Binge viewing of shows on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the many other channels available for such a distinctly 21st century change in the way we watch television is not just limited to shows currently on networks. In fact, one of the great things about binge viewing on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu as well as the great public domain networks like Pub-D-Hub and Retrovision is the potential for watching much older television shows. And one of the fun things about watching older television shows is the opportunity afforded to catch your favorite contemporary stars before they were stars.
You just never know where your favorite star will turn up when you engage in a little binge viewing on channels from Netflix to Pub-D-Hub. For instance, if you were to commence a binge viewing marathon of “Murder, She Wrote” you would need to get no further than the pilot movie to catch a very early appearance by a very young alumnus of the Godfather Saga. At one point, dear old Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher character ignores advice to not go into a particular area of New York City at night because of the unsavory element. Naturally enough, her curiosity to solve a crime soon turns her into a potential victim of crime herself; namely a mugging by two young street punks. And guess who one of these punks was played by? A pre- Untouchables Andy Garcia playing very roughly with Angela Lansbury. Of course, he didn’t really seem all that tough and I think Angela Lansbury could have taken him if he’d been alone. Fortunately a sinister character who turns out to be a friendly kind of guy helped get Jessica out of her jam.
You could complete the entire run of “The Adventures of the Ellery Queen” in a binge viewing marathon taking place over a weekend. Shows from the 1970s like “The Adventures of Ellery Queen” are a terrific place to find your favorite stars in unexpected places because back then there was nothing TV but episodic television and it was a prime training ground for young talent. Trust me on this one, younglings: three or four decades from now you are not going to find Honey Boo Boo or your favorite pawn shop owners or swamp people or duck call shills popping up in movies. In other words, you are wasting precious time following the entirely scripted travails of these unpleasantly creepy so-called “real people.” If there any justice in the world, you won’t find any so-called Reality TV show “star” in any movie made at any time from this point forward.
Justice can be cruel, so I won’t be surprised to find some idiotic housewife from Atlanta revealing a hilarious lack of acting talent in some movie types by the likes of Danny McBride or Seth MacFarlane.
Anyway, back to “The Adventures of Ellery Queen.” Who should pop up playing a diner waitress in one scene with about ten words of dialogue but that mother of E.T. and victim of Cujo herself, Dee Wallace Stone? Of course, back then she was merely Dee Wallace.
Clearly Dee Wallace Stone is hardly a movie star even of the caliber of Andy Garcia who, let’s be honest, has probably seen the peak of his career already two decades past in the rear view mirror. But her case is what makes binge viewing of told TV shows in search of modern day stars so fascinating. How did Dee Wallace go from such a small part in just one episode of a low-rated show like “Ellery Queen” to starring in films directed by Steven Spielberg or based on a novel by Stephen King in the span of just five years? Let’s face it: in most cases parts barely qualifying as speaking roles are not given to actors who will one day front such big name productions.
Most of his fans know that Leonardo DiCaprio got his big break with a fairly substantial guest part on “Growing Pains” but how many have ever spotted him in a schoolroom with Darlene on an episode of “Roseanne”? And how many fans of “Pulp Fiction” ever spotted Quentin Tarantino as one of about a dozen Elvis impersonators on an episode of “The Golden Girls.” Binge viewing of TV shows is all the rage thanks to the availability of entire seasons of shows on Netflix, Amazon Instant and such. One of the fun ways in which this availability can be exploited is to watch old shows from the glory days of openly scripted shows needing a steady supply of guest stars and play the game of who can spot the future star in the most ungloriously small of roles.