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10 Future Stars Who Appeared on '80s Crime Shows

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Long before these stars were even a twinkle in a tabloid editor's eye, they built their resumes—and their acting chops—by guest starring in '80s crime shows.

1. Bryan Cranston — Matlock, "The Gift"

In a pre-Walter White world, Bryan Cranston plays an innocent man defended by the show’s titular hero, Ben Matlock.  This 1987 holiday-themed episode, part of the show's second season, even gets Cranston dressed in a Santa suit (he is charged with murdering his ex-wife during her Christmas party). To make things even sappier, the poor innocent man goes on trial because he was trying to visit his daughter. Prepare to get gooey over this episode full of holiday cheer. (Fun fact: Cranston would guest star on Matlock again, this time as a marriage counselor, in the 1991 episode "The Marriage Counselor.")

2. George Clooney — Murder She Wrote, "No Laughing Murder"

George Clooney has appeared in so many small roles that we could dedicate an entire “Before He Was Famous” post just to him. In fact, in 1987, he made appearances in two of the year’s top 10 shows (Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote). In Murder She Wrote, Clooney’s character gets engaged to the daughter of his father’s sworn enemy. Their weekend celebration at his future father-in-law’s retreat sets the scene for murder. Clooney has very little screen time, as Angela Lansbury was the main attraction. Oh, how the times have changed.

3. Liam Neeson — Miami Vice, "When Irish Eyes Are Crying"

Most people know Liam Neeson as a serious actor (Schindler’s List) who reinvented himself into an action hero (Taken). But we’re willing to bet most people can’t recall him on the '80s TV phenomenon, Miami Vice. Playing an IRA terrorist who romances Gina, a Miami detective, Neeson’s character meets a dramatic end by the episode’s conclusion.  What’s the funniest part of his appearance?  Neeson got the role by flirting with a casting director while he was in New York visiting Robert DeNiro.

4. Ed O'Neill — Hunter, "The Garbage Man"

A few years before Modern Family patriarch Ed O’Neill landed his breakthrough role on Married…with Children, he played a parole officer-turned-vigilante on a 1985 episode of Hunter. O’Neill had previously auditioned for the role of Sam Malone on Cheers, as had Hunter star Fred Dryer. And since Dryer played professional football for 13 years and Ed got cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers while in training camp, there might be some sort of “Six Degrees of Ed O’Neill” game in there somewhere…

5. Cuba Gooding Jr. — MacGyver, "The Challenge"

Forget about the Jerry Maguire catchphrases and his Oscar speech—nothing compares to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s MacGyver appearances in the late '80s/early '90s. In a multi-episode arc, Gooding Jr. portrayed Billy Colton, member of the Colton bounty hunting family; "The Challenge" was the episode that caught our attention, mostly because of jokes on the Internet about MacGyver’s dramatic confrontation of a racist (see video above). Try as he may somehow Cuba Gooding Jr. will never escape being part of pop culture’s punch lines—even when he’s not acting crazy.

6. Kathy Bates — Cagney and Lacey, "Revenge"

Kathy Bates has done it all: She won an Oscar for Misery, directed episodes of HBO's Six Feet Under, had a few flops (North and American Outlaws) ... and had a guest-starring role in a 1986 episode of Cagney and Lacey. Bates appears as a domestic abuse victim that refuses to press charges against her husband. When he ends up dead, Bates becomes one of many possible suspects. Though she has very little screen time, you can see the makings of a star.

7. Don Cheadle — Hill Street Blues, "Days of Swine and Roses"

When Don Cheadle was first starting out as an actor, he appeared in one episode of Hill Street Blues, playing a mentally ill man trying to reunite with his mother and sister. Though the episode feels dated—down to the police team trying out a computer in their car—Cheadle’s work is absolutely fresh. Special Bonus: Cuba Gooding Jr. has a “blink-and-you-miss-it" spot as a kid letting a pig loose in the police station.

8. Sean Bean — The Bill, "Long Odds"

Photo courtesy of Ship of Dreams

One of Game of Thrones star Sean Bean's earliest acting roles was that of an armed robber on a 1984 episode of the long-running British TV series set in London’s Sun Hill police station, The Bill. His character, Horace Clark, merrily escaped and left his partner to take the fall when the cops showed up during a post office robbery.

9. Sharon Stone — Remington Steele, "Steele Crazy After All These Years"

Remington Steele is well known as the show that shot Pierce Brosnan into fame. It also happens to be a series that featured Sharon Stone pre-Basic Instinct crotch shot. Since we all know Stone’s reputation now, it’s no surprise she was featured in an episode titled “Steele Crazy After All These Years.” Annie Potts is clearly the main guest star here, but Stone’s turn as a university homecoming queen—though it was only two scenes—was crucial, bizarre, and glamorous, just like Stone herself.

10. Brad Pitt — 21 Jump Street, "Best Years of Your Life"

We all know Johnny Depp rose to fame as an undercover police officer busting high school students on 21 Jump Street. How else could he have landed inside the pages of Tiger Beat? Unfortunately, though, Tiger Beat missed documenting Brad Pitt’s guest starring spot on the show. In the episode "Best Years of Your Life," Pitt plays exactly who you would expect—a letter jacket-wearing high school jock with a handsome face and terrible '80s hair. Don’t expect good times, though; the episode centered around teen suicide. Though seeing Pitt sit across the lunchroom table from Depp, pre-major stardom, definitely has its appeal.

BONUS: Matthew McConaughey — Unsolved Mysteries, "Texas' Most Wanted"

Photo courtesy of Total Film

Technically, we can't include this on the list because the episode in question aired in 1992. But we had to include it!

Before the world ever thought about Matthew McConaughey getting older and high school girls staying the same age (see Dazed and Confused) or the phrase “McConaissance,” they were watching the southern charmer play a Texan murder victim. As Unsolved Mysteries spent each week reenacting crimes and the unexplainable, they also unwittingly unleashed this oft-shirtless talent onto the world. In good news, the killer portrayed in McConaughey’s reenactment was eventually caught. Acting can save lives!

Additional Source: TV by the Numbers

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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