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In Summer Doldrums, a Fresh Look at TV Stars of Yesteryear

July 02, 1998|MARK GLASER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Television reruns got you down? Well, when the best the networks can do is show the 15 minutes cut from the "Seinfeld" clips show (set to air July 9), it's time to go way back in TV time. The Web is a great resource for details on your favorite old shows, sidekick actors and upcoming reunion specials. In fact, digging through these sites is like crawling into an attic and finding cherished mementos from childhood.

Naturally, the slickest and most entertaining site is the adjunct to Nick at Nite (http://www.nick-at-nite.com), with TV schedules, "retromercials" and updates on '70s TV stars. In the "Where Are They Now?" feature, you can choose by actor name or character name from a list of a few dozen oldies but goodies. Ron "Horshack" Palillo (from "Welcome Back, Kotter") has played a blackjack dealer on the soap "One Life to Live," made a guest appearance on "Ellen" and has written a children's book. To really relive the past, you can play "Marcia Brady's Football Toss" and try to hit her on the nose, just as in the infamous "Brady Bunch" episode.

Nick at Nite's TV Land channel will sometimes broadcast selections from the Museum of Television & Radio, which is in New York and Beverly Hills, and archives old TV shows covering everything from sports to comedies. You can visit the museum's site (http://www.mtr.org) to learn more about current exhibits--including "Monty Python" screenings, which began last week.

Though we tend to think everything on the Web will be archived forever, that's sadly untrue. One of the more interesting reports on old TV stars, the Washed-UPdate, was discontinued last March when its author, Greg Bulmash, decided to get an offline life. His final report is still at the Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com/washed-update), with an interesting take on "Barney Miller" star Abe Vigoda, who is very much alive and well and doing bit parts in films and TV movies.

One offshoot of the Washed-UPdate is the Former Child Star-Palooza e-zine (http://www.bulmash.com/formerchildstar/zine.html). You can read it online or get it delivered by e-mail. It includes sightings by readers, requests for whereabouts and even a "Job Bank" detailing current work by former stars. A recent issue gave the skinny on Danny Cooksey, who played Arnold's stepbrother Sam on "Diff'rent Strokes," who now does voice-overs for ABC's Saturday morning cartoon "Pepper Ann" and plays in the rock band Lucy's Milk.

Fans of these old TV stars have set up a variety of online homages. The late Bea Benaderet (http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/1548/) from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and Agnes Moorehead (http://www.bewitched.net/aggstar.htm) from "Bewitched" have interesting fan pages, and a site dedicated to "CHiPs" (http://www.adequate.com/CHiPs/) had the news of a TNT reunion movie slated for the fall.

Some jokesters created "Ritterversal Studios" (http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Lot/9134/) as a way to insert "Three's Company" star John Ritter into classic films. His head is superimposed into movie stills from features like "Ritters of the Lost Ark" and "Natural Born Ritters" to hilarious effect.

Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and critic. You can reach him at glaze@sprintmail.com.

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