Disappearing TV stars

Inspired by this thread, I got to thinking about the show Real People.

It was a very popular show for more than a few years, maybe even top ten, yet none of the “stars” ever did anything memorable again. There was Byron, the whitest black guy in history, Skip, the whitest white guy in history, and Sarah (?), who was the chick. All of them disappeared as soon as the show did.

What other shows and stars were there that followed the same path? They had to be very highly rated and none of the stars did anything remotely popular again.

I thought of the Brady Bunch, but the remembered the parents. I don’t think any of the kids had a career in TV after the show ended.

That’s typical of child stars. Look at Jerry Mathers . . . oh, right, he died in Vietnam from eating pop rocks. :wink:

Considering how acclaimed the series was, the cast of Hill Street Blues were particularly unsucessful. Many did have careers, but no one really broke out to stardom other than Dennis Franz, and that was many years later.

Not entirely true.

Byron Allen has a sort of celebrity interview show that seem to pop up totally randomly. Peter Billinsley went on to A Christmas Story (among other things). Fred Willard still does movie roles, most notably in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries. And Mark Russell did monthly musical satire revues on PBS for years.

And I would swear I remember Sarah Purcell from something else, but according to the IMDb, it was before Real People.

The Cosby Show, arguably the most successful television show of the 1980s, has yielded few to no returns for its’ young cast. Malcolm Jamaal Warner has had some parts and Lisa Bonet had a couple of movie roles and her own short-lived spinoff (which she left after 1 season), but the rest of the Cosby kids have vanished from the face of the earth.

Sarah Purcell used to be in some syndicated morning talk show…I watched it daily in the early 90’s but darned if I can remember the name of it. I think Gary Collins was also on it…maybe The Home Show or something like that??

I always liked how she ended the show by saying “Make it a good day”

Byron Allen’s worked pretty steadily since his Real People days. As has Fred Willard. And of course Peter Billingsley has one very memorable credit and is also apparently a pretty active producer.

The cast of Gilligan’s Island has to rank pretty high on the list of TV shows whose casts went on to do nothing. I can’t think of anything any of them did after G.I. that wasn’t G.I.-related. At least a couple of the Brady kids made some non-Brady TV movies.

Damn you Robot Arm. Damn you to Hell.

At least I linked, you bastard.

I didn’t even know Fred Willard was on the show. I only remember the three hosts I mentioned.

I know that everyone has had some sort of a career after the show, but what I find surprising is they left a top-ranked show and never had any major success after that. Most stars these days will spin off into another show or make films or something, but rarely do they disappear. Other top shows from that era like MASH or Three’s Company or Taxi or The Jeffersons all had stars that went on to more great things.

Growing Pains

Lou Grant (one exception: Nancy Marchand had a late-in-life comeback as the ultimate Mommy Dearest on The Sopranos, though Ed Asner must have a record for most flopped series since this one was cancelled,)

Northern Exposure (I don’t count Anthony Edwards since he was only a recurring character)

Family Matters

Murphy Brown

Mr. Belvedere

Gimme a Break

Perfect Strangers


Gilligan’s Island


The Love Boat

All of the above lasted several seasons, and all had actors who went on to do other things, but the other things (save for Nancy Marchand as Livia) were in lesser vehicles that never approached the popularity of the series listed.

Heh. Only if you don’t have kids!

MJW is one of the voices of The Magic School Bus (he plays the producer) and Raven-Symone has her own show on Disney.

Granted, it ain’t exactly Masterpiece Theater, but they’re working!

Well, see, I disagree with this. My feeling is that more series stars disappear than go on to additional projects. Of course I don’t have a lot to back this up with since I pretty much don’t watch a great deal of episodic television any more. Of what I do watch, my feeling is that few if any of the stars will go on to much else. I don’t see anyone from Queer as Folk, for example, going on to additional projects very quickly, with the possible exceptions of Hal Sparks (because he’ll swipe something else from the British and produce/star in it) and Peter Paige.

Who from MASH went on to great things? Alan Alda has continued a movie career and Mike Farrell showed up on Providence some 15 years after the end of MASH but I can’t think of anything besides the wretched spin-off where I’ve seen anyone else on a regular basis. All but two of the Three’s Company cast vanished without trace. Same goes for The Jeffersons. From Taxi, about half the cast has faded from view.

Oh let’s see, who else? Diff’rent Strokes, no survivors. The Facts of Life, no survivors (with the possible exception of Nancy McKeon, and excluding recurring George Clooney). LA Law, no survivors except Alan Rachins and Harry Hamlin (excluding the guy who plays Kragen on SVU since he was a recurring character). Family Ties, no survivors except Michael J. Fox. That’s Incredible, no survivors. Welcome Back Kotter, no survivors except John Travolta.

I stand corrected EJ…and as the father of a 3-year-old no less! He watches *The Magic School Bus * every now and again; I had no idea MJM was involved. I forgot about Raven…never seen the show but see the promos now and again.

Skip Stephenson died in 1992.

I’ve gotta agree with Otto. I can think of only a handful of actors that went on to do anything from most of the shows I used to watch. You could make a case that a few went on to careers as TV episode directors (Charles Haid, Tim Reid, Ted Wass) but the majority certainly never appeared in front of the camera with anything approaching regularity. Other than the ones mentioned:

WKRP in Cincinnati
Loni Anderson - a few forgettable roles, some extra spotlight due to relationship with Burt Reynolds
Howard Hessman - some other show as a teacher whose name I forget, then nothing
Gordon Jump - Maytag repairman
Herb, Les, Andy, Bailey, Venus: zilch (unless you count a few reprising their roles on the short-lived “New WKRP”)

Billy Crystal
(a little more celebrity) Richard Mulligan, Katherine Hellman, Robert Guillaume.
Everyone else - total obscurity. Granted there are more “names” from this one, but the actual cast was enormous. Counting the character names I can still remember, I’m up to 10 on IMDb jsut going down the list.

Barney Miller
Hal Linden - a few decent roles in other TV series.
Abe Vigoda - his own spin-off that lasted one season, then some fame, probably due more to being Tessio than anything else. (Beastie Boys lyrics excluded)
Wojo, Harris, Deitrich, Luger, everyone else: zilch.

Night Court
Nobody of note has done anything. Dave Anderson had some flop as Dave Berry, Markie Post had a small role in There’s Something About Mary, but everyone else - obscurity.

90210, Melrose Place
Luke Perry - some cowboy movie, small role in Fifth Element
Shannon Doherty - Charmed, tabloids
Tori Spelling - tabloids
Everyone else - occasional story mostly focusing on how ridiculous they were then / “where are they now” type stuff.

Robert Guillaume starred in the Soap spin-off Benson and later in IIRC News Night. The other Catherine (Jessica) was on Who’s the Boss? with Tony Danza (and from there Alyssa Milano has gone on to Charmed).

John LaRoquette had a series that lasted a couple of seasons, in which he played someone who worked in a bus depot.

Jason Priestly has had a number of lead roles in smaller indie films, and Tori Spelling’s done several key supporting roles. Brian Austin Green had a recurring role on an HBO series. Tiffany Thiesen had that cop series with Peter Facinelli on Fox. Gabrielle Cartaris had a talk show.

Melrose has had a bit of a mini-boom in career revivals lately. Marcia Cross and Doug Savant are on Desperate Housewives and Daphne Zuniga has a series this fall. Before that Heather Locklear was on Spin City and was/is on LAX (not sure if that’s still on the air). The chick who played Sydney was on the great ABC show Eyes which was apparently cancelled after about four episodes, thanks a lot ABC.

Aye, that’s why I said “a little more celebrity” - they’ve had a little more, but not at the level of Billy Crystal. In fact, all of your examples are still what I’d consider “the majority certainly never appeared in front of the camera with anything approaching regularity.” (Wasn’t I agreeing with you? ;))

I think a more difficult thread would be “what TV stars went on to have huge careers in Movies” - Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks, John Travolta, etc.

Come to think of it, I think I once started a CS thread about that very thing. Hold on a sec…

…damn, that took some work. Biggest movie star to come from a sitcom?.

No, no. The Love Boat is where all the forgotten stars of these shows went to.

I guess I’m not understanding your criteria then. Katherine Hellmond (which is who you and I both meant) was on Soap until 1981. She started Who’s the Boss? in 1982 and was on until it ended in 1992. So for 14 years she was on TV pretty much every week of the regular season, in addition to doing close to two dozen other roles on TV and in movies (including Time Bandits and Brazil). After WTB she has about a dozen more credits including a recurring role on Coach for three seasons. There are probably tens of thousands of actors who would be deleriously happy with that sort of “little more celebrity.”

Ron Glass is Book on Firefly, and the upcoming Serenity. That is all he needs ever do. :smiley:

Not to mention a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond for quite a few years as Deborah’s mother.

And Harry Anderson’s show Dave’s World lasted four years, so it wasn’t that big a flop, apparently.

Also, there was at least one survivor of Diff’rent Strokes: Dixie Carter, who resurfaced with a smash hit in the 90s.