Hey — if Richie and Laverne and Meathead can do it, why can’t every other television star from the ’70s and ’80s become a famous movie director? While former TV actors Ron Howard (Happy Days), Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley), and Rob Reiner (All in the Family) soak up the glory as big-screen filmmakers, there’s another group of small-screen veterans who have struggled for acceptance as auteurs, ending up in video-shelf anonymity. Here’s an overview of some of their works, with a look at how their episodic pasts may have informed — consciously or otherwise —their feature-film presentations.
Notable TV Role: Orthodondist Jerry Robinson, The Bob Newhart Show Motion Picture Achievement: Police Academy 6: City Under Sege, yet another mindless, profoundly unfunny retread of the tired inept-officer formula Influence of TV Experience: Scummy character gets clocked in the mouth by clumsy cue-stick-wielding cop; gas (not nitrous oxide but the poison variety) is pumped into a locked room.
Notable TV Role: Game-show host, Win, Lose or Draw Motion Picture Achievement: Weekend Warriors, a rude service comedy set in 1961, when Hollywood misfits avoided the draft by aiding the Air National Guard Influence of TV Experience: One character, a gossip columnist, is exposed in voice-over as having a ”way” with women, men, chickens, and those ubiquitous game-show prizes, vacuum cleaners.
Notable TV Role: Law student Thomas Anderson, The Paper Chase Motion Picture Achievement: The Bounty Hunter, a dismal action flick starring Ginty as Duke Evans, a bounty hunter who avenges the murder of a ‘Nam buddy Influence of TV Experience: In the pursuit of baddies, Evans has yet to demonstrate his comprehension of the letter of the law, as he endangers the lives of pedestrians and trespasses on private property.
Notable TV Role: Benevolent paterfamilias John Walton, The Waltons Motion Picture Achievement: On the Nickel, a mawkish drama about skid-row bums in Los Angeles, written by, produced by, and costarring Waite Influence of TV Experience: Employment opportunity for actress Ellen Geer, daughter of Will Geer (Grandpa on The Waltons). Salty dialogue seems a response to Waite’s long exposure to The Waltons‘ stifling wholesomeness.
Notable TV Role: Domineering mother Ida Morgenstern, Rhoda Motion Picture Achievement: Can’t Stop the Music, the gaudy musical-comedy extravaganza starring the Village People, Valerie Perrine, and Bruce Jenner Influence of TV Experience: After having menschlike Harold Gould as her TV hubby and ursine David Groh as her son-in-law, Walker must have been relieved to film a bunch of muscular guys in the buff for one scene.
Notable TV Role: Clean-cut, dull-witted high schooler Potsie Weber, Happy Days Motion Picture Achievement: All American Murder, a seamy, ludicrous whodunit — with lots of gratuitous nudity — set on a college campus Influence of TV Experience: Clean-cut, quick-witted collegiate protagonist (Charlie Schlatter) makes it with the dean’s wife, a fantasy no doubt dogged the perpetually love-lorn Potsie.