Few entities are as daunting as the Scott Baio filmography. Really, what are the requisites, and what do I need to know about them before diving in on an otherwise desolate Friday night in my studio apartment across from the abandoned railroad tracks? Don’t worry, Splitsider’s got you covered. Here now, what we like to call “The Essential Eight” of Baio’s illustrious Hollywood run. You can’t call yourself a scholar of cinema until you’ve sat through them all.
1. Bugsy Malone (1976)
It’s a musical. It’s a gangster movie. It’s a children’s film. It’s Bugsy Malone, the bizarre effort from Midnight Express director Alan Parker that delivers the grit of The Godfather to the “Sesame Street” set (instead of bullets, Parker stuffed his tiny heels’ tommy guns with cream pie filling). Baio plays the title role, of course, with just a taste of the spark we would later see in his fully realized interpretation of Charles “Chachi” Arcola. Sure, Jodie Foster acts circles around him, but humankind has yet to prove Foster isn’t the result of extra terrestrial technology gifted to us decades ago by the Zeti Reticulans. It should be noted the Michael Jacskon in Bugsy Malone who plays Razamataz is not the late pop sensation of Thriller fame but in fact just some poor kid with the same moniker who never worked again.
2. Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979)
It’s difficult to understand why Skatetown, U.S.A. does not currently hold the same cult kitsch position as a Xanadu or a Grease 2. After all, this is the boisterous roller skate disco epic that combined the talents of Baio, a fresh-faced Patrick Swayze, the always alluring Maureen McCormick, and Murray “The Unknown Comic” Langston. Playing older brother Richie to McCormick’s Susan, here Baio must watch out for his sibling’s innocence while finding love of his own on one of California’s many enchanted roller disco floors. Skatetown, U.S.A. has never been released on any home video format due to various soundtrack rights issues, but you can watch the entire glorious thing on YouTube right now if you wish because we live in the future.
3. The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980)
Baio gets his troubled sleazebag on in this made-for-tv parable about a high schooler who can’t stay off the hooch. As Buff Saunders, our hero struggles in his attempts to balance a difficult home life with his achievements as a teen hockey star — thus, he turns to the good stuff. Buff’s father is constantly soused as well, but there’s no sympathy for genetic pitfalls when this snapshot gets trashed at a party, punches a girl, and wets his own pants. The hostess of said party offers a declaration early on that her “mother’ll have kittens” if beer ends up on the rug; this quote is crying to be included on the next list of the silver screen’s greatest and best catchphrases.
4. Senior Trip (1981)
Not to be confused with National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, this more reality-based adventure follows a group of suburban teenagers on the brink of high school graduation as they travel to New York City for some last minute fun and frivolity. Naturally, a few unexpected life lessons are crammed into this made-for-tv gem as well (the look on Faye Grant’s face when she learns some women sleep their way to the top — do you remember the exact moment when your innocence was robbed?). Somewhere along the line Baio and his posse meet Mickey Rooney, which is really all you can ask for during a visit to the Big Apple. Seinfeld completists will be happy to see a young Jason Alexander wetting his beak here; it is Baio, though, who is front and center as business-minded Roger Ellis, a kid yearning to live a life rich with tan blazers and powder blue button down shirts.
5. Zapped! (1982)
The Star Wars of the Scott Baio oeuvre. As good-natured science fiend Barney Springboro, SB possesses a power akin the Force — he can mentally remove people’s clothing at will. Willie Aames plays the weasely Han Solo to Baio’s Luke, making the jittery Scatman Crothers gym coach character Obi-Wan Kenobi and Heather Thomas’s snooty angora-wrapped cheerleader Princess Leia. Thomas wound up suing the producers of Zapped! for superimposing her head on a nude body double when she refused to disrobe herself; perhaps this is why her, Baio, and Aames refused to return for the 1990 sequel Zapped Again. The world is still waiting for this unholy trio to reunite for a true follow-up, or perhaps even a trilogy of Zapped! prequels.
6. Detonator (1998)
Not to be confused with The Detonator, the 2006 direct-to-DVD Wesley Snipes witness protection action flick. Baio’s Detonator follows the tale of a cold, calculating bomber named Zack Ramses who befriends a small child, basically answering the question what would it be like if Luc Besson had cast the kid from Charles in Charge in The Professional instead of Jean Reno? Our boy looks just as cool as Reno on this flick’s VHS cover — bedecked in a wife-beater and dollar store sunglasses, what looks like a Parliament Light dangling from his lips, SB remains unmoved as his career literally explodes in the background.
7. The Bread, My Sweet (2001)
In many ways, Scott Baio was born to play the passionate biscotti baker he portrays in this romantic comedy who proposes to a fetching woman just hours after their first encounter. Fans of The Bread, My Sweet will be delighted to know that the bakery featured in the film exists as a functioning business in real life on the mean streets of Pittsburgh. It’s only a matter of time before rabid cultists descend on said locale to sample their tasty wares and act out a few heart-tugging scenes from the Moonstruck of Baio’s catalog.
8. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)
Here we find Scott Baio’s triumphant 21st Century return to major studio filmmaking. Finally, our little Chachi is rubbing elbows with the lofty likes of Jon Voigt and Porky’s legend Bob Clark. The end result stands as the Tomorrow Never Dies of computer generated sassy baby movies. Never mind that Baby Geniuses 2 only raked in a fraction of its budget at the box office and swept the Razzies that year — this movie proves wrong the old adage “There are no second acts following Skatetown, U.S.A.”
James Greene, Jr. is a freelance writer who has actually been paid real money by places like the New York Press, Geek Monthly, Crawdaddy.com, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. A visit to his personal blog should eat up at least two minutes of your day.