TV crush: Jessica Walter

jessica walter amy prentiss

Looking back at the women who made TV viewing a very special thing for me as a young man has reinforced to me just how old we’re all getting.

Example: Jessica Walter, the focus of this installment of TV Crush, is best known in recent years for her role as the matriarch of the Bluth family on the beloved sitcom “Arrested Development.” But in looking Walter up online, I’m startled to see that she’s 71 years young.

When Walter was considerably younger – and so was I – she was one of the actresses I loved seeing on TV. She had the cool beauty and grace of an Audrey Hepburn and a steely demeanor like few other actresses of the time.

Walter first came on my radar in the title role of “Amy Prentiss,” a short-lived 1974 spin-off of the NBC hit “Ironside.” Prentiss was the first female chief of police for San Francisco and as such battled preconceived ideas about a woman on the police force – not to mention in charge of it.

jessica walter clint eastwood play misty for me

By that time, Walter was known for her edgy roles. In the 1971 Clint Eastwood classic “Play Misty for Me,” she had played a young woman who called Eastwood’s disc jockey character with the title request. In this early take on obsessive fans and doomed affairs, Eastwood gets more than he bargained for when he dallies with Walter.

It’s fun to see Walter enjoying the kind of popular career revitalization all too many actresses don’t get. But to me, she’ll always be tough cop Amy Prentiss.


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