Archive for the ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ Tag

The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 8: Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns (2001)   7 comments

Above:  The Headless Biker

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired August 25, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-111

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

Paul Lane as the Headless Biker

Mark A. Shepherd as Nitro

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Casey Biggs as Dick Blanston

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Sanford Bookstaver

Above:  Tucker Burns and Kristen Martin

Brief Summary

At midnight each day, for a few days, a headless motorcyclist wearing a jack-o-lantern helmet beheads a person with an annoying job that makes the lives of ordinary people miserable.  The first three victims are, in order, an employee of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, a meter maid, and a tax auditor.  The episode begins with the execution of the meter maid.

Tucker encounters Kristen Martin again as both of them join the gaggle of journalists at the scene of the meter maid’s beheading.  The lead detective in the case is Hector Garibaldi, who misses many vital clues and becomes a recurring character.  At the crime scene, Kristen asks Tucker if he thinks alien head hunters are responsible.  He jokes, “Nah!  LBJ kicked all the alien head hunters off the planet once they got Jayne Mansfield.  Bad scene.”  Kristen replies, “Cute.”   They agree to share leads.  Sharing leads leads to dating during the episode as Tucker focuses on romancing Kristen, thereby allowing the investigation to fall to Wes and Grace.

Grace had been working on a story about a scientist who claimed to be cloning the Rat Pack, minus Joey Bishop.  Allegedly, the cloned Rat Pack would be ready to start performing in Las Vegas by the end of the year.

In the archives, Wes and Grace uncover a plethora of legends about headless horsemen, bikers, et cetera, from all around the world.  Wes explains that some of these headless spirits merely wreak the same kind of havoc they did in life.  He continues, “Many people think this legend explains the Reagan era.”

Wes and Grace uncover a lead about a Hell’s Angel (Clarence, known as “Hellboy”) accidentally decapitated a few years prior.  They interview Clarence’s brother, Nitro, who sells motorcycles.  Nitro tells Wes and Grace that Clarence, a veteran of the U.S. invasion of Panama, got drummed out of the Army for reasons related to conduct, then became a bounty hunter.  Nitro also tells our heroes from the World Chronicle that Clarence enjoyed frightening children by wearing the jack-o-lantern helmet.  Nitro affectionately describes his late brother (whose skull he later admits to having kept) as “a whore-monger, a gambler, and a drunk.”

Shortly thereafter, Wes and Grace attempt to save the life of the third victim, a tax auditor.  They succeed, however, in locating the Headless Biker’s lair.  Then the call the police.  Detective Garibaldi proves to be useless.

Wes and Grace uncover a vital clue:  all the victims have sequential driver’s license numbers.  They would use the Rosetta Stone to hack into the DMV’s computer, to identify the next possible victim.  Why not?  The Rosetta Stone does interpret extraterrestrial languages.  Yet, as Wes explains, “nobody screws with the DMV.”  Fortunately, Vera the sex-starved receptionist has a former boyfriend who works at the DMV.  She uses phone sex to get the essential information for Wes and Grace.

The next possible victim is Dick Blanston, a cable guy.  Wes and Grace get to him just in time for the Headless Biker to drive into the apartment.  They take Blanston to relative safety at the offices of the World Chronicle, but the Headless Biker drives into the tabloid’s headquarters.  Wes and Grace hide with Blanston in the elevator, but the Headless Biker abducts Tucker and leaves a note (written in blood) threatening to kill Tucker unless our heroes deliver Blanston by dawn.  Blanston, from Hell (literally), takes the file on the case of the decapitations.  Off-screen, he beats up Nitro and takes Clarence’s skull.  Then Wes and Grace visit Nitro.

Clarence is the Headless Biker.  He is also still a bounty hunter.  Blanston and the other victims are prisoners.  They are souls of discord who escaped from the eighth circle of Hell.  The soul of discord who got a job at the DMV set up everyone else with new identities and with sequential driver’s license numbers.  Clarence is working for Satan, I guess.

Kristen ceases to deny the existence of a biker after she and Tucker witness him exit the offices of the World Chronicle.  However, Kristen denies that the Headless Biker is headless, for she saw him wear a helmet.

Blanston goes to the Headless Biker’s lair.  Wes, Grace, and Nitro meet him there.  Nitro rides a motorcycle and wears a jack-o-lantern helmet.  Blanston tosses the skull to that cyclist, who removes his helmet to reveal that he is Nitro.  The Headless Biker returns Tucker, safe and sound.  Then Clarence drives up and decapitates Blanston.  Nitro tosses the skull to Clarence, who removes he helmet, puts the skull on, then puts the helmet back on.  Nitro says his farewell to Clarence, who drives off and never beheads again.  Next, Nitro thanks Wes and Grace for helping him find closure and offers each one a deal on a motorcycle.  Then he, in a good mood, rides away.

The useless police, tipped off by Kristen, show up.  Kristen is glad to see that Tucker is alive.  They are now boyfriend and girlfriend.

Above:  Ruby Rydell

Character Beats

Grace does not know who the Hessians were.

Donald Stern is an expert in retrofitting space stations.

Tucker decided to become a journalist because of the example of his grandfather, a reporter.

Kristen decided to become a journalist because of the example of Lois Lane.  (Was Lois Lane a good reporter?  How sharp were her powers of observation?)

Great Lines

Wes:  “Who wouldn’t want to ice a meter maid and a DMV clerk?”

Wes:  “I knew an elementary school education would come in handy.”

Wes:  “Now, I know what you’re thinking:  It’s impossible, you know, Germans making war and all that.”

Kristen:  “Why do all men think that women want to be Lois Lane?  And don’t get me started on Supergirl.”

Wes (at Dick Blanston’s door):  “We know you’re in there watching reruns of Suddenly Susan, buddy.  Open up now.”

Above:  Detective Hector Garibaldi, N.Y.P.D.

In-Universe

This episode marks the first appearance of Detective Hector Garibaldi, a police officer yet hardly one of New York’s finest.  The journalists at the World Chronicle are better detectives than he is.

Donald Stern is in Russia, helping the team retrofitting Mir.  Apparently, the crash of the space station into the ocean on March 23, 2001, was a cover story.  (March 23, 2001, was in the recent past in the present day of this episode.)

Wes and Grace once chased a disembodied hand down the Holland Tunnel.

On the other hand, Wes finds going to New Jersey creepier than chasing a disembodied hand.

Kristen Martin begins continues down the path of struggling with the possibility of the world be a stranger place than she assumes.

How many other escaped prisoners from the eighth circle of Hell work in annoying jobs?  And which bounty hunter(s) will pursue them?

Above: Kristen Martin Sees the Biker, Whose Existence She Had Just Denied

Comments

I detect open hostility to the Department of Motor Vehicles in this episode.  I understand this.  In Georgia, we have the ironically-named Department of Driver Services.  I have my own story about that agency, staffed with Vogons.  (Yes, I have read Douglas Adams.)

This episode is worthy of watching many times, and not just for the swipes at the DMV.

Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns is not the first episode of a television series to feature a headless motorcyclist.  I know of one other, Chopper (1975), from Kolchak:  The Night Stalker (1974-1975).

Nothing in this episode is gratuitous.  The camera cuts away (sometimes to shadows) at certain moments.  Leaving some details to one’s fertile imagination suffices.

I binge-watched this series and made mental notes before I commenced this rewatch project and started making written notes in preparation for blog posts, such as this one.  The Chronicle would have been a different series–whether better or worse, I cannot say for sure–had Tucker stayed with Shawna Fuchs.  Take my word for that, or do not, O reader.  But do watch the series, if you wish.

Casey Biggs played Damar, an intriguing character, on Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.

Mark A. Shepherd portrayed attorney (later President, briefly) Romo Lampkin on the Ronald D. Moore reboot of Battlestar Galactica.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News From the Edge–Episode 1: Pilot (2001)   5 comments

Above:  Angry Siamese Triplets

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The Chronicle:  News from the Edge

Series Creator = Silvio Horta

Executive Producers = Robert Greenblatt, David Janollari, Gina Matthews, and Silvio Horta

Composers = Tom Harriman and Donny Markowitz

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

Above:  Wes Freewald Photographs the Brooklyn Bloodsucker

This Episode

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired July 14, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-179

Main Guest Actress

Lori Rom as Shawna Fuchs

Behind the Camera

Writer = Silvio Horta

Director = Marc Buckland

Above:  Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Brief Summary

A creature known as the Brooklyn Bloodsucker comes out only after dark.  It claims a victim, Chuck, a reporter for the World Chronicle, a tabloid, before the opening credits.

Tucker Burns, who graduated from the Columbia University School of Journalism five months prior, applies for and gets the job to replace the departed Chuck almost immediately.  This is the only job he can get in his field.  He as received 47 rejection notices.  There is a good reason for this.  The previous year, Tucker temporarily became a hero and won a Student Pulitzer Prize for a story about a professor who allegedly harassed female students sexually.  The university, bowing to protests, fired the professor.  The allegations, however, were false; the students making the allegations wanted to ruin the professor.  Tucker lost the Student Pulitzer Prize and sabotaged his career.

Tucker’s girlfriend, Shawna Fuchs, expresses concern that he is making a terrible mistake.  His new job ends their relationship.

Tucker learns quickly that the stories in the World Chronicle are true.  He also learns that, in the archives in the basement, Sal the Pig-Boy conducts research and uses the “Rosetta Stone,” an alien computer, to translate extraterrestrial languages.  Furthermore, Tucker works with photographer Wes Freewald on the story of the Brooklyn Bloodsucker, who kills a cat and a boy off-screen, but is actually a galactic spiritual leader.  The creature’s “people,” thinking humans have kidnapped him, nearly destroy Manhattan, Tucker, Wes, and reporter Grace Hall take the alien to Central Park in time for the galactic spiritual leader to catch a ride home instead.

As the episode ends, Wes and Tucker head out to an Arby’s, to report on an angry ghost.  This scene sets up the beginning of the next episode, What Gobbles Beneath.

Above:  Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Character Beats

Grace Hall, a reporter for the World Chronicle, objects when anyone questions her accounts of at least six alien abductions.

Sal the Pig-Boy justifies his inappropriate behavior with, “What do you expect?  I’m a pig!”

Donald Stern, publisher and editor of the World Chronicle, hires only reporters with bad reputations.  This is the only way he prevents the loss of journalists to other publications.  He also considers his work a high calling.

Donald Stern is a kind, patient, and understanding employer.

Sal the Pig-Boy, who is short, resents the “height-centered establishment.”

Great Lines

Vera:  “I’m sorry.  The alien autopsy contest has ended.”

Vera:  “Reincarnation of Mother Teresa, Line One.”

Above:  Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

In-Universe

Somewhere in New Jersey, a girlie poster of Madonna Ciccone in a boy’s bedroom has been bleeding since Britney Spears entered the top-ten charts.

The Polka Massacre of 1978 happened.

Space aliens invented the internet.

Donald Stern prefers that Ruby the psychic predict only events that will happen after the next issue goes to newsstands.  Sal, Tucker, Wes, and Grace prevent Ruby’s prediction of alien devastation of Manhattan from coming true, so Ruby’s powers of prediction are not infallible.

The elevator moves both horizontally and vertically.

Above:  Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Comments

The cast is excellent.  For example, the way Jon Polito, portraying Donald Stern, refers nonchalantly to Britney Spears as a sign of the end times is hilarious.

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge plays like a mish-mash of Kolchak:  The Night Stalker, The X Files, and Northern Exposure.  The series’s mixed tone plays better in some episodes than in others.  I know, for I watched all 22 episodes before writing one note.  I write this post about the pilot episode with all episodes in mind.  In this episode, I notice the abrupt tonal shift with regard to the Brooklyn Bloodsucker, who, despite being a stranded galactic spiritual leader, has still killed at least two humans and one cat.  I do not accept the episode’s explanation that the Bloodsucker is mainly misunderstood.

The cover stories at the beginning of the episode are funny.  “THERE’S A DEMON IN MY TOILET AND HE WON’T LET ME FLUSH!” is hilarious.

Perhaps I am overthinking the reference to 47 rejection letters, but I cannot help but think about the many instances of that number in Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Blogging Update–May 15, 2020   Leave a comment

Above:  The View from My Desk, May 14, 2020, According to One of My Laptop Computers

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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BLOGGING MY WAY THROUGH SHELTERING IN PLACE

A consistent theme in my life since 2016 has been being either well-informed or well-adjusted.  I have chosen the latter.  I have reaffirmed my choice since the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic began.  While reckless politicians (many of whom mockingly identify as pro-life) on all levels of government place our lives in danger in the name of the Almighty Dollar (their deity), I opt not to turn into General George C. Patton‘s ideal man, one who can swear consistently for three minutes without repeating a word.  The Almighty God will render a verdict in a court beyond any human jurisdiction.  May voters render the proper verdict in elections and otherwise hold those who risk their lives recklessly accountable, constitutionally.  Regardless of whether voting is a feasible option, may government officials in a position to ensure responsible government for the common good do so.  As the Law of Moses teaches, we are all responsible to and for each other, and we all depend on each other, as well as entirely on God.

I seldom venture out among people.  (I do, however, enjoy walking alone in the nearby woods.)  When I do venture out among people, I wear a mask and stay as far away from them as possible.  I have used a hair trimmer to give myself one buzz cut.  I have decided to do that again, whenever I will need another haircut, indefinitely.  I also feel nervous as I strive to behave in a socially responsible and moral manner.  Just as what I do affects others, what others do affects me.

I have been spending much time blogging.  As of today, I have scheduled 50 posts to publish here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  I have scheduled new posts about saints to publish through June 6.  I have decided to give the saints a rest until after July.  (I do plan, however, to revise the July calendar of saints very soon, create its reset mode, and make a list of people to consider adding for the time I will return to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.)  I have also scheduled the transfer of material from the former PUNS BLOG to continue daily through June 12.  Furthermore, I have written and published lectionary-based devotions for church year 2020-2021 at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, and LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS.  I had already published the first set of these devotions at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

The Chronicle Title

Above:  The Title Card of The Chronicle:  News from the Edge

A Screen Capture

I have also decided to begin a new project at this weblog.  The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (2001-2002) was a series the Sci-Fi Channel aired for one season.  I delighted to find all 22 episodes at archive.org then to binge-watch the series as I took mental notes.  I have decided to blog my way through the series, episode by episode, and to consider each episode in the context of the other 21 episodes.  The setting of The Chronicle was the World Chronicle, based somewhat on the Weekly World News.  The premise of the series was that the stories were true.  I watched some episodes from 2001 and 2002, but missed many of them at the time.  My memory of the series was vague; I remembered isolated scenes and pieces of dialogue, however.  After watching the series from beginning to end recently, I have concluded that it was a combination of Kolchak:  The Night Stalker, The X Files, and Northern Exposure, tonally.

Writing about The Chronicle should be fun and wonderfully distracting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

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