Don't you be like me!

Every so often, there will be a “Where are they now?” special that focuses on people who were briefly famous for one reason or another a while back.  I kinda like those, because it’s always a weird balance of “I’m only known for this one thing” and “I’m really tired of only being known for this one thing.”  What I don’t see often enough though are specials that focus on people who were at the top of their game for an extended period of time and then seemingly disappeared.  Oh sure, they’ll show me a special on what happened to “one-hit wonders” (in their respective fields) like The Knack, Mark Spitz, or the eventual show on actress Ellen Page.  But I’m more interested in those who experienced fame over the course of successive years and then had to deal with life when the well started to run dry. 

I bring this up because I was flipping through channels recently and saw that Mel Gibson’s movie, “What Women Want” was on.  In the scene I happened upon, he was talking to the formerly-ubiquitous…Helen Hunt.  Helen Hunt!  Wow, she used to be everywhere.  Even though I didn’t watch “Mad About You,” there were seven seasons of her on that show and in promos for it coming into our living rooms.  Near the end and shortly after that show, her movie career was as big as anyone’s.  She had the superbly-written “Twister” (yes, that’s sarcasm) and the multiple-award-winning “As Good As It Gets” in successive years while still on a weekly television comedy.  Then, after the show ended, she went on a tear.  2000 had “Dr. T and the Women” (which I never saw but still pops up in crossword puzzles from time to time), “Pay It Forward” (don’t get me started on this one), “Castaway,” and “What Women Want.”  Woody Allen’s “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” came out in 2001, and I thought I’d never see the end of her.  (Don’t get me wrong, she was doing a fine job, but four highly-publicized movies the first year after a lengthy tv show ends and I start craving some diversity.)

Well, since 2001, things have changed.  I don’t know if it was a personal choice to get away from the craziness or she hit a magical age that makes producers stop calling (though she’s just one year older than Sandra Bullock). Either way, her next entry isn’t until 2004 (“A Good Woman,” which I’ve neither seen nor heard of).    A year later, she was on the tv miniseries of “Empire Falls,” and just two other released movies since then.  If you’re scoring at home, that’s four big movies in the year 2000, and five total IMDB titles since then.  There are two listings currently in post-production, so she’s definitely still working, but that’s a pretty noticeable fall from the public eye and it was a bit of a shock when I saw her on the screen a couple of days ago.  I happen to think that a three year absence after four Emmys, three Golden Globes, and an Academy Award is noteworthy.  Was there a pervasive societal sense of a Helen Hunt overload?  If so, I’d better start writing my “Whatever happened to Jennifer Aniston?” post now.  Ya know, just to be prepared.

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