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Shakespeare’s many guest-starring TV roles

Jon Lovitz, center, played Shakespeare with Robin Williams,

Jon Lovitz, center, played Shakespeare with Robin Williams, left, as Sir Robin of Wilshire and Phil Hartman as a director during a "Hamlet" skit on "Saturday Night Live." Credit: NBC

All the world’s a stage — or sometimes a television screen — when in comes to William Shakespeare.

This summer, Laurie Davidson stars as a young and hunky version of the playwright in TNT’s “Will” (Mondays at 9 p.m.), a fanciful interpretation of Shakespeare’s formative years. Of course, you never know where the Bard or his works might pop up. These unlikely series, in fact, served up versions of Shakespeare, hopefully as you like it.

THE SHOW “The Twilight Zone”

SHAKESPEARE TIES In the May 23, 1963, episode “The Bard,” a hack writer (Jack Weston) gets a book of magic spells and conjures up Shakespeare (John Williams) to pen his scripts. But it’s not all’s well that ends well when the Bard finds out how his work has been altered.

THE SHOW “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”

SHAKESPEARE TIES In the 1970 episode “Archaeology Today,” one sketch featured Eric Idle as Shakespeare sharing issues about his domestic strifes with Michelangelo (Terry Jones) and Mozart (Michael Palin). In a hilarious 1974 bit, Terry Jones played Hamlet, who ends up on a psychiatrist’s couch because he’s tired of endless requests from everyone to say “To be or not to be.”

THE SHOW “Fantasy Island”

SHAKESPEARE TIES “The Brady Bunch” scion Robert Reed’s Shakespearean training came in handy for a January 1983 “Island” outing. He played the immortal Bard who’s been summoned to the tropical paradise by an actress who needs his help to master a Shakespearean role.

THE SHOW “Saturday Night Live”

SHAKESPEARE TIES Jon Lovitz donned Elizabethan garb — including tights — to play Shakespeare in a Nov. 22, 1986, takeoff on “Hamlet” that also featured Robin Williams (as Sir Robin of Wilshire) and Phil Hartman.

THE SHOW “Cosby”

SHAKESPEARE TIES It wasn’t a midsummer night’s dream, more like a middle-aged man’s nightmare. In a March 1999 episode of Bill Cosby’s CBS sitcom, the comic seeks help from the spirit of Shakespeare (Tom Conti) to help him interpret “Romeo and Juliet.”

THE SHOW “Wheel of Fortune”

SHAKESPEARE TIES It may have looked like Shakespeare buying vowels and hitting bankrupt, but it was actually Richard Simmons in disguise for a 2000 Halloween edition of the series. His competition was Alex Trebek as a gnome and ultimate winner Tara Lipinski as a genie. Perhaps if the puzzles had been in Old English, Simmons might have won.

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