If you had a hankering for some good, old-fashioned reality TV stars in the early 1980s, you couldn’t do much better than That’s Incredible cast.
What’s that you say? Reality TV began with The Bachelor? Or … with Survivor? Or maybe with Real World.
Maybe the term “reality TV” is a modern contrivance, but the truth is, we’ve been watching each other do real-life stuff on television for about as long as there’s been television.
If you don’t believe me, just Google “high adventure CBS” sometime.
By 1980, viewing audiences had gone through all sorts of iterations of the reality TV bug, but we were always up for more … some things never change!
Enter, That’s Incredible, an ABC offering that brought us a three-headed hosting couch adorned with Cathy Lee Crosby, John Davidson, and Fran Tarkenton. Each week, each of the talking heads would bring us human interest stories, showcasing folks who were doing unusual, inspirational, outrageous, and generally incredible things.
The show ran from 1980 through 1984, but the three principals didn’t just ride off into the sunset.
Here’s what the cast of That’s Incredible has been up to since the series ended.
Cathy Lee Crosby
Crosby was the friendly but straight-talking member of the trio who always felt like she might also be at home in a hard-hitting interview setting.
And speaking of hard-hitting, Crosby made her first television splash as a professional tennis player. In fact, she was good enough to make it to Wimbledon twice and peaked with a number 7 ranking on the women’s singles list.
By 1968, though, she was starting to work her way into TV on a more regular basis, debuting in an episode of “It Takes a Thief.”
From there, she strung together a run of appearances in series up and down the dial, and she even landed the lead role in the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie.
Crosby also began appearing on weekday staples like Hollywood Squares and The Mike Douglas Show, and it was clear her star was rising.
That’s Incredible may have been something of a culmination of that ascent, but she kept right on plying her trade as an actress with several guest spots through the early 1980s.
When That’s Incredible ended in 1984, Crosby rolled on, parlaying her celebrity into all sorts of TV appearances, spanning the gamut from WWW events to Bob Hope specials to TV movies.
Things started to dry up a bit in the 1990s, and by the 2000s, Crosby was rarely in the limelight.
The 2010s brought just a handful of appearances, with the last two of those coming in 2016 — she checked in on an episode of Inside Edition and played Nona in an Eric Roberts movie titled Prayer Never Fails.
Setting aside sports — which Crosby and Tarkenton had well-covered — Davidson was the do-everything, square-jawed, host with movie star good looks that sort of drew it all together for That’s Incredible.
For an American public accustomed to seeing handsome faces anchor its evening news for decades, he was the perfect straight man for his co-hosts and guests to tether from.
And, if Davidson seemed especially at ease in front of a camera, it’s because he had been working professionally as a model and actor since he was seventeen, if not before.
His first known television appearance (via IMDb) came on the Milton Berle show in 1958, just after his 17th birthday, and Davidson revealed on Scrabble in 1987 that he had posed for an underwear ad when he was 17 … which probably meant 1959, considering he was born in December 1941.
In between that early, um, exposure and that post-Incredible game play, Davidson appeared on about every show you could imagine that showcases celebrities in their own skin — Hollywood Squares, The Tonight Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Merv Griffin, Good Morning America, and on and on and on.
He augmented his fame with acting roles in vehicles like the 1964 TV-movie version of The Fantasticks and multiple appearances on Daniel Boone and Love, American Style.
During the first couple years of That’s Incredible, Davidson maintained a moonlighting gig with his own talk show, The John Davidson Show, a revival of a 1969 entry by the same name.
When Incredible‘s run ended in 1984, Davidson leveraged his daytime popularity into a career as a popular game show host, tackling a couple versions of Pyramid and The New Hollywood Squares.
He even appeared as a TV host on the 1990 film classic, Edward Scissorhands, which would be his last acting credit to date.
Davidson began to fade from the limelight as the 1990s rolled around, making only occasional appearances on the late night talk show circuit.
He also participated in a couple of That’s Incredible reunions in the early 2000s. Davidson’s last television appearance of note was on a 2014 episode of The Queen Latifah Show.
Just in case Crosby didn’t bring enough athletic prowess to the screen to satisfy the jock in your heart, ABC also unleashed Fran Tarkenton on That’s Incredible viewers.
Heck, even if you weren’t much of a football fan, you probably knew something about Tarkenton, who had just wrapped up an 18-year NFL career in 1978.
During that glorious run, split between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, Tarkenton led the Vikes to three Super Bowl appearances (though no victories) and retired as the all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
He wasn’t yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio — that would come in 1986 — but everyone knew his election was just a matter of time.
Like many high-profile athletes, Tarkenton parlayed his success on the field to several spots on talk shows throughout the 1970s, and he also landed one-time gigs as a host on Saturday Night Live and as a football player on the movie version of MASH.
On That’s Incredible, Tarkenton was sort of like a color commentator in football — brought in for his celebrity and as a comic foil for the more straight-laced Davidson and Crosby. But the former QB showed he could be serious, too, and became an integral part of the show.
After the series ran its course, Tarkenton landed a recurring role as a play-by-play announcer on the HBO sitcom, 1st & Ten, that ran from 1984-85.
Beyond that, Tarkenton was mostly a no-show on television from the 1980s through the 2000s aside from some infomercials where he was hawking wares like motivational books and Tony Robbins spiels.
In the early 2010s, though, Tarkenton began showing up on a variety of Fox News outlets, including Hannity, The O’Reilly Factor, and Fox and Friends.
The last of those came in 2015, and he’s been pretty much out of the limelight since then.