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Television's Cute Kid (Before the Eye Patch)

June 11, 1998|JOAN FANTAZIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Between his bit part in Elvis Presley's "It Happened at the World's Fair" (1963) and his starring role in "Used Cars" (1980), Kurt Russell did a lot of television, though you won't find a lot of eye-patch-wearing characters named Snake on his resume.

Usually he looked liked the very cute kid next door--in westerns such as "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters" or in guest-starring roles in "The Fugitive" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." But on "Gilligan's Island" (Friday at 4:30 a.m. on TBS), he's a jungle boy wearing a leopard skin (not that you've seen a lot of leopards on that island). The castaways try to teach him manners and give him English lessons and grooming tips. He helps them discover a means of escape, but this being "Gilligan's Island," you can probably figure out who'll leave the island and who'll be left behind.

That episode (originally in black and white but now colorized--and not a bad job, either) was filmed in 1964, when Russell was 13 and had already starred in his own TV series, "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters," which lasted less than a year. During the next seven years he made appearances on shows including "Daniel Boone," "The Virginian," "Lost in Space," "The Wonderful World of Disney," "The Legend of Jesse James," "Laredo," "Gunsmoke," "Then Came Bronson," "The High Chaparral," "The FBI," "Love, American Style," "The Storefront Lawyers," "Police Story" and "Hawaii Five-0."

After his stint as a minor-league baseball player (1971-73), Russell guest-starred in "Hec Ramsey" and "Harry O" and more "Gunsmoke" and had a couple of short-lived series--"The New Land" (1974) and the western "The Quest" (1976), with Tim Matheson. He also starred in a few telefilms, including "The Deadly Tower" and "Elvis" (1979), which made many finally look at him as a real actor.

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DETAILS, DETAILS: Who is Kurt Russell's dad, a character actor who often played a lawman on "Bonanza"? Answer next week. The answer to last week's quiz (Which "Hogan's Heroes" stars were regulars on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In"?): Larry Hovis (who played Carter) and Richard Dawson (Newkirk).

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Set Your VCR

"The Mousketeer Reunion" on "Walt Disney Presents" (Friday at 11 p.m. on the Disney Channel) celebrates "The Mickey Mouse Club's" 25th anniversary. Of course, that reunion originally aired in 1980, so it could leave you wondering what's happened to them since we found out what happened to them.

Oscar and Felix go on the game show "Password" (Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on Comedy Central) in a must-see "Odd Couple," and they're no dream team. Tune in to see why Felix answers "Lincoln" to Oscar's clue "meat." Allen Ludden and his wife, frequent contestant Betty White, play themselves. The offstage announcer is played by the episode's writer, Frank Buxton.

Loner Hondo Lane (Ralph Taeger) gets his first assignment as an Army trouble-shooter in the premiere episode of "Hondo" (Saturday at 4 a.m. on TNT), which aired in 1967 and was based on the John Wayne western.

No Della or Paul or even a trial in this "Perry Mason" (tonight at 10 on KDOC Channel 56), in which Perry goes to Europe on business. There are a couple of murders, though.

The "Blind Date" episode of "Taxi" (Saturday at midnight on Nickelodeon) won a Humanitas award--a prize given for communicating human values--in 1979. It's the one in which Alex goes out with an embittered, overweight answering-service worker.

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