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Returning shows offer some exciting developments and casting shakeups

Maureen Ryan Chicago Tribune

Along with the fall’s new TV series, there are plenty of developments among returning shows. Here are a few tantalizing tidbits for those who want to be in the know:

“”Everwood” (WB, returns Sept. 29): Bright Abbott (Chris Pratt) gets two new roommates, Ephram Brown (Gregory Smith) and a medical student named Reid Bardem (Justin Baldoni), who may turn out to be a love interest for Amy Abbott (Emily VanCamp).

“”Boston Legal” (ABC, Sept. 27): Rupert Everett and Heather Locklear guest-star for two episodes when the series returns, and there are casting shakeups as well: Rhona Mitra and Monica Potter are gone, and “Ed’s” Julie Bowen, as well as newcomers Justin Mentell and Ryan Michelle Bathe, join the legal team at Crane, Poole and Schmidt.

“”NCIS” (CBS, Sept. 19): Lauren Holly joins the cast for a multi-episode arc; she’ll play the new NCIS boss, who’s trying to keep a lid on the fact that she and Mark Harmon’s character have had a romance in the past.

“”House” (Fox, Tuesday): Sela Ward is back for at least seven episodes as the former flame of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie).

“”Las Vegas” (NBC, Sept. 19): Lara Flynn Boyle joins the cast as a high-living casino owner.

“”Lost” (ABC, Sept. 21): We’ll find out what’s in the hatch, thank goodness. Count on Julie Bowen to return for one episode as Jack’s wife, and Michelle Rodriguez, who guested last season, also will be back. Joining the cast as new island residents are Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from “Oz” and Sarah Watrous from “The Drew Carey Show.”

“”Desperate Housewives” (ABC, Sept. 25): Richard Burgi, who plays Susan’s ex, will have a more prominent role on the show, but the star attraction this fall will be Alfre Woodard, Wisteria Lane’s newest resident and someone with – who’d have thunk it? – a lot to hide.

“There’s something very provocative that happens at the very end of the first episode, and that’s the thing that’ll make you go, ‘Whooooaa!’ ” Woodard told’s television columnist, Kristin Veitch. “It plays out over months.”

“”Alias” (ABC, Sept. 29): Jennifer Garner (for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last year) married Ben Affleck over the summer and is due to give birth to a baby in a few months. Garner’s pregnancy will be written into the show, and Balthazar Getty and Rachel Nichols of Fox’s “The Inside” come on board as a new undercover agent and CIA analyst, respectively. Exiting the show is Greg Grunberg, who played Agent Eric Weiss – and, if Internet scuttlebutt is to be believed, Michael Vartan is leaving, too.

“”Joey” (NBC, Sept. 22): Joey will have a new pal, a fellow actor named Zach (played by Miguel Nunez Jr.), and will get cast in a big summer movie. Hilarity will no doubt ensue.

“”Smallville” (WB, Sept. 29): Guest star Tom Wopat will rejoin his former “Dukes of Hazzard” co-star John Schneider for one episode of this superhero-in-training drama, and “Buffy” cult favorite James Marsters (he played the vampire Spike) will have a multi-episode arc as the evil Brainiac.

“”Numb3rs” (CBS, Sept. 23): Diane Farr, the lone female firefighter on “Rescue Me,” joins this CBS drama when it returns, replacing Sabrina Lloyd.

“”ER” (NBC, Sept. 22): Sherry Stringfield, who was set to appear in only a handful of episodes this season, will not return, marking a second exit from the veteran medical drama.

“”Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, Sept. 25): There will be more shenanigans among Meredith Grey, her hot doc lover and his wife, but I also came across this tidbit on CBS’ Web site: “Dr. Richard Webber, Seattle Grace’s paternal but no-nonsense chief of surgery … harbors some secrets of his own concerning Meredith’s mother.”

“”Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (NBC, Sept. 25): This year, the crime-fighting duo of Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra will appear in half of “C.I.’s” 22 episodes; Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe will star in the other 11 episodes.

“”The West Wing” (NBC, Sept. 25): Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda return as presidential candidates Matthew Santos and Arnold Vinick; producers reportedly haven’t decided yet which side (Santos is a Democrat and Vinick’s a Republican) will win. Perhaps a rumored live debate between the candidates will help the bigwigs decide who ends up in the White House.

“”Veronica Mars” (UPN, Sept. 28): New cast members promise to shake things up on this critically acclaimed detective show. Charisma Carpenter – like previous “Mars” guest star Alyson Hannigan an alumna of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” – joins the cast as a trophy wife named Kendall Casablancas (love the name), and Steve Guttenberg comes aboard as a mayoral candidate.

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