Perhaps because I have a pretty severe case of O.C.D., or more probably as a result of watching the same things too many times, when I watch old reruns of shows like Saved by the Bell, Home Improvement, Married With Children, and the like, I can’t help but let my mind wander into territory of: whatever happened to that guy?
It started with a curiosity about David Faustino. Perhaps it was just sympathy, because Bud was always portrayed as a desperate and oft-unloved guy, but I always liked him the most of all the characters on Married With Children. Maybe it was because “Bud” went to college, or because when he grew out his beard he looked pretty damn good – or maybe it was just because I felt bad for his character always walking around with a blow-up doll. I have no idea why, but one early morning of insomnia led to watching Married With Children, and two hours later I had navigated to the Wikipedia on him, which linked to his Facebook, which then led me to his Twitter – and before I knew it, I had completely caught up on everything “Bud” from Married With Children has been doing since the show. Disappointing to say, besides co-owning a club that closed, moving into the music industry, and getting arrested for possession of marijuana, Faustino has been somewhat out of the lime-light.
And I’m sure we have all wondered just what happened to the cast of Saved by the Bell. Beyond the obvious 180 that Tiffani Amber Thiessen did in her appearance on 90210; and the newest career move for Mark-Paul Gosselaar (now on TNT’s Franklin and Bash), I continue to wonder what happened to the Jessie Spano, AC Slater, and Screech-contingents.
The list of characters on the TV shows of my youth goes on, whom I wonder about whenever the shows come on. There’s 90210, Full House, The Wonder Years, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and that show with Steve Urkel. Sure, sometimes we see them still in the spotlight. The Olsen Twins are (unfortunately) everywhere; Tori Spelling continues to star in one, bad Lifetime movie after another. But whatever happened to Winnie Cooper, and the guy that played Dylan on 90210?
Generally, the Internet is good for finding everything a person could ever want to find on any number of these people. (Just look at everything I found on David Faustino, much of which I wasn’t even looking for…) But to do so would take up an inordinate amount of time “surfing the web,” so to speak, when ultimately, what any of these people is doing bears no consequence to anyone. As with most childhood/teenage actors, many go on to live perfectly normal lives away from the television screen. Some go on to do drugs and destroy themselves, as it seems many did from earlier series, like the actors in Family Ties and Different Strokes. And some of them do (and in many cases, unfortunately) continue to act.
The one I want to know about, though, that I can’t seem to get the details on besides his Wikipedia, and the credits listed on his IMDb, is Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The actor, just one year older than me, that played “Randy,” the middle son in Home Improvement, appears to have continued an active film career, and yet I see him nowhere. Moreover, as a typical American interested in only in the personal lives of people that probably deserve to keep their personal lives as personal as I keep mine, I want to know what he’s been doing off-set as well. The only tid-bit of detail I have found was a rumor that he is gay, which broke my heart at the thought. I can still vividly remember swooning over pictures of J.T.T. in Seventeen Magazine, and daydreaming about accidentally meeting him and giggling like a girl. What Jonathan Taylor Thomas, David Faustino, and the rest of the characters on the TV shows of my youth represent aren’t just the people that played characters on the shows, or hours of television that could otherwise be spent doing other, more productive, things. They are of an age when I was wrapped in innocence; when life was as simple as a crush on an actor my age that I would probably never meet, nonetheless hoped I would. They are wanting my hair to be as pretty and thick as Winnie Cooper’s, and wishing I had a boyfriend as cool and confident as A.C. Slater. A distraction? Sure. A waste of time? Likely. Although, reminiscing through curiosity of just what these people are up to, and just how that one show they were on ended up, becomes less about the details and more about recapturing that feeling of youth that seems so rare in daily life, now. Pointless? Very probably. But worth it? Absolutely.