Raised in Newport Beach, Ted eventually attended The University of Southern California where he was captain of the water polo team. Holy Mother of God, I can’t even imagine. Also, notably, he was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, a detail that would aid him in the early part of his acting career.
He first became a print model, his clean, pretty, but manly, good looks gracing many a cover and photo spread, including those of GQ magazine. His professional acting career began when he was enlisted to help fill the void left when Ron Howard exited the sensationally popular sitcom Happy Days. McGinley played Roger Phillips, a cousin of Howard’s character, though they were not much alike in the slightest. He was the school’s phys-ed teacher, which certainly would have gotten me interested in gym class, which I never was at my own school!
The series (set in the late 50s) had struck ratings gold, primarily due to the leather jacket-wearing character of Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, but eventually declined. Ted was on the series from 1980 to 1984, which is longer than most series last to begin with, but the fact that he was on it in its waning years lent him a distinction that would come back to haunt him over and over. By the way, check out this photo of him and his onscreen aunt Marion Ross in a fantasy sequence. I mean, the man was perfection incarnate.
During (and probably due to) his tenure on Happy Days, McGinley scored a role in the Garry Marshall soap opera/hospital spoof Young Doctors in Love. Marshall (who produced Happy Days) cast Ted as a studly intern who falls for a prostitute played by Crystal Bernard. Bernard later joined the cast of the sitcom as well, briefly, when its young couple Scott Baio and Erin Moran were spun off into the infamous (and short-lived) Joanie Loves Chachi.
He also found time to guest star on Fantasy Island, play one of the pieces of marketable meat in Jon Erik Hexum’s The Making of a Male Model and take on a role that would grant him a certain cult following, that of Stan Gable in Revenge of the Nerds.
Revenge of the Nerds concerned a passel of oddballs and rejects who try to break into the fraternal cliques of Adams College, but who are, instead, roundly shunned by everyone. McGinley played the head of the Greek Council and president of the Alpha Beta fraternity, a jock with a sexy girlfriend who is chief antagonist to the nerds. As a young person viewing this film, I knew I was supposed to dislike McGinley and everything he stood for, but he was so jaw-on-the-floor gorgeous that I couldn’t help but worship him and wonder how I could make myself over into someone he would love! McGinley has always had a sense of humor about himself and his looks and gamely took on the abuse that was called for in the script. He didn’t take part in the sequel, but did reappear in the third and fourth installments that were made for TV in the early 90s.
In 1984, he was placed in the cast of another long-running and highly popular series, The Love Boat. Ted was frequently given deliberately ostentatious names for his characters that would then be simplified with a nickname. (It stood to reason, after all, having been born Theodore Martin McGinley!) The Fantasy Island ep had him playing Errol Brookfield III. In this case he was ship’s photographer Ashley Covington Evans and went by “Ace.”
The series had begun with a regular cast of only about five actors, supplemented each week by boatloads (literally!) of famous guest stars. By this time, though one person had departed (Lauren Tewes, due to a substance abuse problem), the cast had expanded to an unwieldy seven and later had the Mermaids, a performing group, added in as well! McGinley was at his blondest, most tan, most adorable ever, but there just wasn’t a place for him on the show and he was mostly adrift in the wave of storylines that came in each week. The show had long since run out of steam anyway and was canceled in 1986. Thus, he was, once again, associated with a series that was circling the drain on the way to its demise.
Never one, particularly at this stage, to remain idle for long, he was added to Love Boat producer Aaron Spelling’s hit primetime soap Dynasty. Portraying Clayburn “Clay” Fallmont, he was the rugged son of one of Blake Carrington’s rivals and eventually became the lover of Heather Locklear’s character Sammy Jo, who was undergoing a reinvention from sleazy, no-good trash to upstanding young entrepreneur and heroine.
His dazzling good looks were a boon to the show and he and Locklear made a striking couple. Unfortunately, the writers began making his character more and more conservative and old-fashioned in his thinking, particularly when it came to that hoary old cliché about wanting his wife to have a child to carry his name and all. Eventually, the pair was split up and he was later put together with Terri Garber as a newfound Carrington cousin, Leslie.
When the Dynasty spin-off The Colbys was canceled and its stars Jeff James and Emma Samms transferred back to the original show, it was decided to write McGinley out. The method was a rather icky one as it was suggested that he and Garber, who by now were live-in lovers on the show, were actually half-brother and sister! Heartbroken, Clay left Leslie, left Denver and left Dynasty. Though the series did limp along for two more years, it was yet another instance of his being part of the decline of a once-popular show!
Free from the shackles of a regular series, McGinley guested on several shows and made an occasional film. He entered into a surprising relationship with Burt Reynolds, of all people, and had a supporting part in his film Physical Evidence, a guest spot on B.L. Stryker, one on Evening Shade, a later teaming in Hard Time: Hostage Hotel and even went to The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida for a run! You can just hear Blanche on The Golden Girls yelping, “What?? And miss Mister Ted McGinley in The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre production of I’m Not Rappaport?!”(the actual show he did there.)
As for Physical Evidence, a dreary yarn initially intended as a sequel to Jagged Edge, it was made during one of Burt’s low periods and was not a success. The overwhelmingly grey and pallid design scheme for the film is lifted when McGinley appears as costar Teresa Russell’s shallow and materialistic live-in boyfriend. He is depicted with all of the hallmarks of a new money, technology-obsessed asshole including, but not limited to, designer clothes, a gold chain, a gold watch, a fancy car and, get this, a hot tub just off his bedroom!
Thank God for it because, in a far too fleeting moment, he strips down to some very skimpy undies, showing off his luscious torso, before doffing those as well (off camera, unfortunately) and hopping in! He then carries on a now-hysterical conversation about wanting to get attorney Russell a cellular phone as she protests. While she opts to work on her case some more, he puts his ginormous earphones on so he can soak and listen to the greatest songs of that era. John Cusack and company can take their Hot Tub Time Machine back to 1986 if they want to, but I would like to be deposited directly into this tub in 1989!
That year also found Ted in a much different type of project. The bawdy and low-rung sitcom Married… With Children lost one of its featured cast members when David Garrison (as Steve Rhoades) opted to buy out his contract and return to stage work. Brought in as a new character, McGinley played Jefferson Milhouse D’Arcy, the new husband of neighbor Marcy (thus named Marcy D’Arcy.) Here, McGinley found a degree of success, staying on until 1997 when the series ended, having appeared in 164 episodes. While it’s true that he was part of the end of yet another show, he could at least claim this time that he was also part of its continued success after concern over how it would proceed without one of its key players.
Ted married actress Gigi Rice (of The John Larroquette Show) in 1991 and made four guest appearances on her series, three of them as a character named Karl. For whatever reason, Ted has very often portrayed characters with a hard K sound. Clay, Karl, King(!) and on three separate occasions, Kyle. He must like that one.
Mr. McGinley, thanks to his participation in some TV shows that were hanging by a thread before cancellation, has been anointed with the title Patron Saint of Shark Jumping. Jumping the Shark refers to that moment when a TV series makes a decision which heralds the beginning of the end. It originated when Fonzie on Happy Days went water-skiing and jumped a ramp that went over a shark that was in the water, thus costing the show its sense of reality and integrity (such as it was!) They creators of the concept (and website) have all sorts of criteria, but Mr. McGinley has a special place. Now, the presence of Ted in a series is a harbinger that the series will die soon.
Thus, the producers of the sitcom Hope & Faith must have had plenty of both when they cast him in it, having fired the original actor from the pilot! Costarring with blonde hams Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, he could hardly be the one blamed if people decided they didn’t want to watch it! In any case, enough people tuned in to keep it going from 2003 – 2006. Why, I have no idea...
Sprinkled amongst his TV work on shows like Sports Night and The West Wing have been various TV or direct-to-video action movies and small roles in big screen features like Dick, The Big Tease and Pearl Harbor. He’s lent his voice to animated series such as Justice League and The Family Guy as well. He also starred opposite a newly nipped and tucked Genie Francis in one of cable TV’s highest rated movies ever, The Note, in 2007. A sequel, Taking a Chance on Love, was aired two years later.
In 2008, he took part in the recent phenomenon Dancing With the Stars, looking terrific as always. Sadly, his moves weren’t up to par and he was sent home after two rounds, still retaining the good nature that has kept him in good with so many producers over the years.
Now darker-haired, he is a man who looks great no matter what! He looks good in a tuxedo or a pair of shorts, with blonde highlights or brunette, scruffy or clean-shaven. He’s an ageless hunk who has been working quite steadily for almost twenty years and yet is still awaiting that project, if it exists, that will give him distinction apart from being a television series killer! Here in The Underworld, anyway, he’s a major star!