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Random Thoughts:Made-For-TV Movies Edition

Why don’t they make made-for-TV movies anymore? I know that it most likely has something to do with the Lifetime Movie Network and their penchant for sticking Markie Post, Meredith Baxter and Valerie Bertinelli (or any number of yesteryear TV stars) in jep. Jep, what is that you may ask? Is it some sort of code for a disease, or did I simply misspell jeep. Well, that means their characters are considered to be a “woman in jeopardy,” for those of you not in the know. Shame on you for not being in the know, by the way! 😉

I can’t remember the last time that I even saw a TV movie, good, bad or indifferent…maybe the ‘9os? So, where are they at? For the most part as foggy, yet happy visages, as a vast majority of the ones I remember from their golden era (1970’s through the 1990’s) aren’t even available on DVD, at least for rental. 

Anyhoo, here is my Top Ten List of MFTM (Made-For-TV Movies, natch), spurned from that Random Thought. This list is based upon how they rate for me memory-wise…so don’t get your panties in a wad that some movies you may like aren’t on the list, k? If you don’t agree, start your own blog. Jeez!

#10   “Our Sons” starred two veterans of the Silver Screen, Julie Andrews and the incomparable Ann-Margrock (twitch, twitch) as polar opposite mothers that share something in common – their sons are gay, gay, gay. Talk about striking the motherload, as far as moms go, a gay guy could do a lot worse than having Maria from The Sound of Music or a Kitten with a Whip being maternal to them. 

Unfortunately, one of the men (Zeljko Ivanek) is dying from AIDS, and his partner (Hugh Grant) enlists the help of his socialite mother (Andrews) to travel to Arkansas to fetch LuAnne Barnes’ (Margrock) white-trash and homophobic ass to say goodbye to the child that she didn’t know was gay.

An excellent cast bolsters this moving telepic, and dealt with the subject matter as deftly as “An Early Frost” had done circa 1985.

#9 “Surviving” delved into the world of teen suicide in 1985 and centered on two teens played by Gremlins star Zach Galligan and teen queen Molly Ringwald. The latter hadn’t been on the small screen since her character of Molly (way to branch out there, gal) was cut from season two of ”The Facts of Life…” I bet Mrs. Garrett was kicking herself later that she let the Sixteen Candles  star out of her meaty clutches – she probably would have put her to work at “Edna’s Edibles” in a heartbeat, which always had a strange ring to it in my mind, and conjured up a nude Charlotte Rae. Shudder. Mrs. G. was like the Kathy Lee Gifford of her day, running what amounted to nothing more than a sweat shop for her teenaged wards. 

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled program…the movie also starred the late River Phoenix, and while it dealt with the before and after effects of teen suicide (don’t do it! If you’re a Heathers fan, you know what I’m talking ’bout, Willis), in a weird way it was almost like a how-to manual for contemplators of all ages.

#8 “Born Innocent” starred The Exorcist ‘s Linda Blair as a teen runaway who gets hauled off to a juvie hall/reform school hybrid to learn her some manners. More than likely her character of Christine Parker learned that showering in that setting is not the best of ideas, as she is viciously assaulted with a toilet brush handle by the lesbian leader (surprise) of an all-girl gang.

This film caused quite the stir upon its initial airing in 1974, and the controversial scene was removed from subsequent reruns, due in part to a real-life unfortunate case of life imitating art when a young girl was attacked in a similar fashion.

The only upswing here is that it prepped its lead actress for her later work in the super campy flick Chained Heat.  

#7 I am still not sure what the titular everything was in reference to in the title for The Girl, the Goldwatch & Everything, a 1980 movie starring Robert Hays (Airplane!) and Pam Dawber (“Mork & Mindy”).

Hays played a man named Kirby Winter, who inherits a gold pocket watch (at least that’s explained from the title – phew!) that can stop time. When he meets his dream girl (double phew!) Bonny Lee Beaumont, the time-stopping fun begins, even though thugs are after him for the magical timepiece.

Of note, I never knew Pam Dawber had such range as an actress. Kidding, for real real and not for play play. Is that a Texan, Georgian or Louisiana diphthong she is working with? With a name like Bonny Lee – it’s a safe bet it’s supposed to be from the southern region of these United States, but you are still left wondering. Maybe that was the titular Everything?

What I remember most about this movie was that it was filmed in my hometown of San Diego, with portions shot at the Hotel Del Coronado. Oh, they also made a sequel The Girl, The Goldwatch & Dynamite, which should have been called The Girl, The Goldwatch & A Bomb, because it sucked and not in a good way.

For starters there’s no Robert Hays or Pam Dawber (on second thought that might be a plus) and Phillip MacHale (love his work?) and Lee Purcell attempted to walk an acting mile in their predecessors’ footsteps. Surprisingly, given the last part of the title – it didn’t co-star Jimmie “J.J.” Walker.  

#6 You gotta give it up for Farrah Fawcett, even though the Academy of Arts and Sciences forgot to include the “Charlie’s Angels” star in the “In Memoriam” portion of the Oscar telecast in March. For shame on you, Academy, did neither Sunburn nor Saturn 3 merit a simple nod to the best tressed late actress?

Yes, I know she also did great work in 1986’s Extremities, and she got the career ball rolling again with her previous work in the 1984 offering The Burning Bed. Her raw acting as abused wife Francine Hughes shed her from the jiggly shackles of the aforementioned Aaron Spelling TV production, which launched her into the stratosphere.

Fawcett had dropped her married name (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) by this point in time, as she was divorced from The Six Million Dollar Man, and was having a Love Story with Ryan O’Neal. This movie, for which she received an Emmy nomination,  proved that she should have left her married name intact, post-divorce, as she was now considered a major(s) actress, and not just something pretty to look at. Girl, I can so relate to that.

#5 What Jackie Collins is to trashy, yet-so-good-you-can’t-put-them-down novels is…sorry, I froze for a minute as I thought I was taking my SAT test again.

Luckily, the ever clever (I should be a rapper with that rhyme – howz about Ice T-im?) Aaron Spelling produced a miniseries based on Collins’ best-selling novel ever, “Hollywood Wives.” And, the cast was worth the price of admission alone…oh wait; it was on TV and not in the movies – my bad! It was a virtual who’s who of Tinsel Town, or to be more apt, a virtual what the hell were they starring in this for production? That’s when you look at it from today’s eyes, and not through the lenses of yesterday.

There was a pre-“Murphy Brown” Candy Bergen and Sir Anthony Hopkins – that’s o.k. we’ll wait while you both kiss your Emmys and Oscar Awards, respectively. Watch the tongue there, Tony!

It also starred a post-“Three’s Company” Suzanne Somers, the gorgeous (That’s Mrs. H., she’s beautiful) Stefanie Powers, Roddy McDowell in a non-chimp role, the always delightful Joanna Cassidy, “Dallas’ “J.R. shooter Mary Crosby, Mommie Dearest co-star Steve Forrest and “The Untouchables” Robert Stack – wait a sec…you mean the last two aren’t the same person?

Angie Dickinson was Dressed To Kill as Sadie LaSalle (a very common name, if you happen to live in a Jackie Collins novel, as was Powers’ Montana Gray, for that matter). She happens upon a young man named Buddy Hudson (Andrew Stevens) and starts a campaign to let everyone in H-Wood know who he is, in the cutthroat world of wanna bes and has-beens. 

#4 “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” is probably the reason that most viewers remember the two-part miniseries “Lace.” The 1984 mini starred almost every teen boy’s at the time ideal of a dream girl, Phoebe Cates, two years after she bared her boobies in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I was more curious about what Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) was doing in the bathroom than what he was fantasizing about. You say tomato, I say gaymato.

As film star Lili, Cates assembles together the three possible (and apparently bitchy) women who could be the one that gave her up for adoption as a baby. They include: Brooke Adams, Arielle Dombasle and the super annoying Bess Armstrong. I don’t know why I just can’t stomach her and wished the shark would have swallowed her up in Jaws 3-D.

I will not divulge which one ends up being mama beeyatch, but I can tell you that the very next year that Lili tried to find out who papa bastard is. Oh yeah, it was advertised with the tagline of “Which one of you bastards is my father?”

They should do a third one in which Lili gives up a child, conceived after a drunken night of debauchery, and gives said kid away only to seek it out -with two others summoned together, naturally – later to ask them, “Which one of you babies is my baby?” 

#3 It’s no surprise that ABC decided to dust off “V” and give it a makeover this season. I recently watched the original miniseries (both of them, including “The Final Battle,” which is not true, since they were still fighting the aliens in the subsequent TV series- that’s like the Friday the 13th series “ending” in 1984 and going onto infinitum status sequel and remake-wise ), and it has not stood the test of time. But, damn the cheestastic special effects, as I have an affinity for the show thusly.

It bonded me to my fellow classmates in high school, especially when Robin (Blair Tefkin) had her alien baby that was the sizzle lean, let me tell you. It probably got me started in my love of recanting TV events, and who wouldn’t love a show where the alien baddie (Jane Badler) swallowed whole rats! C’mon, that’s quality TV! Plus, there was hunky Marc Singer. However, the only downside to that was two years earlier he had starred as Dar, the loin clothed hero of The Beastmaster, and “V” in all of its incarnations featured him in waaay too many clothes for my taste.

Oh, by the way Independence Day writers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (who also directed), you should have put “based on an original idea by Kenneth Johnson” in the credits. The storyline with big alien spacecrafts hovering over major cities of the world first happened in 1983 on “V.” You’re welcome, Ken (we’re tight!)  

By the way, we have a tie for third here. I would be remiss as a child of the ’80s to not mention “The Day After,” as the threat of nuclear war was on our generation, faster than you can sing ‘Red Skies at Night’ by The Fixx! That there was some scary, scary shit to watch, and was the most watched TV movie ever with an audience 100 million strong to see what would happen if we were attacked by the Soviet Union, and they dropped a bomb on us faster than The Gap Band could. I wonder if star JoBeth Williams thought working on Poltergeist was a more frightening experience. The film also featured Jason Robards, John Lithgow and Steve “The Gutt” Guttenberg.

#2 Did you know that Grease director Randal Kleiser had previously worked with actor John Travolta? Flashback to 1976, two years before the duo was all lubed, I mean, greased up and you have “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”

This movie probably caused more than a few people to become germaphobes after watching the true story of Tod Lubitch (watch yo mouth! I’m just talkin’ about “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” Can you dig that?), a young man born with a deficient immune system and is forced to spend his life like a sandwich in a Ziploc bag. That is to say, he is hermetically sealed for freshness and safety in his room – so as not to let any viruses or bacteria into his domain. Umm, how do his parents (the late, great Robert Reed and the late/Travolta’s older woman lover friend Diana Hyland) punish him? “You go to your…ah, never mind!”

Tod’s life takes a turn for the better when Glynnis O’Connor’s Gina Biggs character kind of walks into his life – really, you can’t get into his bubble without risking his life. But love makes Tod want to take risks, and “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” features Travolta in his Sweathog glory and in very tight and short ‘7os shorts. What? We all take away different things from a movie experience, ok? I was so happy when I found this movie in a bargain bin at Wal-Mart, best $5.99 I ever spent.

#1 Mr. Randal Kleiser also had his hands on Jan Brady. No, not like that, as he is a gay homosexual. What I mean to say is that he left an indelible fingerprint on my psyche with his 1976 directing job on “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway,” which starred former “Bunch” er Eve Plumb.

Her portrayal of Dawn Wetherby wasn’t the stuff that Emmy nominations were made of (just watch the scene where she walks down the street, right after she hops off the bus from BumFuck, U.S.A. and takes in the “sights” that Hollywood Blvd. had to offer), but I applaud her for the choice to do this role and not partake in “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.”

The movie treads upon the same ground laid down by Linda Blair in “Born Innocent” and the previous year’s “Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic,” in that it was construed as controversial. Not for nothing, what was up with all these movie in the ’70s having to be a “portrait” of the main character? Maybe, to be in tune with the times, they could have subtitled at least one as “Polaroid of a fill-in-the-blank.” I’m just sayin’.

I used to watch this movie about a 15-year-old runaway/prostitute on KTLA 5 on my black and white Zenith TV (I had to change the channel without a remote, if my parents happened into my room…how gauche!) every time it was on, every single time.

That was due in large part to Leigh McCloskey’s portrayal of Dawn’s savior Alexander, and his blond feathered coif…sigh. Plus, he was a gay male hustler. Why was this movie controversial? Oh yeah, I guess I could see why…now. At the time, I couldn’t wait to see Dawn transform from naive young thang to a hooker with a heart of gold.

Very Julia Roberts of her, no? Not really, there was no Richard Gere to come along and take her away from all “this.” And, I think I have discovered my root of why I couldn’t watch Pretty Woman until last year, and it was under duress because I felt it glamorized being a whore.

Whereas, “Dawn” showed the nittier grittier side of having a pimp named Swan (Bo Hopkins) and seeing your street sister on a slab (Susie, played by David’s wife on “Eight Is Enough,” or she is also known as actress Joan Prather) or another one of your Pussy Posse (Marguerite DeLain as the spunky Frankie Lee…oh, she was spunky alright!) get knocked around by ole Swan. 

Also, it was one of my first glimpses of seeing a “real live homo-sex-y’all” on TV, and wouldn’t you know it? McCloskey reprised his role the next year in “Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn,” and showed me that not all gay guys were of the “fairy” variety that were starting to populate the television landscape during that time. Nope, Alexander found himself a gay football player for a “boyfriend,” not sure that’s the right term if someone is paying you for sex. Besides, how can you not love any movie spin-off that features in its credits Miss Francis Faye as herself? C’mon now, people, that is the stuff legends are made of!   

Ok, that was one long Random Thought, and if you made it this far, I’d like you to comment with what your Top 10, 5 or even #1 Favorite TV movie of all-time is. I know I am already kicking myself for excluding Stephen King’s magnum opus “The Stand.” Dammit!

About timparksmediaho

I am a self professed Media Ho, which is the nicer version of being a Media Whore. My mother actually inspired me to come up with the term

12 responses to “Random Thoughts:Made-For-TV Movies Edition

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    • timparksmediaho ⋅

      Thanks for takin’ out the time to read my stuff and thangs, Yolanda…can never figured out which of the two I like better. Glad you think I’m entertaining 🙂

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