Jan 25, 2013

Patrick Duffy

The superhero craze of mid-1970s tv spawned a few hits, like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Incredible Hulk, and a lot of misses, like Gemini Man and The Man from Atlantis.

Man from Atlantis looked great on paper --  Mark Harris, the last survivor of ancient Atlantis, would be played by hunky Patrick Duffy.  He would travel the ocean in a super-submarine, searching for clues to his heritage (tie in with The Bermuda Triangle), fighting sharks (tie in with Jaws), and taking off his clothes a lot.

Four tv movies during the 1976-77 season tested the waters, and in the fall of 1977, the series premiered in a Thursday night time slot, after Chips to draw in the kids.  Over-eager producers ordered comic book and novel tie-ins, and a boatload of toys for Christmas 1977.

But episodes quickly veered from the undersea format -- Mark goes to the Old West? To the days of Romeo and Juliet?  And Man from Atlantis couldn't beat the competition from Barney Miller and Hawaii Five-O, beefcake or not.  Nine episodes were aired during the fall of 1977, and four more during the spring and summer of 1978, and that was it.

But Patrick Duffy immediately landed the plum role of Bobby Ewing, younger brother of the evil J.R. (Larry Hagman of I Dream of Jeannie) on the nighttime soap Dallas (1978-1991).  Bobby was a good guy, J.R.'s main foil, and he provided most of the show's beefcake shots.

He is particularly well remembered for dying during the 1986 cliffhanger, only to appear in the shower at the start of the 1987-88 season, demonstrating that the whole previous year was "just a dream."  That scene was recently replayed for a promo with the entire cast of the new Dallas retread (Patrick is fifth from the left, hunky as ever).

After Dallas came Step by Step (1991-1997), a nuclear family sitcom that wasn't quite as popular, perhaps because Patrick stopped providing us with beefcake shots.

Although he's never played a gay character, Patrick has always been nonchalant about being a "sex symbol" for both men and women, and fully supportive of his gay fans.