Penn Hills actor wins role in NBC comedy
By Barbara Holsopple
The Pittsburgh Press
HOLLYWOOD - NBC's Friday night lineup of a talking car and TV's sexiest vice squad also will include, come fall, a 7-foot-2 former Penn Hills basketball player with the ability to shrink himself to Barbie doll size.
Kevin Peter Hall co-stars with Dean Paul Martin in "Misfits of Science," an adventure-comedy series designed to bridge the 9 p.m. slot between "Knight Rider" and "Miami Vice."
The show's two leads play scientists who flee the laboratory environment to tackle evil and injustice. Their compatriots usually will be, ah, misfits of science.
Hall's character has been experimenting with growth hormones, and he's discovered a serum that allows him to shrink to knee-size.
As ludicrous as the role may seem, Hall is happy with it.
"When I saw I wasn't going to be cast as a basketball player, I was excited," he said. "When you're 7-foot-2 and black, they don't know how to think about you except as a basketball player."
Hall played basketball at Penn Hills High School and then went to George Washington University on an athletic scholarship. After graduation in 1977, he played professionally in Venezuela for a year. While in college he majored in drama and speech.
"I've been in Hollywood for the past seven years, and it's been a struggle to go from a basketball center to the monster in the closet."
"Monster in the Closet" actually was the title of a movie in which he starred. Between playing monsters and basketball players, he and a 5-foot-6-inch college buddy, Jay Fenichel, perfected a musical comedy act. They still play local clubs.
Hall was spotted by "Misfits of Science" producer James D. Parriott in a production of "Moby Dick" last summer at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Hall played Queequeg, the whaler.
His character in the new TV series is referred to as being 7 feet 4 inches tall. "That's what the script said, and I didn't see any reason to change it for 2 inches," said Parriott.
The two-hour "Misfits" pilot introduces characters that make Hall's role seem almost normal.
Picture this: A girl with telekinetic powers has security guards pinned to the ceiling as a rock star with 20,000 volts of electricity holds off the Army while singing "Johnny B. Good[e]" and a frozen man crying for Amelia Earhart is led to safety by a scientist carrying another, doll-sized scientist around in his sweater pocket.
It's not exactly Shakespeare, but "Misfits of Science" has the potential to do what NBC wants it to do on Friday night. The show is designed to work on two levels, with action and special effects for the kids who watch "Knight Rider" and campy comedy for the older "Miami Vice" crowd. Parriott, whose credits include "The Bionic Woman" and "The Incredible Hulk," swears he will not lose his tongue-in-cheek comedy approach, which is what often happens with this type of show.
This critic finds superhero shows with sci-fi tricks boring and trite. The pilot for "Misfits of Science" made me laugh and held my attention when it was screened for the nation's TV critics.
Hall sees in his character some of the problems he faced as a youngster.
"When I read the pilot script I thought I was reading part of my life. The lines about conflict with my size, about not being able to buy clothes and never finding a girl tall enough - there was a period in my life when I had those conflicts.
"I was real shy to start with," Hall said. "I was enormous, awkward, knock-kneed and had a pair of incredible glasses. In other words, I was a giant version of a nerd. I grew so fast I was lucky I could stand. I was kind of like a baby giraffe."
Hall's height came in spurts, late spurts - 5 inches one year and 6 inches the next. When he finally turned from sports to acting, "a lot of people had to stand on boxes" to play opposite him, he said.
The idea for "Misfits of Science" came from NBC Entertainment chief Brandon Tartikoff. He took it to Universal, and Universal handed it over to Parriott.
"I got a sheet of paper with the concept and eight characters, including a flying dog," Parriott said. "I thought, 'Where am I going to find a 7-foot-4-inch man?'"
The flying dog didn't make the two-hour pilot, but he may show up later. Through the magic of special effects, he'll probably be larger than Hall in some scenes.
'Misfits' fashioned to become 'hip' show
MARILYN BECK Chicago Tribune
HOLLYWOOD - DEAN PAUL MARTIN reports attempts are being made to fashion his fall-debuting NBC "Misfits of Science" fantasy-adventure series into a "very hip show" - which will pull in the "Miami Vice" audience.
"Misfits" (which has already earned the nickname "Freak of the Week" among critics and in some quarters of the network) is set to precede "Miami" on Friday nights come fall. "It's a real natural for tying in with the MTV market," Martin opines. "One of the characters is Johnny B.: he's a musician who's electrified."
The son of DEAN MARTIN admits the show "kind of sneaked up on everybody - including the cast. I had no interest at first, but my agent made me read it, and when I did, I thought it was a lot of fun. It's very lighthearted, loosely in the same vein as 'Ghostbusters.'" Despite the fact it'll air opposite "Dallas," he thinks "we have a wonderful timeslot, with 'Knight Rider' as our lead-in. Nobody's expecting to knock 'Dallas' out of the box."
After an on-again, off-again relationship with ex-wife DOROTHY HAMILL, Dean Paul now says, "The last thing I've worried about lately is my personal life. I'm pouring every bit of energy into my career. That's what I want to do. It took me almost two years to get back. It's been a very rough time."
Dean Martin's son, Dean Paul, quit professional tennis to take up acting and then quit to become a fighter pilot. Now he wants to get back into acting but says people have forgotten him. "After two years of putting my acting career on hold, I came back to Hollywood to start from scratch. Believe me, it wasn't easy," he said. "I couldn’t get an interview or an audition. We’re talking major frost. It's been an uphill battle ever since." Things are looking up, though. Last month Martin signed to star in "Misfits of Science" an hourlong comedy-adventure series for NBC, debuting in the fall. "It's a contemporary series along the lines of Ghostbusters," he said. "But it's hard to compare it with anything on the air right now. You could say it is really off the wall." Martin is estranged from his wife, Olympic figure-skating star Dorothy Hamill, but is optimistic they will patch up their differences.
NBC Tests 'High Concept' With 'Misfits of Science'
By Diane Holloway
Cox News Service
AUSTIN, Texas - NBC didn't achieve its much-improved, No. 2 status by trying to please television critics, but that's what happened along the way. By putting on shows like Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Cheers, Cosby, and Miami Vice, NBC has become the darling of the critics.
The leadership of NBC chairman Grant Tinker is credited with much of the improvement. Tinker, a man of superb taste, encouraged and promoted all of the aforementioned shows either directly or indirectly.
But in the early months after Tinker replaced Fred Silverman, there also were appalling disasters like Manimal, Bare Essence, We've Got It Made, Jennifer Slept Here, and The Rousters.
Entertainment chief Brandon Tartikoff, who also worked for Silverman, is generally held responsible for those so-called "high-concept" trash vehicles.
High-concept was a term that gained popularity and prominence after The A-Team became a hit. Basically high-concept means a show that is light on plot and character portrayals and heavy on action, gimmicks, and/or special effects. An NBC executive once joked that high-concept meant "anything that takes longer than 30 seconds to explain to a publisist."
As if to remind us that NBC is far from perfect and still in the business of commercial television, the network has yet another high-concept show on its new fall schedule. It's called Misfits of Science, and it will air Friday nights opposite Dallas.
Dean Paul (Dino's son) Martin stars as a young research scientist who, according to press material "aims to make the world a better place for people who happen to be a little offbeat."
Among the "offbeat" characters are a 7-foot-4 man who shrinks to 6 inches; an electrically-charged, former rock star who fires lasers from his fingers and eyes; a 17-year-old with telekinetic powers; and a man who's been frozen for the past 50 years.
The high-concept show came directly from the fertile mind of Tartikoff himself. A brave and witty fellow, Tartikoff talked with reporters in Los Angeles after the Misfits pilot had been screened.
"We may be dumb, but we're not stupid," he said, smiling. "We know the show was not designed for this room. I think the show has enormous potential. We succeeded with Knight Rider and The A-Team against Dallas; Misfits has similar appeal."
Fearless, Tartikoff evoked the name of another series he concocted a few years ago that also was mercilessly ridiculed by critics.
"In a development meeting, we conjured up Manimal", he said. "He would have been one of the Misfits, so the show really evolved from him. The concept is sort of 'freak-of-the-week.' We'll rely on the National Enquirer for story ideas. It's loosely inspired by the dynamics we saw in Ghostbusters ... sort of a kick-back, Friday type of show."
It's sometimes difficult to tell when Tartikoff is serious and when he's kidding. He was probably kidding about putting a Manimal character on Misfits, but the show itself is a serious concern.
"Sure, I'm serious ... I really think it could be a hit," he said. "The 'I-can't-believe-this-show' response we're hearing from you all right now could turn into tremendous viewer interest this fall."
Misfits producer James Parriott said he was a little hesitant about the idea when Tartikoff first presented it to him but knew the idea was more promising than anything he could come up with on his own.
"You certainly stand a better chance of getting a pilot made and getting it on the air when someone from the network suggests it," Parriott said.
"The show started with a title and eight characters," he said. "The original idea was just a high-concept notion about a bunch of weird super-heroes. Originally there was even a flying dog - that was Brandon's idea. I told him I would do the show as long as I could have fun with it and not play it straight. The tone is the same as Ghostbusters. We want to be hip and funny."
People look up to 30-year-old Kevin Peter Hall. And this fall, when the lanky comedian stars in the new NBC sitcom "Misfits of Science," even more people will look up to him. They have to: Hall is 7 feet 4 inches tall. Hall wears a size 17 shoe and sews all his clothes. "My Daddy taught me because the stuff in specialty shops is ugly!" he quips. In fact, Hall is so tall that his 8-by-10 publicity photos had to be enlarged to 8-by-12! Now that's tall.
Dean Paul Martin has been asked to darken
his hair several shades for his starring role in NBC's upcoming
"Misfits of Science" series.
The dye is cast for Dean Paul Martin, who's had to darken his hair for his starring role in "Misfits of Science," the new NBC-TV series. "That happens fairly often," said NBC veep Joel Thurm. "The prevailing belief is that leading men appear stronger if their hair is darker. It's a return to the 1950's leading man look."
Will new star be towering success?
By Ron Miller
Knight Ridder Newspapers
HOLLYWOOD Kevin Peter Hall is absolutely guaranteed to be the biggest new TV star of the 1985-86 season. After all, at 7 feet 4 inches, who's going to be bigger?
The towering 30-year-old actor is one of the stars of NBC's wacky new Misfits of Science, a bizarre action show about a sort of "A-Team" made up of fugitives from a carnival midway.
Hall plays Dr. Elvin Lincoln, a scientist who specializes in the study of growth hormones. His pet project is finding a way to reverse his growth cycle so he can finally sleep in a bed without his feet sticking out from under the covers.
Unfortunately, Dr. Lincoln succeeds only too well. He discovers a formula that will shrink him down to a height of 6 inches in an instant. The first time he takes some, he almost suffocates under the pile of clothes that collapses on top of his tiny, naked form.
Weird? You better believe it. But it's also very funny. So funny, in fact, that many are predicting Hall will be the Mr. T of the new season, another merchandising phenomenon to fleece parents of their hard-earned wages at toy stores come the holiday season.
"I know that eventually is going to happen," said Hall, who was stretched out on a sofa in the office of his publisist, pretty much filling the room. "I think the show is either going to be an enormous hit or a big flop that will disappear instantly. But I look at it as a great opportunity for me to break out."
It's expected to be an uphill struggle. NBC has scheduled "Misfits" on Fridays opposite "Dallas," destroyer of freshman TV shows. But it's certainly a sharp contrast to the CBS soap and it's the lead-in to the very hot "Miami Vice."
"Being opposite 'Dallas' is pretty frightening," said Hall, "but then not everybody watches 'Dallas'."
In the show Hall is partners with fellow scientist Dean Paul Martin, son of singer Dean Martin. They are the leaders of a curious band that so far contains a teenage girl with telekinetic powers (Courteney Cox), an icicle-covered human Popsicle (Mickey Jones) who can deep-freeze anything he touches, and a rock 'n' roller named Johnny B Bukowski (Mark Thomas Miller), who attracts static electricity and can fire thunderbolts out of his fingertips.
Like "The A-Team," the "Misfits of Science" go around righting wrongs and eluding the authorities. It's all pretty goofy, but there's an underlying vein of tenderness, particularly in Hall's character, whose problems aren't so different from those of any 7-foot-4-inch actor.
"When I read the script, I felt like I was reading something I'd written myself," said Hall. "It was very real to me."
Hall knows what it feels like to wish for a shrinking hormone, although he says he's way past that now. He grew up in Pittsburgh, the tallest of eight tall children. He grew rapidly in his teens, sometimes five or six inches a year, and was 7 feet 1 inch by the time he was a high school senior.
"That was something to deal with," he said. "I had to get used to being stared at very early."
Though Hall's dad is 6 feet 6 inches and his mother is 6 feet 2 inches, he was one of the older children, "so it wasn't like everybody around me was this big."
Now when Hall goes home to visit his family, it's an entirely different situation.
"Everybody there is 6-8 or 6-10, so it's a whole lot of fun," he said. "I went with five of my brothers to a disco not long ago and we just dominated the place."
Naturally, everybody at school assumed Hall would go out for basketball, a sport at which he excelled but one that never really engaged his full attention. It did, however, help him get over his shyness about his height.
"I was in front of thousands of people during a game and that got me used to it," he said. "It was never fun for me, though. Had it been, I think more of the actor in me would have come out on the court and I think the fans would have responded to it."
Instead, Hall was fascinated with the theater, the result, he now believes, of a gift his parents gave him as an 8-year-old: a cardboard cutout that depicted the stage setting of the musical "Showboat."
"It was quite unusual for a black kid growing up in a black neighborhood to get that kind of toy," he said. "There were no other real outlets for my creativity at the time, and I became obsessed with it."
That aroused Hall's interest in theater. Finally, when he graduated from high school, he decided to accept a basketball scholarship to George Washington University in Washington D.C. because it was the only school that would allow him to pursue a theater arts major on a basketball scholarship.
In college, he starred as a varsity center but decided acting was his future career, not sports. His friends mostly thought it was a stupid decision. They thought he was a jerk to give up a multi-million-dollar career as a pro basketball star for a slim chance at success in a field where blacks, particularly very tall ones, were not eagerly sought by producers.
But Hall persisted at trying acting. He did play a season of pro basketball with a South American team to help underwrite his slow-moving acting career, but finally turned his back on the game after teaming up with his best college pal, 5-foot-6-inch Jay Fenichel, to do a comedy act.
Hall and Fenichel remain the best of friends and still perform together. More recently, though, Fenichel has become Hall's manager.
"We've just been friends forever," said Hall. "He knows my weaknesses and my strengths and knows when I'm doing something I shouldn't be doing. And he has the guts to tell me. Nobody else has because I'm so big. If I had to look for somebody else to manage me now, I wouldn't know who to trust."
At first, it seemed the predictions of Hall's college pals would come true. His height barred him from any really serious roles in movies and TV. He played a deformed giant bear in John Frankenheimer's 1979 "Prophecy," and similar geek roles. His height was a colossal millstone to carry around.
"It was a big drawback," he recalled. "It was new and nobody knew what to do with it. When I first came into town, the only thing I went up for was 'The White Shadow' (the CBS-TV series about a high school basketball team), but the cast was already set and, besides, I was too tall. Their star (Ken Howard) was only 6-7, so they didn't want me anyway."
Slowly but surely, though, Hall has convinced people he's not just another ex-basketball star looking for freak roles. He thinks he'll be completely over the problem if "Misfits" attracts enough attention and gets people thinking about writing specal roles for him.
Actually, it was a specially written role that landed Hall the part in "Misfits". When the Mark Taper Repertory Company of Los Angeles decided to revive Orson Welles' "Moby Dick Rehearsed," they decided the play was out of balance without Queequeg, the mysterious native whaler in Melville's novel, so they wrote the role into the production.
"The casting call was for a Polynesian, but I decided the part was too good to pass up and I sent my picture in," said Hall.
Hall landed the part and earned rave reviews for his dramatic performance. Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, and producer James D. Parriott happened to see him in the production and realized they'd found their star for "Misfits of Science."
"They really were up against the ropes when they hired me," said Hall. "They wanted somebody tall, but they couldn't find anybody. They were going to drop the character and go another way."
Instead, Hall was signed without a test, and the show, which Parriott will produce, was put on the fall schedule.
Because Hall will shrink down to 6 inches in every episode of "Misfits," he'll be working in specially constructed sets almost every week so the camera can reduce him to doll-like proportions. Of course, special treatment is nothing new to him. He has to sew all his own clothes in order to afford a wardrobe (his dad taught him how) and has to have his shoes made.
Trying to get Hall into the same shots with the other, much shorter players also is requiring some special attention.
"They have to be more creative because they're used to shooting everybody in the same place," said Hall. "But I say if they can get Gary Coleman in the same shot with other people, they can get me. I'm just more likely to hit my head on the sound boom."
If "Misfits of Science" does beat the odds and become a hit, Hall is likely to reap considerable financial benefits. He already has some ideas on how he'd like to spend some of his new fortune.
"I'd like to open a tall men's store that really has nice clothes and not the garbage you usually find," he said. "And then I'd like to design a house where everything is really enormous."
NEW SEASON Misfits of Science Fridays, 9 p.m., Ch. 8
A[t] first glance, Misfits of Science seems better suited to Saturday morning with the cartoons than the prime-time schedule Friday night.
After all, one of the stars is a 7-foot-4 black scientist who concentrates on growth research because he's a failure at basketball – and manages to shrink himself to Barbie-doll size and wear clothes made for Barbie's playmate Ken. And he's only part of the team whose motto is "...being weird is special, being weird is okay."
Does something so outlandish really belong in prime time?
Probably. Its escapist nature, A-Team action and Miami Vice music will appeal to the crowd awaiting the 10 p.m. visit of Tubbs, Crockett and their designer clothes-clad cop cohorts. The comic-book capers of the superhero squad also should attract teen and preteen viewers.
The key to this one is whether the series is more like the first half hour of the premiere or the second. The program takes itself too seriously in the first half hour. In the second, the cast seemed to realize the absurdity of the premise and just have fun with the action.
If the series is viewed by the producers and writers as fun, it wouldn’t be surprising to find it one of the hits of NBC's new season.
If Saturday morning superheroes came to life in prime time, you’d wind up with something like this series. The Misfits of Science are four weirdos with strange but handy abilities. Arnold "Beef" Biefneiter (Mickey Jones), for instance, is a kind of human popsicle who turns everything to ice. He lives in a refrigerator. Johnny B. (Mark Thomas Miller) is a former rock singer who got zapped by an amplifier on stage; now he shoots lightning bolts but has to be periodically recharged. Gloria (Courteney Cox) is a pretty 17-year-old who can make objects move by concentrating hard. Then there's Dr. Elvin "El" Lincoln (Kevin Peter Hall), a 7-foot-4 scientist who can shrink to the size of a Ken doll, which gives him access to a terrific wardrobe. These freaks are unhappy with their lot until Dr. Billy Hayes (Dean Paul Martin) of the Human Investigation Team (HIT) molds them into a crime-fighting unit. When all seems lost—that’s when the HIT hits the fan. NBC. Pictured (l-r): Mark Thomas Miller, Dean Paul Martin, Kevin Peter Hall, Courteney Cox.
MISFITS OF SCIENCE
Dr. Elvin Lincoln (Kevin Peter Hall) is the associate of an intrepid young scientist who recruits a band of misfits with unusual powers. They set out to thwart the use of a menacing, top-secret weapon built by military renegades, in "Misfits of Science," which airs SUNDAY, SPTEMBER 22 on NBC. The program will begin its regular weekly time period Friday, October 4.
Special effects, campy humor blend well in 'Misfits of Science'
By Barbara Holsopple
The Pittsburgh Press
NBC will attempt to bridge its Friday night gap between the kid audience of "Knight Rider" and the "Miami Vice" crowd with an adventure-comedy called "Misfits of Science."
Premiering tomorrow at 8 p.m. with a two-hour show, "Misfits" stars two scientists and their weird friends who band together to rid the world of evil.
The pilot, in which they thwart military leaders threatening the world with a super bomb, balances well the special effects and campy, tongue-in-cheek humor.
The show is reminiscent of the "A-Team" pilot, except that these characters have physical aberrations instead of mental ones.
Seven feet two inches of "Misfits" belongs to former Penn Hills basketball player Kevin Peter Hall. He and Dean Paul Martin co-star as the two scientists.
Martin is the straight man. Hall, in an attempt to rid himself forever of the sign-him-for-the-basketball-team syndrome, has been fiddling with genetics and has discovered a potion that shrinks him to Barbie Doll size.
Mark Thomas Miller plays a rock singer who accidentally got mixed up with 20,000 volts of electricity and no longer needs an extension cord. Court[e]ney Cox plays a teenager with telekinetic powers.
Mickey Jones portrays a giant who has been frozen via cryogenics since 1939 and now ices up anything he touches.
Obviously, this bunch can't be taken too seriously, and executive producer/writer James D. Parriott doesn't.
Special effects include Miss Cox pinning security guards to the ceiling while Miller holds back an entire army by shooting them with electricity while singing "Johnny B. Goode."
Less physical humor has Miss Cox borrowing a lipstick so she can look good for the scheduled demise of Earth. The human Popsicle wanders around calling for Amelia Earhart (no explanation given and none needed). There's an invisible man who complains that people treat him as if he doesn't exist.
Normally, this critic finds superhero shows with sci-fi tricks boring and trite. But the "Misfits of Science" pilot made me laugh.
Parriott, whose credits include "The Bionic Woman" and "The Incredible Hulk," says the comedy is a vital ingredient in "Misfits." If he loses it, he'll have an audience of children and teenyboppers swooning over Martin and Miller.
NBC's 'Misfits of Science' makes its debut on Friday
By JERRY BUCK, AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A scientific team whose motto is "Weird R Us" can’t be all bad, can it?
The official name is the Human Investigation Team, but otherwise they’re known as NBC's "Misfits of Science." They're the strangest collection of superheroes this side of Marvel Comics.
The new comedy-adventure series premieres Friday with a two-hour movie then returns Oct. 18 – after the baseball post-season – to begin its regular one-hour run.
Dean Paul Martin stars as Dr. Billy Hayes, the head of this HIT squad. Hayes is a misfit, but in this case he’s not one of "the misfits." He's just about the only normal one in the bunch.
His partner is Dr. Elvin Lincoln, played by Kevin Peter Hall. Although he's 7-foot-4 he can't play basketball for hoot. So he becomes a scientist, but he makes the mistake of sampling the growth-altering serum he's experimenting with. It makes rabbits grow to the size of Great Danes, but in Lincoln's case, it has the opposite effect. He is able to shrink to the size of a doll. In fact, he gets his wardrobe from Ken.
"Johnny B." Bukowski was a rock star until he got zapped by his amplifier. Now he can throw lightning bolts. He's played by Mark Thomas Miller. (Be patient, we’ll soon get to someone who doesn’t have three names.)
Gloria Dinallo is a juvenile delinquent (do they still call them that?) who has telekinetic powers. That means she can move objects – and people – around. Courteney Cox, the discovery from Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" music video, plays the role.
The last weirdo on the team is Arnold "Beef" Biefneiter, who's frequently referred to as a frozen Popsicle but is more like a side of beef. He’s been frozen for nearly 50 years and he keeps calling for "Amelia," presumably Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix who disappeared in 1937. "Beef," played by Mickey Jones, has the ability to freeze anything he touches, provided he c[a]n sack out in a freezer and eat frozen candy bars.
There's also Jennifer Holmes, who plays a probation officer. She's normal.
"Misfits of Science" does have a kind of goofy charm. And there are some funny moments, such as when "Johnny B." takes on the U.S. Army. Or, as one of the squad says, "Johnny's giving a concert for the crew cuts."
But it seems unlikely this show is going to lure anybody away from CBS' "Dallas" or even ABC's "Diff'ren[t] Strokes" and "Benson." Unless... Gloria can use her strange powers to move "Dallas" to another time slot, or "Beef" can get close enough to J.R. to shake his hand.
The feeling here is that the show tries hard, captures an appealing nonsense, but ultimately misses.
The plot of the pilot movie is pretty farfetched, but so what? The whole thing is pretty farfetched.
The HIT squad is a neglected division ("We've got no funding, no equipment and salaries that would make a paperboy cry.") of Humanidyne. A group of power-hungry military brokers have gotten the upper hand at Humanidyne, so look out.
Ed Winters plays a scientist who wants to market a neutron beam gun. (Zap! There go[e]s the world!) The fact that the weapon has "a few bugs" bothers him not at all.
Larry Linville plays a general whose stars aren't screwed on tight. He has visions of World War II rolling around in his empty head. It's Linville's best military caricature since Frank Burns of "M-A-S-H." His general has a gravelly voice, a la George C. Scott in "Patton."
Is the HIT squad able to save the day? Is NBC hot this season?
'Misfits Of Science' Offers A Certain Weird Charm
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A scientific team whose motto is "Weird R Us" can't be all bad, can it?
The official name is the Human Investigation Team, but otherwise it's known as NBC's "Misfits of Science," the strangest collection of superheroes this side of Marvel Comics.
The new comedy-adventure series has its premiere at 8 tomorrow night with a two-hour movie. Then it returns Oct. 18, after the baseball post-season, to begin its regular run.
Dean Paul Martin stars as Dr. Billy Hayes, the head of this HIT squad. Hayes is a misfit, but in this case he's not one of “the misfits.” He's about the only normal one in the bunch.
His partner is Dr. Elvin Lincoln, played by Kevin Peter Hall. Although he's 7-foot-4 he can't play basketball for hoot. So he becomes a scientist, but he makes the mistake of sampling the growth-altering serum he's experimenting with. It makes rabbits grow to the size of great Danes, but in Lincoln's case, it has the opposite effect. He is able to shrink to the size of a doll.
"Johnny B." Bukowski (Mark Thomas Miller) was a rock star until he got zapped by his amplifier. Now he can throw lightning bolts.
GLORIA DINALLO is a juvenile delinquent who has telekinetic powers. That means she can move objects – and people – around. Courteney Cox, the discovery from Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" music video, plays the role.
The last weirdo on the team is Arnold (Beef) Biefneiter, who's frequently referred to as a frozen Popsicle but is more like a side of beef. He's been frozen for nearly 50 years and he keeps calling for Amelia, presumably Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix who disappeared in 1937. Beef, played by Mickey Jones, has the ability to freeze anything he touches.
"Misfits of Science" does have a kind of goofy charm. And there are some funny moments, such as when Johnny B. takes on the U.S. Army. Or, as one of the squad says, "Johnny's giving a concert for the crew cuts."
But it seems unlikely this show is going to lure anybody away from CBS's "Dallas" or even ABC's "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Benson." Unless... Gloria can use her strange powers to move "Dallas" to another time slot, or "Beef" can get close enough to J.R. to shake his hand.
The feeling here is that the show tries hard, captures an
appealing nonsense, but ultimately misses.
THE PLOT of the pilot movie is pretty farfetched, but so what? The whole thing is pretty farfetched.
The HIT squad is a neglected division ("We've got no funding, no equipment, and salaries that would make a paperboy cry.") of Humanidyne. A group of power-hungry military brokers have gotten the upper hand at Humanidyne, so look out.
Ed Winters plays a scientist who wants to market a neutron beam gun. The fact that the weapon has "a few bugs" bothers him not at all.
Larry Linville plays a general whose stars aren't screwed on tight. He has visions of World War II rolling around in his empty head. It's Linville's best military caricature since Frank Burns of "M*A*S*H." His general has a gravelly voice, a la George C. Scott in "Patton."
Is the HIT squad able to save the day? Is NBC hot this season?
The show is the creation of James D. Parriott, whose last offering was "Voyagers." That series was dead last every week in the Nielsen ratings.
However, "Misfits of Science" is a favorite of Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment. He says it could be "The Mod Squad" of the 1980s. He says if he were a kid, he would rush home on his bicycle to see this.
Looking at TV's new faces
By Fred Rothenberg
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Television stars have been discovered in films, plays, sports and even fashion magazines. Courteney Cox may be the first actress to have been spotted in a music video.
And she owes it all to The Boss.
MTV fans know Cox as the front-row fan who hops on stage and boogies with Bruce Springsteen in his "Dancin' in the Dark" music video. Now, with a part in NBC's "Misfits of Science," her career could take off, if the show's a hit, or fade out, if it's not.
Like many TV players trying to make their marks on the new television season, Cox may be on the threshold of stardom. Her face soon could be staring up from a newsstand, which is NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff's barometer for success.
"My own litmus test is that in order for a show to be a hit, there must be somebody in the show who could land on the cover of People magazine in a year," Tartikoff wrote in TV Guide.
Henry Winkler's Fonzie in "Happy Days" was merely a throwaway character until he developed the role and soon dominated the show. Mr. T vaulted to fame in "The A-Team." Last season's hot properties were Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas of "Miami Vice" and, of course, Bill Cosby.
"Misfits of Science," which is about a superhero team of do-gooders, lends itself to offbeat casting. "Anybody who breathes fire could come on for a guest shot," said Tartikoff.
Cox's character has telekinetic powers. Another character, a 7-foot-4 scientist who can shrink to six inches, is played by 7-2 former basketball player Kevin Peter Hall.
"I was thrilled when I saw I wasn't playing a basketball player," said Hall.
If Courteney Cox doesn't make the cover of People, at least she has danced with somebody who has.
Cox, who started taking acting lessons in 1983, auditioned for the Springsteen video by dancing for director Brian De Palma. "I had to prove I had a brain, was an actress and wouldn't go crazy on stage with Springsteen," she said.
Her part in the video lasted 24 seconds.
'Misfits' is certainly that
Joseph Walker – A CRITICAL VIEW
NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff told the press last June that he had only one regret about "Misfits of Science," his network's new science fiction adventure series. It doesn't have a flying dog.
"I had this idea about having a robot dog that could fly as one of the regular characters," he said. "The producers decided against it."
But Tartikoff may yet get his wish. The show is already a dog. Whether or not it will fly, however, remains to be seen.
The show features ex-rocker/tennis pro Dean Paul Martin as Dr. Billy Hayes, a young scientist who works at the top secret Humanidyne Institute with Dr. Elvin Lincoln (Kevin Peter Hall), a 7-4 scientist with a natural interest in the study of growth hormones. Lincoln has developed a serum that allows him to shrink to 9-inches tall (I'm not sure if he does this because he likes to be little or if he just likes to wear Ken clothes and hang around with Barbie).
Pretty soon Hayes and Lincoln find out that the wicked military industrial complex wants to use Humanidyne research to rule the world. And of course, they have to stop it all by themselves.
So they enlist the aid of a few other freaks of science and nature to help them: Johnny B. (Mark Thomas Miller), a rock star who once connected with 20,000 volts onstage and can now shoot lightning bolts out of his fingertips; Gloria Dinallo (Courteney Cox), a teenager with telekinetic powers; and Arnold Biefneiter (Mickey Jones), a man frozen alive for almost 50 years who now freezes anything he touches and lives on a diet of frozen Snickers bars.
In the series premiere, the misfits had their first adventure together by using their individual talents to rescue Biefneiter, who was being kept on ice, so to speak, by the bad guys. Johnny B. blasted a way into the building, then stayed outside to fight a heavily equipped Army battalion with his lightning bolts while singing "Johnny B. Goode." Gloria used her powers to pin a couple of security guards to the ceiling. Lincoln shrunk down small enough to crawl through a small opening into the lab where Biefneiter was being held.
Through it all, Hayes was the mastermind, the brains behind the talent. I guess that's because just being portrayed by Dean Martin's son doesn't sufficiently qualify him as a freak, and he has to do something. The premise, I suppose, is that he is weird because he thinks. Come to think of it, that probably is a unique concept to the people who dreamed this thing up.
As you can probably tell, I think the show is pretty worthless. But not just because it's weird. In fact, that would probably be an asset if it were also creatively written and stylishly directed. But because the scripts are flat and superficial and the tone of presentation is far from the farce and camp it so desperately needs, it ends up just being dumb.
Of course, Tartikoff anticipated that charge from critics. "We may be dumb but we're not stupid," he admitted. "I know that this show was not designed for critics. But I have a gut feeling about it, sort of like I had with 'The A-Team' and 'Knight Rider.' We're trying to find the next light action/adventure show.”
In other words, this show is aimed at the same audience that has made Mr. T and David Hasselhoff household pests. And that audience is impossible to predict. At one point in the show, Lincoln asks Hayes if he really thinks the misfits have a chance of surviving their mission. "I think we do," Hayes responds, "as long as we attract the right weird people."
The same could be said of "Misfits."
"Misfits of Science" costar Kevin Peter Hall is recuperating from skin-graft surgery performed Wednesday to repair burns on his forearm suffered when he fell onto a motorcycle during series shooting. Production on the show is shuttered; shooting is expected to resume and Hall should return within a week. Meanwhile, Hall's comedy partner/manager Jay Fenichel reports the 7-foot-2 actor is in fine spirits and that when the accident occurred, "we notified the Sherman Oaks Burn Center to have a bed ready - extra long."
Dean Paul Martin won't be getting into romantic mischief Jennifer Holmes in Misfits of Science. That was he plan until Jennifer informed the producers she and husband Mark Tanous are expecting a baby around Thanksgiving. That announcement nearly cost Jennifer her job: in fact, her replacement was in the makeup chair, being prepared for her first Misfits scene, when the producers decided to stick with Jennifer - and made her a divorced, expectant mother instead of a femme fatale.
LOS ANGELES - Anyone who breathes fire can be a guest star on Misfits of Science, the head of NBC entertainment Brandon Tartikoff says.
The oddball series, which airs Fridays at 9 p.m., features a telekinetic woman, a giant who can shrink to six inches, an electric-charged former rock star plus a crusading scientist and his parole officer girlfriend. There's also a frozen guy lurking in the background.
Although this week's episode is preempted by a movie, next week the gang goes in search of three senior citizens who have acquired superhuman powers by eating radiation-charged hamburgers.
Who is responsible for this nonsense? You can go right to the top for this one, says executive producer James Parriott.
"The project began with a title and a notion that (NBC entertainment president) Brandon Tartikoff had about eight super characters. We kept some and threw out some others. He said would you like to do something like this and I said as long as we don't have to do it straight, as long as we can have a lot of fun with it."
Fortunately for the cast they are in on the joke and enjoying it.
Mark Thomas Miller plays Johnny B. Bukowski. He favors Chuck Berry, and also happens to be charged with 20,000 volts of electricity.
"I just love the character to be super charged. It seems like every rock star's dream."
Kevin Peter Hall, who is seven-foot-two, plays seven-foot-four-inch scientist Elvin Lincoln.
Hall says the part hits close to home. "When you're seven-foot-two and you're black, and you're not a basketball player people don't know how to think of you."
Parriott said he discovered Hall by accident when he saw him as Queequeg in the play Moby Dick in Los Angeles last year.
A star centre at George Washington University he played basketball professionally for a year in Venezuela in 1977. He then moved to Los Angeles to join a five-foot-six college friend, Jay Fenichel in a musical comedy act, Fenichel and Hall. They still perform in Los Angeles.
"Show business has been a struggle, but I've learned a lot. I've acted the whole time I've been in California.
"I started off in horror movies playing a monster in a closet. I've played a lot of basketball players in commercials. I played a mental case on Night Court. In Hollywood they have to like you and have to think you have something to offer, then you could be 900 pounds."
Courteney Cox plays Gloria, a telekinetic woman. As an actress her claim to fame is having danced with Bruce Springsteen on the hit video, Dancin' in the Dark, made in 1984.
"I went to an audition. I walked in and danced in front of him and about two weeks later we shot the video in St. Paul, Minnesota and that's how I got my exposure.
"Someone counted and said I was in it for 24 seconds so I was very surprised by the impact it had."
DEAN PAUL MARTIN plays Dr. Billy Hayes, leader of the band of offbeat characters.
His name didn't immediately come to mind, says executive producer Parriott.
"We were trying everybody for Billy. I bet everybody in town read for it. Dean came in and he just blew our socks off. He was great."
Martin, 33, has been a pre-med student, a tennis pro, a reserve captain and flier in the U.S. Air Force and a failed actor with the credit for the movie Players with Ali MacGraw wrapped around his neck like an albatross.
Asked if his famous father has helped him with his acting, Martin says not really.
"He didn't even know I got the part until a couple of weeks after. He's never taken me aside and given me any specific tips. It's just been an overall philosophy about how to approach acting."
Kevin Peter Hall - TALL TALE - STARLOG PROFILE by Marc Weinberg
Offering thoughts on the long and the short of it, a young
actor enjoys condensed adventures as one of "The Misfits of Science."
It's not easy being a 7'4" actor. Just ask Kevin Peter Hall, whose dramatic performances on film have largely consisted of "grunt" roles (his term for non-speaking parts), portraying aliens, monsters and assorted wild life. His biggest break to date was playing a crazed mutant bear in John Frankenheimer's horror opus, Prophecy. In fact, he has only appeared twice on screen as a member of his own species. But now, luckily for him, there's Misfits of Science.
Hall stars in the NBC action-adventure series as a scientist, Dr. Elvin Lincoln, who is not so surprisingly obsessed with his own height. While trying to develop a serum that will reduce him to 5' 11", Lincoln does his job too well—the formula shrinks him down to a minuscule seven inches. Naturally, that short cut leads to a number of small jokes.
"I have many scenes working with enormous props," he explains, "you know, giant pencils, clothes with buttons the size of my head, cute gags like that."
His new stature also allows him to join a unique superhero unit that seems straight out of Marvel Comics. There's Johnny B. (Mark Thomas Miller), the rock & roller who shoots lightning bolts from his fingertips; Beef (Mickey Jones), a guy who freezes anything he touches; and Gloria DiNallo (Court[e]ney Cox), a young woman with telekinetic powers. Along with Dr. Billy Hay[e]s (Dean Paul Martin), their leader, they fight to save the world from evil.
"Our characters are much like the Fantastic Four—we're crimefighters, out to make what's weird right," Hall observes.
In the two-hour pilot episode, scientists Lincoln and Hay[e]s are fired from Humanidyne, a government research foundation studying human oddities. After helping Beef to escape from the corrupt clutches of the government (which intends to use his powers to freeze the Russian Navy in the Black Sea) and rounding together a few more "oddities," they disarm a neutron beam which would have ultimately destroyed the world.
"I feel that this is one of the most profound things to ever come to television," Hall quips, "right up there with classic episodes of M*A*S*H and All in the Family. Seriously, this is light entertainment—good, clean fun you can watch without seeing people blasted to death or shot up.
"Our tone is very similar to Ghostbusters; we're a team of oddballs who chase after bad guys. We even have a theme song that's comparable to Ghostbusters. And we wear uniforms—basketball uniforms. When Hay[e]s meets me, he figures we're going to have a basketball team, but then he finds that I don't like the sport. So, we wear the jerseys on our adventures."
The concept may strike a TV audience as being more than a bit odd—but that's exactly what NBC's President, Brandon Tartikoff, ordered. He got it, although he didn't get the flying dog he requested ("I think he really wants it, too," Hall says).
Everything else, however, is here. Beef runs around in a refrigerator suit ("Otherwise, he would melt," Hall explains). Johnny B. acquires his ability to shoot electric bolts after being electrocuted playing guitar. And Hall's character might even get to wear Barbie clothes sometime in the future.
"Yeah," he notes, "I hope they decide to camp it up and let me wear something of Barbie's. I would also like to try on the Michael Jackson doll clothes and maybe even something belonging to the Smurfs."
Production on the pilot ran 5½ weeks at an expense of $1.5 million, big figures for episodic television, the result of numerous FX shots involving blue screens, laser beams, explosions and levitation. Although NBC has ordered only six episodes of Misfits (indicating possible cancellation as early as this month), Hall has high hopes for the program. "Even though we're on opposite Dallas on Friday nights, we're going for a different crowd, a younger audience. Also, we're surrounded by two very successful shows, Knight Rider at 8 pm and Miami Vice at 10. If things work out well, those shows will bring in both the younger and older viewers."
Some TV critics have commented that having Hall star in a show entitled Misfits of Science seems exploitative, as if to draw attention to the 30-year-old actor's height. Hall remains unfazed by their remarks.
"Look," he explains, "the show could have been called by other titles. Somebody once asked me if they considered calling it Freaks. They probably could have—I think some people would even prefer that title because Misfits of Science is a little vague. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see the press pick up on the Freaks tag. But it's no different from every day of my life. I'm seven feet tall every day and people treat me differently until they get to know me. Nobody knows what it's like to be like this. But I don't look at it as a deformity."
Reflecting upon his career as a horror movie monster, Hall comments that it would take a great role to get him to return to playing monsters. "No more grunt roles for me," he says. "It would have to be a strong acting role.["] He cites December's Enemy Mine as an example of a good "creature" character. "I read for it and it's a terrific role, but Lou Gossett got the part. Still, it would have meant four hours of makeup a day, well, I'm glad I didn't get it now because of Misfits."
In the past, however, Hall wasn't always able to say "no" to a monster, no matter how bad the part. "When I was paying my dues, those roles were fine—they paid me well."
Some of those "grunt" gigs included Without Warning, in which he starred as a tall blue alien who threw "little eggs at people." Hall was a dragon in the TV movie, Mazes and Monsters, while in Monster in the Closet, he essayed his most memorable critter of all...a gay monster.
"I read the script and it was a very funny spoof about monsters 'coming out of the closet' in England, Japan, all over. There were take-offs of different horror films. It seemed like fun.
"But it wasn't," he continues. "Nobody got paid much—it was almost all deferred. All the actors got minimum. We were supposed to get this great deal when the movie sold, but nothing ever happened with it. Everybody got ripped off."
His recollection of Prophecy is similarly painful. "I didn't really have to audition for the role of the bear—I fit the physical requirements they needed. There was a little period where I went out to the producer's home and had to 'act like an animal.' I had to crawl around, growl...I didn't take it very seriously."
The film, which was director John (Seven Days in May) Frankenheimer's attempt to capitalize on the horror craze of the late '70s, fared badly at the box office and received poor reviews. Few critics found anything of merit in the movie aside from a laughable sequence where Hall, dressed as the bear, slaps a boy in a sleeping bag against some rocks. Down feathers fly into the air from the gruesome impact.
"Yeah, that was great," Hall laughs, "but my favorite was biting this guy's head off. It's not every day you get to do that."
As bad as creature roles are in terms of acting challenges, Hall admits that the worst aspect are the injuries. "I look at my body and see all these scars," he says pointing to several and naming the movies involved. "I've sustained more injuries from acting than I have from doing anything else, and that includes playing sports." He attributes a bad back to 14 weeks crouching over like a bear and cites a chemical burn to having a blue substance spill onto his skin in Monster.
Considering his monstrous experiences, Hall is naturally thrilled to appear as a human whenever he can—even in small roles in unmemorable movies: One Dark Night (as a basketball player) and The Wild Life (as a bouncer in a bar).
As one might expect of a man of his height, Hall has played basketball. Born in Pittsburgh, he shot hoop through high school and college, earning a scholarship from George Washington University. But his first love remained acting as he was actively involved in each school's theater department.
It was at GWU that Hall teamed with another young actor to develop creative projects. "Jay Fenichel and I started out by putting on a routine at department stores at Christmas. We called ourselves Little Bob (Jay is 5'6") and Big Billy, the maintenance men who 'didn't have to clean up as long as we made the kids laugh.' So, we created these fractured fairy tales. I knew we had something when the Santas had to come looking for the children."
Moving to Los Angeles, the two found similar success on the nightclub circuit. They are presently developing projects for both film and television.
"Nevertheless, I still think of myself more as an actor than as a comedian," Kevin Peter Hall says. "I love acting on the stage—the interaction with the audience is exciting.
"The problem is that there aren't many calls for 7'4" black actors. Still, if I had let myself get discouraged, I wouldn't be here now. I believe in myself and my acting."
MARK THOMAS MILLER – A LOVABLE MISFIT!
Cute, sensitive and incredibly talented – that's Mark Thomas Miller in a nutshell! Playing "Johnny B. Bukowski" on the new TV series Misfits Of Science, this newcomer is someone to keep your eye on!
On the new TV show Misfits Of Science, 25-year-old Mark Thomas Miller portrays "Johnny B. Bukowski," a rock 'n' roll singer faced with one problem – his body is filled with so much electrical energy that when he's near electrical music equipment, he's overcome with super-human powers!
"My character 'Johnny' has the power to throw lightning bolts, blow things up and run faster than the speed of light!" enthuses blond-haired Mark, who was born on May 3, 1960.
But being charged with electrical energy isn't always easy – especially when it prevents "Johnny" from pursuing his true love – music!
Smiles this Louisville, Kentucky native, "'Johnny's' a real emotional person, but I think he supresses a lot of his feelings because he doesn't know how to express himself.
"Up until the time he got his bizarre powers, music was 'Johnny's' way of communicating. It was his self-expression. Now that he can no longer perform (because when 'Johnny' plugs in his electric guitar he's not able to control his special powers), he's developed a tough exterior to protect his vulnerability," reveals this blue-eyed actor.
If Mark, whose favorite drink is orange juice, sounds like he understands his character very well, that's because this 6'1" tall talent can relate to "Johnny" in many ways.
"I think I used to be a lot like 'Johnny'," begins easygoing Mark with a smile. "I don't think I ever said a word until I got out of junior high school - I was just so shy.
"Like 'Johnny,' I had a lot to say but I just didn't know how to express myself. Most of the time I just watched other people. I'm still very analytical and observant," he adds softly.
Mark's overcome his shyness these days. In fact, he loves to chat and make friends – especially with his Misfits Of Science co-stars.
"The whole cast (which includes Dean Paul Martin and Kevin Peter Hall) gets along fantastically," prides Mark as his eyes light up. "We all go out to dinner after we film the show and we also hang out together on weekends. I think we're all coming from the same boat because we're all sort of misfits in real life!"
Mark, who's had his moments of not fitting in and feeling shy, has come a long way in his life, and now he can't believe how lucky he is to be on such a great new series!
And he's not alone in his happiness because Mark shares all his joys with his family, which includes his father, Laurence (a grain merchant), his mother, May (an artist), and his older brother, David!
"My parents love what I'm doing," smiles Mark whose favorite pastimes include sailing, swimming and backpacking. "They've always been real supportive. They've always said, 'If it makes you happy, just go for it' – and that's just what I've done."
If Mark's bright smile makes you happy, why not go for it and write him a note telling him how you feel?! You can reach him in care of BOP. [address]
Misfits gets time to fit in
Now that Misfits of Science has made the 1st cut on NBC's schedule, will it survive the spring?
The quick demise of another television series wouldn't be news, but what makes this one interesting is the real belief on the part of NBC Entertainment President, Brandon Tartikoff, that the series is different enough that it also has the potential to be a runaway hit, especially now that Hollywood is featuring a number of movies involving science.
The offbeat series has Dean Paul Martin as the leader of a team featuring a seven-foot man who can shrink himself to six inches (Kevin Peter Hall), a rock star energized so he can use electricity as a weapon (Mark Thomas Miller) and a telekinetic lass (an actress with only two names, Court[e]ney Cox). The group, not unlike a lot of Miss America aspirants, aims to make the world a better place for people who are different.
Tartikoff, the guru responsible for helping turn NBC around, hopes the series makes ratings gains in the "second season" over the next three months. It should be noted he has occasionally been right in his hunches. He's the one who jotted down the words "cops and rock video" on a piece of paper and gave it to a producer: the result was Miami Vice. This time he scribbled down the words Misfits of Science and no one bothered to change the title.
"We happen to believe that this show has a lot of potential, that it could be another Knight Rider or A-Team," Tartikoff said recently in Los Angeles.
"If you take Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Dynasty, Dallas and The Bill Cosby Show and lump them all together, what they have in common and one of the dynamics that makes them successful is that they are unpredictable. What the audience responds to is inverting the formula, changing it around, not doing what is expected."
Having said that it should also be remembered Tartikoff felt strongly about the chances of success of Manimal, a series in which a man was able to change into a number of different animals in his efforts to fight crime. The show quickly turned into a turkey and was cancelled.
Tartikoff now says he realizes Manimal didn't have a hope of making it on its own but thinks the beast would have been a worthy addition to Misfits.
For his part the producer, as is required in such undertakings, is enthusiastic. Executive producer James Parriott, who last season gave us Hurricane Heat, said he took the project on the condition the series could be played for laughs.
Parriott says he is not remaking The A-Team. "The idea is to play straight to kids and still put in enough jokes that adults will get."
Tartikoff says the project was inspired by the dynamics of Ghostbusters and Parriott says that's the flavor he's seeking.
"We are very different from Ghostbusters but in tone we hope to be the same. We want to be funny and hip, that's what we are going for."
MEET MARK THOMAS MILLER!
He May Star On Misfits Of Science, But Mark's No Misfit! As A Matter Of Fact, He'd Fit Right Into Any Girl's Dream!
You can't miss "misfit" Johnny B. Bukowski of NBC's hit series, Misfits Of Science, because he's played by the gorgeous Mark Thomas Miller.
Mark is as adventurous as his TV character, even though he's not really superhuman. He was raised in New York, and in 1979, he moved to Greenwich Village to study with renowned drama coach Lee Strasberg. He had decided that he wanted to make acting his life after having enjoyable experiences playing leading roles in high school productions of Bye Bye Birdie and The Importance Of Being Earnest. Mark was fortunate and talented enough to get a scholarship to attend a private New York college, but soon discovered that he could study acting better on his own.
In 1983, Mark moved to L.A. to be close to the movie and TV industries - with a whopping $18 in his pocket. He lived on California Highway #1 in a friend's Cadillac, but soon grew tired of these strange digs and decided to focus on getting himself some TV exposure. His first guest spot was on ABC's Trauma Center.
It was only about a year later that Mark auditioned for and won the part of Johnny B. on Misfits Of Science; the role calls for him not only to act, but to sing and play the guitar as well. He finds it to be exciting and a bit surprising.
Mark comments, "I knew that this role was right for me and that if I gave 100% that I would get the part. When I was asked to play the 'air guitar,' I felt that I had an advantage being that I have been playing a tennis racquet for 15 years. Although I have owned an electric guitar for three years, I've only played the same three chords. Funny, people never violently responded to my playing the tennis racquet."
Mark is very happy with the direction that his career is taking him in. He says with a smile, "I'm very happy and satisfied with the direction my acting career is going. Given the opportunities that I now have, I would like to focus on bringing as much originality to my work as possible. I prefer to create characters that are unpredictable." Well, Johnny B. is just that!
Meet the "Misfits of Science"
Courteney Cox plays Gloria
Dinallo. Courteney, who is from
Alabama, modeled and did commercials before acting. She also danced in
a video with Bruce Springsteen. Courteney likes painting, playing
drums, cooking and being outdoors.
Kevin Peter Hall plays El
Lincoln. Kevin, who is 7 feet 2
inches tall, played pro basketball in Venezuela before becoming an
actor. He has been on the show "Night Court." Kevin likes to paint,
play racquetball and bake bread. He sews many of his clothes.
Dean Paul Martin plays Dr. Billy Hayes. Dean's father is entertainer Dean Martin. Before acting, Dean Paul was a rock musician, pro tennis player, pro football player and jet pilot. He enjoys skiing. Dean is divorced and has a son, Alexander, 12.
THE MISFITS OF SCIENCE TV3, Saturday, 8:30pm
IF superheroes came to life on television, you'd wind up with something like this series. The Misfits of Science are four people with strange but handy abilities.
Arnold "Beef" Biefneiter (Mickey Jones) has the ability to turn everything to ice. Johnny Bukowski (Mark Thomas Miller) was a singer who had an accident with an amplifier during a concert and now finds himself with the embarrassing problem of being able to shoot electrical bolts at will. Of course, first he has to recharge himself from other electrical sources.
Gloria (Courteney Cox) is a pretty 17-year-old juvenile delinquent who has telekinetic powers that enable her to move objects by concentrating hard. She feels like a freak but the others soon make her feel right at home.
Dr Elvin "El" Lincoln (Kevin Peter Hall) is a 7' 4" scientist who, unhappy with his size, goes to the other extreme and develops a serum that enables him to shrink himself to a mere seven inches (but he can only do it once every hour).
The four are brought together by Dr Billy Hayes (Dean Paul Martin), a woman chasing, tequila swilling scientist of the Human Investigation Team (HIT). He encourages them to use their powers constructively as a crime-fighting team without parallel (except in comic books).
The premise is unlikely enough to succeed (sounds marginally better than a talking car) and the show has gone into a second season in the US although it showed dismally in the ratings. But that's probably because the show needs time to work out its character and plot lines.
Take a look at the show, anyway (if you haven't already seen it when it was aired for the first time on Saturday at 8:30pm) – you may just like it.
The sky's the limit for actor from Penn Hills
By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Kevin Peter Hall is not, repeat not, the kind of actor who can be hired to play in the background of a scene. He knows it, and any director in Hollywood who meets him knows he can’t blend into a crowd shot.
Hall stands 7 feet 2, a few inches taller than when he graduated from Penn Hills High School in 1973. "My life's dream has been to be known not to be a basketball player, because I had to carry that around for so long. 'You must play basketball.' Everybody still thinks that," he said during a recent visit to Pittsburgh.
Hall, who has the long, leggy look of an athlete and hands that would make a basketball seem lost, did play basketball in high school and at George Washington University and even spent a season with a South American team. But since his role last year in the TV show "Misfits of Science," Hall has a new public persona.
"Every now and then somebody comes up and says, 'I know who you are.' I just beam when that happens. 'You're the guy who shrinks.'"
That was one of his feats, accomplished with the help of special effects, on the NBC series which also starred Dean Paul Martin. Soon he will be known as one of the stars of the new Steven Spielberg movie, shot in Seattle from February through September and scheduled for a spring release.
Everything's hush-hush at the moment, although Hall can say that it also features John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Don Ameche and Lainie Kazan. Many of the same people who worked on "The Color Purple" were involved in this latest film, and it's destined to be showered with attention when it's released.
And Spielberg? "He's great. He's charming, very positive. He always has ideas, he gets to know everyone so you don't feel left out. The very first day I worked, he brought Amy [Irving] and his baby. I got to meet 'The Spielberg Child.'"
Hall has been preparing for his next role, opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Predator" which begins filming in Mexico in January. "It's like Commando meets Terminator. I'm sort of the Terminator role," Hall said, referring to past characters brought to the screen by Schwarzenegger.
To prepare to do battle with the muscle man of the 80's, Hall has been working out and lifting weights. "If aliens were bodybuilders, this would be an equivalent," Hall said of his role as the Predator. "In the end, it's just me and Arnold. We duke it out, fist and claw."
Hall hasn't always been able to name drop with the best of them. The 31-year-old actor once managed a Hollywood health food store, worked with partner Jay Fenichel as a street performer, and created any number of forgettable and unforgettable monsters.
His first screen appearance was in "The Prophecy," in which Hall played a deformed bear. He won the title role in "Monster in the Closet," and finally was given the opportunity to play members of his own species in films like "One Dark Night" and "The Wild Life."
"I've played every imaginable kind of 'it.' It from outer space, it from the underground, it from the forest, it from the cities," Hall jokes. These "grunt roles" as he calls them helped to pay the bills in leaner times.
And knowing how to sew his own clothing, a skill passed along by his father, Charles, didn't hurt. Charles and Sylvia Hall of Penn Hills were faced with the task of outfitting eight children – eight very tall children who inherited their height from their 6-foot-6 father and 6-foot-2 mother.
Kevin remembers his father, who operates a business called House Doctors, sewing matching outfits for his seven sons to wear when they helped him to paint houses. "He would dress us all the same, we looked like the Temptations. ... People would wonder, 'Are they going to do a song-and-dance act or paint the house?'"
As a matter of fact, Hall and his 5-foot-6 partner are working on a musical tentatively titled "Bad Habits." It's about two writers who don't always get along but who realize what a good friendship is all about. Hall calls it semi-autobiographical and hopes it will open in Los Angeles in April.
Hall's family needn't worry about him going Hollywood. He lives there, but leases a condominium, and while he's treated himself to a new red Jeep, he has yet to make his dream trip to Hawaii.
And yes, he still sews some of his own clothes.
Dean Paul Martin's body found
MARCH AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - Dean Martin's son and a fellow crewman died instantly when their fighter jet slammed into a remote mountainside in dense clouds six days ago, officials said after finding the fliers' bodies.
Searchers found the remains Wednesday of Air National Guard Capt. Dean Paul Martin. 35. and weapons officer Capt. Ramon Ortiz, 39, of Las Vegas, Nev., in the San Bernardino Mountains where the wreckage of their F4-C Phantom was spotted from the air earlier in the day.
"They made no attempt to eject," said Sgt. Carolyn Hamilton, a guard spokeswoman. They "perished instantly at the time of impact."
There was no immediate comment from Martin's father, who had been waiting for word of the search at his Beverly Hills home, according to publicist Warren Cowan.
The jet crashed into the side of a granite mountain at about 400 mph, after plunging nearly 4,000 feet from its last altitude reading on radar of 9,300 feet.
There was no indication of a malfunction with the plane, said another guard spokesman, Maj. Steve Mensik. "Apparently they did a 360-degree loop, four miles long, after his last hit (sighting) on the radar," Mensik said.
Martin and Ortiz were in one of three Phantom jets that left March Air Force Base, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, on maneuvers near the San Bernardino mountains Saturday afternoon.
As the jets approached 11,502-foot Mount San Gorgonio in heavy clouds, civilian air traffic controllers instructed the pilots to turn. Two crews acknowledged and steered clear of the mountain, but there was no response from Martin's jet.
Searchers had difficulty finding the aircraft, which had a green and gray camouflage pattern that blended with the terrain, Mensik said.
Search and rescue workers had remained optimistic throughout the search, confident that if Martin and Ortiz were able to parachute from the jet they could survive for up to a week in the wilderness.
Both had been wearing parachutes and survival kits containing food, insulating blankets and other gear.
Ten years ago, the 82-year-old mother of Frank sinatra, Natalie "Dolly" Sinatra, was killed in a plane crash nearby in the same mountain range.
Fliers in Martin's unit, the 163rd Tactical Fighter Group based at March Air Force Base considered him a talented pilot.
"Captain Martin was one of the better pilots and an exceptional athlete," said Mensik.
The oldest of Dean Martin's three children by a former wife, Jeanne, Dean Paul Martin had been an athlete, a pilot, a television performer and a musician.
He most recently appeared in NBC-TV's "Misfits of Science," and starred with Ali MacGraw in the 1979 tennis movie "Players."
The younger Martin started his show business career at 14, forming the rock band Dino, Desi and Billy with Desi Arnaz Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and a neighbor, Billy Hinsche.
Dean Paul Martin was married and divorced from actress Olivia Hussey, with whom he had a son, and Olympic gold-medal skater Dorothy Hamill, and had played professional tennis.
He obtained a private helicopter pilot's license at age 16 and soon moved to fixed-wing aircraft, joining the Air National Guard in 1980.
Air National Guard slots for fighter pilots are usually reserved for those with fighter experience, generally ex-Air Force regulars.
'Family Ties' adds romance for Alex
By MARK SCHWED – UPI TV Editor
NEW YORK (UPI) – No longer will cute Courteney Cox be dancing in the dark with Bruce Springsteen.
The Alabama girl with the all-American looks who "lucked out" by being chosen as Springsteen's dancing partner in his "Dancing in the Dark" video has found another teen dream to tango with – Michael J. Fox of NBC's "Family Ties."
Cox, 23, will play Fox's new love interest this fall. She's into feelings. He's into spending. Sounds like a perfect made-for-sitcom romance.
For Cox it is almost guaranteed stardom, considering that "Family Ties" is the second most popular television show ever behind "The Cosby Show," which, not coincidentally, happens to air right before it on Thursday nights.
But that was last year. This year, "Family Ties" spreads its wings with the Cox-Fox romance and a new time slot on Sunday night (8-8:30 p.m. EDT), far away from Cosby the protector.
In its first experimental Sunday airing, the show slipped from the No. 2 position to No. 21, and that was without CBS's Sunday night killer, "Murder, She Wrote," as a competitor. On Sept. 13, when the new "Family Ties" episodes debut on Sunday, network executives will have their eyes glued to Nielsen ratings.
Cox's role as Lauren Miller, an all-American girl-senior psychology major, is the perfect antithesis to Fox's Alex P. Keaton, the neo-conservative cash-fueled all-American shark.
In the first episode of the new season, they meet while researching a paper on superachievers.
"I'm more into feelings and he's into millions of dollars. I'm totally against what he stands for, but I still have an attraction for him," said Cox, who beat out dozens of actresses in cross-country auditions (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago). She auditioned only twice.
While it is not yet set how often Cox will appear on "Family Ties," she has been signed for two years, and that usually means more than sitting on the sidelines.
"I know it's a long-term relationship," she said.
All of this should not sit well with co-star Meredith Baxter Birney, who was already upset with her shrinking role as Alex Keaton's mother and reportedly on the verge of quitting last season.
On other "Family Ties" fronts, Justine Bateman will be back as airhead sister Mallory, and Scott Valentine (who plays her boyfriend Nick) will be back in a recurring role (as opposed to regular) after his spinoff sitcom, "The Art of Being Nick," fizzled before airing on NBC.
Also back to round out the sixth year of "Family Ties" are Michael Gross as father Steven Keaton and his kids: Tina Yothers as level-headed Jennifer and Brian Bonsall as Andrew.
No matter how well "Family Ties" does in its new time slot, it's still a big step up for Cox, whose last television outing was NBC's failed series "Misfits of Science."
When she got the Springsteen gig she didn't even know how to use a blow-dryer. Now she has a phalanx of folks to help her primp and priss.
"Getting the Springsteen video was pure luck," said Cox, who has shed her Springsteen red, white and blue T-shirt and short locks for black designer clothes and long, curly black hair. "And I can't say I knew what I was doing when I got 'Misfits of Science.' I had been taking theater classes in New York but I had never played a telekinetic girl in acting class."
She also took speech lessons to lose her Alabama twang.
Although landing the Springsteen role might have had something to do with luck, the rest of her achievements are due to pure pluck. She left Birmingham when she was 17 (her parents had divorced) and headed to New York, where she signed on with the teen division of the Ford modeling agency. College was interrupted by too many modeling jobs and commercials with Noxema, Maybelline, Dimension Shampoo, and the New York Telephone Co.
There were those fabled "down and out" days when she made hardly enough money to eat, and there was that one time she was bilked out of her summer's earnings – $70 – in a sidewalk three-card Monte game. She's smarter now – she doesn't gamble on the sidewalk – and still hungry.
"I remember what I ate," she said about the old days. "I had no money. I ate a lot of Campbell's tomato soup and Wonder bread with whipped butter."
Now, she putters around her own house with garden in California, occasionally taking her 15-gear mountain bike for a ride, but only on flat lands, not mountains. When she's in the mood to be motorized, she breaks out her Honda Rebel 250 cc motorcycle for a spin along Mulholland Drive.
At 23 years old, with two network series, one Springsteen video, a TV movie, and two feature flicks ("Masters of the Universe," "Down Twisted"), Cox is not hurting financially. Indeed, if her fling with Fox clicks with the audience, Cox could find herself set for life.
But she'd still have that innocent all-American girl look that got her the gig dancing with Bruce and all those modeling jobs.
Meet Courteney Cox – How Family Ties Found a Girl Friend for
The show's search turned up a practical-minded actress who'd
rather own a two-bedroom house than a Porsche
By Betty Goodwin
Deep in concentration and obviously tense, Courteney Cox lit another cigarette and nervously paced Sound Stage 24 at the Paramount studio, clutching her dogeared script. Out came a tiny atomizer of breath spray. Cox opened her mouth and spritzed, not just once, but three times. A minute later, she took another squirt—no, two. She paced the set some more. And sprayed some more.
As Lauren Miller, the new love of Alex P. Keaton's life this season on NBC's Family Ties, Cox will be in for a lot of kissing scenes with series star Michael J. Fox. But this was her second week of work and the first really big kiss between them, so it was understandable that the young actress was a bit, well, trigger-happy during rehearsals.
"I'm sure it's a manifestation of insecurity," allowed Fox later, "but it's a sweet one. Better that your insecurity manifests itself through an excess of Binaca use than being abusive to people or being like a mouse. I'd rather she would just calmly and totally OD on Binaca."
After his breakup with Ellen, the arts student, things haven't been the same for Alex, and it was time—at least so his creators thought—for him to fall in love again, unexpectedly and completely. For a short time last spring, executive producer Gary David Goldberg was negotiating for the return of Tracy Pollan, the actress who played Ellen. "I was sitting home one day one day in May and I got this idea that maybe it would be a good idea" to bring Ellen back, he said. "It was before we had thought of the Lauren character, and we kept coming upon that ghost. Every time we tried to figure out what this new person would be like, she seemed to have too many of the characteristics Ellen had, so I thought, if we can't find something strong, maybe we should go back to the original model."
But Tracy Pollan decided against returning to Family Ties, as she had once before. Fox, who is now Pollan's steady companion, said of her decision: "These are my two best friends [Goldberg and Pollan]. I know it wasn't the easiest thing in the world for either of them when they couldn't come to terms two seasons ago. So in wanting to bring her back, it's not real easy. My only advice to Tracy was, 'Do what you want to do. Make your decision'." She did, and it was negative.
So Lauren was developed, on paper anyway. "Once we created Lauren we began to fall in love with her," said Goldberg. He describes the character as a "smart, attractive girl who could push Alex, whose world view was different from his, someone he would not have expected to be attracted to. Ellen was much more in control of her emotional life than Lauren is. Lauren is somebody who has been hiding, perhaps in books and lab experiments, and not dealing with the real world the way she should."
Neither an experienced comedienne nor romantic leading lady, Cox, 23, was plucked from a field of hundreds of pretty girls. Goldberg never even looked at a tape of her work—she had a regular role as a girl with telekinetic powers in the short-lived NBC series Misfits of Science and appeared in two movies, "Down Twisted" and "Masters of the Universe". Goldberg maintains that when it comes down to the wire, an actor must possess what he terms the "X-factor," and Cox had it.
"There were two other girls who read with Michael for the
grand finals at The Ritz-Carlton in New York. Courteney was good, but
we were all tired. And my back had gone out, the worst ever. One of the
things we said before we went into the reading was, we're not going to
make our decision tonight. I loved her from the beginning and so did
Michael, but we were waiting. The next day I ran into her at the
elevator of the Gulf & Western building. We talked for about
five minutes, and she moved me in a way I felt was very special."
"It happened very quickly," acknowledged Cox. "I haven't done sitcom after sitcom. It takes me awhile to think about it and learn my lines. I'm not used to playing the comedienne, where I say the line—ba-da-boom—and stop and wait for the reaction and then go on. I'm not used to doing this."
Indeed, her arrival was turbulent for everyone. That first week, the script outlining Lauren and Alex's meeting changed daily. Cox was learning and relearning lines up until the taping Friday night. The writers worked every night until midnight, one night until 4 in the morning. There was also the small matter of a live chimp on the set (a subject for Lauren, who is a psychology major), which terrified Cox. And Fox was "working harder than I think he'd ever worked in his life to make it easy for Courteney," said Goldberg. "You know, Michael doesn't have to rehearse 10 times, but in a way, Courteney does. So he rehearsed 10 times."
"Ninety per cent of the actors in Michael's position would have just buried her," said director Sam Weisman. "He could have let her sink or swim, but he didn't."
Said Goldberg: "We're used to these moments that don't work, but Michael will say, 'it'll be there Friday' and I don't question it. But here we've introduced in a very big way this other element whose rhythms we weren't familiar with, so we didn't know if it was going to work Friday."
After the first taping on Friday, however, it was clear that it had worked. Fox was "just jumping up and down about how much he enjoyed working with her," Goldberg said. Goldberg later showed the tape to his friend Steven Spielberg. "From the minute Courteney came on he was knocked out," Goldberg said proudly.
Aside from what's happening on the screen, Cox is exactly the kind of personality Goldberg wanted to introduce into Family Ties' happy ensemble: a sweet girl who's easy to get along with. Not demanding.
Cox is a freckle-faced embodiment of old-fashioned American values. Highly disciplined and hard working, she carefully put away her Misfits of Science earnings in order to make a down payment on a charming, two-bedroom house-with-pool, one that could be the envy of any Yuppie couple with child.
"My friends who are younger than me think my priorities are a
little strange," Cox says one afternoon, as she sits poolside under an
umbrella. "They'd say, 'Man, you could have a Porsche.' I would much
rather have a house that I feel stable in. The house gives me a real
sense of security. I may be old for my age actually. I don't feel
Perhaps that's because Cox has been on her own since she was 17. She grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and her parents were separated when she was 10. "There's four kids in my family from my mother and father." When her parents both remarried, she acquired nine stepbrothers and stepsisters. "There's so many kids in my family it was OK for my parents to say, 'Great, let's move them out.' My dad and mom encouraged independence in us."
Unlike many of her friends, she ventured beyond the state border to attend Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C. If she hadn't had "a goal to go out into the world," she probably would have enrolled in the University of Alabama, married her college sweetheart and started producing babies. "It's a nice pleasant life," allows Cox, although she clearly wanted nothing to do with it.
Socially speaking, she isn't exactly on the warpath for a husband. "I go out and have good friends, but I'm not looking for a boy friend," she says. "I think when the time is right, it happens."
Over the summer following her freshman year, Cox went to New York and never returned to college. At first she worked as a teen model, although she knew she was never destined for greatness in that profession, "which is fine for me because I actually hated it. I don't have the look for it. I don't have the height. I'm 5-feet-5. I just barely paid my rent, on the floor of someone's house." Primarily, she earned money posing for illustrated book covers, mostly teen romances. Cox appeared on 30 or 40 book covers, "little dumb books," as she puts it, books like "The Big Crush," "How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues?" and "The Girls of Canby Hall" series.
"I should tell you what made me want to start acting," says Cox, teal-blue eyes blazing. "Although the book covers seem a little silly, you kind of had to act them out. The photographer would say, 'Be frightened,' and I'd go in and look frightened, or happy or romantic or scared. It was like doing improvs every day. It wasn't modeling as far as I'm concerned. For a book like 'Our Roommate Is Missing' I had to be the roommate that was missing. I was scared I was being kidnapped. It sounds silly, but I had a good time acting that kind of stuff out."
Television commercials for Dimension shampoo, Tampax, Maybelline cosmetics and a three-year contract to model in magazine ads for Noxzema Skin Cream and Acne-12 cream helped Cox underwrite acting classes and speech lessons to erase her Southern accent. Cox's major break came when she was cast as a groupie pulled from the audience by Bruce Springsteen to dance on-stage with him in his "Dancing in the Dark" video.
"It changed my life," says Cox, "because it was easy for my agent to say, 'She's the girl in the Bruce Springsteen video. Why don't you see her?' Whereas before it was, 'She's from Alabama. You'll like her, you'll really like her'."
After Cox was signed for Misfits, she moved to Los Angeles and her co-star, the late Dean Paul Martin, immediately took her under his wing and became her first true friend here. "It was interesting for both of us," she says wistfully, still shaken by his death in an airplane accident. "I'd never done anything, and he had come back from the Air National Guard, so it was kind of like, 'Are we acting?' He taught me everything he knew and I couldn't contribute much at the time."
But Cox is learning. As she stashes away her Family Ties paychecks, possibly to build an addition to her house, you can tell that she has the right attitude about Hollywood, about fame, about life.
"You've got to stay very normal and be thankful," she says. "I could be the flavor of the month because I'm Michael J. Fox's girl friend on the show and it'd be over tomorrow. I don't think you can take anything in this business for granted, and I think I have a long way to go."
Former Furman students make it big
Todd, who graduated from Furman in 1981, is the head writer and executive producer of "The Van Dyke Show" for the stable of independent television programmer Grant Tinker.
The show should air next fall on CBS, but work on the program has been halted by the three-month old screenwriters' strike. The show marks the return to television of Dick Van Dyke, who co-stars with his son, Barry.
Todd, 27, broke into the Hollywood big leagues by writing for the new "Twilight Zone" series on CBS in 1985. From there, he landed a three-year contract with Universal Studios as a writer for NBC's failed "Misfits of Science," but his luck changed as a writer for the hit series "Alf."
"Misfits of Science" became joke fodder for comedians Johnny Carson and David Letterman, but Todd remains proud of the scripts he wrote.
"Universal was not willing to do something fresh and new," and the show was plagued by an unwieldy budget and production problems, he said.
His scripts caught the eye of Tinker, the former president of NBC and one of the most respected figures in the television industry. Tinker, whom Todd refers to as his mentor, put Todd in charge of "The Van Dyke Show."
Pittsburgher stars in 'Harry' series
By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Television Critic
Bigfoot is back in the person of Pittsburgh native Kevin Peter Hall, who plays the furry lead in the syndicated television series "Harry and the Hendersons," premiering Sunday.
"He's not ALF," said Hall, who at 7 feet, 2 inches stands a lot taller than the wisecracking alien. "We're not allowed to say 'the A word' around here."
Hall reprises his role from the hit movie of the same name, about a creature from the woods who takes up residence with a human family that grows to love him.
Much of the comedy in the series stems from Hall's performance. He's a sasquatch of few words whose facial expressions speak volumes. It's those lips, those eyes and all that hair.
But the series also professes to have a serious side that focuses on the problems of the environment.
"I said, if they're going to do this with the show, I want to be part of it," Hall said in a telephone interview. "I wanted to deal with the ecology, with endangered species, recycling and the rest. These are all things I've been interested in."
"Harry has the potential to be another Smokey the Bear, a spokesman for the environment. It's exciting to be part of something positive."
The first two episodes mirror the story line of the movie, in which the Hendersons bring Harry home and adjust to living with him. In the next two episodes they try to return him to the forest, only to find that it's been cut down.
Bruce Davison, Molly Cheek, Zachary Bostrum and Carol-Ann Plante star as the human characters.
The series is shot on a leafy set that represents an area near Seattle, where the Hendersons are supposed to live. "This doesn’t look like most sitcoms," Hall said. "It looks like 'Twin Peaks.'"
One new character in the series is the next-door neighbor, Samantha Glick (Gigi Rice), a TV reporter. "Eventually she finds out about Harry. By the end of the season, everyone will know that there's a family in Seattle that has a bigfoot living with them. How can you keep that a secret?"
The series is shot on film without an audience or, Hall said, a laugh track. "Kids don't need to be clued in as to where the jokes are. So much of this is physical and visual."
Hall can't help but be physical or visual at his height. But he enjoys playing creatures like Harry, even though audiences never see his face.
"I'm not the type who needs to be in the public eye all the time," Hall said.
He finds "Harry" a lot easier to make than his previous series, "Misfits of Science," even though he didn't have to wear a fur suit in that show.
"With a half-hour show, you can be in one location all the time. In an hour show, you're going to different locations. And you put on weight because you eat all day at the food truck."
Shooting without an audience also makes things easier, he said.
"You don't get that instant gratification but when an audience isn't there, the time pressure is off. You have to perform for the audience and then they go home but you have to stay late. This makes for an earlier day."
Still, "Misfits of Science" had one advantage. It enabled him to attend an NBC celebrity party where he met his wife, Alaina Reed, who starred in the series "227."
The Halls get back to Pittsburgh now and then, to visit family and for one other important reason.
"There's a place in Monroeville that's the only place I can find that has jeans in my size," Hall said. "So when I get there, I stock up."
Harry, on the other hand, doesn't have to worry about his wardrobe.
James Parriott, "This Sci-Fi Guy"
In 1984, Parriott developed the short-lived crime drama Hawaiian Heat, about two cops who transfer from the frigid cold of a Chicago winter to the sunshine and beaches of the 50th State. Parriott admits that Hawaiian Heat was his attempt to shed his SF image. "After Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Voyagers!, I was getting known as this sci-fi guy." Hawaiian Heat ran only a handful of episodes, ending its run in December. Then, despite his best efforts, Parriott was lured back into the world of fantasy.
"Misfits of Science was a kick," laughs Parriott. "That was Brandon's idea. He didn't know precisely what he wanted, but he said, 'OK, I want to do this show about all these people with superpowers.' I think he approached Stephen Cannell first, but Cannell turned him down. Then he went to Kerry McCluggage, the Executive Vice President of Drama at Universal, and asked, 'Would you guys be interested in doing it with Parriott?' So Kerry called me, and we agreed it was either going to be a huge hit or a big flop, but we decided to take a chance on it. Directing the pilot was a hoot. Dean Paul Martin was great. And, of course, that was Courteney Cox's first big role, and she was terrific. That entire cast was just really fun to work with."
The biggest challenge on Misfits of Science were the special FX. "They weren't easy," he maintains. "Today, they could make that series with no problems. They are doing it with Heroes. You can do so much more today with computers that you could not do then. Back then, it was all done on film. The character of Elvin [Kevin Peter Hall], the shrinking guy, was tough. Just trying to coordinate the blue-screen work was an ordeal. In the days of film, you couldn't composite things quickly to see if they were going to work or not. It was a big, long, expensive process. So the effects were as good as we could make them on a television budget with our time constraints. Today, we could have done a much better job."
Misfits misfired in the ratings, and vanished quietly in the mid-season after only 17 episodes. Parriott then made another attempt at setting a series in Hawaii with Island Sons, starring brothers Ben, Joseph, Timothy and Sam Bottoms. The drama failed to get picked up, but Parriott and his wife were so taken with the Islands that they bought a home there a few years later.
Mark Thomas Miller plays a hero on Misfits Of Science, but he's a hero off-screen as well! He was walking down the Venice pier (a real popular beach spot in Southern California) when he heard someone calling for help and saw a woman drowning in the ocean. Without a second thought, he dived into the water and rescued her! After making sure she was all right (others called the paramedics!) Mark disappeared from the scene - not wanting to be fussed over or thanked. Well, we're going to fuss over you Mark - we think you're wonderful!
"My body is saying 'Relax on those Snickers bars,'" laughs gorgeous Courteney Cox, who's the lucky "only woman" who's part of the Misfits Of Science gang. Hard as it may be to believe, she says that now she's 21 her body metabolism is slowing down and she tends to gain weight faster ... sure Courteney, sure!
Get To Know The Misfits Of Science!
On Their NBC Series, They're Zany, Hilarious - And Very Hot!
DEAN PAUL MARTIN
Dr. Billy Hayes
On TV, he's the eccentric head of this unique band of "misfits." Off screen, Dean Paul has had so much in the way of real-life experience, he's the perfect leader.
The son of the famous veteran entertainer, Dean Martin, Dean Paul knows the ins and outs of showbiz first hand. At the ripe old age of 13, he formed the rock band, Dino, Desi and Billy: they had a few hits and went on to tour the world! An avid sportsman, Dean soon left rock 'n roll to pursue that interest, doing stints with both the World Football League and the Grand Prix tennis circuit. In fact, it was while playing World Team Tennis that this handsome six-footer was approached for a lead role in the feature film Players (which became his acting debut).
This blond 'n blue-eyed adventure-lover hopped from acting to pursue his other dream - not tennis or football, but flying! Dean joined the California Air National Guard, where he completed his flight training in 1983 and achieved the rank of Captain. Little could he have known that only a couple of years later, he'd return to acting and rank as a full-fledged Misfit Of Science!
In his spare time, Dean, twice divorced, enjoys skiing, vacationing and spending time with his 12-year-old son, Alexander.
MARK THOMAS MILLER
Johnny B Bukowski
He's as funky and hunky as his Misfits character - and even more fun!
In real life, Mark is a true adventurer who left his home in upstate New York for the Big Apple and a chance to study there. He eventually also left college but continued to study acting with Lee Strasberg, while holding a colorful assortment of jobs, from the lead singer in a punk rock band to a tour guide!
Mark had but one role before landing on Misfits - a guest appearance on the TV-series, Trauma Center. Today, he's charming and energizing loads of Misfits lovers as a rock singer charged with 20,000 volts of electricity - Johnny B, of course!
When he's not recharging his power-pack, Mark enjoys various water sports, especially sailing and swimming.
KEVIN PETER HALL
Dr. Elvin (El) Lincoln
Kevin Peter Hall is tall. Seven feet, two inches, to be exact. That's when he's playing Misfit's Dr. E. Lincoln, who can shrink to six inches, then grow right back thanks to a special serum he created.
But when Kevin isn't acting, he still remains a stately 7'2" - so tall and athletic that he won a basketball scholarship to George Washington University. Then, after a year of playing professional basketball in Venezuela, Kevin teamed up with a 5'6" college buddy to form a musical-comedy act (the duo still performs on the Los Angeles club circuit on occasion).
When he's not playing basketball, cracking jokes or shrinking, Kevin enjoys racquetball, baking banana bread and sewing his own clothes.
You may have heard rumors that Kevin was injured in a motorcycle accident. The young actor was badly burned on his forearm and had to undergo surgery - but he's back on the set and all is well.
Gloria Denallo [sic]
There's also a lovely lady Misfit who's sweeping the country with her sweet smile and uncanny telekinetic powers.
After a year in college for interior design, Courteney left her native Birmingham, Alabama for New York City, unable to avoid the acting bug. It was a wise decision at that, because almost immediately, her pretty, all-American face landed Courteney a number of TV and print ads, a small part on As The World Turns, and even the chance to pose for a magazine cover.
But her biggest "break" came when the brown-haired, blue-eyed actress was chosen to hop onstage and bop along with Bruce Springsteen during his "Dancing In The Dark" video. Her role in Misfits was not far behind.
When she's not on the set, Courteney enjoys acrylic painting, cooking and being outdoors.
You can write to Courteney, Kevin, Mark and Dean Paul c/o Misfits Of Science, NBC-TV [address] - and be sure to tell them 16 sent ya!
Meet The Misfits Of Science!
Following the tradition of ladies first, Courteney Cox plays Gloria in the new NBC series. Misfits of Science is Courteney's first starring role on television although she isn't a novice when it comes to standing before a camera. A former model, Courteney was raised in Birmingham, Alabama and later found herself in New York where she quickly became a popular model.
In the series, Courteney portray's [sic] a girl with telekinetic powers who gets involved in various adventures with co-stars Dean Paul Martin, Kevin Peter Hall and Mark Thomas Miller. Courteney has been featured on the covers of many romance novels and serves as the new 'Noxema Girl' in their advertising campaign. She plays the drums and plays tennis when time permits!
Dean Paul Martin makes his return to acting with Misfits of Science. The past two years found adventurous Dean Paul piloting F-4C jet fighters with the Air National Guard. As Dr. Billy Hayes, Dean Paul is the 'leader' of an oddball group of people that includes the previously mentioned Courteney Cox.
Dean Paul literally grew up in show business as the son of actor/singer Dean Martin. As a teenager he was a singer with the pop group Dino, Desi and Billy. The guys toured the world and made several hit records. Although it has been some time since Dean Paul has sung publicly he admits he would like to do so again!
Kevin Peter Hall is often assumed to be a professional basketball player and not without reason. At 7'4" tall the assumption is completely understandable. "I've always felt I was the victim of height prejudice, but I would rather be tall than seven inches high," he claims, good-naturedly.
On Misfits of Science Kevin gets the opportunity to expand on an acting career that got its start at George Washington University. He choose [sic] that particular college because it was the only school where he could get a theatre arts degree while on a basketball scholarship. Along with his current role Kevin has a comedy nightclub act with a friend.
Last, but by no means least is Mark Thomas Miller, playing Johnny B. Bukowski, a rock musician who is also capable of firing off bolts of electricity when the occasion demands. If you haven't guessed already, this is not your average show. Playing a rock musician comes easy to Mark who once worked with a punk band called 'Trash'.
He attended college briefly before deciding on an acting career and eventually drifted to Hollywood where he did a guest stint on the short-lived series, "Trauma Center". When he's not working, 6'1" Mark enjoys sports of all types and working with electrical gadgets, which should give him lots of practice for his role on Misfits of Science!
COURTENEY COX, "MS. SCI-FI"
At the time of Cocoon's release in 1985, Courteney Cox had just begun pursuing an acting career, an effort which meant studying the craft and erasing her Southern accent.
She left her native Alabama for New York, where she signed with the Ford Modeling Agency. Photo layouts and commercials followed, but Cox found modeling didn't quite suit her. "I wasn't going to go far," she admits. "I'm only 5'5" and I don't have that look."
Then, director Brian De Palma selcted her as "The Springsteen Girl," the lucky lady Bruce Springsteen plucks out of the audience during his Dancing in the Dark video. "Brian didn't want a professional Solid Gold dancer doing moves with Bruce Springsteen," Cox recalls. "He just wanted a regular girl and that's what he got."
Cox wound up dancing her way to stardom, but the media overplayed the Springsteen association to the point where Cox couldn't escape the label even when she had moved on to new avenues. "I'm not angry about it," Cox says now, "because that was the lucky break for me and he's a great guy." She parlayed that break into a featured role on the short-lived SF-TV series Misfits of Science, co-starring as Gloria, a woman with telekinetic powers.
"By the time I was doing Misfits, I thought I had lost the whole accent, but whenever I did any emotional scenes, it would come right back and I would have to loop it. Once, I had to bring this helicopter down with my special powers. Dean Paul Martin said, 'Come on, Gloria! You can do it! We need you, we need you!' and I said, 'I caaayyn't do it!' I just couldn't believe it."
Misfits led to Masters of the Universe, a big-budget SF fantasy based on the line of childrens' toys. Of her first starring role in a major film (which she discussed in STARLOG #124), Cox says, "It was pretty entertaining. I'm not embarrassed. I learned a lot. Masters was a good experience for me. I made many friends. It was my first lead. Frank Langella was great and I love the director, Gary Goddard."
Next came Family Ties and the coveted role as Michael J. Fox's girl friend on the top-rated series which is currently finishing its final season. "It has been great. It's a wonderful cast and it's nice to be on a show that cracks me up," Cox says. "It's a nice relationship. I hope we go out with a bang. I don't know what it will be, but I just hope it's big."
Most recently, there was Cocoon: The Return, in which Cox plays Sara, a marine biologist who sympathizes with the Antarean she is studying. "I loved the first Cocoon so much. I thought it was great," she says. "To be a part of the second one, being that the whole entire cast was coming back and only two people [Cox and Elaine Stritch] were going to be added, was an honor. It was a good opportunity for me."
The alien, which Sara dubs "Phil," became the key element in The Return's subplot, as the humans and their alien friends team to rescue Phil before he either dies from lack of exposure to his own support system or gets dissected by the usual military sadists. Cox developed an endearing relationship with Phil through a series of long glances and short spurts of dialogue.
"Wendy Cooke, who plays Phil and the other Antareans, wasn't always there because she had to put on this huge body suit and she would be in makeup for hours and hours," Cox recalls. "Sometimes, Dan Petrie, who's such a great director, would act out the part of the alien and float for me and make these expressions. If he wasn't there, I would just use my imagination. I hope it comes off that you understand my relationship with Phil and realize I really did care for him. And I hope you care for the alien, too. That's really important. It's a nice little part of the story. It needs to come across. I think it did."
With Misfits, Masters and Cocoon: The Return, Cox seems to have earned a new label, "Ms. Sci-Fi." "Isn't that the truth!" she laughs. "Cocoon was great but I'm tired of doing the scientist stuff. It seems I'm always playing a psychologist, a marine biologist, many roles with '-ist' at the end. I'm ready to play something really goofy. I know I want to be in this business. I would like to have a career like these people in Cocoon. I've got to build up a reputation as an actress before Courteney Cox from Family Ties and Cocoon will be able to play the roles I would really like to play.
"I think I can do it."