Houston On The TV: The Top Five

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According to an online survey by Sky News, the

80s were the coolest decade


Some 41% of people questioned in an online survey said the 80s was their favourite decade, followed by the 60s and the 90s.

The Noughties polled as the least cool decade since 1960, with only 10% of people saying it was their favourite.

The Live Aid pop concert was the thing people liked best about the 80s, ahead of the Rubik's Cube and the Pac Man computer game.

The yuppie's favourite accessory, the Filofax, came fourth in the poll followed by the films Dirty Dancing and The Goonies in joint fifth place.

The Goonies? My faith in online surveys has officially been shattered.

I grew up in the 80s, and while my recollection may be warped from hours of Rush videos and Intellivision baseball, they weren't all that cool. For while the decade saw a number of exceptional films set at least partly in the city of Houston (The Right Stuff, Terms of Endearment) this sampling of that decade's H-town-related television will prove my point.

5. Houston Knights (1987) Michael Pare is Chicago cop Joey La Fiamma, relocated to Houston for the unwise-if-noble move of testifying against the Mob. Michael Beck is the Houston cop he's partnered with. Sparks will fly as Sgt. Levon Lundy (Levon?) tries to deal with this tough-talking paisan who never wants to eat anywhere but Fuzzy's. Just be sure to stop the video after these Joel Silver-esque end credits, lest you be subjected to a Kate and Allie promo:

4. A Place to Call Home (1987) AKA The Dingo Coast. Sam Gavin (Lane Smith) is so concerned about the effects of -- I'm just guessing -- rap music and parachute pants on his 11(!) children he relocates them all the way to Australia, where the only thing they have to worry about are great white sharks, box jellyfish, and Paul Hogan. Linda Lavin plays the doughty mom who must cope with her harsh new life. And eleven freaking kids. Of course, my odds of finding a YouTube clip of a forgotten 1980s TV-movie that was never released on video is effectively none, so here's the intro to Lavin's other contribution to modern culture, Alice:

3. The Killing of Randy Webster (1981) An unwarranted police shooting in Houston? Saints preserve us. Here the victim is a disturbed teen who flees to Houston, of all places, and ends up getting killed by the local law. His parents (Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter, who'd soon end up married in real life) spend the next few years trying to prove the shooting wasn't justified. This little-seen teleflick also featured then-unknowns like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Edwards, and Sean Penn. Unfortunately -- a common theme in this list -- little video evidence exists. The solution? Townes Van Zandt singing "Waiting Around to Die:"

2. Houston: The Legend of Texas (1986) Sam Elliott plays Sam Houston, who apparently bears some relevance to Texas history, while Michael Beck (the hell?) plays Jim Bowie. Also billed as Gone to Texas this helped usher in a new era of American multiculturalism by daring to portray Houston, Bowie, and Crockett as seriously flawed men. Not that anybody actually saw it. With that in mind, here's Elliott with Hair Balls favorite (and Houston native, how's that for synchronicity?) Patrick Swayze:

1. Matt Houston (1982) Though some dissenting opinions exist, most viewers agree the series suffered from a precipitous decline in quality following the marginalization of Pamela Hensley's character C.J. in the third season. What seems to escape most of them is how lame this shitty Magnum, P.I. rip-off about a douchebag millionaire-turned-private investigator was in the first place.

-- Pete Vonder Haar

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