Monday, June 3, 2019

Top TV Moments: Season Hubley


Not long ago I read Paul Mavis’s review of the 1985 TV movie The Key To Rebecca at the Drunk TV website. As always Mavis was insightful, acerbic, and unapologetically lascivious in his assessment, but my biggest takeaway from the piece was a reminder of how I’ve always been drawn to one of Rebecca’s costars, Season Hubley. 



With her pixie haircut and soulful eyes, Hubley seemed the personification of flower child innocence – even her name fit that hippie-dippie persona. But she was also often cast as a streetwise go-getter with a hard edge beneath that soft smile.

Unfortunately, she spent most of her career being better than her material, and only occasionally finding a part worthy of her talent and unique personality. About 20 years ago she finally gave up, at least according to IMDB; but she does have a Facebook page that she uses to support animal causes and bash Donald Trump. And so it goes.

Now let’s cast our memories back to the magical 1970s, when we had joy, we had fun, and we had Season in the sun.

Bobby Jo and the Good Time Band (1972)
The Partridge Family (1972)

What a singular way to start an acting career: Hubley’s first credit was a pilot for a TV series inspired by the success of The Partridge Family. It was written by Bernard Slade, who also created…you guessed it, The Partridge Family. Hubley was top-billed as Bobby Jo, lead singer of a struggling band searching for their big break.

After it went nowhere, one assumes Slade tried to get his star better work, leading to her second professional credit, in an episode of…The Partridge Family. In “The Princess and the Partridge” she plays Princess Jennie, from some unnamed foreign land, visiting the U.S. and eager to meet the famous Keith Partridge. 




Hubley is utterly adorable as the down-to-earth princess, who sneaks away to a drive-in movie with Keith and causes an international incident. 



She Lives! (1973)
The exclamation point makes it sound like horror, but She Lives! belongs to a different genre – the “disease of the week” film, so named because of the prominence of that trope in made-for-TV movies. Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Season Hubley play two intense, misfit college students who find each other, drop out and try to make a go of it in a hostile world. All’s well until Pam (Hubley) finds a “funny lump” that leads to a grim prognosis. Does the title foreshadow a happy ending? You’ll have to watch to find out (the entire move is on YouTube). In addition to the work of Arnaz and Hubley, what makes the movie special is its recurrent use of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” The movie aired just eight days before Croce’s death in a plane crash, and may have influenced the posthumous release of the song as a single – it became his second and final #1 hit. 



Kung Fu (1974)
In the two-part episode “Blood of the Dragon,” Hubley plays Margit Kingsley McLean, granddaughter of a man who knew Caine’s grandfather before he was murdered by the Order of the Avenging Dragon. It’s not a very big part – the dramatic heavy lifting in the guest cast goes to Patricia Neal and Eddie Albert. But Hubley is one of those actresses who suffers especially well – and she gets to do a lot of that here. 



Family (1976)
This is my favorite Season Hubley performance. Which is not surprising as I associate everything about Family with superlative achievement. She appears in four episodes, over two seasons, as Salina Magee, the troubled girlfriend of Willie Lawrence (Gary Frank). From the couple’s first meeting at a health food restaurant to their final parting, it’s one of the most effective story arcs in a series laden with memorable moments. 



Starsky and Hutch (1977)
Someday I’ll write a blog about one-episode love interests on classic TV shows. They meet one of the main characters, fall in love, plan their lives together, and then something happens to take them off the show – usually something fatal. Half that blog will be about Bonanza episodes. But here, in the episode “Starsky’s Lady,” it’s Season Hubley as doomed teacher Terry Roberts. It’s still an affecting episode even if you can guess where it’s headed in the first five minutes.  



SST: Death Flight (1977)
It’s the maiden flight of a supersonic transport plane flying from New York to Paris in two hours. And along for the ride are enough 1970s stars to fill a whole season of Love Boat episodes.

There’s Barbara Anderson and Regis Philbin as reporters covering the event. In the cockpit it’s Robert Reed and Doug McClure and aircraft designer Burgess Meredith, while Lorne Greene monitors conditions from the airport. Serving coffee, tea or milk as flight attendants – Billy Crystal and Tina Louise. Among the passengers – Martin Milner, Susan Strasberg, Bert Convy, Misty Rowe, and a young couple played by John de Lancie and Season Hubley. The man who would be Q plays that guy in every disaster movie who is first to panic and revert to Lord of the Flies mode, which drives Hubley back to her former love, who also happens to be on the plane – played by Peter Graves. 



Oh, this movie. It’s both terrible and wonderful at the same time. I love every second of it, with or without the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment it received in 1989.

Elvis (1979)
Hubley played Priscilla opposite her then real-life husband, Kurt Russell, as Elvis. I remember this TV movie got raves when it first aired but I don’t think it’s aged well, outside of the incredible covers of Elvis Presley’s songs by Ronnie McDowell. By now we’ve seen Kurt Russell in too many other things to suspend that knowledge and pretend he’s Elvis. Season Hubley, however, is nearly unrecognizable under a huge mop of “Ode to Billy Joe”-era Bobbie Gentry hair. Her subdued, sympathetic take on Priscilla suggests someone who spent an entire courtship and marriage struggling against a world she couldn’t understand. 



The Key to Rebecca (1985)
I’ll let Paul Mavis’s review cover this one: “What I always find interesting with Season Hubley is her tangible vulnerability. Whether its personal or professional, it unmistakably comes through the camera lens, lending her scenes a weight that isn’t warranted, frankly, in the script or direction.” Couldn’t agree more. You can read his full review here.

Christmas Eve (1986)
I know the Hallmark Channel puts out about 300 new Christmas movies every year, but this season skip one of the five or six with Lacey Chabert and instead go back to this touching holiday classic, which earned leading lady Loretta Young a Golden Globe. She plays a loving, generous and very wealthy woman who, learning her time left on earth may be short, decides to reunite her estranged family for Christmas. It’s not as depressing as it sounds – in fact it’s downright joyful. Season Hubley plays her granddaughter Melissa in two brief but memorable scenes. If you’re not sniffling at the movie’s emotional final moments, you have no Christmas spirit.


8 comments:

  1. I remember her best from the underrated movie HARDCORE, in which she played a prostitute trying to help George C. Scott find his daughter. It's a gut-wrenching performance.

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    1. It is - very raw and frankly unpleasant, but undeniably an impressive performance.

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  2. I saw "Starsky's Lady," albeit a version that was presumably edited for syndication. I saw it on TNT in the mid-nineties.

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  3. I've joked about the Cartwright's ill-fated love affairs for years, but my wife and I have been watching The Virginian reruns this last year, and The Virginian and Trampas buried a few fiancees also.

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    1. Those poor ladies in the blue dresses - it's like red-shirt crew members on Star Trek.

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  4. It was "The Princess and the Partridge" which introduced PF audiences to "Together We're Better" before "I Left My Heart in Cincinnati" recycled it a few months later. It's a song I love but can't listen to too often, or it gets stuck in my head for a few hours.

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    1. I always preferred the song in the King's Island episode, but the lyrics really fit here better - "You and me, sneaking around, meeting in shadows, hiding away..."

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  5. Season Hubley played Angelique Marick on "All My Children" in the early '90s. However, she did not overlap with Marcy Walker.

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