Whatever Happened To These '80s TV Hunks

In the 1980s, network television was king. Before the 1990s ushered in niche cable networks with programming that diffused viewership, Americans had only a handful of prime time viewing choices. We watched the same shows, lusted after the same stars and starlets, and bonded over our shared experience. The decade started with the world wondering, "Who shot J.R.?" in 1980 and ended with the bloody demise of Blake Carrington in 1989. But beyond Dallas and Dynasty, the 80s ushered in a host of crime dramas, sitcoms, and action adventure shows that blessed us with one ubiquitous gift: hunks — glorious, sexy hunks. 

Small-screen studs came in all shapes and sizes, and all types of characters. Some, we loved; some, we loved to hate. We did some digging for updates on what happened to our dishy 80s crushes, some of whom remained squarely in the public eye, and some of whom, well, didn't. Regardless of the direction they ultimately went, our favorite 80s TV hunks remain permanent fixtures in our hearts. Here's an update on their lives and careers.

Tom Selleck has found work-life balance

From 1980 to 1988, Tom Selleck played the title character, Thomas Magnum, on Magnum P.I. While the show made him a household name, Selleck says he was overwhelmed by fame. "I knew intellectually what [fame] would mean in terms of being a public person," he explained to People in 2020, adding, "but until you've lived it, there's no way to understand it." Selleck says he quit the show in 1988 "not because I didn't like it or I was tired of it. I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn't have one." To fix this, he bought a ranch in Ventura, Calif. and retreated there for a semblance of normalcy and the privacy he craved.

The roles he was offered immediately after Magnum, P.I. were not to his liking, but parts that interested him started rolling in during the 90s with limited runs on shows like The Closer and Friends. He found steady work again on CBS' Blue Bloods, which aired its tenth season in 2019, and as the recurring lead in the Jesse Stone series of TV movies. A renewed work-life balance now keeps Selleck fulfilled. "I'm proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family," he told People. He relishes his time with his wife, Jillie, their daughter, Hannah, and his son with his first wife, Kevin. Selleck's secret to happiness? "My relationships and my ranch keep me sane."

Erik Estrada's life imitates art imitating life

Erik Estrada played motorcycle-riding highway patrol officer Francis "Ponch" Poncherello from 1977 to1983 on the TV crime drama CHiPs. In a rare turn of events, Estrada's life now imitates his dramatic art. In 2016, he tweeted news of his new gig as a legit police officer in Idaho. As of this writing, the actor-cum-cop's Twitter profile still identifies him as a police officer. 

Lest you think Estrada abandoned Hollywood entirely for law enforcement, the actor's career change story is about as Hollywood as it gets: Estrada starred on a short-lived reality show, Armed & Famous, that facilitated Estrada's swearing in as a reserve police officer in Indiana. According to E!, the show was canceled after just four episodes, but it ultimately led Estrada down the path that made him part of the federal "Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force." The CHiPs star told Parade in 2007, shortly after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, that he had intended to be a policeman before he "got bit by the acting bug" at 17. Despite his new career in law enforcement, Estrada has never stopped acting. He has steadily been cast in guest-starring roles in TV and film since CHiPs went off the air.

Michael J. Fox is still America's sweetheart

Michael J. Fox stole the hearts of millions in 1982 when his Ronald-Reagan-worshiping Family Ties character, Alex P. Keaton, was introduced to households across America on CBS. Fox won three consecutive Emmys and a Golden Globe for this role, which he played to perfection. The uber-talented actor drove a DeLorean to even greater stardom in 1985, when he played Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Family Ties ended in 1989, but Fox didn't have to worry about finding work because he had already become a bonafide movie star. The second and third films in the Back to the Future trilogy were released in 1989 and 1990, proving Fox a silver-screen powerhouse.

Fox was still television gold, though, and he wowed viewers with his television return, Spin City, in 1996. Sadly, as Entertainment Weekly reported, Fox ultimately had to leave the show due to increasing symptoms of Parkinson's that led him to want to devote his time to managing the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which is focused on developing a cure and symptom relief for Parkinson's. E! reports Fox is still married to his longtime love, Tracy Pollan, whom he met when she played his girlfriend on Family Ties. Fox, who continues to take on acting roles, is as beloved a figure now as he was when the shirt-and-tie-wearing Alex P. Keaton character first graced the airwaves. 

David Hasselhoff's career is one of a kind

David Hasselhoff rose to fame as crime fighter extraordinaire Michael Knight on NBC's Knight Rider, which aired from 1982 to 1986. In 1989, he took multiple roles as producer and star of Baywatch. NBC canceled Baywatch after one season, but the show went into global syndication and aired until 2000, becoming the most-viewed "entertainment show in history" (via The New York Times).

Television notoriety launched Hasselhoff's career as a pop star. His 1985 debut album, Night Rocker, rose to #1 in Austria but had abysmal sales in the U.S. (via The Hollywood Reporter). In 1989, he released the album Looking for Freedom. On New Year's Eve 1989, just a few weeks after the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, the Hoff performed the album's title song at the site, which sparked legends that he played a part in the wall's demise. He first thought the accolades were a joke, according to NPR, and has long since corrected the record. Still, Germans fell madly in love with the Hoff and he remains notoriously "big in Europe."

Despite career success, Hasselhoff has struggled with sobriety and faced financial troubles. TMZ reported Hasselhoff claimed to be "broke" during a 2016 spousal support battle with ex-wife Pamela Bach. At the time, he reportedly grossed $116k per month. "Broke" apparently means different things to different people. Celebrity Net Worth estimates he's got $10 million to his name.

Scott Bakula keeps working it

Scott Bakula's most notorious role was that of Sam Beckett on NBC's Quantum Leap from 1989-1993, a role for which he won a Golden Globe and earned four consecutive Emmy nominations. But Bakula has been a steadily-working, successful television actor since 1986, starting with a recurring role on Designing Women from 1986 to 1988. Following his successful run on Quantum Leap, Bakula was cast on CBS' Murphy Brown as Candice Bergen's character's on again/off again lover from 1993 to 1996. The National Enquirer cited a source in 2018 as saying Bakula was eager to join the Murphy Brown reboot "to rekindle those red-hot romantic flames" with Bergen. Alas, the reboot was canceled after one Bakula-less season, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Bakula certainly wasn't hanging his career hopes on Murphy Brown, though. Audiences have been watching him play Dwayne Cassius "King" Pride on NCIS: New Orleans on CBS since 2014. Before NCIS: New Orleans, Bakula had recurring roles on HBO's Looking, NBC's Chuck, CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine, and, perhaps most notably, as Captain Jonathan Archer on CBS' Star Trek: Enterprise from 2001-2005. The hunkiest move Bakula made in his career was posing for the cover of the March 1995 issue of Playgirl (via People). Bakula said, "It was a funny thing to do. I just rolled with it. I was just smart enough to keep my clothes on."

Pierce Brosnan keeps bringing sexy back

Pierce Brosnan starred as the title character in Remington Steele, which would be the break of a lifetime for most actors, but Brosnan's biggest break came in 1995 when he first played the dashing James Bond GoldenEye, the first of four Bond movies he would lead. Like fine wine, Brosnan is aging gracefully, and he keeps getting starring roles in films like Mama Mia, The Thomas Crown Affair, and copious others. He also returned to TV lead work from 2017 to 2019, playing Eli McCullough on AMC's The Son.

There's another big reason we love Brosnan: he openly adores his wife of 19 years, Keely Shaye Smith. In May 2020, Brosnan posted a photo of the couple kissing on Instagram, captioning it, in part, "Thank you for the moon and sun and all the days of our lives together my darling heart Keely. I had a great 67th birthday." Their son, Dylan, told Hollywood Life, "It's really nice having parents that love each other and support each other the way they do," later adding, "I think they have a lot of respect for each other and like what they do. They understand each other's work ethics. If one of them needs space or time to figure something out, that's there." Is there anything sexier than a man who loves his wife?

Mr. T is best as Mr. T

Who would have guessed a beefcake with a mohawk and a heavy load of chains around his neck would end up an A-list star? Sylvester Stallone, that's who! Mr. T, whose real name is Laurence Tero Tureaud, was a notorious bouncer and bodyguard in Chicago (via Biography) when a chance encounter introduced him to Sylvester Stallone, who cast him in 1982's Rocky III, etching the phrase, "I pity the fool" into pop-culture history.

Mr. T parlayed his Rocky III fame into as many initiatives as possible, largely aimed at guiding kids to make positive life choices. In 1985, Mr. T was cast in perhaps his most notorious role on The A-Team. The actor also became a professional WWF wrestler that same year, because, of course he did.

Cancer was no match for toughguy-with-a-heart-of-gold, either. After a lengthy battle with lymphoma, according to People, Mr. T went into remission in 2006. Though he never matched his early career success, Mr. T continued working in Hollywood. In 2006, he starred in a six-episode reality show, I Pity the Fool, and in 2015, he headlined a DIY network show, I Pity the Tool. Get it? Mr. T's most successful role has always been as himself, though, as proven by his long list of guest roles and appearances. He even competed on Dancing with the Stars to earn money to donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Shriners Hospital's for Children, per (CBN News). When you're Mr. T, why in the world would you need to be anyone else?

Richard Dean Anderson stepped out of the spotlight

Swiss-Army-knife-wielding adventurer Angus MacGyver could get out of a jam using the most seemingly-mundane items. Richard Dean Anderson played the legendary eponymous character in the original series from 1985 to1992. The role defined him until he was cast as Jack O'Neill in the Stargate television series, which his career centered around in the 2000s. But Anderson's last acting credit, as of this writing, was in 2013, so what's he been up to?

A MacGyver reboot premiered on CBS in 2016, and executive producer Peter Lenkov told Entertainment Weekly he was hoping to recruit Anderson for the series, but didn't oblige. According to Mirror, Anderson posted a statement on his website reading, in part, "I'm not considering being a part of a project that has overlooked the insanely LOYAL FANS of the original character and has proceeded without considering how and why they all became and STAYED loyal fans...Yes, I was asked, but no, I won't be involved in the MacGyver reboot." 

Primetime TV may no longer appeal to Anderson, but fans can still connect with him via his website, where, as of a July 2020 update, he's been sharing his newfound love of selfie photography (above right), as well as some quarantine philosophy: "Still alive and living in isolated bliss... as blissful as isolation can be, I suppose ... The other perspective would include an assessment of how isolating bliss can be, but that discussion rests in SILENT isolated bliss." Deep stuff, Mac. 

Bruce Willis was and always will be unconventional

We think of Bruce Willis as an action movie hero, with roles in blockbusters including Looper, The Fifth Element, and the famous Christmas movie, Die Hard (don't @ us). But it wasn't the silver screen that put Willis on the map; it was a screen test! A virtually unknown Willis was cast in ABC's "dramedy," Moonlighting, alongside Cybill Shepherd, and an unexpected, unconventional sex symbol was born. His ensuing roles are too plentiful to list, and we just can't seem to get enough of him. Breaking the Hollywood mold once again, Willis carried his action-movie chops into his golden years, starring in 2010's The Expendables, with several other aging action stars who got their start in the 1980s. 

Willis' role as a father is sometimes unconventional, too. His daughter with ex-wife Demi Moore, Scout, explained on the Dopey podcast that Bruce quarantined with Moore and their kids in 2020 while his wife, Emma Heming Willis, stayed in Los Angeles because one of their daughters poked her foot with a hypodermic needle found in a park. While awaiting medical test results, the COVID-19 pandemic made travel difficult, so Emma stayed in L.A. and supported Willis' time with Moore and their kids. This spirit of cooperation is not new. Willis' and Moore's other daughter, Rumour, told Larry King her parents "always made an effort to do all of the family events still together ... as one unit."

John Schneider seized a moment and ran with it

While nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty glorified the 1980s culture of excess, The Dukes of Hazzard, which aired from 1979-1985, offered a tongue-in-cheek look at small-town, country life by following the (well-intended) antics of two restless country boys played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat. The duo drove a 1969 Dodge Charger named "General Lee," with a Confederate flag painted on the roof, and the show's characters included a corrupt politician named Boss Hogg and a basset hound named Flash. All of this made for some highly-entertaining viewing that likely would not fly with today's more politically-attuned audiences.

But a smart actor can turn a short-lived TV role into a lengthy career. Schneider did just that by embarking upon a country music career in the mid 80s, just as The Dukes of Hazzard was ending its run; he even topped Billboard's genre chart four times. Schneider went on to recurring roles on Smallville, Desperate Housewives, the 90210 reboot, Nip/Tuck and a host of other shows and made-for-TV movies. As of this writing, he's a regular on Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots. He competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2018, which made for an emotional moment as he broke down into tears (via People) over his divorce and "strained relationship with his children." The role of a lifetime gave a teenage Schneider a career in entertainment, but even stardom and money don't insulate us from personal woes.

Kirk Cameron forged a faith-based career path

Kirk Cameron played Mike Seaver on ABC's Growing Pains from 1985 to 1992. While conservative politics made the fictional Alex P. Keaton more beloved, Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter his real-life conservative views interfered with his mainstream acting career. Named after Star Trek's Captain Kirk (via Beliefnet), Cameron says he ultimately forged his own career path in Hollywood by creating CamFam Studios, which he describes as "a faith-based production company focused on creating quality family-friendly content ... that reflects God not only in message but also in visual quality." Cameron told Life:Beautiful that he and his wife, Chelsea Noble, who played his on-screen love interest on Growing Pains, "want to expand into as many creative areas as we can...to shape culture in accordance with the Gospel." Cameron and Noble married in 1991, and are raising six children, four of whom are adopted.

For the launching pad the ABC sitcom provided him, Cameron says he is very thankful, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Without Growing Pains, you and I wouldn't be talking. ... I'm shocked that after 30 years, people are still interested in what I have to say, and I have Hollywood to thank for that." Cameron says his advice to others in the entertainment industry with conservative Christian beliefs is to "find people who think like you think, and go make a difference." 

Ted Danson is still toasting the good life

Ted Danson played everyone's favorite bartender, Sam Malone, on CBS's Cheers from 1982 to 1993. Cheers was so beloved that the series finale was a national event, with more than "42.4 million households" watching the show's denouement (via The Hollywood Reporter). But Danson's career didn't stop with Cheers; it was a catalyst for a long and decorated career, complete with a long list of industry awards, including two Emmys and three Golden Globes. Danson has starred or guest-starred in countless TV series, including the Three Men and a Baby franchise, CBS' Becker, Damages on FX, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS, NBC's The Good Place, and HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Everybody knows Danson's face, if not his name. OK, yeah, they probably know his name, too. 

Scandal rocked his career when his second marriage reportedly ended in large part due to his alleged affair with Whoopie Goldberg, as the Eugene Register-Guard reported. But Danson seems to have settled into long-term domestic bliss with his third wife, Mary Steenbergen, to whom he has been married since 1995. The couple enjoys engaging in environmental and political activism, according to The Columbian. Danson told the outlet that the secret to their longtime marriage is that "Mary's impeccable about the truth and not letting things go unsaid. We laugh nonstop. There's nothing that makes us happier than to make each other laugh ... and we mysteriously, magically found each other." 

Cheers to longevity in life, career, and love!