With apologies to VH1, the best thing to happen to the 1980s hasn’t been an I Love… produced special or a Bret Michaels or Scott Baio trainwreck series. It’s unabashedly Fox’s 24, which has breathed new life into stars of the Teddy Ruxpin decade for years now. It all started at the top when the show’s creators selected Kiefer Sutherland to headline the series as unflappable hero Jack Bauer.
Before 24, which roared back last night (January 10) with a two-hour Energizer Bunny-hopping seventh season premiere (after coming up limp the previous season), the actor was jumping from one B-movie to another and still suffering the after effects of a bad role and mustache in The Cowboy Way. (We all did.)
Thankfully, Sutherland’s career was resurrected with 24 and he wasn’t alone. While most 1980s stars’ appearances on the show were brief, they all registered and for that reason alone, Danny Pintauro really needs to call his agent…now.
Here’s a rundown of 24 appearances on 24 that left were totally rad….
Sean Astin: This former “Goonie” joined CTU two seasons ago as a cowardly but ballsy supervisor named Lynn McGill. While the character clashed with many, and battled with a drug-addicted sister, he actually ended up being a hero. Do you think Samwise Gangee would inhale natural gas, and take one for the CTU team? (Probably)
Powers Boothe: The Deadwood star was ruthless (as always) as Vice President Noah Daniels, a proactive leader who preferred to fight back from a round of nuclear attacks on US soil even if it risked another World War. While Boothe, a star of countless 1980s B-movies, was perfectly cast, the role seemed too much like season 2’s Vice President James Prescott, only on steroids.
William Devane: He’ll always be Gregory Sumner on Knots Landing, but Devane really sank his teeth into the role of Secretary of Defense James Heller during seasons four and five. The character was always loyal to his country and especially Jack Bauer, but the fact he miraculously survived driving off a cliff during one episode is the single most far-fetched plot twist on the show… and that’s saying a lot.
Kevin Dillon: Long before Viking Quest, Johnny Drama was Lonnie McRae, a sketchy survivalist who freed Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) from a bear trap in the woods (part of that infamous cougar episode) only to attempt to keep her captive in a fallout shelter in his cabin. The Blob actor did a fine job as a borderline psycho, and the role probably helped him land Entourage.
Sara Gilbert:During season two, the artist formerly known as Darlene Conner, appeared briefly as a CTU computer analyst. After a few weeks of doing little else but typing on a keyboard, she ended up dying in an office explosion. I wish she was on long enough to crack some sarcastic one-liners like she did on Roseanne.
Lukas Haas: During season four, this Witness actor guest starred as a computer hacker and former classmate of CTU’s Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who got caught up in a terrorist plot. Despite his character (Andrew Paige) being kidnapped by terrorists, and saved by Jack Bauer, I prefer an Amish Haas over a Hacker Haas.
Dennis Haysbert: After guest starring in such 1980s shows as Growing Pains and Magnum PI, and a turn as slugger Serrano in the 1989 baseball comedy Major League, Haysbert broke into films in the 1990s. But, his career became defined by his amazing performance as President David Palmer. His assassination during season five’s season premiere was the hardest day we ever had to live through.
Leslie Hope: The Knots Landing actress turned in a memorable performance as Jack’s loving wife Teri during the show’s inaugural season. As we know, the poor woman suffered one calamity after another from amnesia to a bad hair cut, and alas, a bitter end at the hands of traitor and former Jack flame Nina.
C. Thomas Howell: The Outsiders Ponyboy played unnecessary character Barry Landes, Kim’s psychologist and possible love interest a few seasons back. Was he dating Kim? Did he have to have such an overgrown goatee? Is Soul Man available on DVD? Nobody knows.
Regina King: The Jerry Maguire actress appeared irregularly last season as President Wayne Palmer’s ballsy and outspoken advocate sister Sandra. While she provided some sass, I’d rather watch her as Cuba Gooding Jr.’s sassy wife in the aforementioned sports dramedy or even as Marla Gibbs’ daughter on 227 Take that, Jackeé Harry.
Peter MacNicol: The Emmy Award-winning Ally McBeal biscuit has played a pivotal role as White House Chief of Staff Thomas Lennox. The role, while interesting, is nowhere near as layered as his McBeal dancing ways and even makes us long for his oddball turn as Dr. Janosz Poha in Ghostbusters 2.
Lou Diamond Phillips: The La Bamba star was terrific in a small but crucial role during the last few episodes of the first season of the show. As Mark DeSalvo, a warden at the Department of Defense detention center, his character helped Jack come face-to-face with old foe Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper). He was ultimately killed by Drazen’s son, and unfortunately didn’t have the lovely locks he did with Sutherland in Young Guns.
Tony Plana: During season four, the Ugly Betty dad appeared as Omar, a terrorist who locked up Secretary of Defense James Heller’s (William Devane) and his daughter Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). He’d ultimately get served, but overall, the character was one-dimensional and I’d rather watch him as Jefe in the 1980s farce The Three Amigos.
Julian Sands: The Warlock and Boxing Helena actor delivered arguably his finest performance as ruthless oil investor and arms dealer Vladimir Bierko last season. Who could forget his deployment of a natural gas canister in the CTU office which claimed the life of lovable Edgar. Poor Edgar.
Rick Schroeder: The Silver Spoons actor played conflicted scumbag Mike Doyle, a CTU supervisor with a history of insubordination. Despite his strong dramatic turn on NYPD Blue, we’ll always picture this baby-faced actor on an oversized toy train or answering a duck phone.
Jean Smart: The former Designing Women star enjoyed a career resurgence for several years as Martha Logan, an emotionally unstable First Lady who ends up stabbing her presidential husband. Her wonderful performance instantly erases any memories of Meshach Taylor.
Tamilyn Tomita: The Japanese-born actress was President David Palmer’s press secretary Jenny Dodge during season two, but didn’t quite register nearly as much as she did as Ralph Macchio’s love interest Kumiko in The Karate Kid: Part 2. Sweep the leg, Tomita!
JoBeth Williams: In a thankless cameo during season five, this Poltergeist actress appeared as the unsuspecting wife of United States traitor Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller), a former CTU-agent and Bauer’s mentor gone bad. Williams had only minutes of screen time, but managed to appear long enough to get shot in the leg by Bauer. Tough break.
Rounding out the rest: Paul McCrane (Graem Bauer), James Cromwell (Phillip Bauer), Jayne Atkinson (Karen Hayes), Wendy Crewson (Dr. Anne Packard), Chad Lowe (Reed Pollock), Peter Weller (Christopher Henderson)