Archive for the ‘Adam Davidson’ Tag

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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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 14: Tears of a Clone (2001)   1 comment

Above:  The Two Graces

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Tears of a Clone

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 25, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-117

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

Adrienne Barbeau as Evelyn Hall

Scott Benefiel as Doctor

Behind the Camera

Writer = Hans Beimler

Director = Adam Davidson

Above:  Evelyn Hall

Brief Summary

For the sake of narrative clarity, I have rearranged the story to make it linear.

Early one morning, shortly after midnight, Grace Hall enters an alley.  She is answering a call and seeking a lead about a Puerto Rican succubus.  Her clone, a creation of Nemacoids (space aliens), attacks her.  The two Graces struggle.  The clone falls into water and nearly electrocutes.  The original Grace calls Donald Stern, who tells her to call 911.  Then he shelters her until he can find out who is responsible.  The clone, nearly electrocuted, forgets her imperative to kill Grace and that she is a clone.  When the clone awakens in a hospital bed, Donald Stern is only person present who knows she is a clone.  Wes Freewald, Tucker Burns, and Sal the Pig-Boy, for example, are in the dark.  So is Grace’s concerned mother, Evelyn Hall.

Evelyn does not believe any of Grace’s stories about experiencing abductions.  The mother also dismisses the World Chronicle as a “little paper.”  Out of concern, she tries to have Grace committed involuntarily.

A Nemacoid “cleaner,” disguised as a human male, tries to kill Wes, Tucker, and Grace.  The clone sacrifices herself to save the original Grace.  The Nemacoid “cleaner” teleports away with the corpse of the clone.

In a side plot, Sal the Pig-Boy temporarily changes his wardrobe and tries to find his inner pig.  The adds bling, too.  Wes calls him the “Notorious P.I.G.”  At the end of the episode, Sal is done with that phase, so he passes the clothes and bling to Wes and Tucker.

Grace and her mother make their peace before Evelyn departs.  Evelyn offers NSYNC concert tickets to Grace, who rejects them.  Grace tells her mother that “only teenage girls and gay men like NSYNC.”  Then Evelyn offers the tickets to Wes and Tucker whom she has spent the episode mistaking for a homosexual couple, despite their attempts to correct her.  (She is very open-minded, though.)  Wes really wants to attend the concert.

Character Beats

Evelyn Hall is really nice, concerned, and open-minded.

Kristen Martin is out of town for the weekend.

Above:  Sal, the Notorious P.I.G.

Great Lines

The Grace clone, to Evelyn:  “I am calm!”

Sal, to the Grace clone:  “Grace, pigs are loyal.  We don’t squeal on our friends.  We leave that to rats.”

Above:  The Committal Form

In-Universe

Why do Nemacoids want to kill Grace?

Nemacoids scale walls as spiders do.

We have heard Grace speak of her parents on occasion.

Grace and Evelyn seldom meet with or speak to each other.

Donald Stern once published a story about lesbian Lilliputians, but not as a cover story.  Maybe the story was running short on words.  (Ha!  That pun was not the height of my sense of humor. Jonathan advised me not to be so swift to pun.  I replied, “What a novel idea!”)

This episode includes a reference to Pig Boy’s Big Adventure.

Evelyn has been planning to have Grace committed for at least a month or so.  The date on the committal form is March 17, 2001.

This episode could occur before or after The Cursed Sombrero, set in early May 2001.

Above:  Partners

Comments

The first half-hour or so of this episode sustains the mystery well.  Then the story moves along well to its resolution.

Evelyn’s “No need to explain,” an expression of her toleration, is simultaneously sweet and funny.

This episode is simultaneously suspenseful and fun.

Error:  In dialogue, Grace’s shrink is Dr. Greenleaf, whom Evelyn says has signed the committal form.  Evelyn says she needs only one more signature to commit Grace involuntarily.  Yet, when we see the form with two signatures, one is Evelyn’s and the other is that of one Dr. Benson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 7: Only the Young Die Good (2001)   1 comment

Above:  Dr. Suzanne Gorham

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Only the Young Die Good

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired August 18, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-109

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

Eric Balfour as Mark Griffin

Jack Banning as Dr. Ronald Copeland

Nora Dunn as Dr. Suzanne Gorham

Eugene Roche as Arnie Campbell

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Peter Hume

Director = Adam Davidson

Brief Summary

Unethical and immoral policies reign supreme at the Gorham Longevity Institute, Nyack, New York.  As the episode begins, an elderly man, whom orderlies identify as Mr. Copeland, attacks an orderly and flees to a nearby convenience store.  The old man speaks to the store clerk, a young man, and identifies himself as Mark Griffin, who worked in that store last summer.  (Mark Griffin is 21 years old.)  The elderly man begs for help as three orderlies drag him away; they will kill him, he insists.  The clerk, an avid reader of the World Chronicle, shares the surveillance video with the tabloid.

Donald Stern pulls Tucker Burns and Grace Hall off their assigned story about a murderous meter maid.  The publisher wants a cover story, and within a few days.  While Tucker goes undercover as Tucker Jones, Patient Care Technician (orderly), Grace goes to the archives and conducts initial research with Sal.  Patient Care Technicians, paid $35 an hour, must live on the grounds for the first few weeks.  Few last longer than a few days or two weeks, though.  Mark Griffin, 21 years old, has a long criminal record.  Sal’s computer hacking reveals that Griffin worked as a Patient Care Technician from April 1 to April 14, but has recently been working at a coffee shop.  Furthermore, Sal informs Grace of the dubious professional record of Dr. Suzanne Gorham, founder and head of the Gorham Longevity Institute.  Her background is in research related to the brain and dementia, but, Sal learns, “undisclosed moral concerns” led to the corporate termination of that research years ago.

“Tucker Jones” gets the job and his assignment:  Arnie Campbell.  Arnie is an obnoxious, sexist, racist, and homophobic dirty old man.  He openly objectifies women and says he can identify “fruits” by the way they walk.  He is also able to pay the $5 million to get into the Gorham Longevity Institute.

Orderlies, on orders from Dr. Gorham, kill “Dr. Copeland.”  Millionaire clients pay Dr. Gorham pay Dr. Gorham to grant them new life.  A client wakes up inside the body of a former Patient Care Technician and the former orderly wakes up inside the body of an elderly person.  Then the staff murders the elderly person and the client leaves the institute.   Arnie wakes up inside Tucker’s body.  Tucker is horrified to wake up inside Arnie’s body.

Meanwhile, Grace has been speaking to Dr. Ronald Copeland, living inside the body of Mark Griffin.  The new Mark Griffin is charming.  He refers to his grandfather, by which he means Copeland.  The new Mark Griffin plays lawn bowling with his “old friends,” all elderly men.  His grandfather taught him the game, he says.

Dr. Ronald Copeland was a brilliant cardiologist whose career and research stalled after his hands began to shake.  Dr. Gorham had no qualms about accepting his payment and about killing Mark Griffin.

Wes picks up “Tucker” from the Gorham Longevity Institute.  Wes immediately realizes that something is wrong.  Arnie, inside Tucker’s body, does not recognize Tucker’s taste in music.  Also, Tucker propositions random women and charms Vera.  The receptionist enjoys the attention initially.  Then she flees “Tucker.”  Then Tucker, inside Arnie’s body, enters the offices of the World Chronicle and confronts Arnie, inside Tucker’s body.  Arnie threatens to kill Tucker’s body.  Then Arnie, inside Tucker’s body, flees.

Dr. Copeland, inside Mark Griffin’s body, finally admits his actual identity.  He helps Grace subdue Arnie, inside Tucker’s body.  Arnie is offending even the “old friends.”  Then Grace and Wes force Dr.  Gorham to reverse the transfer of consciousness.

Arnie’s plan had been, as Tucker Burns, to resign from the World Chronicle within a week.  He intended to move to Chicago and accept a position as a junior executive of Campbell Pharmaceutical, with a goal of running the company in less than a year.

Dr. Gorham and her main orderlies have to contend with homicide charges.

Dr. Copeland admits his moral culpability.  Grace encourages him, as Mark Griffin, to attend medical school (his plan), become a cardiologist, and save as many lives as possible.

Arnie plays lawn bowling with Tucker.  Arnie apologizes to Tucker.  Then Arnie hands the reporter a bottle of pills to take in case Tucker feels a burning sensation.  (Was that supposed to be funny?)

The B-plot is about Wes and Vera trying to uncover Donald Stern’s birthday and place of birth, two of his many secrets.  Wes, up for his two-year review, wants a raise, and Vera tells him that knowing those two secrets about the publisher are essential for that purpose.  Wes and Vera convince themselves that Stern is an ageless extraterrestrial alien softening up the human population for an alien invasion.  Besides, the employees have proof that Stern looks the same in late 2001 as he did in 1981, right before he disappeared for six years.  The publisher tells them that he merely hates birthdays, birthday cakes, and the “Happy Birthday Song.”   Wes and Vera seem to believe him.  Maybe they do.

Wes keeps his job but does not receive a raise.

Above:  Arnie Campbell

Character Beats

Vera really needs a romantic partner.

Donald Stern is fluent in German.

Grace Hall describes the World Chronicle as an “irreverent journal of popular culture.”

Above:  Vera

Great Lines

Vera, on the telephone:  “Black eyes with green skin or yellow eyes with gray skin”  (pause)  “Oh, that was a gray, then.  Lucky you!  I hear they’re insatiable.”

Donald Stern:  “Excellent!  Where there’s stink, there’s ink!”

Grace Hall:  “Oh, my God!  Tucker’s turned into Dean Martin!”

Above:  The Recapture of Mark Griffin, Inside the Body of Dr. Ronald Copeland

In-Universe

Given what is proven to be true in the continuity of this series, Donald Stern being an extraterrestrial alien bent on world domination is plausible.

Why has Donald Stern not aged visibly in two decades?

Tucker recently wrote a story, the headline of which was, “WOMAN GROWS HORNS AFTER CATCHING MAD COW DISEASE.”

Did Dr. Gorham have to reverse any other transfers of consciousness?  This is an unanswered question.

Above:  The New Dr. Ronald Copeland

Comments

Transfer of consciousness from one human body to another is a trope in science fiction.  Off the top of my head, I recall this trope being present in Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling (The Prisoner, 1968) and Turnabout Intruder (Star Trek, 1969).  The transfer of human consciousness into an android body is a related trope, for which I can think of a longer list with little effort.

I wish there had been an episode about the woman who grew horns after catching Mad Cow Disease.

I give this episode a mixed review.  I like the Wes-Vera-Donald half of the episode.

On the other hand, Eugene Roche was a character actor I enjoyed seeing play about any role.

Arnie and Dr. Copeland are monstrous people, but the episode downplays that aspect of the story.  True, Dr. Copeland admits his moral monstrousness to Grace at the end, but the episode makes an unconvincing case for sympathizing with him nevertheless.  And Arnie is always unsympathetic.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 2: What Gobbles Beneath (2001)   5 comments

Above:  The Tumor Monster, with Mr. Bailey, Soon to Become Monster Food

All images in this post are screen captures.

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What Gobbles Beneath

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired July 14, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-105

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 Actress

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Behind the Camera

Writer = Silvio Horta

Director = Adam Davidson

Consulting Editor = Naren Shankar

Above:  Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Brief Summary

This episode opens shortly after the conclusion to the pilot episode.  Wes and Tucker at at an Arby’s because an angry ghost is there.  Tucker, attempting to interview the spirit, asks, “Does this happen to be your first haunting?”  The ghost slimes Wes and Tucker with ectoplasm, in the style of Ghostbusters (1984) and leaves.  Shortly thereafter, Tucker, in need of a new place to live, accepts Wes’s offer to become a roommate at Wes’s rent-controlled loft apartment.  Wes offers Tucker the use of of one of two beds.  One bed is in the design of a sleeping chamber from the Nostromo (Alien, 1979), and the other bed’s design comes from Titan A.E. (2000).

The newest model of cellular phone is the Yamaguchi 9000, a satellite phone one can use from anywhere.  The Yamuaguchi 9000 is about to go to market.  Unfortunately, when one (a prominent figure at Yamaguchi Wireless, for example) uses a Yamaguchi 9000 cellular phone on the island of Manhattan, one attracts the attention a large, growing tentacled tumor monster that emerges from the earth and drags its victim into the planet.  Yamaguchi Wireless has a more prosaic problem; the Yamaguchi 9000 works as well as it does because of dangerous levels of radiation more hazardous than cigarettes.  An executive, Mr. Bailey (who wisely chose not to call the company Bailey’s), really wants to keep the danger of irradiation secret.

Tucker spends much of the episode not working on his assigned story, about how Minnie’s Chips makes precise animal-shaped chips.  He, Wes, and Grace instead investigate the disappearance of an executive of Yamaguchi Wireless in Central Park in the middle of the day.  They get their story and earn Donald Stern’s high praise.  During the investigation, Tucker meets class rival Kristen Martin, who received the Student Pulitzer Prize he lost in disgrace.  She works for The New York Times.  He lies and tells her he works for Newsweek.  She discovers this lie quickly.

Wes, Tucker, and Grace confront Mr. Bailey, who accidentally summons the tumor monster, which feeds off radiation and consumes the executive.  Wes, Tucker, and Grace kill the tumor monster.  The full force of the law descends upon Yamaguchi Wireless, and Kristen becomes a media darling for reporting the story, minus the tumor monster.  That is fine, for Donald Stern has Wes’s Wolkswagen van, far past its prime, towed away about one minute before he presents Wes with the keys to a brand new car.

Above:  Kristen and Tucker

Character Beats

Ruby Rydell, the psychic on staff at the World Chronicle, is jealous of Miss Cleo, the faux-Jamaican fake psychic.  Ruby has been making obscene phone calls to Miss Cleo from the offices.

Donald Stern likes for his employees to show initiative, even when they disobey him, if they bring a better story to him.

Donald Stern has a mysterious past, which he prefers to leave that way.  He, once a respected journalist, disappeared for five or six years.  He, presumed dead, returned with vast sums of money and founded the World Chronicle in the early 1980s.

Above:  Ruby Rydell

Great Lines

Vera (the receptionist):  “Which of the Baldwin brothers is eating your pet?”

Wes, to Sal the Pig-Boy:  “Hey, do you like pork rinds?”

Above:  Tucker, Vera, and Grace

In-Universe

Tucker reunites with Kristen, a recurring character, for the first time in this episode.

Somewhere in Tennessee, a young woman was at her dentist’s office, having her teeth bleached when the aspirator sucked out half of her brain.  The women returned to work at Starbucks.  Nobody noticed any difference in her.

Tucker continues to adjust to life after becoming an employee of the World Chronicle.  Experiences are blowing his mind.

Based on the decor at Wes’s loft apartment, to call him a science fiction geek is to understate reality.

Comments

The tone of this episode is wonderfully whimsical, despite the sinister corporate agents and the tumor monster’s body count.

Tucker’s efforts to interview the angry spirit at the beginning of the episode are funny.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

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