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You know it's sweeps month when primetime TV shows start brandishing their special guest stars. Here are five moonlighters (plus some other highlights!) to watch…
Michael J. Fox on The Good Wife (CBS, Nov. 9, 10 p.m. ET). "I play a lawyer who has a form of Parkinson's, and he's representing a drug company, and he's unabashed about using his condition to evoke sympathy from the jury," Fox told the LA Times. "I hope I haven't used my condition to evoke anything other than someone holding a door for me now and then. But I thought it was fun to get inside this guy's head and think if you were going to be manipulative, what would you do and what tactics would you employ?"
Mad Men's John Slattery on 30 Rock (NBC, Nov.11, 8:30 p.m. ET). Did Jon Hamm give him a referral? Hamm's Mad Men costar is now the second actor from that show to log some time at 30 Rock. He plays Steve Austin, a congressional candidate who Jack (Alec Baldwin) decides to support in the election.
Desperate Housewives' Teri Hatcher on Smallville (The CW, Nov.12, 8 p.m. ET). In a wink to the few viewers of this show who are old enough to remember Hatcher as Lois on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, producers cast her to play Lois's mom in this version of the saga.
The Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger on How I Met Your Mother (CBS, Nov. 15, 8 p.m. ET). "My character's name is Jessica Glitter," the Dancing With the Stars winner told EW.com. And what's better than a Pussycat Doll? The long-awaited return of Robin Sparkles! For those who don't remember (how could you not!?), Robin Sparkles is Robin's (Cobie Smulders) alter-ego from when she was a pop star back in Canada. "I am Robin's best friend from when she was Robin Sparkles," Scherzinger said. "We had a famous show in Canada, and I blow back into her life. We just might be unearthing another embarrassing music video from back in the day."
Gwyneth Paltrow on Glee (Fox, Nov. 16, 8 p.m. ET). She plays a substitute teacher for Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and is rumored to be performing a mash-up of Rihanna's hit "Umbrella" and the classic "Singin' in the Rain." Paltrow, who's playing a country music singer in the December film Country Strong, is also appearing on the Country Music Awards this month (ABC, Nov. 10, 8 p.m. ET).
Of course the Dancing with the Stars season finale (ABC, Nov. 22 and 23, 8 p.m. ET) has been carefully scheduled to arrive during sweeps month. The network must be counting on all those Brandy and Jennifer Grey fans to stick around after that final performance show to catch the Skating with the Stars season premiere at 9 p.m. ET. The Mirror Ball Champions will be crowned the next evening, Nov. 23.
And last but not least, you know it's sweeps month when practically all of Oprah's interviews are the hard-to-land type. Why air a sit-down with Michael Jackson's family unless it's the time of year when advertisers are eyeballing your viewership numbers? No doubt The Oprah Winfrey Show (ABC, weekdays) will have big ratings when she chats up Jackson's parents, as well as his three children, Prince, Paris and "Blanket," at their home in Encino, Calif. (Nov. 8). Among her other big "gets" this month are an interview with President George W. Bush about his memoir, Decision Points (Nov. 9), and the first interview that Marie Osmond has given since her son Michael's suicide (Nov. 9).
Which sweeps event are you most looking forward to?