Just a quick visit again to television entertainment of the 1980s with a look at some of the series, TV movies, actors and actresses and more from that decade.
Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine in Airwolf
- This CBS television series ran from 1984-86 on CBS and starred handsome Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine and Alex Cord.
- Airwolf was the code name for an advanced supersonic military helicopter. It was financed by The Firm, a branch of the CIA and built by a genius Dr. Charles Henry Moffet (David Hemmings), who eventually stole the aircraft and flew it to Libya where he used the helicopter to perform all kinds of nasty terrorist type activities for the Libyan government.
- The Firm’s deputy director, Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III (Alex Cord) better known as Archangel, wants it back and enlists the aid of former Airwolf test pilot, Stringfellow Hawke (Jan Michael Vincent) who goes to Libya and with the help of fellow pilot Dominic Santani (Ernest Borgnine) the duo recover the craft and take care of Moffet by blowing up his lair.
- But, now Hawke won’t return the aircraft until his long lost MIA brother, Saint John (pronounced Sinjin) is found. Hawke keeps Airwolf in a large remote cave in the Valley of the Gods. So, while Archangel searches for information about Hawke’s missing brother, he agrees to fly dangerous missions for The Firm.
- The show suffered from low ratings in its second season so producers thought adding a female character might spruce things up a bit; it didn’t. Finally CBS cancelled the show in it’s third season. USA Network then picked it up, changed some of it’s back store and aired the series for another 24 episodes in 1987. Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine did not return for the USA Network version.
Jim Carrey in The Duck Factory
- Jim Carrey’s first lead role in a television series came in the guise of The Duck Factory.
- Produced by MTM Productions and airing on NBC from April 12 to July 11, 1984.
- Carrey starred as Skip Tarkenton an inexperienced young man who moves to Hollywood in hopes of getting a job as a cartoonist. He ends up at Buddy Winkler Productions, an animation studio whose owner has just recently died. The company needs some new talent in order to stay afloat and Skip gets a job. The studio is nicknamed The Duck Factory because they produce The Dippy Duck Show.
- Real-life cartoon voice over artist, Don Messick had a role as Wally Wooster and provided the voice for Dippy Duck. Real-life comedy writer Jay Tarses starred as Marty Fenneman. Teresa Ganzel was Sheree Winkler, the widow and new owner of The Duck Factory.
Polly Holiday as Flo
- Flo “kiss my grits” Castleberry (Polly Holliday) charmed viewers on the comedy show Alice for four years before being given her own spin-off aptly titled Flo. The series began on March 24, 1980 and ran until July 21, 1981 with a total of 29 episodes.
- When on her way to Houston, Texas to assume role as a hostess at her new job, Flo makes a stop in her home town of Fort Worth Texas. While there she decides, instead, to buy a run down old road house that she had fond memories of from her youth. She renamed the place Flo’s Yellow Rose.
- Not used to being a boss, she had her share of problems to deal with and characters to interact with, like Earl (Geoffrey Lewis) the bartender who didn’t like being bossed around by a woman. Farley (Jim B. Baker) who was a bit of penny-pinching miser and who just happened to own the mortgage on the bar. Also helping to dish out the laughs was Les Kincaid (Stephen Keep), the resident piano player, Randy (Leo Burmester) the mechanic from the garage next door, Fran (Lucy Lee Flippin) Flo’s shy and klutzy sister and of course, Flo’s mama Velma (Sudie Bond).
Barbara Eden stars in Harper Valley PTA
- Jeannie C. Riely’s 1968 hit song, Harper Valley P.T.A. was the inspiration for a 1978 feature film, Harper Valley PTA that starred Barbara Eden. Her film was then the inspiration for the television series that aired from January 16, 1981 to August 14, 1982 on NBC.
- Eden was Stella Johnson, the single mother of teenage daughter, Dee (Jenn Thompson) and the lived in they small fictitious town of Harper Valley, Ohio. The first season had Stella elected to the board of directors for the PTA and she enjoyed disregarding many of the small town’s “established” way of doing things.
- The series was retooled for the second season, Stella was no longer on the PTA board and the show was given the new name of Harper Valley. Character actor Mills Watson joined the cast in the first episode of the second season as Stella’s eccentric inventor uncle Winslow Homer Smith (AKA Buster) and much of that season’s comedy relied heavily on his inventions.
- Even though the series seemed to do fair in the ratings, NBC had a habit of pulling the show from their schedule for several weeks at a time, something that concerned star Eden a great deal. She complained that the show could not establish a loyal audience if they couldn’t be sure when the show would air.
Jon-Erik Hexum: Star for the 80’s!
- Hexum made his television series debut in the short-lived Voyagers, a science fiction show that aired on NBC from October 3, 1982 to July 10, 1983. His character, Phineas Bogg, was a time traveler known as a Voyager. With the help from a young boy, Jeffrey Jones, (Meeno Peluce) the duo made sure that history unfolded as it was meant to. Sounds a tad bit like Quantum Leap that would air 1989, eh?
- In 1983 he made headlines again by being cast with Joan Collins in the television movie, The Making of a Male Model.
- In an interview done with Modern Screen editor Mark Bego, Hexum talked about wanting to be able to get beyond his “hunk” status and prove that he was a good actor. He wanted roles that had depth and substance. He cited Brubaker,Ordinary People, and The Verdict as three films that had the kinds of roles he hoped to be able to play as his career progressed.
- In 1984, he was cast in Cover Up, starring with the lovely Jennifer O’Neill who played photographer Dani Reynolds. She found out her late husband had been working undercover for the CIA. When asked to help find his killer, she was teamed with Special Forces solider Mac Harper (Hexum) and the duo traveled the world using the cover of photographer and model.
- On October 12, 1984, just seven episodes into the series, Hexum suffered an accident on the set of the series when he shot himself with a prop gun. He was flown to Beverly Hills Medical Center where doctors performed a five hour surgery in an attempt to save his life, but sadly just six days later, on October 18, 1984, he was pronounced dead. He was only 26 years old.
Ann Jillian Popular 80’s Actress and Television Sex Symbol
- She was Cassie Cranston on the comedy series, It’s a Living, about the lives of several waitresses working at a posh restaurant called Above the Top.
- She won an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her work in the 1982 television biopic of legendary actress Mae West.
- In 1983, she was the seductive neighbor, Joan, out to nab Michael Keaton’s character in the feature film Mr. Mom.
- Starred in the short-lived series (13 episodes airing from October 21, 1983 to September 5, 1984 on NBC) Jennifer Slept Here, as the ghost of blond bombshell actress Jennifer Farrell who haunted her old Hollywood home which is bought by the Elliot family. She decides to befriend their oldest child, son Joey (John P. Navin Jr.) who has a tough time getting anyone to believe he can see her. Critics hated the show calling it a Topper knock-off and few critics called it one of the worst new shows of the 1983 television line-up.
- In 1988, she starred as herself in The Ann Jillian Story and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
- And rounding out the decade, she starred in Ann Jillian a short-lived series in which she played Ann McNeil, a woman who after the death of her husband, moves herself and her daughter Lucy (Lisa Rieffel) to Marvel, California where she and her late husband had honeymooned years before. Anyone think this sort of sounded a little bit like the plot line from 70s sitcom, Alice?
Vanna White Was The Goddess of Love
- When The Wheel of Fortune’s regular hostess, Susan Stafford, left the game show in September of 1982, producers had to come up with a fix. They alternated between three substitute hostesses, Vanna White, Vicki McCarty and Summer Bartholomew and in December of 1982, White was chosen to take on the duties of full-time regular hostess.
- Her popularity was at it’s height when The Wheel of Fortune went into syndication and it seemed she was everywhere with interviews in magazines and on talk shows. She had several posters, wrote a best selling autobiography (Vanna Speaks in 1987) and even was given a starring role in a television movie The Goddess of Love portraying Venus. The television movie airing on NBC November 20, 1988, was White’s first starring role and was heavily panned by critics.
- White spent several months with a private acting coach preparing for the role. Even though she had been approached to do different kinds of projects, she decided to take the role of Venus because she felt the script was right for her.
- White acknowledged she was a perfect target for mean-spirited jokes and put downs because she turned letters on The Wheel of Fortune, but she never allowed any of that to dampen her happiness. She realized that it didn’t take a brain surgeon to do her work and she found it enjoyable and did it to the best of her ability.
The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman
- It’s been 10 years since Colonel Steve Austin, better known to 70s TV viewers as The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors) and Jamie Somers AKA The Bionic Woman, had to use their special skills and abilities to thwart the bad guys.
- On May 17,1987, one of the first television movies to reunite Austin and his true love, Jamie Somers (Lindsay Wagner) The Bionic Woman aired on NBC.
- In The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Steve is approached by his old boss, Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) who wants him to track down an group of criminals. He is hesitant to do so because he is having issues with his estranged son, Michael (Tom Schanley), who is a pilot in the Air Force and he has to deal with left over feelings for Jamie. But, when his son is seriously injured in a plane crash, Austin makes a deal, he will go after the criminals in exchange for Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks) saving his son’s life by fitting him with bionics.
Return to Mayberry
- Airing April 13, 1986, fans of the classic The Andy Griffith Show were treated to Return to Mayberry, a reunion movie with many of the original cast (Andy Griffith,Ron Howard,Don Knotts, Howard Morris, Jim Nabors, George Lindsey, Aneta Corsaut, Betty Lynn and Jack Dodson) returning to their roles. Other series regulars Howard McNear (as barber Floyd Lawson), Hope Summers (as Aunt Bea’s best friend and sometimes rival, Clara Edwards), Hal Smith (as town drunk Otis Campbell noted for allowing himself into the town lock up when he had had too much to drink), had all passed away years earlier. Frances Bavier who had played Aunt Bea was too ill to participate and to explain her character’s absence was said to have passed away.
- In this movie, Barney is running for sheriff, Opie is about to become a father for the first time, Thelma Lou and Barney finally get married and Goober and Gomer go in search of a lake monster.
- While critics weren’t all that impressed with the movie at the time it aired it was still a wonderful treat to catch up with these characters that many of us had grown to love and to discover that they had retained much of their original personalities and character history.
Webster with Emmanuel Lewis
- Ran for six season on ABC from September 16, 1983 to May 8, 1987.
- Webster Long (Emmanuel Lewis) was a sweet little five year old boy whose parents had died in an accident. He is then adopted by retired football star George Papadopolis (Alex Karras) his godfather. George had played football with Webster’s father. George had recently married socialite Katherine (Susan Clark) who had zero skills when it came to housekeeping and certainly none to mention of when it came to being a parent.
- Karras and Clark were married in real life.
- Produced by Georgian Bay Ltd which was the production company started by Karras and Clark.
- Show was similar in plot line to NBC’s hit Diff’rent Strokes starring Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato.
You Again with John Stamos and Jack Klugman
- This sitcom aired for two seasons on NBC ( February 27, 1986 to March 30, 1987).
- Was based on a British sitcom Home To Roost.
- Jack Klugman was Henry Willows, a man left very embittered by his divorce some 10 years earlier. His quiet life comes to an end when his son, Matt (John Stamos) comes to live with him. The two have very little in common and are virtual strangers as Willows had made very little effort to have contact with Matt since the divorce.
- The show changed time lots at least 4 different times in order to find an audience, which didn’t happen.
Copyright: Glory Miller/Graple’s Entertainment Archive 2017