Is there anyone who doesn’t love going down memory lane? If you’re in the mood for some nostalgic moments today, come along with us and take a look at some of your favorite TV shows from the 1980s. Sure, there was no shortage of good television drama in that decade, but few can argue with the fact that ‘Dallas,’ ‘The Love Boat,’ and ‘Dynasty’ were some of the best dramatic series on the air at the time.
The shows have had reunions and reboots, and it comes as no surprise, considering they were such a hit! So if you feel like revisiting those characters and want to see what the actors and actresses went on to do after the shows ended, come down memory lane with us.
Last year, the prime-time soap opera ‘Dallas’ celebrated its 40th anniversary. The show aired its dramatic series finale back in 1991, and it’s clear now that fans didn’t get enough. The show about the larger-than-life family of the Ewing Oil Empire premiered in 1978 as a five-episode miniseries. People must have loved it since it went on to run on CBS for 356 episodes over 14 seasons.
The show turned actors like Larry Hagman into household names. More recently, in 2012, a reboot of the widely popular show was made. And audiences were happy to see the return of J.R., Bobby, and Sue Ellen in a reboot of Dallas on the network TNT.
Let’s take a look at the characters and the actors, on the show and in real life…
Larry Hagman played the villainous yet popular character J.R. Ewing, who was a jealous, egotistical and unethical oil tycoon. He became the talk of the town during the summer of 1980 when the episode “Who Shot J.R.?” aired and sparked a real controversy throughout the country.
Ewing was just one of those characters that people loved to hate. He was the brains behind the oil company, the husband of Sue Ellen and the eldest son of Jock and Ellie Ewing. Hagman was the only actor in the series to appear in all 356 episodes of ‘Dallas.’
Due to the popularity of his character on ‘Dallas,’ he made five guest appearances on ‘Knots Landing,’ a spinoff show in the early 1980s. Hagman also went on to appear in two ‘Dallas’ TV movies: ‘J.R. Returns’ in 1996 and ‘War of the Ewings’ in 1998.
Hagman reprised his role as J.R. Ewing in reboot show in 2012, but his stint on the show was short-lived. Hagman, unfortunately, was diagnosed with throat cancer and died a few months after the reboot of the show aired in 2012.
Patrick Duffy played J.R.’s brother Bobby, who was a successful (albeit reluctant) oil baron. He didn’t share his brother’s ruthlessness and usually insisted on playing fair. He was the altruistic brother; the good guy who often butted heads with J.R. And it didn’t help their already strained relationship when Bobby married the sister of J.R.’s long-time rival, Cliff Barnes.
Bobby was their father’s favorite, which only made J.R. more envious. And who can forget the time when Bobby “died” only to show up a year later in the shower. Apparently, his death was all a big dream. At least the show’s writers thought that would be enough of an explanation!
After ‘Dallas,’ Patrick Duffy continued his TV career and success on the also popular 90’s show ‘Step by Step’ as Frank Lambert from 1991 to 1998. He also starred in the popular soap opera ‘The Bold of the Beautiful.’
After taking his role again in the 2012 reboot, he appeared in ‘Welcome to Sweden’ and ‘The Cool Kids.’ In 2017, he starred in a Hallmark Channel movie called ‘The Christmas Cure,’ and in the film ‘Trafficked’ with Ashley Judd.
Linda Gray was Sue Ellen on the show, the suffering wife of J. R. Ewing. It was no secret that Sue Ellen never really liked her husband and who can blame her? She eventually had an affair with his biggest in the business, Cliff Barnes.
She went on to become CEO of Ewing Oil in 1998. Some refer to Sue Ellen as the “original desperate housewife.”
Linda Gray did go on to do a lot more after the show…
After ‘Dallas,’ Linda Gray made guest appearances in other TV shows, including the British series ‘Lovejoy.’ She starred in a number of made-for-TV movies and did guest appearances on ‘Melrose Place.’ She was in the short-lived series ‘Models, Inc.,’ and had a recurring role on ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’
She has been married to photographer Ed Thrasher for over 20 years and had two sons with him. Now in her late 70s, Gray is promoting her memoir, ‘The Road To Happiness Is Always Under Construction.’ She recently appeared on ‘Loose Women’ to discuss the book. Gray then returned to do the ‘Dallas’ reboot from 2012 to 2014 and did additional roles in made-for-TV movies. She can even be seen this year in 2019 in a drama called ‘Prescience.’
Victoria Principal played the character of Pamela Barnes Ewing, who first appeared on the show as the newly-married wife of Bobby. She was seen as suspicious by the other family members as due to the Barnes/Ewing oil rivalry.
Victoria was something of a method actor, and because of it, she often kept her distance from the rest of the cast in order to maintain her status as an outsider. Pamela was a character full of turmoil, who dealt with battles of divorce, death, infidelity, and miscarriage. That’s not an easy character to play.
Victoria went on to star in a bunch of made-for-TV movies, some of which she co-produced. She came back to prime-time soap operas in 2000, as she appeared in the short-lived NBC series ‘Titans.’ In 1989, Victoria created a line of skin care products called The Principal Secret. Then in 2011, she launched a line of jewelry called Keys & Hearts.
Victoria also became a best-selling author, having written four books about beauty, skin care, and health. “I have a full- time job running this skin care company that I created, and not only that, I have an animal rescue ranch,” she said in an issue of Soap Opera Digest. “I didn’t know when I would leave acting, but it was my intention….”
Ken Kercheval played Cliff Barnes, J.R. Ewing’s ultimate nemesis. Cliff was having a hard time dealing in the cutthroat oil business, and he would always be outsmarted by his rival. Cliff finally got the best of J.R. in the final season, and eventually took over Ewing Oil.
Ken Kercheval and Larry Hagman were the only actors that stayed with the series for its entire run, even though Kercheval’s character Cliff was only a recurring character during the first couple of seasons.
In 1991, Ken appeared in the reunion movie, ‘I Still Dream of Jeannie,’ and has more than 30 starring roles since 1967. He returned to the screen several times at Cliff in the reboot, but he’s also starred in the long-running TV series’, ‘Diagnosis Murder’ and ‘Crossing Jordan.’
In 2006, Ken performed as The General in the musical ‘White Christmas’ at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre and Plymouth’s Theatre Royal. Sadly, though, Ken passed away not too long ago in April 2019 at the age of 83.
Charlene Tilton starred as Lucy Ewing, J.R.’s niece. She was a different personality to the other characters, to say the least. You can say that she was something of a wild child. She was often found skipping school to roll around in the hay with older men.
At the height of 4ft 11in, Lucy got the nickname ‘The Poison Dwarf’ which also reflected her trouble-making nature. She got engaged to a gay man, became involved with a psychopath, and even developed a drug problem. Life wasn’t dull for Lucy.
Tilton landed some roles in spoof movies, including ‘The Silence of the Hams’ (1994), ‘Superhero Movie’ (2008) and ‘Paranormal Calamity’ (2010). She was also a competitor in the first season of ‘Celebrity Fit Club.’
She was in the pilot episode for the ‘Dallas’ reboot. She told a Texas newspaper that she was excited about going back to Southfork Ranch for the reunion, saying: “I know this sounds crazy, but Southfork is like a second home to me.” Later in 2017, she starred in ‘Vengeance: A Love Story’ with Nicolas Cage.
Okay folks, moving on to another major 80s TV drama! ‘The Love Boat’…
More than 40 years after the famous series premiered, the cast, including Gavin MacLeod, Ted Lange, Bernie Kopell, Lauren Tewes, Jill Whelan, and Fred Grandy, all appeared on ‘The Morning Show’ live from Los Angeles where they received an honorary star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The show ran from 1976 to 1990 and made a real impact on the culture of the era.
The actors had some fun with it. MacLeod, aka Capt. Merrill Stubing, wore his signature captain hat while Lange, the bartender Isaac Washington, sported his signature red jacket and mustache. Koppell, the doctor Adam Bricker, donned his signature specs.
When he was cast on ‘The Love Boat,’ Gavin MacLeod had just finished his seven-year run on the highly revered show ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’ Gavin’s agent told him ‘The Love Boat’ script “sucked,” but he added that Aaron Spelling, the show’s producer, really wanted him for the part.
Gavin, being the industry-savvy actor he was, recognized the opportunity and called it what it was: a gold mine. It was a feel-good show, and it was exactly what he was looking for. As we know now – he took the job.
After the show ended, it was hard for Gavin to get serious acting roles. He appeared in some musicals, co-hosted a funny airline safety video called “Safety Old School Style” with Betty White for Air New Zealand, was the honorary mayor in ‘Pacific Palisades’ for five years, and even conducted the Colorado Symphony.
During the 80s, he remarried his second wife Patti, who he divorced three years prior. They co-wrote a book about it too, called ‘Back On Course: The Remarkable Story of a Divorce That Ended in Remarriage.’ He turned to religion in his real life, and it leaked into this career choices. He played the lead role in the 2008 film ‘The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.’ He recently wrote his memoir ‘This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith, & Life.’ He’s still close friends Bernie Kopell and Ted Lange. To this day, he’s a spokesperson for Princess Cruise Lines.
Kopell was a known face before he appeared on ‘The Love Boat.’ But oddly enough, he started out playing mostly Mexican and Puerto Rican characters. He taught himself to perfect a Russian accent, which landed him the recurring role of Maxwell Smart’s enemy, Siegfried, on the series ‘Get Smart.’ He was also a regular on ‘Bewitched.’
He would joke around about how he “got away with murder” as his character, the lewd Doc could get the ladies to undress and it was part of his job! He also co-wrote several of the show’s “story-segments” with his co-star Fred Grandy.
After the show ended, Bernie did the popular thing to do and appeared as a guest on shows like ‘Fantasy Island,’ ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ ‘Kojak,’ and ‘Chico and the Man.’ He even got the chance to focus on his tennis game, winning many charity celebrity tournaments he competed in.
He still does TV appearances and guest spots, most recently on ‘Raising Hope with Cloris Leachman,’ who was also on ‘The Love Boat’ back in the day. Bernie once said that thanks to ‘The Love Boat,’ he can still “get a good table at any restaurant in any country in the world.” Not too bad!
Before the show started, Fred Grandy’s biggest break was his recurring role as Carol’s boyfriend on the series ‘Maude.’ His resume was somewhat limited, but his academic history was anything but. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University!
He also had some valuable connections; at Phillips Exeter Academy, he was roommates with David Eisenhower (the grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower) and was best man at David’s wedding to Julie Nixon in 1968.
Fred spent time in politics and acting. He was a speechwriter for Iowa Congressman Wiley Mayne and co-wrote an off-Broadway play with Jane Curtin, the future ‘Saturday Night Live’ star. After ‘The Love Boat’ ended, he jumped back into politics. When he told Gavin MacLeod that he was going to run for office, MacLeod became the very first financial contributor to Grandy’s campaign.
From 1987 TO 1995, Grandy was actually a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He didn’t win the election for Governor of Iowa in 1994, losing by a mere four percentage points. From 1995 to 2000, was the President and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. Although he has been doing some serious stuff, he happily joined the cast for their Love Boat reunion on ‘The Talk’ in November 2013. He also plays Dr. William Ledreau on ‘The Mindy Project.’
Ted played the bartender Isaac Washington, and during the run of the show, bartenders in real life would offer him their favorite drinks hoping that he’d use them on the show. So it looks like he got to enjoy himself offset, too.
On set, he got to travel, get to know cast members who became lifelong friends and even lock lips with one of his favorite movie stars. His first screen kiss was with guest star Diahann Carroll. Fun fact: it took a while before she and the crew caught on to why he was asking for retakes. He just wanted to kiss her again!
Lange was in the original cast of ‘Hair’ on Broadway in 1968, and believe it or not; he’s written 23 plays himself! He’s an accomplished director, showing off his talents in shows like ‘Moesha,’ ‘Dharma & Greg,’ ‘Fantasy Island,’ ‘The First Family’ ‘The Wayans Brothers,’ ‘The Fall Guy,’ and multiple episodes of ‘The Love Boat.’
He lost 28 pounds during his time on ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ in 2006, guest starred on ‘Psych,’ ‘The King of Queens,’ ‘227’, ‘Evening Shade,’ and ‘Scrubs.’ You might also recognize him from all the Bud Light commercials he starred in. Currently, he’s directing sitcoms for Byron Allen’s production company, and he’s still writing plays.
Lauren Tewes was cast the day before the third pilot of ‘The Love Boat’ was shot. She was chosen out of a pool of 100 actresses, having won the role after producer Aaron Spelling screened an episode of ‘Starsky & Hutch’ in which she appeared. She was then told to report to the set early the next morning.
But guess what? Her car had a flat, and since she was broke at the time, she borrowed money to fix the tire and managed to get to the set as requested. While she had already been in over 20 commercials that year, ‘Love Boat’ was the break she was waiting for.
Lauren’s journey from being a struggling actress to a TV star was a rocky one. She spent a lot of her earnings on drugs and things only went from bad to worse when she was fired from gigs. But she eventually turned everything around.
She went back to work and got better acting roles. She still does some acting when she can, and does some voice work for video games. Lauren went to culinary school to become a cheese specialist, no less! When she’s not acting, she works as a sous chef for a catering company in Seattle.
Jill Whelan joined the cast of ‘Love Boat’ when she was only 11 years old, playing Captain Stubing’s daughter Vicky. The show, as you can imagine, changed her life. She made friends, got to dance with Ginger Rogers, and even became pen pals with Ethel Merman.
Her fame from the show got her an appearance on the 1980 hit ‘Airplane!’ where she played a sick passenger, who kept having her IV get knocked out by an oblivious guitar-playing flight attendant. Remember that? I sure do!
Whelan became a spokesperson for Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign during the 80s. But she too faced some difficult times. Her first husband’s failed business attempts wiped her out. Her occasional acting gigs weren’t enough to support her and her son, so she went to work behind the scenes.
She did all kinds of things, including work as an investigative reporter, events producer, associate producer, and as a journalist. She hosted a podcast with her friend Brian Phelps called ‘The Brian and Jill Show.’
Remember the show ‘Dynasty?’ Well, let’s give you a refresher…
The original ‘Dynasty’ was a prime time soap opera that aired on ABC from 1981 to 1989. And like ‘The Love Boat,’ it was also produced by Aaron Spelling. The show revolved around the Carringtons, a wealthy oil family in Denver, Colorado. Starring John Forsythe and Linda Evans as oil tycoon Blake Carrington and his wife Krystle, ‘Dynasty’ was ABC’s version of the CBS’s ‘Dallas.’
At first, the ratings didn’t come near to those of ‘Dallas,’ but the second season’s arrival of Joan Collins as Blake’s first wife Alexis boosted ‘Dynasty’ into the Top 20, and in 1985, the series hit #1. The show was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best TV Drama Series every year from 1981 to 1986, winning the award in 1984. The show was canceled in 1989, after nine seasons. Then in 2017, a reboot series became available on CW Seed.
Heather was by far one of the most recognizable faces from ‘Dynasty. ’ The actress joined the cast in the show’s second season to play the role of Sammy Jo Dean Carrington. She was the niece of Krystle Carrington and eventually married and had a child with Steven Carrington.
The actress really made an impact on the show. She was such a hit with the show’s fans that she stayed on the series until the very end, also going on to star in the miniseries reunion a few years back.
But what is she up to now?
Locklear’s career and personal life have gone through its ups and downs over the years. She had a flair for rock stars apparently. And one of her darkest times came while she was married to Tommy Lee and later to Richie Sambora, who was Bon Jovi’s guitarist.
Being married to a rock star can involve some excitement as well as turmoil, so it’s no secret that Locklear has been battling some demons over the years. But that hasn’t stopped her from starring in movies like ‘The Perfect Man,’ ‘Uptown Girls,’ and ‘Scary Movie 5.’
Pamela Bellwood was a recurring character in the first six seasons of ‘Dynasty,’ playing Claudia Blaisdel Carrington. But the writers eventually wrote her off the show after Bellwood became pregnant during the 1985/86 season.
The writers considered writing the situation into the plotline but then decided it was too difficult and, as she missed a bunch of episodes in the middle of the season, her character became more and more unstable, setting her hotel room on fire. It was a tragic end for the show’s iconic character.
After being killed off on the show, Pamela didn’t enjoy the most fruitful of TV careers. She made some cameo appearances on shows like ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Murder She Wrote,’ and recently on ‘Criminal Minds.’
However, Bellwood’s personal life has been more successful. She’s married to photographer Nik Wheeler. She seems to be enjoying her personal life a lot, but there’s no denying that her finest hour was during her stint on the show.
John Forsythe played Blake Carrington, the patriarch of the show. His portrayal of Blake was legendary. He was originally a strict and ruthless man, but Blake evolved during the show’s duration into a more compassionate and kind family man.
Forsythe was a jack of all trades, having worked as an actor, producer, teacher and philanthropist throughout his 60-plus year career. Forsythe also appeared on talk shows and even hosted a bunch of game shows including ‘Password.’
After his time on ‘Dynasty,’ Forsythe made some memorable appearances in blockbuster movies. The most recognized role was the millionaire Charles Townsend – “Charlie” of the 2000 reboot of Charlie’s Angels.
He also played in the sequel ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.’ But he eventually retired simply due to old age. Sadly, on April 1, 2010, Forsythe passed away from pneumonia. What made his passing even more upsetting for his family was that his widow died only five weeks later.
Kathleen Beller was originally one of the Colbys, as Kirby Anders from 1982 to 1984. But it was really before ‘Dynasty’ ever aired that Beller made a name for herself. In 1974, she made a brief cameo in the classic mafia movie. You might have heard of it. It was called ‘The Godfather Part II.’
She later received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the movie ‘Promises in the Dark.’ She also made TV appearances on shows such as ‘Hawaii Five-O’ and ‘Barnaby Jones.’
Kathleen actually had a lot on her plate…
Kathleen Beller had a bunch of appearances on other TV shows after her time on ‘Dynasty’ was up. She made guest appearances on shows like ‘Murder She Wrote’ and starred in films like ‘Legacy and Time Trackers.’
Her personal was a little more eventful than her TV career. Between the years 1980 and 1986, she was married to actor Michael Holt. But after their divorce, in 1988, she got married to the love of her life, musician Thomas Dolby. The couple had three children and are happily married to this day.
The first two seasons of ‘Dynasty’ got to enjoy the character of Steven Carrington, who was one of the most interesting characters on the show. Al Corey played Steven, renowned for being one of the first openly gay characters on American TV.
It took a while, however, before Corley made it big. When he was coming up in the 1970s, he was a doorman at the famous club Studio 54. As it turns out, Corley left the show because he was apparently against the character’s “ever-shifting [romantic] references.”
Not only was Corley frustrated with the character’s ever-changing preferences, but he also complained that the show’s creators weren’t making Steven funny enough. His leaving proved to be a terrible career move, though…
Corley struggled to find work after leaving the show. He starred in over a dozen movies, but they were all B-list movies. He had a short-term relationship with pop star Carly Simon. He has three children from a separate marriage and lives in Los Angeles.
For most of the series, Gordon Thomson portrayed Adam Carrington, the main villain of the show. He was fueled by jealousy (as they all are) his character Adam added a layer of darkness that was pivotal to the show’s drama.
Thomson wasn’t available to reprise his role of Adam in the show’s reunion miniseries. As a result, actor Robin Sachs was cast for the role of Adam. But let’s be honest, Gordon Thomson will always be associated with the dramatic character.
After the end of ‘Dynasty,’ Thomson became heavily involved in daytime TV shows. He was the third actor to play the character of Mason Capwell in ‘Santa Barbara.’ He also played in ‘Passions,’ ‘The Young and the Restless’ and ‘Sunset Beach.’
You might remember Thomson from his appearance in the Academy Award-nominated movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ But it was in 2017, after keeping his life extremely private for all of his life, Thomson made headlines when he came out as gay.
Billy Dee Williams was already established as a Hollywood superstar before ‘Dynasty’ ever started. He first starred as the scoundrel Lando Calrissian in the ‘Star Wars’ movies ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1977) and ‘Return Of The Jedi,’ (1983).
It was only a year later that he made his first appearance on ‘Dynasty’ as top executive Brady Lloyd. Williams added some class to the show with his smooth style. But he was a recurring character for only one season.
After his stint on the show, Billy Dee hit the Hollywood jackpot again when he got the role of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in ‘Batman’ in 1989. Now in his 80s, Billy Dee Williams can say that he enjoyed a fruitful career in both TV and film.
And his age hasn’t stopped him from getting down on the dance floor. In 2014, he was on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and lent his voice to play a Lego version of Lando Calrissian in ‘The Lego Movie.’ Oh, how things come full circle!