I grew up with parents who didn’t believe in cable. I was expected to do other things such as play outside, ride bikes, read books, and spend time at the cabin during the summers. One year my parents bought a Nintendo. I played it for a good year, if that, and never touched it again. I got relatively good at Excite Bike, Duck Hunt, and Super Mario Brothers. As I got older, I watched the major networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and whatever channels played Mama’s Family and The Jerry Springer Show. This is not what I remember most from having limited channels to browse. It was the made for TV movies that stayed with me. Here are a few I remember from the 80s and 90s. Obviously, my interest in true stories started a long time ago.
The Burning Bed (1984) starred Farrah Fawcett as Francine Hughes and Paul Le Mat as James “Mickey” Hughes. Married to an abusive man, Francine takes control of the situation as her husband spirals out of control. It includes her trial after Mickey died. Francine remarried and was a nurse before she died in 2017 from pneumonia complications.
David (1988) starred Matthew Lawrence as David Rothenberg, Bernadette Peters as Marie, and John Glover as Charles. David was a care free kid until his dad did the unthinkable to get back at his recently divorced wife. After surviving third-degree burns on most of his body, David grows up and eventually meets with his father. Charles is currently in prison in California. David died in 2018 due to pneumonia.
Do You Know the Muffin Man? (1989) starred Brian Bonsall as Teddy Dollison, Pam Dawson as Kendra, John Shea as Roger, and Stephen Dorff as Sandy. Teddy was another normal kid that was betrayed by adults he thinks care for him. While this isn’t based on a true story in particular, these types of predatory behavior by adults can and does occur where you least expect it.
A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story (1989) starred Nancy McKeon as Tracey Thurman and Dale Midkiff as Buck Thurman. Married to a controlling man, Tracey does everything right by asking the police for help. It doesn’t matter because Buck doesn’t listen to restraining orders. Buck was sent to prison for his attack on Tracey and released in 1991. Tracey survived but with permanent scars and pain. She is remarried. The Thurman Law was passed and forced authorities to take domestic violence seriously.
The Ryan White Story (1989) starred Lukas Haas as Ryan White and Judith Light as Jeanne Hale. He was born in 1971 and had contracted HIV via a contaminated blood treatment since he was a hemophiliac. It centers on the struggle with various state schools as they won’t let him attend. Ryan died of AIDS related complications in 1990. The Ryan White CARE Act is still in effect today.
I Know My First Name is Steven (1989) starred Luke Edwards as young Steven Stayner and Corin Nemec as old Dennis Parnell/Steven Stayner. It also had Cindy Pickett as Kay, John Ashton as Del. Steven was abducted by Kenneth Parnell and Irving Murphy. They kept him for many years before he escaped with another boy, Timmy White. He married at a young age, had two children, and died in 1989 from a motorcycle accident. Not to take away from Steven, his brother Cary was in the media too, but for all the wrong reasons. Look up the Yosemite murders.
A Child Lost Forever: The Jerry Sherwood Story (1992) starred Beverly D’Angelo as Jerry Sherwood, Dana Ivey as Lois Jurgens, and Michael McGrady as Dennis. Jerry was forced to give her up child and was later adopted by the Jurgens family. Jerry finds he died when he was three years old and searches for answers. It’s something she never could have imagined, and with her tenacity, Lois was charged with murdering her son. Lois was released from prison in 1995 and died in 2013.