What the Hell Happened to Helen Hunt?
Helen Hunt started her career as a child actor in the seventies. After two decades in the business, she finally got cast on a hit TV show. She won the Emmy for four consecutive years and won a Best Actress Oscar during the same time frame. A few years later, she practically disappeared.
What the hell happened?
Helen Hunt started working as an actress in 1973 at the age of 10. As a result, there are a lot of embarrassing photos and clips of Hunt as a child appearing in cheesy 70s TV movies.
If you have ever seen Hunt on a late night talk show, you have probably seen her squirm as they played a clip of her on The Bionic Woman or some other relic of the era. Don’t worry. That won’t stop me from dredging those things up all over again here.
It is not uncommon in these articles for me to skip over some movies or TV shows that weren’t especially important to the subject’s career. In Hunt’s case, I am going to have to skip over dozens of projects. Because she paid her dues and then she paid them some more.
I can’t possibly cover every cheesy TV movie and canceled show. But I will do my best to make sure we hit all the lowlights.
Hunt’s first role was in the 1973 TV movie, Pioneer Woman. Joanna Pettet starred as a pioneer woman in Wyoming during the Post Civil War era. When her husband, played by William Shatner with a thick handlebar mustache, is killed, Pettet must decide how best to take care of her family. Hunt played the older of her two children.
In 1974, Hunt had a regular role on the short-lived Ironside spin-off, Amy Prentiss. Jessica Walter (of Arrested Development fame) played the title character, a female cop who is promoted to chief when her predecessor is killed. Hunt played Walter’s daughter. Only three episodes were filmed. But Shatner managed to squeeze in a guest spot in one of them.
The next year, Hunt got a recurring role on the The Swiss Family Robinson TV show. The show was based on the 1812 novel of the same name by Johann David Wyss. It had no connection to the Disney movie adaptation from 1960. In fact, it aired directly opposite Wonderful World of Disney.
The previous year, there had been a Canadian TV show based on the The Swiss Family Robinson. So when the American version aired in other countries familiar with the Canadian show, it was called Island of Adventure.
Both The Swiss Family Robinson and Wonderful World of Disney struggled in the ratings when CBS put 60 Minutes in the same timeslot. The Swiss Family Robinson was cancelled after one season. No William Shatner appearances have been reported, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Hunt played Raul Julia’s daughter in the TV movie, Death Scream. Julia played a detective investigating the death of a woman whose cries for help were ignored by her neighbors. The neighbors were played by TV luminaries like Ed Asner, Art Carney, Kate Jackson, Cloris Leachman and Tina Louise.
In 1976, Hunt put in a guest appearance on the kid’s science fiction series, Ark II. The show was about a group of scientists who travel around in their futuristic RV helping people. In the 25th century, the world has been ravaged by pollution and the only ones who could help were three scientists who dressed like Evel Knievel and their pet chimp.
The seventies were kind of a weird time to be a kid. In Hunt’s episode titled Omega, the team comes across a group that has been enslaved by a supercomputer. That’s how Le Blog got started. All hail to my desktop overlord!