TV… Rewatching Just One Glittering Part of David Birney’s Career

#1980s

 

One of a David Birney’s dozen and two appearances as Sam Dillon…

 

Revisiting an Aaron Spelling one series wonder starring David Birney as a roving reporter for a celebrity magazine.

 

 

Just recently I was sad to learn that the actor David Birney had passed away. So far I’ve only reviewed and remembered one part of his versatile filmography. This was in a couple of wee reviews of the series Glitter (1984-85). As part of a review about this series, I explored Ginger Rogers in Aaron Spelling productions I reviewed her role in  In Tennis, Love Means Nothing and this particular storyline also starred Cyd Charisse and Jack Coleman.

After I mentioned this episode on Twitter when remembering this actor, Birney’s Glitter co-star, Morgan Brittany said this on this episode,

   

So back in the 1980s, Glitter was a much loved show in our household. But I’ll be honest here and admit at first it was more to see what his co-star Morgan Brittany did after her Dallas (1978-91) stint as Katherine Wentworth. Sadly for us Brits, Glitter (1984-85) was cancelled by the sixth episode and not all the episodes were shown on the BBC in the UK.

The series told about the daily lives of the Glitter celebrity magazine reporters as they carried out their working assignments. David Birney played Sam Dillon, and Morgan was his reporter Kate Simpson’s sidekick with not a hint of rivalry or romance. This on-screen working pair had always professional chemistry unless I missed something. Back then even the full tilt romance in Hotel (1983-88) between Peter (James Brolin) and Christine (Connie Sellecca) went over my head. Anyway onto the review…

This Glitter episode was titled Trouble in Paradise and was episode 2 of this 14 part series.  In this particular episode, the assignments were doled out as given by Head Honcho, Charles Hardwick (Arthur Hill). In this episode, I noted all three storylines in this episode shared the theme – with each starring some then familiar names as guest stars –  where all explored the dark side of fame.

It starts with a Chekov’s pregnancy as an expectant mother of the Glitter team cheerfully tells her boss, Charles that she’s expecting her baby the day after the next day. Then it’s a meeting with all the Glitter reporters getting briefed with their stories they will be acting on with a natty slide show with video clips (and reminded me a bit of how The Bionic Woman (1976-78) got her gigs).

But as the title suggests there is trouble in paradise… Sam and Kate have to interview two young Royals –  Prince Alexander (Fernando Allende) and Princess Lisa (Kathleen Beller) – who are visiting Los Angeles to promote their country. By sheer coincidence, Kate used to be roommates with the Princess – before she met and married this Prince – and Kate gushes to the team about her claim to fame. Kate has an invite to a reception for this happily married Royal pair and she asks Sam to accompany her to this shindig

And just briefly on the other stories within this episode… Art Johnson’s photographer Clive Richlin is an old friend of the one time fireman, Frank Mullins (Cliff Potts). It seems years ago he made Mullins famous with a photograph of Mullins saving some kids from a fire which made front page news. Then Mullins confronts Richlin, after bypassing the receptionist Angela (Tracy Lord). Then in some brilliant hammed up angst this one time hero tells how after this moment of fame, his life “crumbled”.

This he claims was after he moved to a new career in sales which didn’t work out and then his marriage fell apart. So Mullins wants to be famous again and demands to be featured in an article with the help of a gun and holding some of the Glitter colleagues hostage… including the pregnant woman… but will this one time paramedic get a story delivered?

The other story has Pete Bozak  (Christopher Mayer) investigate the truth behind the claims about a new radical exercises programme. This fitness programme is run by a husband and wife, Teri (Leslie Easterbrook) and Paul (Randy Hamilton) Davis at their gym. They encourage their clients to combine exercises with vitamins… with extremely good results.

Pete discovers that even the lab test results seem to concur with this claim and it really is vitamins! But the Davis pair also claim to have a fast track programme using mineral supplements. These appear to add an added boost to their results… which Glitter employee Jennifer (Dianne Kaye) swears by. But will Pete get up to speed with the real story….?

Now to the big story, Sam and Kate are asked to attend the Royal function with Prince Alexander and Princess Lisa. But first, we cut to this Royal couple and discover that Lisa although madly in love with her Prince wants to have some time for just them. She wants to do normal things, and ditch their security for the day as she feels stifled in her role. Her husband Prince doesn’t seem to understand her upset and says they must attend to their royal duties.

After Sam and Kate meet the couple at a royal gathering, Sam seems a wee bit taken by Lisa. Lisa confides in Kate that being a princess does not necessarily equate with having a happy ever after. Then in the middle of this function, Lisa leaves with Kate and she leaves a right royal commotion in her wake as they were due to meet the US President. Lisa then takes time apart from her husband to think about what she wants. She talks more about this over ice cream and girly talk with her one time roomie and Sam.

Lisa stays with Kate for a while, and Lisa has some will they won’t they romantic chemistry with Sam. I initially thought this plotline would play out a bit like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (1953). This would feature them in a romantic montage and possible snog, with friendly advice given by Kate to both parties.

This would be Beller’s Lisa torn between her duty and life as a Princess and burgeoning love for a reporter, and his love for her in spite of it all. But the possible two-parter, full of angst, confusion, more drama and practical advice – for those considering flings with royal family members – didn’t happen.

But instead, Sam although he obviously fancies her, he merely reminds her of the passionate man her husband used to be. This is after he raves about a story he’s writing on women’s volleyball (and to be fair I think most men would talk passionately on this subject). And so they go for a hot dog instead (as they did in Dorian Gray (1970))… but will the royal couple talk out their differences. The Prince is too proud and full of traditions to make a reconciliatory move, so naturally, it’s her call. But will these right royal shenanigans be resolved before the end of the show??

David Birney seemed to be well suited to this character, and he had lovely chemistry with both the regular cast and guest stars. He easily portrayed this character as a professional journalist and as far as the storyline suggests this Royal scoop stayed off the record, as both the Princess and Prince confided in these journalists. Sam was more a shoulder to cry on and an understanding listener to the Princess, yet you could feel from the script – and Birney’s acting – that he was conflicted as there was an obvious attraction for him.

So after watching this series again, I noted that Morgan Brittany played two Katherines, Katherine Wentworth in Dallas and then Kate Simpson in this role. So I pondered if she had been a key to the Dallas / Glitter extended universe with Ms Wentworth and Ms Simpson being one and the same.

And had she had written an article for Glitter on her then co-star, David Birney she would have researched – as I did – his starry filmography.  She would have noticed there are now a few new and familiar names to watch him in. These include Murder She Wrote (1984-96), The Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985-92), McMillan and Wife (1971-77) and Circle of Fear (1973).

But as far as I know, Birney never played himself in this series which could have introduced this concept in a crazy casting episode. But perhaps it did, and possibly with doppelgangers. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to find out what happened in those episodes that I haven’t seen where he proved in this role, that all that glitters is TV Gold.

 

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