Old shows sport new casts, new directions

As television history amply proves, network executives are loath to give up on a show in which they've invested heavily. This fall is no exception. The most significant retooling has taken place on Chicago Hope, with five regulars out the door, including Christine Lahti and Eric Stoltz, replaced by Barbara Hershey, Lauren Holly, and more regular appearances by Mandy Patinkin.

While this may appear to be an exercise in top loading with stars, the show's creative team insists otherwise. "The show had taken a little bit different direction in going into the personal lives of the characters," says its creator, multi-Emmy-winner David E. Kelley. "The first road we went down was to explore the profession and the pioneering aspects of medicine," he explains. "There's lots of those stories that remain to be told." And new stars give audiences a reason to take another look at these stories.

Similar star-studded changes are revamping the tone and direction of Spin City and Suddenly Susan. Heather Locklear replaces Jennifer Esposito in a move to counterbalance the character played by Michael J. Fox. "We thought it would be great to have a really strong female character come in here," Mr. Fox says. "We said, 'in a perfect world you get Heather Locklear,' and the next day we got this call saying Heather is very flattered, and she loves the show."

After the untimely passing of her costar, David Strickland, Brooke Shields in "Suddenly Susan" will find herself feeling out of place working at a men's magazine now being run by Monty Python alum Eric Idle. Her old boss (Judd Nelson) leaves the show. Two other shows will sport cast changes. Law & Order, which has thrived on such changes, will say goodbye to Benjamin Bratt and hello to Jesse Martin. Martial Law, will play down the martial-arts action a bit, welcome Gretchen Egolf to the cast as police Capt. Amy Dylan, and say goodbye to Louis Mandylor and Tom Wright.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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