Archive for the ‘Len Cordova’ Tag

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 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 10: Take Me Back (2001)   5 comments

Above:  The Departing Alien Spacecraft

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Take Me Back

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired September 15, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-112

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

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Robert Crow as Detective Chiklis

Steven Flynn as Max

Mike McCafferty as Averill

Melissa Reneé Martin as Sylvia McKenzie

Erika Napoletano as Officer Quinn

Charley Rossman as Officer Martin

Behind the Camera

Writer = Naren Shankar

Director = Krishna Rao

Officer Quinn and Tucker Burns, Dressed as an Extraterrestrial

Brief Summary

The episode starts at a later point in the narrative, contains flash backs, jumps back and forth, then catches up with itself before proceeding to the end of the narrative.  In this summary, I tell a linear story.

On the first day….

Sylvia McKenzie, en route to alien abductee support group meeting at a community center, wanders into a store.  She sees a mask that freaks her out.  She begins screaming.  The customers flee.  The story manager uses cable ties to restrain her then calls a mental hospital.  Grace Hall and Wes Freewald from the World Chronicle get to the store first.  Grace, abducted six times, bonds with Sylvia, who invites her to the group therapy session.  Then Tucker Burns walks into the store.  Sylvia hallucinates that he is an alien, so she freaks out again.  Grace comforts Sylvia.  The two women go to the group therapy session.

The therapists are Max and Averill.  Grace is initially skeptical of them.  She says she has a “pretty good psychobabble detector.”  Grace is especially skeptical, initially, of Max’s suggestion that Tucker help Sylvia reenact her first alien abduction.  Max suggests that helping Sylvia confront her fears and change the outcome will prove helpful.

Tucker and Kristen are in her kitchen.  He realizes that they are a couple when he knows the organization of Kristen’s kitchen.  The date ends immediately after Grace interrupts it.  In the archives of the World Chronicle, Sal the Pig-Boy hands Tucker the preserved skin of an extraterrestrial.  In a warehouse, Tucker, dressed as an alien, helps Sylvia reenact the abduction.  The therapy works.  Later that day, she disappears, though.

On the second day….

Off-camera, police officers find Sylvia’s corpse, minus the brain and the spinal column.

At the World Chronicle, Donald Stern assigns Tucker a story about aliens performing surgery in a warehouse.  Tucker and Grace are concerned that, if the publisher were to learn of the alien abductees support group, he would publish a story about it, thereby disrupting the group.  The reporters also know that the story is a non-story.  Tucker ignores the assignment.

Max and Averill tell Grace that Sylvia has left town.  That night, Grace, alone in her bedroom, hallucinates that a space alien is there, too.

On the third day….

At the World Chronicle, Grace hallucinates that Tucker is an alien.  She tells him that she remembers her abductions as if they happened to another person.  Donald asks how the reporting on the assigned story is going.  Wes stonewalls the publisher better than Tucker does.

Max encourages Grace to engage in abduction reenactment therapy, too.

That night, in the same warehouse, Tucker, dressed as an alien again, helps Grace reenact her first abduction.  N.Y.P.D. Officers Quinn and Martin (Get it?  Quinn Martin!) interrupt the production.  (That was a good choice of words, was it not?)  Grace runs away.  Officer Quinn unmasks Tucker, who says, “I can explain this.”

On the morning of the fourth day….

Grace runs off to see Max and Averill.  She tells Max that she remembered more than she had.  Max and Averill are extraterrestrials following up on test subjects.  Averill, on Max’s orders, sedates Grace.  Then he starts chittering.  Max and Averill have also been triggering hallucinations.

At the police station, Tucker is in a room with a one-sided mirror.  The police are holding the reporter for questioning.  Detectives Garibaldi (a recurring character) and Chiklis suspect Tucker of having assaulted Grace and murdered Sylvia.  Kristen arrives at the police station.  Tucker tells her that Grace may be the next murder victim.  He asks Kristen to find Grace, to save her life.

Donald Stern learns about what Tucker has been doing.  He is not terribly upset about the lying, though.  The publisher is also an attorney.  He takes Tucker out of the police station as Kristen goes off to find grace.

The real story is more interesting than the one Donald thought he had.  In the archives of the World Chronicle, Sal detects an alien signal emanating from the community center.  Wes, Tucker, and Donald go to the community center.  Donald uses a really big gun to kill Averill before he can attack Tucker and Wes.  Our three heroes rescue Grace before Max can remove her brain and spinal column.  Max escapes through the ceiling.  Sal calls; the alien signal is a launch countdown.

Tucker, Wes, and Donald escort Grace out of the community center just as Kristen arrives in a taxi cab.  All of them witness a spacecraft launch into the sky and fly away.  Detectives Useless (otherwise known as Garibaldi and Chiklis) suspect Wes, Tucker, and Donald of having harmed Grace.  She tells them that Max and Averill killed Sylvia and tried to kill her, too.  Grace also tells the detectives that Wes, Tucker, and Donald saved her life.  Garibaldi wants to take statements from everybody, but Donald, as an attorney, prevents that.

Later….

In the offices of the World Chronicle, the latest issue reveals that Donald is making the most of the real story.  He is also focusing much of the attention on his heroics.  This will continue into the next issue.

Kristen visits Tucker at work.  She is feeling insecure in her worldview, given what she saw recently.  However, she feels secure dating him.  Grace tells Tucker that Kristen is a keeper.

Grace looks at Donald and, momentarily, sees an extraterrestrial.  It is just a hallucination, probably, she tells herself.

Above:  Sylvia McKenzie

Character Beats

Tucker, Wes, and Grace take care of each other.

Donald Stern is always eager to rescue an employee and to print a really good cover story.

Donald Stern is a renaissance man.  He is a journalist, a publisher, an attorney, an exorcist, and an expert in retrofitting space stations.

Above:  Averill and Max

Great Line

Wes:  “I’m not going to let some Alpha Centaurian Hannibal Lector get busy with our girl.”

Above:  Donald Stern, Wes Freewald, Grace Hall, Tucker Burns, and Kristen Martin

In-Universe

This episode follows Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns narratively.  Let Sleeping Dogs Fry, the episode aired immediately prior to Bring Me Back, properly belongs to a time previous to Bring Me the had of Tucker Burns.

Donald Stern’s middle initial is “Q.”

Donald Stern being a space alien in disguise is not the wildest accusation one could make.  After all, he has not aged visibly in at least two decades.

Above:  Kristen Martin

Comments

Take Me Back is one of the better written serious episodes of The Chronicle.  Naren Shankar deserves much praise for his script.

Finally, Kristen saw something bizarre she could not immediately dismiss as hooey.

Above:  Part of the Front Page of the World Chronicle at the End of the Episode

A Final Note

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge is difficult to find on physical media.  A fan-made DVD set is available, but, to the best of my knowledge, NBC/Universal has not issued the series on physical media officially.  The only website I know of that offers streaming of The Chronicle is archive.org.  The episodes on that website are versions a fan recorded from Canadian television.  I am thankful that the series is available for viewing at archive.org.

I notice, however, that the video quality is consistent with VHS–not as clear as one gets from most physical media and from paid streaming services.  This irritates me only whenever I try to read certain details from the series.  What, for example, is the date on the front page above?  I have a guess, but the image is not clear.

Even if I did know for sure, the date might not prove helpful in ironing out the proper viewing order of episodes.  My attention to details reveals that dates on front pages of the World Chronicle can be unreliable for that purpose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

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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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