19 TV Shows That Launched A Cast's Worth Of Careers  

Drew Grant
898 votes 157 voters 6.5k views 17 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite shows with cast members who became famous.

Before they were famous, they were an ensemble: these popular TV shows had more than just a handful of future A-listers. In the cases below, you'll find that the majority of the cast are bona fide celebrities... and they have these shows to thank for their current success. 

Saturday Night Live is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 19 TV Shows That Launched A Cast's Worth Of Careers
Photo: Saturday Night Live/NBC

Yeah, this one is a freebie. Are you really going to sit here and read the names of ever famous comedian who started on Saturday Night Live? If you want to read this list first.

Maybe it's easier to think about actors that you might remember as cast members, but never were: Steve Martin, Donald Glover, Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Kevin Hart, Adam McKay (who did go on to be head writer of the show), the members of Kids in the Hall who weren't Mark McKinney, the members of Lonely Island who weren't Andy Samberg, and the members of Mr. Show who weren't Bob Odenkirk. (So...David Cross.)

Premiered: 1975

Number of Seasons: 38

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Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 19 TV Shows That Launched A Cast's Worth Of Careers
Photo: Freaks And Geeks/NBC/Fair Use

Whenever you get depressed because you lost your job, it might help to think of Freaks and Geeks, the cult TV show created by Paul Fieg before he was Paul Fieg and co-executive produced by Judd Apatow before he was "THE Judd Apatow." The poignant coming-of-age comedy was beloved by fans but canceled on NBC after one only season in 1999.

Despite its cancelation, the main and supporting cast all went on to bigger and better things: Jason Segal to How I Met Your Mother; Linda Cardellini to Mad Men, Scooby Doo and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Bloodline and ER (among countless other credits); Martin Star to Silicon Valley; Busy Philipps to Dawson's Creek and ER (among countless others)John Francis Daley to Bones (eventually shifting into a writer for Spiderman: Homecoming); Samm Levine to Inglorious Basterds, Undeclared, and Wet Hot American Summer.

And then those final two: what can you say about James Franco and Seth Rogen? Those two have enjoyed incredible success, both as stars, creators and BFFs. Fieg and Apatow are also doing pretty well for themselves these days too.

Premiered: 1999

Number of Seasons: 1

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The Mickey Mouse Club is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 19 TV Shows That Launched A Cast's Worth Of Careers
Photo:  Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

Britney Spears. Ryan Gosling. Keri Russel. Christina Aguilera. Justin Timberlake. And those are just the early 90s stars of The Mickey Mouse Club. For a full list of cast members, check here.


Premiered: 1955

Number of Seasons: 14

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Cheers is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 19 TV Shows That Launched A Cast's Worth Of Careers
Photo: NBC

The show where you know everybody's name! Sam and Diane (Ted Danson and Shelley Long) literally became cultural shorthand for a "will they or won't they" trope long before Ross and Rachel made it onto the screen.

Then there was Rhea Perlman (formerly Mrs. Danny DeVito),  George Wendt, John Dezso Ratzenberger (who went on to voice many Pixar characters), Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd, Bebe Neuwirth, Kirstie Alley, and Kelsey Grammar, who's character, Dr.  Frasier Crane, was incredibly the one the show's creators decided to spin-off. The only major player on Cheers that did not go on to fame and fortune was Nicholas Colasanto, aka Coach Ernie Pantusso, who died while the show was still on the air.

Now the cast of Cheers can really go to any bar in the world and have it be a place where everybody knows their name.

Premiered: 1982

Number of Seasons: 11

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