliam appeared as Marnie's endearingly delusional kid sister Bridget, who ends up helping Gary with his start-up business.

Why it works: The pairing plays right into the hearts of viewers who might have liked to see where younger sister Rudy and older sister Vanessa ended up. Yes, they play different characters, but is it so much of a stretch to think that Rudy would be wildly optimistic about her minimal success? Her star within the Cosby family did always seem to shine the brightest, warranted or not.

2. Friends friends on Cougar Town

The former characters: On Friends, Jennifer Aniston played Rachel Green — a converted spoiled Daddy's girl and fashion enthusiast — the best friend and roommate to Courtney Cox's Monica Geller, the group's type-A mother hen who worked as a professional chef.

The reunion set up: On Cougar Town, Courtney Cox plays Jules, a divorced 40-something who dives back into the dating pool, and gets into wine-fueled hijinks with friends and an adult-age son. In the second season, Aniston guest starred as Glenn, Jules' new age-y therapist who confuses her clients' stories, basks in incense, and believes a purple crystal will prevent her from getting cancer.

Why it works: They may not play friends, but a therapist-client set up is second best. When Glenn relates a story about being an overprotective mom, Jules responds: "Soul mates!" Indeed, if you forget the names and (ahem, Courtney) the Botox, it's like Rachel and Monica are just catching up at a Florida Central Perk. The fact that the two actors are buddies in real life only adds to their easy going rapport. And the short guest stint allows Aniston to remind us that she's actually quite funny.

3. Home Improvement's father and son on Last Man Standing

The former characters: Tim Allen starred as Tim "The Tool-man" Taylor, an accident-prone know-it-all husband, father to three sons, and host of a home improvement show called Tool Time. Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Tim's wise-cracking middle son, Randy.

The reunion set up: In Last Man Standing, Tim Allen returns as a typical male, but this time instead of obsessing over power tools, his character, Mike Baxter, has a penchant for outdoor sports. And unlike Tim the Tool Man's fake family, which was dominated by boys, Mike's is overrun with women, four to be exact: His wife (Nancy Travis) and his three daughters. In the season 2 finale, Thomas plays Jon, a "hip" restaurant owner who hires Mike's daughter Kristin and then offers to drive her to work on her first day, which is how he comes to meet Mike.

Why it works: This time, the reunion's success isn't thanks to the characters' on-screen relationship, which is nothing like the one they shared on Home Improvement. Where Last Man Standing shines is in Mike and Jon's short interaction. Jon extends his hand to Mike who says, "Man, you look familiar." Jon says, "Well, you know, I used to work with Kristin." Mike, looking skeptical, says, "That's not it." A silly but appreciated inside joke. 

4. Dawson's Creek friends on Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

The former characters: When Dawson's Creek went on for two seasons too long, Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and Co. found themselves magically attending the same fictional, Boston-based college called Worthington. Busy Philipps played Audrey, a Los Angeles transplant who rooms with Joey, Dawson's best friend and one-time love. Audrey and Dawson have little shared camera time, save for one summer spent in Hollywood and the time Dawson visited her in rehab.

The reunion set-up: On Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, James Van Der Beek plays an exaggerated version of himself who is best friends with Chloe (Krysten Ritter), said "B---- in Apartment 23." In the second season, James tries to orchestrate a Dawson's Creek reunion and so invites Busy Philipps playing Busy Philipps to a diner to talk about the possibility. But Busy, who arrives incognito, reveals she'd be shunned if any of the Creek actors knew they were meeting.(Click here to watch the clip.)

Why it works: Van Der Beek already impresses by freely mocking his stagnant career, so having the real-life Busy pile on only increases the laugh factor while acknowledging Creek fans' secret hope that one day cast members from the fast-talking teen show will in fact reunite. 

5. Roseanne's teenage loves on The Big Bang Theory

The former characters: Sara Gilbert played tomboy teen and middle daughter Darlene Conner in the hit comedy Roseanne. Half way through the series, Darlene meets David Healy (Johnny Galecki) a fellow high-schooler. The two embark on a long relationship through high school and college, including a few break ups, until they eventually get married and have a baby.

The reunion set-up: On the popular CBS show The Big Bang Theory, Johnny Galecki stars as Leonard, a physicist with an I.Q. of 173. Sara Gilbert has a recurring role as Leslie Winkle, a physicist who works in Leonard's lab. Leslie initially rebukes Leonard's romantic advances, but then comes on to him after they play in a string quartet together. Their relationship ends after Leslie has sex with Leonard's friend Howard. (Click here to watch a clip.)

Why it works: At first, I didn't actually think the guest star arc worked because I got Johnny Galecki confused with the kid who played D.J., the little brother to Gilbert's Roseanne character. In which case, watching Galecki and Gilbert's Big Bang Theory reunion was just plain disgusting. (This also, conveniently, serves as a cautionary tale to producers: Don't ever, ever reunite former siblings as contemporary love interests.) Upon learning that Gilbert and Galecki were not in fact fake-related to each other on Roseanne, this televised rekindling lived up to nostalgia's strengths. As an added bonus, Galecki and Gilbert have just as little sexual chemistry now as they did when they played awkward teens

6. Seinfeld friends on Curb Your Enthusiasm

The former characters: On the sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine, are the most idiosyncratic group of New York weirdos/friends you will ever love.

The reunion set up: In his HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David plays a curmudgeonly version of himself, which means he is also the creator of the insanely popular sitcom Seinfeld. Throughout the seventh season of Curb, Larry brings the Seinfeld cast together for a reunion season that plays out in bits — scenes of writing with Seinfeld, read-throughs and rehearsals with the cast, and actual "aired" shows. 

Why it works: If you can wrap your head around it, David's meta experiment far exceeds your average reunion spin-off show. Seinfeld fans get to see their favorite neurotic characters in the same familiar, cereal-laden apartment, acting out their lives after an 11-year hiatus. And the events that took place for the characters over that decade are well thought out. George, for example, made millions off of an app that directed the user to the nearest public toilet only to be duped by Bernie Madoff. It's like the Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed played out on TV: Genius. 

7. Blossom friends on 'Til Death

The former characters: Mayim Bialik starred as Blossom on the eponymous show. She's a teenage girl living with her father and two brothers who adjust to life without their mother, who left the family behind. Her best friend, Six (Jenna von Oy), was a fast-talking boy-crazy girl who thinks of Blossom's family as her own.

The reunion set-up: In the final season of the Fox comedy 'Til Death, which ended in 2010, Bialik played a therapist who tries to help one of the main characters Doug (Timm Sharp) overcome the belief that his life is a sitcom. To do so, Bialik invites her former fake-family, including von Oy and Blossom's oldest brother, actor Michael Stoyanov, to join the session. Bialik tries to show Doug the distinction between people who were actually on a sitcom "versus the fantasy of believing you're currently in one."

Why it works: It's not perfect — all of the Blossom actors, including Bialik, are guest stars, making the reunion a little forced. However, it succeeds in its mocking of the "where are they now" question that plagues stars of long-gone shows. Von Oy and Stoyanov take turns poking fun at the other's lowly career since Blossom ended. 'Til Death also creates its own meta moment: The other purpose of the therapy session is for Bialik's character to film and star in a reality show about actors who used to be on sitcoms, which is often how former stars attempt to regain their lost fame.

8. Married with Children father and son on Modern Family

The former characters: On the long-running Fox sitcom Married… with Children, Ed O'Neill played Al Bundy, the once heralded high school football star turned women's shoe salesman. David Faustino played his girl-crazy son, Bud, who is lauded as the only Bundy to attend college.

The reunion set up: Ed O'Neil plays Jay Prichett, the patriarch of the so-called Modern Family that includes his daughter Claire, son Mitchell, and their respective families. Claire goes to her college reunion where she runs into her old buddy Drew/"Tater" (David Faustino). Claire's husband Phil mistakenly assumes Tater was Claire's last ex-boyfriend and tries to intimidate him. Jay, meanwhile, saves the rest of the family from the wrath of his wife Gloria after a wig is accidentally glued onto their newborn son, Joe. (Click here to watch the full episode.)

Why it works — a little: So perhaps this particular example is more of an honorable mention than a "best." Of all the reunions it's the least successful. While it's funny to imagine Faustino's character as a threat to Claire and Phil's marriage, the former Bundys don't even share any screen time. As The Huffington Post puts it, "Jay was too busy being a better parent to Manny than [Al Bundy] had ever been to Kelly and Bud on Married." Burn.

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The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.

DINO'S LODGE

In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.

JERRY'S

In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

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When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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