Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cindy or Lisa? Let’s Play “Know Your Eilbachers”


Here is one more reason the Comfort TV era was better: it had more Eilbachers.

From 1964 to 1990, viewers grew accustomed to seeing sisters Cindy and Lisa Eilbacher pop up on a wide range of classic shows and made-for-TV movies. 



I’ve always been intrigued by their background, as the Eilbacher family was fairly well-to-do: unlike many child stars of that era, the kids didn’t have to go to work to keep the mortgage paid. Their father was a top oil company executive, which explains why both sisters were born in Saudi Arabia. They spent their early childhood in Paris before moving to Beverly Hills. Not bad.

If I were forced to pick a favorite I’d go with Lisa, the older of the siblings by two years. She’s also probably the better-known of the two because of a pair of memorable movie roles: as the naval cadet who couldn’t get over that wall in An Officer and a Gentleman, and as Eddie Murphy’s friend in Beverly Hills Cop.

Cindy never found that signature role that resonated in the pop culture memory beyond its original broadcast. But I was still always happy to see her guest star in a favorite series.

They worked together twice, playing sisters both times: first in a 1971 episode of Alias Smith and Jones (“The Posse That Wouldn’t Quit”), and later in the notorious 1974 TV movie Bad Ronald. It ranked #90 in my book, What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, but after that book was published I quickly discovered what a huge cult following it still has. 



It’s sad they are not better remembered now, though I guess it’s not surprising as Cindy’s last credit was in 1987, and Lisa’s was in 1996. They don’t appear at nostalgia shows or even maintain Facebook pages. But as long as the splendid old shows are playing somewhere, they’ll remain part of our precious television heritage.

How well do you know your Eilbachers? Let’s find out. If you want to guess, scroll down slowly so you don’t reveal the answer at the same time as the question.

1. Which Eilbacher used her photographic memory to help Wonder Woman capture a casino operator with ties to the mob?




Answer
Cindy

“Skateboard Wiz” (1978) was a great time-capsule episode of Wonder Woman. It featured a skateboard competition (and possibly the first look at a half-pipe in classic TV), and an arcade filled with early video games (Sea Wolf!). Cindy played Jamie, a pigtailed teenage skateboarder: her stunt scenes were handled so well that it’s hard to believe that’s not her on the board. 



2. Which Eilbacher was Richie’s date to a sock hop in the first season of Happy Days?




Answer
Cindy

In “The Lemon,” Richie and Potsie buy an old clunker to impress their dates, with predictable results. This episode aired four years before her Wonder Woman appearance, but Cindy seems far more mature here as a teenage temptress. 



3. Which Eilbacher starred in one of TV’s most famous sitcom flops, My Mother the Car?




Answer
Cindy

Yes, Cindy again  - just to frustrate those who guessed a Lisa show had to be next. She played Cindy Crabtree, daughter of Dave and Barbara (Jerry Van Dyke and Maggie Pierce). Just eight years old, she was featured in the episode “When You Wish Upon a Car,” which was about as good as this show got. 



4. Which Eilbacher played Callie Shaw, sidekick to Frank and Joe Hardy in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries?




Answer
Lisa

She appeared in six series episodes and was always an attractive and enthusiastic member of the sleuthing team. It was also a refreshing change to keep the trio as friends and not introduce a romance with Frank or Joe to disrupt the camaraderie. I wish they had kept Callie around for the entire series. And it’s a shame she never got to meet Nancy Drew. 




5. Which Eilbacher played kidnapped socialite Patty Hearst in a 1979 Made-for-TV movie?




Answer
Lisa

While it as certainly one of her most significant roles, The Ordeal of Patty Hearst told its story more from the perspective of the FBI agent working the Hearst kidnapping, played here by Dennis Weaver.


6. Which Eilbacher’s first professional credit was as Kimmie in the 1965 Bewitched episode “Eye of the Beholder”?




Answer
Cindy

In her one scene, Kimmie is a cute little neighbor girl who picks up a heavy wheelbarrow that Darrin (zapped by Endora’s witchcraft) couldn’t budge. It’s of the series’ very best episodes.


7. Which Eilbacher Played Vicki, who was envious of Marcia being asked out by smarmy big man on campus Doug Simpson in the memorable Brady Bunch episode “The Subject was Noses”?




Answer
Lisa

It’s an unexceptional part in an exceptional episode, but she does what she can with it. If you’ve seen Lisa Eilbacher in other TV appearances, where she always appears petite next to her costars, you may be surprised as I was at how she’s nearly a head taller than Maureen McCormick here. Maybe Marcia only looks tall standing next to Jan and Cindy.




8. Which Eilbacher played Dr. Ingrid Sorenson in the short-lived series Ryan’s Four (1983)?




Answer
Lisa


I don’t recall watching this series, but from the opening credits it appears to have an interesting cast, and likely represented Lisa’s best shot at series stardom. 



9. Which Eilbacher attended ballet class with Buffy on Family Affair?




Answer
Cindy

“Ballerina Buffy” is another first-season episode that explores the understandable separation anxiety felt by little kids after their family home is uprooted – as well as the mistakes that are made by uncles who don’t yet know how to be good parents. You should be able to spot Cindy right away – decked out in red, standing behind Buffy at the barre. 




10. Which Eilbacher was rescued by Captain Marvel on the Saturday morning series Shazam!?




Answer
Both!

We end with a trick question, as both Eilbachers appeared in separate episodes of this short-lived series. In “The Doom Buggy,” Lisa plays the girlfriend of a high school dropout who gets lost in the desert. In “The Odd Couple,” it takes both Captain Marvel and Isis to save Cindy and her equally misguided boyfriend after they get lost in a forest. How is the Big Red Cheese going to vanquish Dr. Sivana when all these teenagers can’t find their way home? 



And if you’d like some Eilbacher extra credit, you’ll find one or the other in episodes of My Three Sons, The Waltons, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Green Acres, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, That Girl, Police Story and The Streets of San Francisco. IMDB has all the details. Happy hunting.

2 comments:

  1. Mr. Hofstede, have you seen the 1983 Charles Bronson vehicle "10 to Midnight"? Lisa Eilbacher was in that one.

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  2. I didn't know that was Lisa E. in that role from "An Officer and a Gentleman". I don't remmember her character's name either, but she was my favorite character from the movie, as I could relate to her struggles. I also like how she referred to her DI as "Sir" to thank him, and as he's saluting her, as she and all the others who finished boot camp now outrank him, he says something like "That's Sergeant, Ensign".

    RYAN'S FOUR did have a great cast. Tom Skerritt was about to hit it big, as he seemed like the busiest actor in Hollywood for a few years after he was in "Top Gun" in 1986. Tim Daly was James' son and is Tyne's brother, who starred in the NBC reboot of THE FUGITIVE from 1993 or so, and it's good to see Dirk Blocker in another series, as I only remember him from BAA, BAA, BLACK SHEEP.

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