Archive for the ‘Shawna Fuchs’ Tag

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

Above:  Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

A Screen Capture

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The entire series is available here, for free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C’est la vie.

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–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 6: Bermuda Love Triangle (2001)   1 comment

Above:  The Atlantean Fiancée

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Bermuda Love Triangle

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired August 11, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-110

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

Lori Rom as Shawna Fuchs

Yvonna Kopacz as Atlantean Woman

Salvator Xuereb as Roger Noland

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Henry A. Myers

Director = Krishna Rao

Above:  Roger Noland, After and Before

Brief Summary

As Vera the receptionist berates elevator repairmen confused by elevators that more side-to-side, Grace opens the seventh anonymous love letter (left at the front desk) she has received in as many days.  Grace finds these annoying, but Vera would like to receive such attention, even anonymously.  Grace speculates about who might be sending her these letters.  She never guesses correctly.

Meanwhile, off-camera, Wes has been lucky at love and/or lust.  His new girlfriend, Alicia (never seen) is a yoga instructor.  Unfortunately for Tucker, Wes is an inconsiderate roommate when Alicia spends the night, and Tucker cannot sleep properly.  He does, however, get a reminder that he is unattached.  Tucker, sleep-deprived, nods off at the office.

Tucker and Grace compare notes.  His assigned story is about a sea monster that has attacked two fishermen on the Jersey Shore.  Grace’s assigned story is about Roger Noland, a U.S. Navy pilot recently rescued after disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle seven years prior.  Grace’s frustration is that Noland is difficult to locate; he keeps disappearing.  Fortunately, Sal the Pig-Boy is an expert hacker, so he tracks the credit card the Navy recently issued the pilot.

Tucker meets Wes at a park, where one of the fishermen the “sea monster” (actually Noland) attacked is waiting after getting out of the hospital.  (The other victim, Stu, is still in the Intensive Care Unit.)  Prior to the interview, Tucker speaks with Shawna, his former girlfriend (from the first episode).  She apologizes for dumping him.  They agree to go out to dinner soon.  Then the witness tells the reporter and the photographer that a gill-man attacked.

Shortly thereafter, at the Jersey Shore, Wes and Tucker see a man emerge from the water.  The man has gills.  Wes takes a photograph before the man returns to the water.  Back at the office, Grace sees the photograph and identifies the gill-man as Roger Noland, who had told his rescuer that he had spent seven years on a desert island.

Grace and Sal conduct research in the archives while Wes goes to spent time with Alicia and Tucker goes to have dinner with Shawna.  On-screen, Grace calls Tucker, who has to leave dinner and go to fish hatchery on the Jersey Shore.  Off-screen, Grace calls Wes, who also goes there.  On-screen, Tucker and Wes wait for more than an hour for Grace to show up before they decide to investigate.  Grace never shows up because Sal traps her in the elevator with him.

Sal is Grace’s secret admirer.  She is flattered and surprised.  She is initially angry that he trapped her in the elevator, though.  Nevertheless, they spend the night in the elevator.  They converse and play Yahtzee.

Wes and Tucker find Noland’s breathing machine and him at the fish hatchery.  So does an Atlantean woman.  Wes and Tucker take Noland to the offices of the World Chronicle.   Roger tells Wes and Tucker that the Atlantean, his owner, wants to kill him, to keep the secret of Atlantis.  The reporter and the photographer return to the fish hatchery and retrieve the breathing machine when they realize that Noland needs it to survive long outside of ocean water.

The Atlantean woman walks into the offices of the World Chronicle.  She kisses Noland, who says, “I can’t,” then flees.  Down in the archives, the Rosetta Stone translates the Atlantean woman’s speech.  She is the one who saved Noland seven years ago and implanted him with gills.  She is his fiancée. She cannot bear to be apart from him.  She also needs to get to the short immediately.  Wes takes her to the shore while Tucker and Grace retrieve Noland from a bus station.  Noland explains that he ran away from his fiancée because he wanted his normal life back.  Tucker rebuts that this is impossible, for Noland cannot breathe on land for long without a device on his shoulders.  A lovelorn Atlantean has the option of transforming into a siren.  Roger gets to the shore too late to prevent his fiancée from becoming a siren.

A few days later, at supper again, Shawna and Tucker realize they are no longer in love with each other.  They part amicably.  Then Tucker joins Grace, Wes, and Sal at the shore where the Atlantean woman became a siren.  She is still singing.

Above: Grace Hall

Character Beats

Sal understands who Grace is. He loves for who she is, an awkward person with whom he is compatible.

Sal carries a Yahtzee game around with him.

Roger Noland is a liar.

Shawna, in contrast to how she was in the first episode, is diplomatic about the World Chronicle.  She does not dismiss it, at least.

Above:  Sal the Pig-Boy

Great Lines

Tucker, to Grace:  “I’m not sure Dwain [an intern] can handle the higher motor functions required to use a pen.”

Fisherman, to Tucker and Wes:  “Poor Stu.  If it hadn’t been for him, I might not be here right now.  I could have died.  Lost my best net, too.”

Grace, to Sal:  “I’m not in a Yahtzee place right now, Sal.  Okay?”

Sal, to Grace:  “Why can’t anyone love me for the man-pig that I am?”

Sal, to Grace, defending himself for breaking the elevator:  “I can’t help it; I’m a pig.  It’s in my porcine nature.”

Grace (angry that Sal broke the elevator):  “Squeal like a pig, you slimy piece of bacon!”

Above:  Shawna Fuchs and Tucker Burns

In-Universe

Atlantis is real.  Its civilization is more advanced that the civilizations on the surface of the planet.

Atlantean voices are screeches that break glass.

The Atlantean race has evolved into a human-fish hybrid.

Vera the receptionist has met women who look “freakier” than the Atlantean woman.

Sirens sank the Titanic and the Lusitania.

The computer in the basement of the World Chronicle contains a record of Atlantean folklore and culture.

This is the last we see of Shawna Fuchs.

Comments

This episode ranks high on the rewatchability scale.  Bermuda Love Triangle balances whimsy and pathos well.  Furthermore, nothing is creepy.

The Atlantean woman was too good for Roger Noland anyway.

Vera must have seen some “freaky-looking” people, for she barely noticed the Atlantean woman at first.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 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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