Archive for the ‘The Chronicle: News From the Edge (2001-2002)’ Category

Coming Eventually: “New” Saints with Feast Days in July   Leave a comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

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The COVID-19 pandemic has granted me much more free time than I anticipated I would have when 2020 dawned.  I have spent that free time in a number of ways, including the following:

  1. I have watched some entertaining and poorly made science fiction movies from the 1950s and 1960s.  I have watched the entire run of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who serials (1970-1974).  (By the way, critics of “wokeness” in current Doctor Who would have strong emotional and physical reactions if they were to watch the Jon Pertwee serials closely.  Barry Letts made his positions obvious.)
  2. I have transferred the contents of PUNS BLOG to SUNDRY THOUGHTS and deleted PUNS BLOG.
  3. I have written about many saints at this weblog and posted many lectionary-based devotions through the end of the next liturgical year at spinoffs of this weblog.
  4. I have blogged my way through The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (2001-2002).
  5. Off-blog, I have been taking notes for Revised Common Lectionary-based discussions for Sundays through the end of this liturgical year.
  6. This morning, I started taking notes for Propers 23-25, Year A, otherwise known as October 11, 18, and 25, 2020.  (I intend to complete those notes today.)
  7. I have been leading weekly discussions of lectionary readings via Zoom since May.
  8. I have applied for employment in four cities, all of them sites of universities.  (I would starve intellectually outside of a college or university town.)
  9. I have started reading two books by E. P. Sanders.  I have been reading Jesus and Judaism for my book group.  I have been reading Paul and Palestinian Judaism because I want to do so.
  10. I have been avoiding other people as much as possible since some time in March.  Some days, I have seen other people only through windows.

I have also been working on saints with feast days in July.   I have taken notes on some and drafted posts in ink and longhand on most of those.  I have made plans to take notes on more saints and to draft more posts in ink and longhand.  I have yet to decide when to start writing posts based on these drafts.

More saints are on the way, O readers.

Shalom!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge (2001-2002): Final Thoughts on the Series   Leave a comment

Above:  Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

A Screen Capture

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The entire series is available here, for free.

My recommended viewing order, hyperlinks to posts about individual episodes, and my notes on the internal chronology of the series are here.

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (July 14, 2001-March 22, 2002) was one of those series that should have lasted longer than it did.  Its home was the Sci-Fi Channel, before that channel became Syfy.  The Chronicle, alas, did not garner sufficient ratings to get a second season.  The series, therefore, ended on a cliffhanger, as some other science fiction series I watched also did.  Who else remembers Earth 2 (1994-1995) and The Invasion (2005-2006)?  And let us never, ever speak of The Starlost (1973-1974), who probably plunged headlong into that “Class G solar star” because their would-be saviors were idiots.

The Chronicle had potential.  The actors delivered otherwise ridiculous lines well.  Stories were wonderfully unlikely yet, in the universe of the series, true.  The concept of the stories at a tabloid modeled on the Weekly World News being true provided fodder for a series that could have run for seasons.  The major characters fit well in that crazy world.  Jon Polito’s Donald Stern was properly authoritative and mysterious.  Curtis Armstong, as Sal the Pig-Boy, stole most of the scenes he was in.  Reno Wilson, as Wes Freewald, quoted Star Wars movies better than anyone else. Chad Willett, as Tucker Burns, fit into the bizarre universe of the World Chronicle very quickly.  And Rena Sofer was really cute.

At the end of the last episode, A Snitch in Time, our characters were at turning points.  Grace Hall had run off with boyfriend Louis Phillips, in the witness protection program of the twenty-fourth century, to 1945.  Tucker Burns had broken up with Kristen Martin.  Detective Hector Garibaldi had served a warrant on Donald Stern, who he suspected falsely for murders.  What would have happened at the beginning of the second season that never was?

I have a few ideas, all of them rooted in the only season produced.

  1. Donald Stern, the series established, is very well-connected.  All he needs to do to get himself and all others falsely accused out of legal troubles and cause Garibaldi to have many regrets is to place one telephone call.  That plot line would have resolved in the first episode of the second season.  Why not?  The U.S. Marine Corps owes him favors.  Stern taught Pope John Paul II how to ski.  Stern can also intercede with the Supreme Pontiff to get an audience for someone.  And who knows how many U.S. government black operations programs he Stern has been involved in over the decades, perhaps centuries? And he has alien devices and weapons in the basement.
  2. Grace Hall would not have returned.  She had found her soulmate, a time traveler from the twenty-fourth century.  Grace had long feared that no man would accept her after hearing her stories of alien abductions, so she kept ending relationships after three weeks, at most, for years.  Dennis stuck with Grace for the better part of a year before he moved to Canada off-screen.  Grace Hall and Louis Phillips were supposed to be in relationship.
  3. Tucker Burns may have remained apart from Kristen Martin.  His previous girlfriend, Shawna Fuchs, may never have accepted The Chronicle as an accurate publication, but, at worst, she would have blithely tolerated it.  Kristen, however, briefly considered accepting the truth of what she had witnessed before choosing to reject that truth.  That decision helped to set the stage for her cooperation with Detective Garibaldi.  So did her love for Tucker, though.  Tucker should have recognized that, to be fair to Kristen.

I prefer to write about series I like.  Nevertheless, I do not pretend that any series is perfect.  A review of my episode posts reveals some gently critical comments.  I would have preferred to skip some of the episodes produced and seen episodes about stories either mentioned in passing or that constituted subplots.  For example, I wish there had been an episode about the woman who grew horns after contracting Mad Cow Disease.  And an episode devoted to that man who channeled living actors with dead television careers would have a hoot.

C’est la vie.

I will return to The Chronicle one day.  It is a series worthy of repeated viewings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge (2001-2002): Broadcast and Production Orders   1 comment

Above:  The Title Card

A Screen Capture

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WITH REMARKS ON THE OPTIMUM VIEWING ORDER

(Production order is in parentheses.)

The entire series is available here, for free.

  1. Pilot (01)
  2. What Gobbles Beneath (06)
  3. Here There Be Dragons (08)
  4. Baby Got Back (03)
  5. He’s Dead, She’s Dead (07)
  6. Bermuda Love Triangle (11)
  7. Only the Young Die Good (10)
  8. Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns (12)
  9. Let Sleeping Dogs Fry (02)
  10. Take Me Back (13)
  11. Touched By an Alien (14)
  12. Pig Boy’s Big Adventure (17)
  13. The Cursed Sombrero (16)
  14. Tears of a Clone (18)
  15. I See Dead Fat People (04)
  16. Man and Superman (15)
  17. Hot from the Oven (09)
  18. The Stepford Cheerleaders (05)
  19. The Mists of Avalon Parkway (19)
  20. The King is Undead (20)
  21. Hell Mall (21)
  22. A Snitch in Time (22)

I have paid close attention to visual cues (such as dates on front pages of editions of the World Chronicle) and to dialogue.  I have kept notes about these cues in longhand.  My main regret is one about which I can do nothing, for only versions of all 22 episodes of The Chronicle to which I have access are of a certain video quality.  The images are not the clearest ones possible, so some dates are blurry.  Consider that caveat, O reader, when I recommend a viewing order of episodes.  In the event that I will have access to cleaned-up, sharp versions of these episodes, I will gladly incorporate the newly-available information into my data set and, as necessary, revise my notes and recommended viewing order.  I will rejoice if The Chronicle ever becomes available on the new Peacock streaming service. This series is a production of NBC/Universal, so why not?

With few exceptions, I recommend viewing these episodes in broadcast order.  As I have already written in this series of blog posts, I understand that production order does not necessarily equate to proper viewing order.  For example, one should watch the first two broadcast episodes in broadcast order; the second episode picks up shortly after the first one.  The second broadcast episode, What Gobbles Beneath, was the sixth one produced.  On the other hand, the discrepancy between production order and broadcast order produced an arc plot contradiction.  Touched By an Alien (the fourteenth episode produced and the eleventh one broadcast) contains a reference to Hot from the Oven (the ninth episode produced and the seventeenth one broadcast) IN THE PAST TENSE.  Within in the universe of The Chronicle, Touched By an Alien occurred in the Spring of 2001, and Hot from the Oven took place in late September 2001.  Oops!

My recommended viewing order is this:  Watch the episodes in broadcast order, WITH TWO EXCEPTIONS.

  1. Move The Stepford Cheerleaders (the fifth episode produced and the eighteenth one broadcast) to immediately following Baby Got Back (the third episode produced and the fourth one broadcast.
  2. View Let Sleeping Dogs Fry (the second episode produced and the ninth one broadcast) between the third and eighth episodes broadcast.

Viewing the 22 episodes of The Chronicle in this order should eliminate as many internal chronological inconsistencies as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 22: A Snitch in Time (2002)   3 comments

Above:  Swedish Gangsters from the Future, Surrounded by Federal Agents from the Future

All images in this post are screen captures.

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A Snitch in Time

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 22, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-121

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Cast

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Stephen Dunham as Louis Phillips

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Von Schauer as Head Swede

Behind the Camera

Writer = Hans Beimler

Director = Krishna Rao

Above:  Grace Hall and Louis Phillips in 1945

Brief Summary

It is late July 2002.  Grace Hall has been dating Louis Phillips (Hell Mall) for several weeks.  Meanwhile, since May, a few people have been combusting, seemingly spontaneously.  Grace has written a story about one of these incidents, and found that story boring.  One day, in the offices of the World Chronicle, Louis abruptly breaks up with Grace.  Wes Freewald, Tucker Burns, and Vera try to comfort her.

Tucker Burns and Kristen Martin are growing closer to each other.  She gives him a key to her apartment.  Later in the episode, he tells her, “I love you,” for the first time.”  He does not yet know that she is recording conversations for Detective Dense, er, Garibaldi.  The detective really wants to nail Donald Stern (for murders) legally and to take down Grace Hall and Wes Freewald (as accessories to murders) along the way.  Garibaldi promises to work to make the law go lightly in Tucker’s case.  Kristen presses Garibaldi to persuade the District Attorney to grant Tucker immunity, but the detective will not go that far.  Kristen cooperates out of love for Tucker and out of fear for herself; Garibaldi threatens her with arrest, too.

Louis is being mysterious.  He quit his job at the architectural firm a week ago.  His boss was surprised; Louis’s designs were nearly sculptural.  Grace follows Louis to the offices of a dentist, Dr. Sheila Shelton.  After Louis departs, Grace notices that Dr. Sheldon’s body has combusted.  Grace concludes that Louis is a serial killer.  Dr. Sheldon had been the dentist for the other people who combusted.

Sal the Pig-Boy explains to Wes, Tucker, and Grace how these combustions could have occurred:  agitation of water molecules.  To demonstrate, he uses a Brownian motion accelerator to blow up a watermelon remotely.

Louis visits Grace at the World Chronicle.  He tells her that the last month has been a deliriously happy time for him, and that he has become miserable.  He also says he cannot explain why he must leave.  That night, Grace follows Louis to a mausoleum.  She is so noisy that he detects her presence easily.  Men with guns that cause targets to melt appear in the mausoleum.  Louis and Grace get away, but Louis loses a crypt key.  One of these men, listed as “Head Swede,” has the key.  The man have tracked Louis via a molar that is really temporal beacon.  Louis removes this tooth at Grace’s apartment.  She takes it to the archives at the World Chronicle.  Two hit men teleport into the archives and start shooting melty guns.  Then Donald Stern shoots them with a really big gun.

It is time for the exposition dump, so Louis sits down with Wes, Donald, Tucker, and Grace.  After the Great Polar Meltdown of 2060 left Scandinavia underwater, Swedish refugees scattered around the world.  Many came to North America.  They sold boxy cars, furniture one had to assemble, et cetera.  Some became active in organized crime and took over all the syndicates.  Louis is part of the federal witness protection from 2314.  After he saw the head of the Swedish mafia melt a federal judge “in cold blood,” Louis testified against the don in court and broke the back of the Swedish mafia.  In the future, the only people with access to time travel technology seem to be federal authorities and vengeful Swedish gangsters.  Louis has been living under the cover of an architect from Minnesota, but hit men have been pursuing him. All those who combusted (not spontaneously) were support personnel to the witness protection program.  Dr. Sheldon was also Louis’s main link to the future.  When he needed to send a message to federal authorities in the twenty-fourth century, he took that message to her.  Now the only way left for him to send a message to the future is to leave in a particular crypt at the mausoluem, one of the few buildings left intact after the Walt Disney corporation turned New York City into the world’s largest theme park in 2090.  But Louis needs the crypt key back.  Louis also sought out the World Chronicle, to look out for tips of anyone pursuing him.

Wes, Grace, and Tucker cooperate to get the crypt key back.  Where do Swedish gangsters from 2314 hide out in 2002?  At an Ikea store, of course! Wes and Tucker pretend to be a homosexual couple bickering about colors.  They also destroy a pillow.  When the Head Swede is covered with feathers, Wes gets the crypt key back.

At the crypt, Louis places his message inside the specified crypt.  Immediately, Swedish gangsters, led by the Head Swede, teleport in.  Immediately after that, federal agents from 2314 teleport in around the Swedish gangsters.  The federal agents shoot the gangsters, who disappear.

Tucker, who had overhead part of a conversation between Kristen and Garibaldi at her apartment door, returns to her apartment.  He does not enter.  No, he breaks up with her and returns the key she had given him.

Shortly thereafter, the time has come for Louis to depart.  The witness protection program relocates him.  Grace, initially reluctant to go accept his invitation to go with him, does accept.  First, however, she says her goodbyes at the World Chronicle.

Donald Stern comforts the staff members, who wonder what happened to Grace.  Grace can take care of herself, the tells them.  Once, in the Amazon rain forest, cannibalistic pygmies abducted her and held her hostage for six months.  Now all those pygmies are vegetarians.

Then Stern asks who has leads for stories for the next weekly issue.  Tucker has a lead about a man with magnetic skin.  Wes has head that the world’s tallest man is missing.  Then Detective Stupid, er, Garibaldi, and uniformed police officers enter the conference room.  Garibaldi serves a warrant.  Grace, it seems, got away just in time.

She and Louis went to 1945, in time to witness the famous photographed kiss on VJ-Day.

Above:  Donald Stern

Character Beats

Kristen Martin likes fruity wines.  Grace Hall does not.

Grace Hall usually dumps a boyfriend before he can dump her.

The Head Swede is homophobic, using the slur “fairies.”  Does one expect a violent criminal to be socially progressive?

Above:  Detective Garibaldi’s Raid

Great Lines

Headline:  “NEW HERBAL INTERGALACTIC LAXATIVE BANNED IN FRANCE.”

Vera:  “Men!  They’re all dogs.  Wes Freewald:  “Why are you always chasing ’em?”  Vera:  “Dogs make good pets, once they’re housebroken.”

Above:  Kristen Martin

In-Universe

All of the federal agents from 2314 we see are beautiful women who wear berets and sunglasses.

Did the federal agents from 2314 kill the gangsters or return them to the future?

Wes jokingkly tells Tucker that the man with an exposed brain is engaged to marry a woman with an exposed liver.  In the universe of the World Chronicle, that not being a joke is plausible.

Above:  Louis Phillips

Comments

A Snitch in Time is the twenty-second episode produced and broadcast.  It is also the last episode of The Chronicle:  News from the Edge.  Given that the Sci-Fi Channel cancelled the series when it did, The Chronicle ends on a cliffhanger.

Von Schauer, usually a stage actor, had a few other on-film credits.  Perhaps the most famous of these is Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978), in which he had such memorable lines as, “Incredible!  A kamikaze tomato!” and “God!  Who would have thought?  All I wanted was a bigger, healthier tomato.” Ah, the classics!  “Rosebud.”  “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”  “How fast was I going, officer?” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.’  “Incredible!  A kamikaze tomato!”

A Snitch in Time artfully combines elements of humor and science fiction.

I wish that the Sci-Fi Channel had renewed The Chronicle for a second season.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 21: Hell Mall (2002)   3 comments

Above:  The Ghost of Velma Jacob

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Hell Mall

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 15, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-120

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Cast

Kelly Biddlecome as Brandi

Ellen Cleghorne as Esperanza

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Stephen Dunham as Louis Phillips

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Myrna Niles as Velma Jacob

Mark Perkins as Anthony

Rebekah Peace as Danielle

Behind the Camera

Writers = Michael Shear and Patrick Sean Smith

Director = David Barrett

Above:  Danielle

Brief Summary

The Staten Island Fashion Square Mall has become a dangerous place to be in June and July 2002.  In the last month, three employees have gone out of their minds briefly killed people.  Off-screen there was an “unfortunate incident at the piercing kiosk,” followed by someone getting impaled at Weiner on a Stick.  And, before the opening credits, Brandi, an employee at Fashism, attacked Stefaney, her manager, with a pair of scissors.  Brandi, in the back room at the story, asked Stefaney, “What are you doing in my room?”  Then Brandi complained, “I don’t want people touching my things.”

Two days later, valley girl Danielle, daughter of a copy editor at the World Chronicle, speaks to Tucker Burns, Wes Freewald, and Grace Hall in the conference room.  She tells them about Brandi.  Donald Stern adds more information.  Wes asks if the cause of the attacks could be demonic possession or a government experiment that has gone wrong.  Stern rejects those theories and proposes psychoactive mutant worms instead.  Tucker Burns suggests that there may be a rational explanation.

Wes, Grace, and Tucker work on the story. Tucker goes undercover at the mall as a spritzer.  His supervisor is Anthony, another stereotypical homosexual.  Grace and Wes briefly interview Brandi in jail, until Detective Hector Garibaldi tells them to leave.  Brandi remembers nothing of the attack on Stefaney.

The new man in Grace’s life is Louis Phillips, an architect she meets when he accidentally drives into the back of Wes’s car, in which she is a passenger.  By the end of the episode, Grace and Louis are dating.

Detective Oblivious, er, Garibaldi, is back.  He meets with Kristen Martin in his office.  Garibaldi refers to the events of Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns, Take Me Back, and Man and Superman.  He says the police made no arrests in these cases.  Garibaldi suspects Donald Stern of being responsible for those murders, at least.  Kristen rejects this.  The detective shows Kristen an Iranian newspaper from 1981.  Stern’s photograph is obvious.  According to Garibaldi, the headline, in Farsi, announces Stern’s death.  The detective goes on to compare the staff of the World Chronicle to the Heaven’s Gate cult and offers Kristen an opportunity to help Tucker Burns before it is too late.  Kristen leaves Garibaldi’s office.

The ghost of Velma Jacob, an elderly nurse, keeps appearing to Tucker and leading him into restricted areas of the fashion mall.  She asks him to help her.

Anthony the chief spritzer goes nutso.  He sets some customers of fire.  Then he says, “Goodbye, Blue Door,” in German and jumps off the highest level of the fashion mall.

Tucker, based on evidence, suggests that ghostly possessions have caused the problems at the fashion mall.

Donald Stern warns Grace, Tucker, and Wes to “use their heads” around Garibaldi, whom Grace refers to as a “Sipowicz-wannabe.”  That, of course is a reference to Andy Sipowicz, whom Dennis Franz portrayed in NYPD Blue.

Louis Phillips comes to offices of the World Chronicle.  He holds a copy of the issue from the end of The Mists of Avalon Parkway.  Grace accuses him of being a stalker.  He denies that allegation.  The roses are from Grace’s mother, who sent them after learning of the break-up with Dennis.  Louis explains that he has been calling Grace because his insurance company needs a statement from her.  Furthermore, Louis explains, he is at the office because he needs to sign forms for Wes’s insurance company.  No, Louis explains, he is not there to ask her out.

Research in the archives yields helpful information.  There is nothing suspicious about the site of the mall.  In fact, it was the site of an Indian mall in antiquity.  However, the “Blue Door” is a reference to the Shady Oaks Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane, the decaying ruins of which are 15 miles away from the mall.  The sanitarium, which had large blue doors, was the site of excessive electric shock therapy until the State of New York closed the facility in the late 1950s.  The spirit of Klaus Hauser, a pyromaniac who jumped to his death from the room of the sanitarium, possessed Anthony.  The ghost of Frank Silva, who jabbed a spoon into his doctor’s eye socket, possessed Brandi.  And nurse Velma Jacob was a sweet old lady until she vivisected three of her patients.

Wes, Grace, and Esperanza visit the ruins of Shady Oaks.  The psychic pronounces the structure devoid of spirits; it is a “ghost’s ghost town.”  The spirits, attached to items, have moved to the fashion mall because the “art” at the mall consists of objects from Shady Oaks.

The spirit of Velma Jacob possesses Tucker Burns.  Neither Grace, Wes notice this immediately.  Kristen never notices it.  Nevertheless, the possessed Tucker has been trying to kill them.  At the fashion mall, at night, Wes and Tucker realize that Tucker is possessed after he attacks them.  Ghosts of the criminally insane try to prevent Wes and Grace from electrifying the “art” fixture, but our heroes succeed.  Velma flees Tucker, and all the spirits leave the mall.  Tucker gets electrocuted, but he recovers.

Louis Phillips and Kristen Martin are waiting at the World Chronicle when our heroes return from the mall.  Louis had lied when he denied going to the office previously to ask her out on a date.  Grace asks him out to dinner.  Tucker and Kristen go out to dinner.

Later, Kristen sits in Detective Garibaldi’s office again.  He holds a copy of the most recent issue of the World Chronicle.  The headline reads, “GHOUL, INTERRUPTED.”  Kristen agrees to cooperate if Garibaldi will protect Tucker.

Above:  Kristen Martin

Character Beats

Off-screen, Grace Hall has recently broken up with Dennis, who has moved to Canada.  We met Dennis in Hot from the Oven (the ninth episode produced and the seventeenth one broadcast), set in late September 2001.  Their relationship lasted much longer than three weeks.

Kristen Martin has resolved her crisis regarding what to believe.  She, despite witnessing the alien spacecraft take off and fly away at the end of Take Me Back and the ritual at the end of The Cursed Sombrero, has chosen to believe that Donald Stern is merely a harmless huckster.

Kristen Martin and Tucker Burns have been dating for more than a year.

Above:  Louis Phillips and Kristen Martin

Great Lines

Danielle, addressing Tucker Burns, Grace Hall, and Wes Freewald:  “Hi!  Okay, so I was at my friend Dawn’s house, and Dawn was, like, dating this guy who was going out with this girl named Brandi, who works at Fashism, in the mall.  Anyway, he told Dawn, and Dawn told me that Brandi was acting kind of strange and stuff.  Then, a couple of days ago, she went, like, totally nutso and jammed a pair of scissors in her manager’s eye.  And the really strange thing is that I almost applied for a job at Fashism, like, a couple of months ago.  It could have been me.”

Kristen Martin, to Tucker Burns:  “I rarely know what’s going on with you–late-night calls from jails, smashed cars.  I mean, it’s like I’m dating Jason Priestley.”

Wes Freewald, to Grace Hall:  “This is a mall, not the Starship Enterprise.”

Above:  Louis Phillips

In-Universe

Anthony is correct; the “art” in the fashion mall is hideous.

The “United We Stand” banner in the fashion mall confirms that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, occurred in the universe of The Chronicle.  This is interesting, with regard to continuity, especially given the events of Man and Superman, set about that time.  (The real-world answer, of course, is that banner was present in the filming location in San Diego.)

Above:  Shady Oaks Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane

Comments

Hell Mall is the twenty-first episode produced and broadcast.

I have known a number of openly homosexual men and women over the years.  I have attended church with some, been classmates of others, and taught others.  Not one has been a stereotypical character.

What of Brandi’s fate?  It was not her fault that a homicidal ghost possessed her temporarily.

We last saw Kristen Martin in The Cursed Sombrero (the sixteenth episode produced and the thirteenth one aired), set in May 2001.

Hell Mall sets up the next episode, A Snitch in Time.

Hell Mall combines elements of comedy and horror well.  It also relates several previous episodes to the events of this episode effectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 20–The King is Undead (2002)   1 comment

Above:  Confirmed Sightings of Elvis Presley, 1977-2001

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The King is Undead

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 8, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-119

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Actor

Joey Sagal as Jesse Garon/Elvis Presley

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Krishna Rao

Above:  Jesse Garon

Brief Summary

Donald Stern is ecstatic.  In 2002, after a quarter of a century of sporadic reported sightings, the ultimate quarry of tabloids seems within his grasp.  There is an elusive, reclusive figure with worshipers and imitators who hold rallies and rituals.  The reclusive figure always appears at the concluding rituals of these gatherings, and always between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  Finding him would be, in Stern’s words, “Tet, D-Day, and the invasion of Grenada rolled up into one.”  The elusive quarry is Elvis Presley, who faked his death in 1977.  Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald, undercover as Elvis impersonators, get the assignment of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, Grace Hall is unhappily stuck with a story about another skid row vampire.  He turns out to be an Elvis impersonator, so the A-plot and the B-plot merge.

For once, Wes Freewald is the skeptic among the main characters.  He spends almost all of the episode not believing that Elvis is alive despite many clues to the contrary.  “Jesse Garon” is staying in room 1835 (for January 8, 1935, the birthday of Elvis Presley.)  “Jesse Garon” (the name of Presley’s deceased twin brother) has checked in as “Tennessee C. Beale.”  He is also the right age to be Elvis Presley.  “Jesse Garon” consistently denies being Elvis while fitting the description.  Tucker and Wes unwittingly interfere his plan to spray the nearly 100 vampires in the ballroom with holy water via the sprinkler system, thereby destroying the soulless undead.

On the final night of the Elvisopolis 3000 Elvis Impersonator Competition, the master of ceremonies is King Master Lobo, a vampire.  These are dangerous events that have been occurring for about two decades; there has been at least one vampire-related killing per Elvisopolis, and the undead victim has walked out of the morgue every time.  Before Grace may enter the ballroom, she must dress like Elvis, so she does.  Once there, she realizes that she is surrounded by vampires.

“Jesse Garon” takes great offense to vampires disguised as Elvis impersonators.  He has been hunting and killing them for a quarter of a century, after finding a secret hive of vampires in Las Vegas then deciding to fight back after some of the undead stalked him.  The list of Jesse’s allies grows from Wes, Tucker, and Grace to include Donald Stern and Vera, who come equipped to spray vampires with garlic.  However, the only people the guards will allow into the ballroom are those dressed like Elvis.  Vera and Donald have to wait.  Jesse and our main trio kill all but one of the vampires in the ballroom.  Tucker even shines the ultraviolet flash light onto Wes’s sparkly attire, causing UV light to kill many of the undead.  Tucker and Jesse kill Lobo.

When the police arrive, Donald Q. Stern, Ph.D. in molecular biology, provides a cover story to an officer:  there was a mass hallucination.

“Jesse Garon,” wearing blue suede shoes and still denying being Elvis Presley departs.  Wes Freewald has not taken a photograph of him.

Above:  Elvis Impersonators

Character Beats

Of all the World Chronicle staff members, Grace Hall has the most firsthand experience with vampires.

Tucker Burns has been a fan of Elvis Presley since childhood.  He spent many Saturday afternoons watching Elvis movies the local UHF television station aired.

Wes Freewald’s parents are fans of Elvis Presley.  Wes is not.  In late May 1977, during the week Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope debuted, the Freewald family drove four hours one way to attend an Elvis concert.  The parents dressed Wes like Elvis, who gave him a blue scarf.  Nevertheless, Wes cared more about Star Wars.

Vera really needs a boyfriend, husband, whatever.

Donald Q. Stern may hold a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

Above:  Vampire-Elvis Impersonator

Great Lines

Grace Hall, to Donald Stern:  “How many times do I have to tell you I didn’t know he was a vampire until our second-to-last date?”

Tucker Burns, to Wes Freewald:  “Hey, man, not everybody in our generation is a raving scifi geek, all right?  I mean, in a straight fight, I would pick the King of Rock and Roll over Han Solo or Captain Kirk any day.”  Wes Freewald:  “Okay, now this discussion is over.  We’ve got to draw the line somewhere, Tucker.’

Wes Freewald:  “Even though the King never did make a scifi flick, we’ve got to help him.”

Grace Hall, to Wes Freewald:  “Why are you dressed like Little Richard?”

Jesse Garon:  “Teenage girls and scifi geeks say, ‘slayer.’ I’m a vampire hunter.”

Jesse Garon:  “Those sons of bitches have soiled the name of the King of Rock and Roll for the last time.”

Donald Stern:  “You know me–always on the look for a mass vampire movement.”

Above:  Lobo

In-Universe

This episode plays out within a few hours, from late one night to early the next morning.

There is an army of vampires bent of global domination.  See He’s Dead, She’s Dead, the seventh episode produced and the fifth one broadcast.

Above:  Vera with Donald Stern, Spraying Garlic

Comments

The King is Undead is the twentieth episode produced and broadcast.

The King is Undead contains many references to Elvis Presley’s wardrobe, lyrics, and movies in dialogue, as well as visually.  Vince, an alcoholic homeless man, points to a canine and tells Grace, “It’s just a hound dog.”  Grace, speaking on her cellular telephone, says she was “all shook up.”  Sal the Pig-Boy pleads, “Don’t be cruel.”  He also dresses like late Elvis.  Donald Stern tells Tucker and Wes, “It’s now or never.”  A group called the Blue Hawaiians wins the award for best Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet.  The list goes on and on.

An Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet?

This episode is enjoyable.  The concept is properly wacky, and the execution of it excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 19: The Mists of Avalon Parkway (2001)   1 comment

Above:  SAFE DRINKING WATER SINCE 1996!

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The Mists of Avalon Parkway

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 1, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-118

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Cast

Ellen Cleghorne as Esperanza

Bobby Edner as Victor Clark

Philip Pavel as Jeremy the Grief Counselor

Behind the Camera

Writer = Henry A. Myers

Director = David Straiton

Above:  The Fog Monster and the Scout Master

Brief Summary

A fog monster is killing people on Long Island in March and May 2002.  The three off-screen victims are Kathy Kelly (a teacher, on March 10), Rod Howe (a police officer, on May 19), and Denise Hermanson (a school librarian, on May 24).  The fourth victim, claimed before the opening credits, is vindictive scout master Bill Able, whom the fog devours in front of his scouts on the night of May 26, 2002.  All of the scouts are upset with him after his terrible performance of “Kum Bah Yah,” followed by his mean-spirited scary story, a reaction to their request to hear a scary story.

Tucker Burns is receiving bags full of fan mail in response to his story (via Grace Hall’s lead) about a man with an exposed brain.  That story is the most popular one the World Chronicle has published, second to “the vagina monologues, you know, the real ones,” as Vera says.  Donald Stern hopes that the large volume of fan mail means more paying readers.

Esperanza arrives in Donald Stern’s office and identifies herself as the World Chronicle‘s new psychic.  Stern tells her that the newspaper already has one, Ruby Rydell.  Esperanza informs the publisher that Ruby will quit.  Then Ruby calls and resigns.  Esperanza gets the job.  The new psychic advises Wes Freewald to get the transmission in his car checked. He disregards this advice.

News fit for the World Chronicle to print is not plentiful, so Donald Stern is about to assign Tucker, Grace, and Wes to cover an exceedingly boring convention of Wiccans.  Tucker prevents that terrible fate by proposing another story, one about a missing scout leader on Long Island.  Grace Hall will be lead reporter on story, though.  Tucker spends most of the episode resenting this.

To the catalog of useless, well-intentioned people in The Chronicle one may add grief counselor Jeremy.  He is conducting a public group therapy session with the scouts when our three heroes arrive in town.  Jeremy displays the worst tendencies of stereotypical counselors.  He denies the existence of a fog monster.  The real monsters, he insists are fear and grief.  Then he tells the scouts to “close their eyes and picture a winged unicorn flying over a rainbow.”  Furthermore, the only person who may speak in the session is the one holding the talking stick, a decorated tree branch.  Jeremy objects to Tucker and Wes being present.  He tells them to leave before he loses his commitment to pacifism.

Tucker, Wes, and Grace start interviewing witnesses anyway.  Our heroes learn of the other disappearances, too.  Tucker hypothesizes that the monster is a “photosensitive mutant that comes out at night, under the cover of fog.”  Our three heroes, investigating the swamp at night, discover that Jeremy the grief counselor is not a pacifist, for he points a gun at them.  They also discover that his boyfriend is Carl.  Tucker, Grace, and Wes warn Jeremy and Carl of the dangers of being in the swamp at night.  Jeremy and Carl do not believe them.  Then the fog monster, which Jeremy had denied existed, kills him.  Wes realizes that the monster is not in the fog; it is the fog.

Wes, Tucker, and Grace return to swamp during daytime with a plan.  They will capture a sample of the fog monster.  Wes will fight off the fog monster with a flame thrower.  Grace will drive the car.  Tucker encounters and chases down 12-year-old Victor Clark, whom another boy had called “fart face” a few scenes prior.  Tucker yells at the boy and tells him to leave.  The boy departs.  Then Tucker realizes that he is at the fence near the old Dewitt Chemical Company plant.  That night, the fog monster chases Tucker.  Wes fights off the fog monster with the flame thrower.  Our three heroes do not get far in Wes’s vehicle, for the transmission fails.  The fog monster surrounds the car and ruins the paint job.  This was a terrible time for Tucker and Grace to forget their cellular phones and for the fog monster to have ruined Wes’s cellular phone.

The following morning, a tow truck arrives.  Esperanza has called AAA.

Back at the World Chronicle, the analysis of the sample of the fog monster proceeds.  Esperanza does a psychic reading.  She perceives repressed rage, fear, and loneliness, as well as the words “fart face.”  The fog monster attacks those who have angered Victor Clark.  Sal the Pig-Boy announces that the fog monster consists of airborne, flesh-eating bacteria.  Its origins are from the Dewitt Chemical Company, but the fog monster has imprinted on Victor.

Victor Clark is in a difficult situation.  His mother died in an automotive accident that started when she tried to prevent him from playing with the radio.  The boy’s father is hardly emotionally supportive.  As our three heroes leave the Clark residence, they notice a rare daytime fog bank.  It is large enough to cover the town.  And the fog bank is rolling down the street at 45 miles per hour.  They find Victor at the old chemical factory.  The fog invades the factory as Wes’s flame thrower is running on fumes.

Victor Clark is not conscious of his connection to the fog monster, the channel for his repressed emotions.  He sits on the floor, on which he has written, “I HATE EVERBODY.”  Victor sees his misspelling and shouts, “Can’t I do anything right?”  Tucker and Grace resolve the immediate crisis.  Tucker, acting like Victor’s father, berates the boy until Victor expresses his repressed emotions.  The fog monster recedes.  Then grace comforts Victor.

Back at the World Chronicle, the headline for the new cover story is, “I WAS A TEENAGE FOG MONSTER.”  Grace has shared a byline with Tucker.

Esperanza did not use her psychic powers to detect the problem with Wes’s transmission.  No, she saw the transmission fluid leak.  She knows much about transmissions because her brothers are mechanics.  Sometimes simple explanations suffice.

Above:  Disappearances at the Swamp

Character Beats

Grace Hall never attended college.

Jeremy and Carl are stereotypical homosexuals.  I find Jeremy annoying because he is useless as a grief counselor.  I want to take his talking stick away from him.

Above:  Esperanza

Great Lines

Tucker Burns:  “I love nature, especially when there’s a parking lot nearby.”

City sign (in 2002):  “SAFE DRINKING WATER SINCE 1996!”

Above:  More Fan Mail for Tucker Burns

In-Universe

We first heard about the man with an exposed brain in Touched By an Alien (the fourteenth episode produced and the eleventh one broadcast), set more than a year prior to The Mists of Avalon Parkway.  We will hear about the individual again before the end of the series.

The Mists of Avalon Parkway plays out in late May 2002.  However, the supposedly current issue of The Koyanisquisset Ledger that Tucker Burns hands over to Donald Stern bears the date of October 12, 1964.

Koyanisquisset, Long Island, New York, population 10,000, is on the north shore of the island and about ten miles from Long Island Sound.  For a long time, until the late 1980s, the largest employer in town as the Dewitt Chemical Company.  The chemical factory, located just north of town, closed because the Environmental Protection Agency forced it to, after two decades of dumping of dangerous chemicals in the adjacent swamp.  The effects of the dumping remain; there are three-headed fish in the waters.  The population declined greatly after the plant closed.  But the town has had safe drinking water since 1996, at least.

Why are scouts camping at a swamp with three-headed fish in it?

Tucker Burns refers to Squeezy Cheese (Let Sleeping Dogs Fry, the second episode produced and the ninth one broadcast).

Above:  Victor Hates Everybody and Spells Badly

Comments

The Mists of Avalon Parkway is the nineteenth episode produced and broadcast.  It is also the last episode of The Chronicle to bear the copyright year of 2001.

Bobby Edner, who played Victor Clark, was 12 years old at the time of filming.

Grief counselor Jeremy joins the ranks of other annoying dolts in fiction.  He stands beside the useless high school counselor in Heathers (1988).  Her proposed response to alleged suicides (actually murders) was a group hug-in.  I also think of the sincere, conservative suburban parents in Donnie Darko (2001).  They allied themselves with Jim Cunningham, that motivational speaker who encouraged students to become “fear survivors.”

One may recognize Ellen Cleghorne from various movies and series, including Saturday Night Live.

The date on the latest issue of the World Chronicle at the end of the episode is indecipherable, due to video quality.  I want to see The Chronicle in crisp video.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 18: The Stepford Cheerleaders (2001)   2 comments

Above:  ROBOT CHEERLEADER TERRORIZES!

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The Stepford Cheerleaders

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired February 22, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-104

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Cast

Christopher Glenn as Sperry

Nicholas Gomez as Lyle

Bryan Greenberg as Damon Furberg

David Purdham as Lionel Carson

Alicia Leigh Willis as Alexis Carson

Kathy Wagner as Jennifer

Behind the Camera

Writer = Henry A. Myers

Director = Perry Lang

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Above: Too Old to Pass for Teenagers

Brief Summary

Something is odd at Robertstowne High School, Robertstowne, New York.  Recently, someone has bent parking meters, ripped off locker doors, and torn a metal bleacher in two.  Last week, in August 2000, someone also beat up a drunken, randy quarterback (Lyle) who was assaulting a cheerleader (Jennifer) and hung him by his shirt from the top of a football goal post.

Donald Stern sends Tucker Burns, Wes Freewald, and Grace Hall undercover as high school students for a few days.  Tucker is concerned that they are too old to pass for adolescents.  Grace, however, cites the example of the high school students in Beverly Hills 90210.  How old were they?  The publisher has two theories of the cause of the recent, unusual events in Robertstowne.  The culprit may be either a mutant swamp monster from New Jersey or an extraterrestrial acting out adolescent aggression.  The culprit, Stern insists, cannot be a pixie, for pixies have not been in the United States since 1982.

The undercover reporters split up and pursue leads.  Tucker makes contact with Damon Furberg, the editor of the campus newspaper.  Damon cares nothing about journalistic integrity; he wants to get the story, win awards, and get ahead.  Tucker offers Damon a joint credit on a story in the World Chronicle.  The high school newspaper editor agrees.  Wes Freewald meets a bullied geek, Sperry, and follows a chemistry teacher, Lionel Carson.  Grace Hall meets the injured Kyle, cheerleader Jennifer (who takes the same hormone supplement Mark McGuire did) and her best friend, head cheerleader Alexis Carson.

Something is suspicious about Mr. Carson; acid does not burn his hand.  He has a bionic limb.  He has had that limb for a year and a half, since an automotive accident.

Grace tries out for the cheerleader squad, but Alexis declares her moves too “Paula Abdul.”  The current moves are “Britney Spears.”  However, Grace does notice that Jennifer exhibits physical weakness.

One night, after Damon and Tucker break into an office and read personnel records pertaining to Lionel Carson, someone attacks Damon’s vehicle, rips the roof open, and attacks him.  The next day, Wes discovers evidence that the attacker had a prosthetic arm.  Our heroes immediately suspect Lionel Carson, formerly the Head Designer for Experimental Bionics at Dynomec.  They read that he resigned after his wife died of cancer.

Wes, Tucker, and Grace drive to the Carson residence.  They peak through a window and observe Lionel Carson remove one of his daughter’s artificial arms, to repair a damaged hand.  He also tells her she should control her temper and stop attacking people.  Alexis attacked Kyle and Damon.  Damon is still unconscious in the hospital.  Alexis lost both her arms in the automotive accident a year and a half prior; Lionel fitted her with artificial limbs.  Now she feels like a freak.  She would feel less like a freak if someone else (other than her father) were like her.  Wes’s cellular phone gives our heroes’ location away.  They escape, with some difficulty; Alexis briefly prevents Wes’s car from leaving by holding the front bumper.

Jennifer, the only other person who understands Alexis, wants to become a cyborg.  Jennifer despises her weak body.  That night, our heroes return to the Carson residence.  In the laboratory in the basement, Mr. Carson is preparing to transform Jennifer into a cyborg.  Alexis lifts Wes and Tucker with one arm each.  She finally releases them before they choke.  Then Alexis attacks Grace.  Lionel prevents Alexis from harming anyone else by using a remote device to disable her bionic arms.  Jennifer does not become a cyborg.

A few days later, Tucker mails the newest issue of the World Chronicle to Damon Furberg, wearing a neck brace.  Damon sees the joint byline.  Lyle, reading the story in another copy, turns to Lionel Carson and makes a request.  Lyle’s injury sidelined his plans for a football scholarship.  Would Mr. Carson give him two bionic arms?

Above:  Lyle, Hanging from the Goal Post

Character Beats

Tucker Burns was the editor of his high school newspaper.

Wes Freewald was overweight in high school.

Grace Hall was a cheerleader in high school ten years prior, before her first alien abduction.

Above:  Lionel and Alicia Carson

Great Lines

Wes Freewald, on Damon Furberg’s vehicle:  “Man!  It looks like the canned ham minus the ham.”

Tucker Burns:  “Great!  We have a six million dollar science teacher here.”

Grace Hall:  “It’s always been my experience that the deepest, darkest secrets come packaged like Mayberry.”

Headline:  “SNIPER HIRED TO THWART CRAZED POST OFFICE TERRORISTS.”

Above:  Wes, Tucker, and Damon’s Damaged Vehicle

In-Universe

Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald are roommates at 7657 Main Street, New York, New York.  (In real life, this is commercial property.)

Donald Stern and Vera are hilarious on the telephone as they pretend to be Tucker’s parents.

The registration of Damon Furberg’s vehicle expires in May 2001.

Above:  Jennifer

Comments

The Stepford Cheerleaders is the fifth episode produced and the eighteenth one broadcast.  The temporal setting is late August-early September 2000.  I recommend watching The Stepford Cheerleaders immediately after Baby Got Back, for reasons of internal chronology.  Baby Got Back is the third episode produced and the fourth one broadcast.

In I See Dead Fat People (the fourth episode produced and the fifteenth episode aired), Tucker learned that Wes Freewald had been an overweight teenager.  The temporal setting for I See Dead Fat People is July 2001, however.  Now the internal chronology does not work on this point.

For more commentary on screwy internal chronology and production order versus broadcast order or episodes, see Hot from the Oven.

Watching guest actors who were 23 or 24 years old at the time of episode filming play high school students is not a new experience.

At the time of filming, Chad Willett was 29, Reno Wilson was 32, and Rena Sofer was 33 years old.

David Purdham played the noble and patriotic Captain James at the tail end of the fourth season of Babylon 5.  Captain James was captain of the E.A.S. Agamemnon, succeeding John Sheridan in that post.  Captain James and the crew signed on with Sheridan’s rebellion against the evil Earth Alliance President William Morgan Clark, who had his predecessor assassinated then transformed the Earth Alliance from a republic into a xenophobic, totalitarian state modeled on 1984.  After President Clark committed suicide rather than accept arrest and trial, James helped Sheridan save the Eastern Seaboard of North America from destruction by the planetary defense system, which Clark had turned against the Earth.

The Stepford Cheerleaders is odd to watch in broadcast order.  It feels like an early episode because it is one.  The balance of the serious and the whimsical holds up well, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 17: Hot from the Oven (2001)   4 comments

Above:  HOT FROM THE EVIL OVEN!

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Hot from the Oven

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired February 15, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-108

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Shawn Christian as Dennis

Maurice Godin as Dumont

Jeff Kelly as Kenny

Bob Papenbrook as Cole Nelson

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Jay Tobias

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Above:  The Evil Oven

Brief Summary

In New York City, on a Sunday in late September 2001, Monsieur Dumont, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu, is making final preparations before opening his very expensive restaurant.  Mr. Fussy’s helper in getting everything ready is Kenny, his long-suffering nephew.  Dumont calls in Cole Nelson, an oven repairman, to get the newly-acquired antique oven working.  Kenny witnesses a light of unknown origin emanate from the oven immediately before the repairman disappears into the oven.  Kenny calls the police, much to his uncle’s chagrin.

Donald Stern pages Tucker Burns, Wes Freewald, and Grace Hall shortly later.  Grace is in the middle of breaking up with her newest boyfriend, Dennis.  He is handsome, police, and kind.  Dennis is also a rocket scientist.  He is confused about why Grace is breaking up with him.  Grace’s problem has nothing to do with Dennis or any other boyfriend.  As those who know her well understand, she has not had a boyfriend for longer than three weeks since high school because she fears rejection once a man learns of her alien abductions.  Grace fears that he will break up with her, so she breaks up with him.

The police are still on the scene when Tucker, Wes, and Grace arrive.  Given the relatively low production number of the episode, Detective Hector Garibaldi is not one of the officers.  (His first episode was Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns, the twelfth episode produced and the eighth one broadcast.)  The police on the scene are just as clueless and useless as Garibaldi, though; they reject Kenny’s eyewitness testimony and think that Cole Nelson simply walked away.  Kenny points out, however, that Nelson’s tools are still in the kitchen.  Why would a repairman abandon his tools?

Susan Nelson, wife of Cole Nelson, fills in her husband’s background.  Cole used to be a truck driver.  One night years ago, he drove drunk and killed someone.  Cole dried out in prison for a year.  He also learned how to become a repairman.  Cole, released, has married Susan and remained sober.

Donald Stern knows which oven this is, and he has a vendetta against it.  The appliance is rare and occult.  It has consumed gourmands, including one of his friends.  The oven is also a portal to another realm.  One previous victim, Orlando Franchetti, a sous-chef, returned from the oven a few eggs short of a dozen.  The publisher takes great interest in this story.  He brings Ruby Rydell, the staff psychic, along to the kitchen, to detect the presence anyone who has passed through the portal and remains.  She perceives the presence of Cole Nelson.  The oven doors fling open, and a slime-covered shoe emerges.

In the archives, Donald Stern identifies the slime as P.E.S.–Pan-dimensional Emotional Secretion, or the emotionally-sensitive mucus membrane that separates dimensions.  Wes likens it to “a nose blow from another plane existence,” but Grace prefers to compare it to a “supernatural mood ring.”  Donald Stern unveils a vial of super holy water.  Every pope since the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy has blessed this holy water, so this papal holy water makes ordinary holy water “look like Fruitopia.”  The publisher intends to fire the super holy water, “the ecclesiastical equivalent of Draino,” into the oven, thereby causing the appliance to release anyone there “like a backed-up sewer pipe.”

The attempt to use the super holy water on the oven fails, and the oven claims Wes, Tucker and Grace instead.  There are human skeletons on the other side of the portal.  The only way one can escape is to overcome one’s greatest fear.  Wes overcomes his fear of clowns.  Grace overcomes her fear of rejection.  Tucker overcomes his fear of not being able to save everyone from danger.  Cole Nelson, sadly, never overcomes his greatest fear.  Dumont hires two Italian-American workmen to remove the oven.  Donald Stern buys Tucker, Grace, and Wes time by dissuading the workmen from removing the oven prematurely.  He, speaking Italian, promises to pay their expenses and buy airline tickets for them and their entire families to the Vatican, to meet the Pope.

Wes, Tucker, and Grace, covered in slime, emerge from the oven.  Then Donald Stern has the appliance disconnected and transferred to the archives at the World Chronicle.

Later, at the offices, after everybody has cleaned up, Dennis brings flowers for Grace.  He also accepts the existence of extraterrestrials.  This relationship will last longer than three weeks.

Above:  The Balloongram Clown

Character Beats

Wes Freewald’s greatest fear (until late in this episode) is of clowns.  This fear has its origin in the drunk clown at his sixth birthday party.

Donald Stern’s background becomes more mysterious.  He refers in the present tense to an ally in the Vatican.  Stern and this ally fought in a war not recorded in history books.  The result of this war affected “the Papal Encyclical of ’73.”  Given that Pope Paul VI did not issue an encyclical in 1973, this seems to be a reference to Quartus Supra (1873), from the time of Pius IX.  How old is the publisher of the World Chronicle?  And how old is his ally?

Wes Tucker quotes Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope (1977) again.

Donald Stern is fluent in Italian.

Above:  Donald Stern

Great Lines

Headline:  “LOCH NESS MONSTER EATS HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT!”

Headline:  “MUMMY TO FILE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ON SEATTLE ROCK BAND FOR INFRINGEMENT.”

Wes Freewald, speaking of a clown delivering a birthday balloongram to the office:  “Tuck, tell this John Wayne Gacy Krishna to get out of my face now!”

Donald Stern:  “What?  Do I look like Betty Crocker to you?”

Donald Stern, threatening Monsieur Dumont with coverage that will attract occultists from all over the world:  “They will stake this place out like a weenie roast at Stonehenge.”

Above:  Grace and Dennis

In-Universe

In the broadcast order of episodes this is the last time we see Ruby Rydell.

We will never see Dennis again.  (See comments for a note about the production order versus the broadcast order.)

Donald Stern taught John Paul II how to ski.

Donald Stern has enough pull with John Paul II to arrange for someone to meet the Supreme Pontiff.

Above:  On the Other Side of the Portal

Comments

Hot from the Oven is the ninth produced and seventeenth broadcast episode.

The events of Hot from the Oven occur in late September 2001, shortly after those of Man and Superman, the fifteenth produced and sixteenth broadcast episode.

Five episodes remain after this one.  The next one is The Stepford Cheerleaders, the fifth episode produced and the eighteenth one broadcast.  The last four episodes broadcast are the last four episode produced.  I am sufficiently observant and close to the end of The Chronicle to write authoritatively about chronological hiccups and discrepancies when some episodes go to broadcast wildly out of production order.  In Touched By an Alien, the fourteenth episode produced and the eleventh one broadcast, Tucker Burns says that the last time Donald Stern became so involved in a story, he (Tucker) spent the night in a man-eating oven.  That description fits this episode.  Noticing such issues is what I get for being observant and taking notes in longhand.  My hypothesis is that, early in production, not everybody working behind the cameras agreed on whether The Chronicle, which debuted in July 2001, was supposed to start (in-universe) in 2000 or 2001.  Eventually, a timeline of June 2000-July 2002 became the internal reality of the series, with a few hiccups and discrepancies.

To my case I add this wrinkle:  In Hot from the Oven, Wes Freewald refers to the previous year’s office Christmas party, at which somebody spiked the punch with truth serum.  Tucker was not there.  Ockham’s Razor, applied to production numbers and circumstantial evidence, points to inconsistency regarding the internal timeline of the series early in production.

Hot from the Oven is an enjoyable episode with some wonderful lines.  It adds to the mystique of the internal universe of the series.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 16: Man and Superman (2001)   3 comments

Above:  Captain Vigilant

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Man and Superman

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired February 8, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-114

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Jon Briddell as Walter Smith

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Terence Hines as Wayne Lamar

Trina Kaplan as Ida Jacobson

Brian Poth as Derek/Captain Vigilant

Behind the Camera

Writer = Henry A. Myers

Director = Adam Davidson

Above:  Derek

Brief Summary

A fake superhero is becoming popular in New York City in the middle of September 2001.  As both temperatures and the crime rate soar, a caped crime-fighter in tights and a mask puts in occasional appearances, flies away, and receives positive press.

At the beginning of the episode, the superhero prevents the mugging of an elderly woman, Ida Jacobson, on her way home (all of one block) from a grocery store to her home.  The next day, Ida goes on television and tells Wayne Lamar (modeled on Al Roker) about it.  He is barely interested in her story, and loses interest when she tells him that he superhero flew away.

Meanwhile, at the World Chronicle, Grace Hall is making plans to interview a ghost.  Her assigned story is about a spirit who, daily, takes a taxicab on the same route and arrives at a Disney theater (formerly an adult theater) promptly at 4:30 p.m.   She plans to drive the taxi cab one Abdul usually drives, intercept the ghost, and interview him.

Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald investigate the story of the superhero.  They interview witnesses and consult Sal the Pig-Boy.  They learn that the superhero debuted about a year ago, when he rescued a boy’s cat from a tree.  The superhero could barely fly then, though.  On the other hand, Ida thinks that the superhero’s mother raised him well.

Grace Hall, posing as a taxi cab driver, gets a passenger (Walter Smith, as she learns later), at a traffic light while en route to intercept the predictable ghost.  The passenger gets out of the taxi cab right before an accident that totals the vehicle and traps Grace.  Wes tries to get her out of the car, but cannot do so.  The superhero rescues Grace, however.  Then he flies away.  Donald pulls Grace off the ghost story and adds her to the superhero story.

Tucker is skeptical of the superhero.  He proves to be correct.  Grace and Wes find Walter, working as a waiter.  He agrees to meet them at his apartment in two hours.  Two hours later, the trio finds him dead in his apartment.  Detective Useless, er, Garibaldi, suspects the trio from the World Chronicle.  He has to let them go, however.  Then the detective resolves to investigate what is happening at the tabloid.  Walter Smith, actually, was an actor and an accomplice.  Ida was never in danger of a mugging; that was Walter setting up the situation.  And Walter sabotaged the taxi cab Grace Hall was driving.  His murderer was the fake superhero.

Tucker, Grace, and Wes briefly think Walter was the superhero until Donald Stern shows them a news report about a school bus that the superhero just prevented from careening off a bridge.  The trio goes to the site, where witnesses and police are still present.  Wes discovers that somebody cut the bolts holding up the railing on one side.  Wes also connects the dots.  He consults his collection of the complete run of Captain Vigilant comic books from the 1980s.  The fake superhero, taking the mantle of Captain Vigilant, is working through stories in order.  The next story entails some people dying in a bombing, and Captain Vigilant saving some lives.

Evidence leads the trio to Astro City Comics, a comic book story.  The culprit is Derek, a misfit with a fixation on Grace Hall.  He created the story about the predictable ghost as a way of luring Grace and rescuing her.  Derek also has a superhero suit, a bomb, telekenetic powers, and a gigantic chip on his shoulder.  For him, comic books are life, not an escape from it.  Derek throws Wes around and levitates him, but Wes eventually slugs him.  The trio calls the bomb squad.

Wes proceeds to sell his thousands of comic books online.  After this story, the only value they have to him is monetary.

Detective Useless, er, Garibaldi, has begun his surveillance of Wes, Grace, and Tucker.  Perhaps the detective does not give much thought to the homicidal Derek, who is NOT IN JAIL.  (See Hell Mall.)

Above:  Grace Hall

Character Beats

Wes Freewald grew up reading and preserving comic books.  Tucker Burns did not.

Tucker Burns grew up a hockey fan instead.

Above:  Ida Jacobson

Great Lines

Wes Tucker, on Iron Man’s suit:  It “lost power so much you’d think it got electricity from California.”  (Thanks a lot, Enron!)

Grace Hall:  “What is it about psychopaths that draws them to collage art?”

Wes Freewald, to Derek:  “Aquaman could have done better than that.”

Above:  Walter Smith

In-Universe

Man and Superman seems to occur in an alternative universe in which, in the middle of September 2001, in New York City, the main story was a fake superhero and the police had the luxury of conducting surveillance on employees of a tabloid publication.  (In reality, of course, filming of Man and Superman concluded prior to September 11, 2001.)  On the other hand, see Hell Mall.

Donald Stern should have hired a capable air conditioning repair company to fix the World Chronicle‘s air conditioning system.  He hired a Haitian voodoo priest instead.

Wes Freewald’s parents seem to have moved into or close to New York City since Touched by an Alien.  In Touched By an Alien, they visited New York City.  The implication was that they lived some distance away.  In Man and Superman, however, Wes and friends can drive over to the parental units’ house quickly.  They do so repeatedly.

Wes Freewald’s parents are away at “some convention.”  I am afraid to ask.  (See Touched By an Alien.)

We see a copy of the World Chronicle from the end of Take Me Back on a trash pile at the beginning of Man and Superman.

A ghost taking the same route to a former adult theater in a taxi cab is far from the most bizarre story in the universe of The Chronicle.

When the air conditioning breaks at the World Chronicle, the archives become very cold.

Wes Freewald correctly summarizes the Jewish folkloric character the Golem.

In a callback to Take Me Back, Tucker Burns, speaking to Detective Garibaldi, refers to his (Tucker’s) attorney.  That lawyer, of course, is Donald Stern.

Above:  Surveillance Photograph

Comments

Man and Superman is the fifteenth episode produced and the sixteenth episode of The Chronicle:  News from the Edge broadcast. Production order does not necessarily indicate proper viewing order of episodes, as I can prove merely by citing The Chronicle.  Consider, for example, the next produced episode, The Cursed Sombrero.  The internal chronology of The Chronicle places that story on an around May 5, 2021.  Man and Superman, however, occurs in September 2001.  The final scene occurs after September 15, 2001, given the date on Detective Garibaldi’s surveillance photograph of Tucker Burns and Kristen Martin.

The production number of the Pilot is 5009-01-179.  The other production numbers, in order, end in 101-121.  (Yes, I have prepared a list of episodes in broadcast order and another list of episodes in production order.)

Is it wrong to have a crush on Rena Sofer?  I hope not.

The investigation of the World Chronicle by Detective Clueless, er, Garibaldi, begins in this episode and continues through the final episode of the series/season.

This is an enjoyable episode that contains a plot twist crucial for most of the rest of the series’s brief run.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

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