Fear not, fifty- and sixtysomething actors: Just because almost every sitcom these days is about twenty- and thirtysomethings doesn’t mean you’ll be out on the street. In fact, a number of older performers have recently landed gigs as the parents of these series’ stars. Here’s a rundown of the familiar faces who play Mom and Pop to some of your favorite TV friends:
CARROLL O’CONNOR AND CAROL BURNETT
Folks of: Mad About You’s Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt).
Past lives: He was Archie Bunker on All in the Family (duh); she was the star of The Carol Burnett Show (double duh).
Marital status: Separated — they split before Jamie was ready to tell them she’s pregnant.
Believability as TV parents: Very low. How did a fleshy Irishman and a lantern-jawed redhead give birth to a slender blond beauty?
RON LEIBMAN AND MARLO THOMAS
Folks of: Friends’ Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston).
Past lives: He was Lauren Hutton’s slimy husband on Central Park West; she was That Girl.
Marital status: Separated — they split when Rachel was ready to tell Ross (David Schwimmer) she loves him.
Believability as TV parents: Medium. It’s not hard to buy hairstyle trendsetter Thomas as Aniston’s mother, but Leibman’s mug is nowhere to be seen in Aniston’s dainty features.
STEVEN GILBORN AND ALICE HIRSON
Folks of: Ellen’s Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres).
Past lives: He was Kevin’s favorite teacher on The Wonder Years; she was Miss Ellie’s best friend, Mavis, on Dallas.
Marital status: Separated — they split before Ellen was ready to tell them she’s … Lebanese.
Believability as TV parents: Medium. They’ve got the same uptight personality as Ellen, but they don’t look remotely … Lebanese.
PETER BOYLE AND DORIS ROBERTS
Folks of: Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray (Ray Romano) and Robert Barone (Brad Garrett).
Past lives: He was Young Frankenstein’s monster; she was Remington Steele’s secretary, Mildred.
Marital status: Reconciled after a brief separation (she walked out after he complained about the lack of celery in his tuna salad).
Believability as TV parents: High.
Romano looks more like Joe Mantegna, but gentle giant Garrett could have come only from Frankenstein’s loins.
JERRY STILLER AND ESTELLE HARRIS
Folks of: Seinfeld’s George Costanza (Jason Alexander).
Past lives: He was half of Stillerand Meara; she was the only good thing on Good Advice.
Marital status: Still unhappily together after 30-plus years.
Believability as TV parents: Very high. It’s hard to imagine anyone else producing George. Their believability as TV Italians is another question.