A long time ago in a sitcom galaxy far, far away, Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) was born and set off on a little-known life course that would lead him to the sunny climes of "Modern Family" and into the hearts of sitcom fans. While we may not have learned much about Jay's past during the ABC hit's four-year run, we do know that the patriarch of the show is building his second family while making nice, as much as possible, with his grown kids and their own growing broods. We also know that "Family" has shown a penchant for bringing in big-time guest stars to liven up the scene at a regular pace, though that practice, too has begun to fade over the horizon.
How fitting, then, that the network has a galactic surprise in store for fans once the new year rolls around, one that both harkens memories of yesterday and satisfies our yen for star power. Billy Dee Williams is slated to sidle up to Jay's card table on Jan. 9, and he's bringing company with him.
Williams, who will reportedly play himself in the episode, will also deal Lainie Kazan into the festivities. Williams, of course, rose to international prominence through his role of Lando Calrissian in the "Star Wars" movies in the 1970s and 1980s, and has continued to pop up in the spotlight with a smattering of sitcom and soap opera cameos in recent years. Meanwhile, Kazan is probably most famous for her portrayal of Maria Portokalos in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," though she has a long on-screen record and has been especially active during the 2010s.
The two veteran actors make an interesting combination and an intriguing backdrop for Jay as he and his family vacation in Palm Springs for the holidays. While Jay is in his second prime, his card partners are likely to be staring down the barrel of retirement living, and you can bet that they will have some, ahem, questions and comments for the elder Pritchett as some of his personal details come to the fore.
Will Billy Dee become a staple for "Modern Family" or leave a lasting impact on the show's main characters? Given the nature of the show's dalliances with outside celebrity in the past, it seems pretty unlikely that Lando will be around into February or that he will cause Jay to rethink his life's course. After all, even extended family members come and go from the "Family" set without leaving much of a dent on the fabric of the stories. They drop by for some quick face time and then move on, but they give audiences a peek into the past lives and character quirks of the ongoing favorites. Maybe Billy Dee will stoke some new emotions or ideas for Jay before the two move on with their daily lives.
So make sure you're watching closely when the Pritchetts and Dunphys celebrate the New Year. Billy will be on hand, but he's likely to disappear at warp speed.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Billy Dee Williams