Top Five Fridays: Big Stars (Pre-Big Break) Small-Screen Parts

by Beal

Long before they were red carpet royalty, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars paid their dues on the small screen, in bit parts that reluctant agents scored for them, probably cashing in on some misbegotten favor. These stars were the nameless/faceless guest actors that viewers forgot about before the credits even rolled. Few could ever have predicted that these borderline talentless and fairly nondescript individuals would someday plague the covers of celebrity tabloids, let alone receive Oscars or become international superstars. Somehow though, they did, in turn keeping the dream alive for every common looking service worker in Los Angeles who auditions by day and sells their soul by night, trying to become the next:

5. Sandra Bullock in “Working Girl” 12 episodes (1990)

working_girlI admit, I have zero recollection of this program. Perhaps thats because it was on when I was in kindergarten and lasted less than one season. Still! It looks AMAZING. Apparently based on the film of the same name (which starred Melanie Griffith), this sitcom featured Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill in the misadventures of an office secretary (such potential). I’m half upset that this show was cancelled in what I can only guess was its prime, but mostly thrilled because Speed totally changed my life, and could not have done so without the incomparable Ms. Bullock. Thank you Sandy, for paying your dues, the gentleman at Orange County Choppers could not be happier.


4. Tom Hanks in “Happy Days” 1 episode (1982)

MV5BMTg5MDA1MTQ1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTkyNTY3._V1._SX285_SY400_Yea, yea, we all know that Tom Hanks got his first big break in Bosom Buddies (1980-1982), but apparently it wasn’t big enough. After its two year run, Hanks was back to guest spots, appearing in shows like Taxi, Happy Days, and Family Ties. We loved him in The Money Pit, The ‘burbs, Bachelor Party, Punchline, Big and Turner & Hooch and even those were before he turned tow and became one of the greatest actors ever, garnering Oscar nominations (and wins) left and right in the late 1990’s. I mean, I think we all remember where we were when Forrest Gump hit the water! Still, I like to remember Hanks in his earlier years, when Henry Winkler got a bigger applause.


3. Julia Roberts in “Miami Vice” 1 episode 1988

julia-roberts-youngImagine a day when Don Johnson was more relevant than Julia Roberts. When he rolled up the sleeves of his white sport coat to open hoards of fan mail while she bopped around L.A. in some hoopty ride looking for work. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In the 1990’s she reigned queen supreme of the romantic comedy (or did Meg Ryan? Does it matter?) She was among the first women to receive more than $5 million for a single picture and continues to be one of the most recognized superstars in all of Hollywood. I must confess, I’m not the biggest Julia fan, nor have I seen most of what she’s done in the last decade, but for better or worse Pretty Woman remains on my list of favorite movies of all time. Give me a break. After all, someone gave her this one:


2. Brad Pitt in “Dallas” 4 episodes (1987-1988)

060607_bradpitt_400X400I find it hard to believe that this guy wasn’t just plucked off the street with his striking good looks and no-effort hair to star as a heart throb in a major motion picture (he began as a movie extra, according to rumor and to IMDB, which has three “unconfirmed” Brad Pitt appearances prior to his career beginning guest spot on Another World) but lo and behold, this guy paid his dues just like the rest of those Hollywood schlubs. All along, I had been under the impression that this guy’s FIRST part was as the cowboy in Thelma & Louise, but he appeared in 21 Jump Street, Head of the Class, Growing Pains and thirtysomething prior to that. Perhaps it’s my recent obsession with the Ewing family and anything that goes down at the South Fork Ranch that drew me to this clip, but I love it. Brad plays Randy, who is dating little Charlie who appeared as a small child in season one, the daughter of Bobby’s old flame, Morgan Fairchild. Ten years later, it appears that she’s all grown up, figured out that the foreman is her real father and Fairchild is nowhere to be found. Twenty years later Brad Pitt would become BRAD fucking Pitt, and little Charlie, well she NEVER WORKED AGAIN!


1. Ben Stiller in “Miami Vice” 1 episode (1987)

4068658I don’t even like Ben Stiller. In fact, I actively dislike him. However, he somehow made his way into some of my favorite movies of all time like Reality Bites and Heavyweights, so I try my best to forgive him. I even read his book (which he co-wrote with my favorite, Janeane Garofalo) but even that only served to make me hate him more. I don’t know what it is. I laughed heartily at Tropic Thunder, but still, I cannot bring myself to like this guy. There is just something about him, something I can’t put my finger on. It’s like, he has this schtick, that apparently is super hilarious (as evidenced by my never having gone a single day without someone referencing Zoolander only to be horrified when I say, “I like, don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh Zoolander? Hated it.”) but that I  just “don’t get.” However, when I found this clip, it all made sense. I don’t hate Ben Stiller! I hate (Fast) Eddie Felcher, who Stiller’s been playing, evidently, since 1987. 


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