Bad Cat, Indeed: Samantha “Sunshine” Jensen Redux

My soft spot for Baby Pfeiffer is legendary, but I’m not alone. My friends and fellow super pfans Kelda, Paul, Juan, and Stacy (RIP), to name just a few, love Baby Pfeiffer with the same sort of fanatical zeal as I do. Every now and then I take a deep dive into the early roles of Michelle Pfeiffer and always emerge a tad lightheaded, but with a huge smile plastered across my face. Sure, Baby Pfeiffer’s jaw-dropping beauty makes me woozy, but that’s a small price to pay for gazing into the eyes of a goddess.

I know, I’m doing it again. I’m getting hyperbolic about Michelle. You’re rolling your eyes. I know this. But I’m pretty sure you understand why I’m prone to effusive praise when writing about Baby Pfeiffer. Its like when Al Pacino thinks about a great ass in Heat; something comes out of me. It’s such a treat to see Michelle in early roles like police officer Samantha “Sunshine” Jensen (one of my favorite Pfeiffer character names) in the otherwise forgettable TV series B.A.D. Cats (1980). This series, which only lasted one incomplete season, debuted during the heyday of primetime cheesecake. Think Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach) on Dukes of Hazzard or the Angels of Charlie’s Angels. The former actually led to an NBC executive derisively coining the phrase “jiggle television.”

So, right alongside a bikini-clad Cheryl Ladd and Bach squeezed into her signature Daisy Duke short-shorts stood the former beauty pageant winner Michelle Pfeiffer. Promotional photos for B.A.D. Cats feature 22 year old Baby Pfeiffer in an outfit that would make Daisy Duke proud—including the namesake short-shorts looking scandalously short and tantalizingly tight. These B.A.D. Cats photos, with a smiling Michelle posing next to cars and auto parts, are basically the holy grail of cheesecake photos in her career. This cat was indeed bad. See for yourself:

Need to catch your breath now, doncha? I’m using my asthma inhaler. YOWSA. In an alternate universe, this Michelle Pfeiffer bypassed movie superstardom and instead became the glamorous and leggy spokesmodel for Nair. You’re going to have their jingle in your head all week now, aren’t you?

While Michelle’s character Samantha was certainly there to add some female sex appeal to the mostly male cast, she usually showed less bare skin in the episodes than in the promo pictures. Although she still occasionally missed every single button on her shirt. Oops! Is this office appropriate? Who cares!?

Episodes of B.A.D. Cats are scarce online, but you can find plenty of great publicity stills and screenshots from the episodes. While Michelle provided the requisite eye candy for male viewers in 1980—or any viewers with a pulse—she also often played a key role in helping the show’s two lead cops solve the burglary-auto-related crime of the week. Samantha was the glue that kept this Statsky & Hutch/Dukes of Hazzard ripoff on the air…well, at least for the six out of ten filmed episodes that actually made it to air.

Two years later, Michelle nabbed her first lead role, and an iconic one at that, as Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2. After that, and as I documented in the latest issue of Cinema of the ‘80s magazine, her career exploded with a critically praised turn in Scarface (1983). It’s pretty wild to think that in such a brief period of time she went from guest spots on Fantasy Island and CHiPs and a third lead in a failed series like B.A.D. Cats to the majesty of Grease 2 and Scarface. That’s why looking back on her Baby Pfeiffer years is so sweet. We know now that greatness was right around the corner for this blonde bombshell with the beatific smile.

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