Rerun Junkie–Guest Stars: Boy George on The A-Team

Season 4 of The A-Team featured a lot of what I call stunt casting: guest stars that are extremely popular at the time and are put on a show to capitalize on that. Now there can be a fine line between a genuine guest starring role and a stunt casting, but you’ll know it when you see it because you really can’t ignore it.

During The A-Team’s fourth season, they had Hulk Hogan (twice!), Rick James, Pat Sajak and Vanna White had cameos because Murdock went on Wheel of Fortune for some reason, and, of course, there was Boy George.

I know, right?

The episode is called “Cowboy George” and the basic plot is Face is doing some talent booking, working with some dude named Dash, who screws him over on his contract by exercising a clause that allows for substitutions. So instead of getting Cowboy George for some honkytonk gig, he gets Boy George and Culture Club, who have been led to believe they’re going to be playing the Arizona Forum, not a dance hall called The Floor ’em. This poses a problem to LQ Jones, who demanded Cowboy George to insure the show would be a sellout. The he and his buddies could rob the audience’s payroll. To get help get out of the jam, Hannibal impersonates Cowboy George, but Boy George and Culture Club perform, which first angers and then charms the audience. The A-Team also thwarts the robbery and takes the bad guys to the sheriff, but it turns out the local replacement sheriff isn’t really a sheriff; he’s in on the whole thing, too, and the real sheriff is dead in one of the cells were Hannibal, BA, and Face are being held. Outside, a mob of angry workers are trying to break in to hang them because they think the three men stole their payroll. Which means it’s up to Murdock (who has an obsession with the Lennon Sisters in this episode) and Boy George to get them out of trouble.

Now, here’s why I think this is the greatest bit of guest casting in the history of television.

Unlike the Hulk Hogan or Rick James episodes (which I enjoy, don’t get me wrong), The A-Team aren’t hired by Boy George to do a job. They just sort of stumble into this scenario and Boy George happens to be involved and he goes along for the ride.

And he is clearly having a good time.

Boy George is an amiable guy, willing to cut down the band’s contracted fee from $1.2 million to $600,000 and he’s confident that Culture Club can draw the kind of crowd necessary to make that kind of money if they can get some advertising. Everyone loves Culture Club (fact check: this is true). He’s not put off by the booing rednecks, either, though his first impression of the dance hall isn’t the best. He and the band go out and start their set. Of course, the crowd falls in love with them.

When the trouble starts and Face, Hannibal, and BA get thrown in jail, the not-sheriff interrupts the show to tell the crowd what happened to their payroll, hoping to work up a lynch mob. It’s Boy George to the rescue. He acts quickly, going to the radio station where Murdock has locked himself in a booth to both get publicity for the Culture Club shows, and to also play every Lennon Sisters song he can get access to.

The two of them then break into a shop because they need some supplies and a plan to save the guys. Murdock struggles to pick the lock, even when Boy George provides him with a bobby pin. In the end, Boy George just kicks the door in. He even has a funny quip!

Murdock: See, a really honest man doesn’t really have an appetite for this sort of thing.

Boy George: Yeah, but who needs honesty?

Isn’t that great?!

Murdock gets the idea to smuggle some explosives into the besieged jail by dressing up as the pregnant wife of one of the guys and Boy George gives helpful critiques of Murdock’s clothing choices.

Boy George rides along after the jailbreak to stop the bad guys at the airport. And then he and Culture Club perform one final song for a very pleased crowd of cowboys.

I know. It sounds ludicrous. It shouldn’t work at all. And it probably would fall absolutely flat if not for Boy George being slightly amused the whole time. It’s not that he doesn’t take any of it seriously. He’s not goofing nor is he acting like it’s all beneath him. He comes across as very oh-you-crazy-yanks bemused and decides to enjoy the craziness. He gets the spirit of a show in which cars flip and explode and the people in them crawl out looking a little disoriented and disheveled.

Boy George brings the joy to the episode. Pure, blessed joy.

And we are all better for it.

Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Victor Buono

Oh, Victor Buono, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.

Funny, campy, witty, clever, a man whose presence was more than his size, this lover of Shakespeare dedicated himself to his craft in a way that let him fully embody a character, even take it over the top (and in some cases way over the top), yet never take himself too seriously nor lose credibility with the audience in the process.

Obviously, if Batman was the only rerun I’d ever seen Victor Buono in, that would be enough. His King Tut is my favorite Batman villain and with good reason. He embraces the camp of the show, revels in it. He bellows, he insults, he bosses, he throws tantrums. He goes from joyful to angry and back again. He thinks torture is good clean fun. He is royalty. Every line is quotable and so much of it is in King Tut’s delivery. My personal favorite is “My queen is disloyal, my handmaiden is a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!” It’s delivered as only Victor Buono can.

Though he never made it onto The Green Hornet, Mr. Buono did guest start in two other short-lived series starring Van Williams, Burbon Street Beat and Surfside 6.

And Batman wasn’t the only show in which he was a recurring character. He also did six episodes of the short-lived (I’m sensing a theme) series Man from Atlantis and six episodes on the longer-lived series Vega$.

He also did a couple of episodes as Count Manzeppi on my beloved The Wild Wild West (including an episode with Richard Pryor in one of his first TV acting appearances), however, Victor Buono also appeared in the pilot episode of the series in the bizarre role of a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man. I will repeat that because it bears repeating. White Victor Buono played a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man.

The ’60s were wild.

Speaking of the ’60s, those were busy guest star times for Mr. Buono. He appeared on Westerns Sugarfoot, The Rebel, and Daniel Boone; had some watery fun on Seahunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; went undercover on The Man from UNCLE, The Girl from UNCLE, and I Spy; found himself on various sides of the law in Hawaiian EyeThe Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, and Perry Mason; and  he found time to thrill on Thriller and visit The Flying Nun.

Lucky for me, Mr. Buono graced Hawaii Five-O with his presence, playing a European master criminal after a rare Liberty head nickel. I believe this is also the episode that features the husband and wife in charming matching outfits. Only that could challenge the presence of Victor Buono and Jack Lord together onscreen.

Though he never made it on The Love Boat, Mr. Buono did manage to board Super Train and land on Fantasy Island. He also browsed The Night Gallery; again tangled with the law on The Mod Squad, Mannix, and Ellery Queen; and generated more than a few laughs on Here’s Lucy, The Odd Couple, and Alice.

One of his more memorable sitcom turns was on Taxi, playing Reverend Jim Ignatowski’s father, Mr. Caldwell, despite being only 8 months older than Christopher Lloyd. It was a naturally funny, but also sweet role, one that Taxi acknowledged in a later episode. After Victor Buono died of a heart attack in 1982, Reverend Jim’s father did, too.

 

 

 

Though Victor Buono died tragically early (only 43), we are left with a wealth of guest spots on some great reruns to enjoy. An immortal gift if there ever was one.

Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Jeanette Nolan

Jeanette NolanMe-TV has been showing holiday episodes of various shows, not all of which they carry on their usual line-up which is great, and I’ve been watching some of them.  Last week I caught a Christmas episode of MacGyver and it reminded me that I needed to write a guest star post about the wonderful Jeanette Nolan, who is pretty great in that ep.

Jeanette Nolan has 200 credits listed on the IMDB and most of them are TV shows. There is plenty of chances to catch this wonderful character actress in reruns, especially if you like Westerns because I think she was in every Western TV show that ever aired. That’s a slight exaggeration because she was never on Big Valley or High Chaparral, but she did do a whole lot, including: The Restless Gun, Lawman, The Rough Riders, Black Saddle, The Rebel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Bat Masterson, Outlaws, Have Gun-Will Travel, Laramie, Wagon Train (with her husband John McIntire), A Man Called Shenandoah, Bonanza, Laredo, The Virginian (she did 27 episodes as a recurring character), Alias Smith and Jones, and Gunsmoke (which I will talk about more in a minute).

The woman had a niche for a good long while. Part of that was probably due to the fact that both she and her husband sort of specialized in playing characters that were much older than they actually were. You need an older, spitfire of a woman on the prairie, then you get Jeanette Nolan. Because there seems to be a touch of spitfire to every character I’ve seen her play and I’m not complaining about that.

Jeanette Nolan as Dirty SallyJeanette Nolan plays one of my favorite characters in all of the reruns I watch or have watched. Dirty Sally is a recurring character on Gunsmoke (she was in 8 episodes, three of them playing Dirty Sally, but the rest of them playing different characters, including Festus’s aunt, I believe) and she ended up getting her own series called Dirty Sally that only ran for 14 episodes and I’m sorry I’ve yet to see it. Dirty Sally is a fabulous character. A dirty, old, toothless woman that uses chewing tobacco and tells everyone what she thinks and saves Dack Rambo and pals around with drunk Jack Albertson in various episodes. It’s an incredibly fun character and Jeanette Nolan owns it with every fiber of her being. She made herself look toothless and about twenty years older than she actually was. Fantastic.

But a good character actress, and Jeanette Nolan is a good character actress, cannot be contained. So along with all of the Westerns, she also did a lot of police/detective shows including: Dragnet (1958), Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, Hawaiian Eye, Hawaii Five-0 (a nifty episode that I like a lot), Ironside, the Longstreet pilot (how I miss TV movie night on Me-TV), Mannix, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman, Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, TJ Hooker, Matt Houston, Cagney and Lacey, and Hunter.

If you like medical shows, she did Ben Casey, Marcus Welby MD, Dr. Kildare, Medical Center, Trapper John MD, and Emergency! (her character in that episode is a woman spending her 80th birthday in the hospital; she would have been 61 when the episode aired).

Jeanette Nolan on Golden GirlsIf you prefer family friendly fare, she was on Lassie, My Three Sons, The Mothers-in-Law, and The Waltons. If your family is weird, you can find her on Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery. If your family is funny, she appeared on F-Troop, Night Court, and Golden Girls (playing Rose’s mother even though she was only 11 years older than Betty White).

And if none of that excites you, then perhaps knowing that she did both Love Boat and Fantasy Island will.

Because we all know that’s gold.

And so is Jeanette Nolan.

Rerun Junkie–Guest Stars: Virginia Gregg

Guest stars are the underrated necessity to any TV show. Someone has to be a victim, be a villain, be a good guy, be a witness, be a friend, be a bystander, be a customer. In short, the main cast needs someone else to interact with on occasion just to keep things interesting.

I have a list of my favorite guest stars that I think are worthy of posts of their own. These are my people.

Virginia Gregg
http://www.virginiagregg.com

On any given day of the week, it’s entirely possible that I’ll see Virginia Gregg on one of my reruns. Sometimes it seems like she was on every show ever made for about thirty years. Sometimes it seems like I see her every day of the week.

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing.

It’s also not too far off from impossible.

When I played my Me-TV guest star game last fall, the only person that had more guest appearances on the shows of the fall line-up was Vitto Scotti. When I said Virginia Gregg was in everything, I’m not really exaggerating the truth by much.

Of the current Me-TV summer line-up, she’s in 72 episodes of 22 of the shows.

So, yeah, it’s not far-fetched to possibly see her every day in a given week on this one channel.

She was a favorite of Jack Webb’s so she was in Dragnet (both TV incarnations, two movies, AND the radio version), Emergency!, and Adam-12 (13, 8, and 6 episodes, respectively). With Westerns as popular as they were back in the day she did Gunsmoke (didn’t everyone?), Bonanza, Big Valley, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wagon Train, The Rebel, Daniel Boone, and Rawhide. Detective shows? Try Streets of San Francisco, Mod Squad, Cannon, and The Rockford Files. She was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Thriller, and The Twilight Zone. Perry Mason and The Fugitive. And lest you think she could only do drama, she was on episodes of Happy Days and Make Room for Daddy.

And those are just shows on ONE station.

You can witness her fabulousness on Mission: Impossible, Ironside, My Three Sons, Charlie’s Angels, Marcus Welby MD, Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Bold Ones: The New Doctors, The Virginian, Maverick, Alias Smith and Jones, and so many more (I just listed shows I watch).

www.virginiagregg.com
http://www.virginiagregg.com

Being on so many shows, she’s played a variety of characters. The easiest way to get a sample of her range is to watch her episodes of Dragnet ’67. She played a cynical journalist, a gypsy grifter, the wife of a wounded veteran police officer, a no-nonsense secretary, the head of a pyramid scheme, a robbed candy store employee, a widow attempting insurance fraud, a gambler’s wife, a business owner not impressed with crime prevention, and a woman trying to get two police officers in trouble, just to name more than a few.

My personal favorite of her appearances, though, was on an episode of Adam-12 in which she bashed her own car because she was mad at her husband for drinking all the time. She wailed on that thing. It was impressive. And fun.

And so is Miss Virginia Gregg.

Be sure to catch her. She’s on any given day of the week.

Rerun Junkie–The Guest Star Game

Star Cluster

I watch a lot of reruns, as you may know. Most of the time, my TV is tuned to Me-TV for my rerun junkie needs. Because I watch that station so much during the day, it’s not unusual for me to see the same guest star faces several times during the day. Some actors got around A LOT and some were kept very busy by television.

As such, I’ve developed my favorite guest stars, faces I’ve love to see pop up on my shows (but that’s another post). And since I’ve gotten so good at recognizing the faces that other people might not notice, it’s led me down the road to other thinky thoughts.

For example, one weekend I was bored off of my rocker and as I was watching my reruns I suddenly wondered who had been in the most shows that were on the current Me-TV fall line-up. My guess was Virginia Gregg because that woman was in EVERYTHING. It’s not uncommon for me to go a couple of weeks in a row and see her pop up somewhere at least once a day.

Then my thought went a little further. How many guest stars would it take to represent the current Me-TV fall line-up?  What’s the fewest number I could come up with?

And so the game was born.

I started off with the guest stars I thought I saw all of the time: Virginia Gregg, J. Pat O’Malley, Dabbs Greer, Kevin Hagen, Vitto Scotti, and went from there, adding and researching new names as I came across them. It turns out that Vitto Scotti was in more of the shows than Virginia Gregg, but the two of them combined covered most of the line-up. After that it was just filling in the blanks.

So far the game stands at 11 as my lowest. Eleven guest stars cover 65 shows.

Some shows are harder than others to find one of my familiar faces on and oddly, some of the shows were surprising in their difficulty.

But the game continues. I’m sure that if I pay attention and keep researching, I’ll be able to get that number down under ten. I’m just sure of it.

And when the schedule changes in the spring, like I”m sure it will, I’ll start the game all over again to account for the change.

Okay, yes, this is a pretty geeky timewaster, I admit that. It’s taking rerun junkie to a new limit.

I’m an overachiever.