Archive for the ‘Jay Tobias’ Tag

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 15: I See Dead Fat People (2001)   2 comments

Above:  I See Dead Fat People

All images in this post are screen captures.

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I See Dead Fat People

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired February 1, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-103

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

Charlie Talbert as Royce Bickenberg

Sam Anderson as Dr. Emmanuel Fickas

Behind the Camera

Writers = Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec

Director = Jay Tobias

Above:   Grace Hall, Acting Editor

Brief Summary

Grace Hall, as the head reporter of the World Chronicle, is the editor when Donald Stern is away.  Stern is in South Korea for weeks, due to a Shingon Buddhist soul gone awry.  Grace naïvely assumes a laissez-faire attitude toward her editorial duties.  Make this issue of the World Chronicle your own, she tells the reporters.  Write the stories you want to write, she says.  By the end of the episode Grace realizes the importance of running a tight ship.

Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald investigate a story about possible poltergeist activity at a house at 15 Villard Street, Riverdale, New York.  The young couple, both physical fitness enthusiasts, fled the house on the morning of their second day in that house.  Exercise equipment flew through the air and crashed into walls in the home gymnasium, and the young bride suffered steam burns in the kitchen.

Tucker and Wes visit the house the first time.  While they are there, someone else in the house orders three large pizzas.  Tucker pays for the pizzas, which explode, spraying marinara sauce in the kitchen.  Tucker and Wes also discover that a television set will not stay off and will stay tuned to a cooking show.  They follow sounds to the basement, where they see ghosts of dead fat people in bath robes.  Our heroes flee the scene, but one spirit, that of Royce Bickenberg, follows Wes for much of the episode.

Until ten year prior (1991), the house was the site of a weight loss clinic.  Dr. Emmanuel Fickas closed the clinic after some patients died in the steam room.  He was not responsible, he claimed; an angry patient, Royce Bickenberg, was.  Royce’s parents, who sent him to the clinic against his will, have accepted Dr. Fickas’s word for a decade.

Grace Hall, under pressure to meet the publication deadline for the upcoming issue, publishes the story Tucker has.  She changes the headline on the cover story to, “FAT PHANTASMS FRIGHTEN!”  She also agrees to publish the second part in the next issue.  Tucker and Wes return to the former weight loss clinic.  They follow clues, find a key and the metal lock box to which it goes.  They discover Royce’s journal, which details the cruelty of Dr. Fickas.  He made Nurse Ratched look like Albert Schweitzer.  Fickas also locked some patients into the steam room and left them, causing their deaths.

Fickas tries to maintain his secret by locking Tucker and Wes in the steam room in the basement.  The ghost of Royce Bickenberg helps them escape, however.  In the meantime, the other spirits try to kill Dr. Fickas in the kitchen.  However, Wes and Tucker dissuade them from revenge.  The refrigerator door opens, a bright light shines, and the ghosts walk into the light.

Dr. Fickas goes to jail and Tucker gets the second consecutive cover story.  Grace assigns Ruby to edit the next issue.  Ruby is up to the challenge, obviously.  And Donald Stern will return in four days.

Above:  The Ghost of Royce Bickenberg

Character Beats

Wes Freewald, formerly obese, feels sympathy for fat people and for the spirit of Royce Bickenberg, in particular.

Ruby Rydell is a very organized person.  Grace Hall is not.

Great Line

Wes Freewald, speaking of the wrecked home gymnasium:  “Damn!  This is uglier than Billy Bob’s and Angelina Jolie’s bedroom.”

Above:  Dr. Emmanuel Fickas

In-Universe

This episode occurs in July 2001.

Ruby Rydell cannot read Donald Stern psychically.

Donald Stern has Ruby Rydell enhance the predictions in the horoscope each week.

Vinegar has cured a woman’s cancer.

Extraterrestrials influenced the presidential recount in Florida in 2000.

There are cannibalistic monkeys in the Bronx Zoo.

There is an extraterrestrial hot dog vendor somewhere.

Above:  Grace Hall, Head Reporter

Comments

In the real world, there is no such address as 15 Villard Street, Riverdale, New York.  There is, however, a house at 15 Villard Avenue, Riverdale, New York.  (Thank you, Google Earth!)

The Chronicle, set in the metropolitan New York City area, filmed in San Diego, California, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia.

This is one of the more serious episodes.  As such, it has fewer funny lines to add to my “Great Lines” section.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

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