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Queue It Up: 10 Awesomely Awful Made for TV Movies on Netflix Instant

Netflix Instant, once the graveyard of fifty year old television, B-movies and PBS documentaries, has grown into a treasure chest of some of the very best AND very worst TV and movies can be.  This week’s Tuesday Queue features those golden nuggets of shlocky treacle, the made for TV movie.  I love TV movies, I remember watching so many absolutely terrible flicks with my mom when I was a kid, and I’ll still spend a couple of hours on a Lifetime movie if it features a Designing Women, Little House on the Prairie, Charlie’s Angels or 90210 cast member or a particularly outrageous plot.  I’ve been trying to track down a flick for years – maybe one of you lovely readers can help?  It came out in the 70’s and featured a poor dying girl who loved Elvis and he replied to her fan letter.

Anyway, none of these movies have anything Elvis about them, but there are several members of my Lifetime All-Stars casts, William Shatner and babies switched at birth.

10. Callie & Son (1981)

“Bionic Woman” Lindsay Wagner stars as Callie Bordeaux, the anguished heroine of this made-for-TV melodrama. After becoming pregnant, teenage Callie gives up her baby for adoption. Years later, she uses the power of her millionaire husband (Dabney Coleman) to locate her grown son, Randy (Jameson Parker). To her despair, however, Callie can’t come between Randy and a manipulative social climber (Michelle Pfeiffer, in an early role).

9.Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber

After clawing her way to the top of the social ladder, superficial advertising executive Katya Livingston (Jennifer Love Hewitt) ruins the wedding of a well-connected socialite and ends up blacklisted from future soirées. In Katya’s rush to score an invitation to an exclusive upcoming event, will she destroy her chance for love with a dashing lawyer (Colin Ferguson)? Joey Lawrence plays Katya’s gay friend in this made-for-cable comedy of manners.

8. Intimate Strangers (1977)

Middle-aged Donald Halston (Dennis Weaver) cannot cope with problems at work, and the increasing stress prompts him to lash out at his devoted wife, Janis (Sally Struthers), in this harrowing made-for-television film about the horrors of domestic abuse. Tyne Daly won her first supporting actress Emmy nomination for her role as Karen, Janis’s concerned friend who tries to help her cope with the increasing violence and breakdown of her marriage.

7. Where The Hell Is That Gold?!? (1988)

Mexican authorities apprehend fugitive Yankee gold thieves Cross (Willie Nelson) and Boone (Jack Elam), but they’re spared execution after promising to deliver a train full of dynamite for the Mexican Army in this south-of-the-border Western caper. When the expedition gets sidetracked, Cross and Boone team with a crafty madam (Delta Burke) and her prostitutes in a wild scheme to reclaim a stash of gold and dodge the law. Gerald McRaney co-stars.

6. Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean (1990)

Determined to better herself at all costs, Leona Helmsley (Suzanne Pleshette) uses her intelligence, ambition and aggression to become a New York property magnate. This biopic traces the highs and lows of Helmsley’s life, from her childhood to her IRS troubles. Based on a book by Randsell Pearson, this made-for-TV drama earned Pleshette Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Lloyd Bridges and Joe Regalbuto co-star.

5. Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction (1983)

Aging and uptight, former top real estate agent Eddie Gant (Dennis Weaver) laments his fall from grace by drinking, much to the chagrin of his frustrated wife, Barbara (Karen Grassle), and young son, Buddy (James Spader). Eddie’s woes worsen when a colleague convinces him to try cocaine. At first the white stuff augments Eddie’s stamina and creativity, boosting his sales — but soon he begins to take risks as his addiction leaps out of control.

4. Broken Angel (1988)

When his drug-peddling teenage daughter, Jaime (Erika Eleniak), goes missing after a gang-related shooting at her school, distraught dad Chuck Coburn (William Shatner) hits the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he thinks she’s hiding out. But to rescue his little angel, Chuck must navigate a dangerous underground world of prostitution, gang violence and even devil worship. Richard T. Heffron directs this cautionary made-for-TV drama.

3. Too Young To Die? (1990)

After street hustler Billy Canton (Brad Pitt) turns her on to a life of drugs, theft and prostitution, abused and homeless Amanda Bradley (Juliette Lewis) stabs a man while high and finds herself standing trial, facing the death penalty for homicide. Exploring the complexities of punishment for troubled, abandoned youth, this gritty made-for-television drama is based on actual events. Alan Fudge portrays D.A. Mark Calhoun.

2. Wilderness Love (2000)

Doubting that their divorced parents, Jesse (Jeffrey Nordling) and Susannah (Valerie Bertinelli), will reunite of their own accord, three cunning siblings from Alaska place an ad in a regional personals magazine on behalf of their father. Among the many responses is a letter from “Sarah,” whom the kids hope is none other than Susannah. Brittney Irvin, Michael Welch and Emily Tennant play the trio of scheming youngsters in this made-for-TV tale.

1. Mistaken Identity (1999)

In this made-for-TV drama based on a true story, new mothers Sarah Barlow (Melissa Gilbert) and Linda Wells (Rosanna Arquette) are faced with an unimaginable crisis when they learn that their infant sons were switched at birth. The events that follow their discovery end up having a profound effect on their respective families and friends, turning into a conflict that ultimately ends up in the courtroom.

I dare any reader to make it through all ten.  Next Queue It Up we’ll be playing a bit nicer, featuring 10 great documentaries field tested by Persephone writers and editors.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

7 replies on “Queue It Up: 10 Awesomely Awful Made for TV Movies on Netflix Instant”

I’ve got to make a plug for Wildflower, a 1991 TV drama directed by Diane Keaton starring Patricia Arquette as a deaf epileptic with a pet possum. Supporting cast includes a young Reese Witherspoon, Beau Bridges, and that guy with the big teeth from Aspen Extreme (which could make another “best of” list…best of Peter Berg?).

I’ve seen some of these films *winces*
#3 Brutal movie. Was horrified by the subject, that it was dreamy Brad being so bad. The alley scene was horrible.
#6 Outrageous TV schlock fest. Lloyd was Harry, right? Suzanne’s lips were so overdrawn. The wet lettuce/salad scene was a scream.
# 8 Harrowing TV movie. Watched it with my mom when it first aired. I was 12. Still remember the bedroom rape scene. Was angry that McCloud was beating up Gloria Stivic.

I love this post.

Thanks for this list. The only one I ever saw was “Cocaine, One Man’s Addiction”, and it deserves to be on this list…LOL. Regarding your list it was interesting to see some of the names that popped up in these Made-for-TV efforts…Brad Pitt, James Spader, and Michelle Pfeiffer all of whom went on to become movie stars and all of whom are very good to excellent actors.

I first saw Michelle Pfeiffer in the TV remake of SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS. It was a silly production, suppose to have been a vehicle for Melissa Gilbert, but really was a lukewarm mess. Except for Michelle. She rocked as Ginny. Barbara Loden’s studio film performance was a tough act to follow, but Pfeiffer’s take was original and fresh.

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