Archive for the ‘Star Wars Episode IV–A New Hope (1977)’ Tag

The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 20–The King is Undead (2002)   1 comment

Above:  Confirmed Sightings of Elvis Presley, 1977-2001

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The King is Undead

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 8, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-119

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 Actor

Joey Sagal as Jesse Garon/Elvis Presley

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Krishna Rao

Above:  Jesse Garon

Brief Summary

Donald Stern is ecstatic.  In 2002, after a quarter of a century of sporadic reported sightings, the ultimate quarry of tabloids seems within his grasp.  There is an elusive, reclusive figure with worshipers and imitators who hold rallies and rituals.  The reclusive figure always appears at the concluding rituals of these gatherings, and always between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  Finding him would be, in Stern’s words, “Tet, D-Day, and the invasion of Grenada rolled up into one.”  The elusive quarry is Elvis Presley, who faked his death in 1977.  Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald, undercover as Elvis impersonators, get the assignment of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, Grace Hall is unhappily stuck with a story about another skid row vampire.  He turns out to be an Elvis impersonator, so the A-plot and the B-plot merge.

For once, Wes Freewald is the skeptic among the main characters.  He spends almost all of the episode not believing that Elvis is alive despite many clues to the contrary.  “Jesse Garon” is staying in room 1835 (for January 8, 1935, the birthday of Elvis Presley.)  “Jesse Garon” (the name of Presley’s deceased twin brother) has checked in as “Tennessee C. Beale.”  He is also the right age to be Elvis Presley.  “Jesse Garon” consistently denies being Elvis while fitting the description.  Tucker and Wes unwittingly interfere his plan to spray the nearly 100 vampires in the ballroom with holy water via the sprinkler system, thereby destroying the soulless undead.

On the final night of the Elvisopolis 3000 Elvis Impersonator Competition, the master of ceremonies is King Master Lobo, a vampire.  These are dangerous events that have been occurring for about two decades; there has been at least one vampire-related killing per Elvisopolis, and the undead victim has walked out of the morgue every time.  Before Grace may enter the ballroom, she must dress like Elvis, so she does.  Once there, she realizes that she is surrounded by vampires.

“Jesse Garon” takes great offense to vampires disguised as Elvis impersonators.  He has been hunting and killing them for a quarter of a century, after finding a secret hive of vampires in Las Vegas then deciding to fight back after some of the undead stalked him.  The list of Jesse’s allies grows from Wes, Tucker, and Grace to include Donald Stern and Vera, who come equipped to spray vampires with garlic.  However, the only people the guards will allow into the ballroom are those dressed like Elvis.  Vera and Donald have to wait.  Jesse and our main trio kill all but one of the vampires in the ballroom.  Tucker even shines the ultraviolet flash light onto Wes’s sparkly attire, causing UV light to kill many of the undead.  Tucker and Jesse kill Lobo.

When the police arrive, Donald Q. Stern, Ph.D. in molecular biology, provides a cover story to an officer:  there was a mass hallucination.

“Jesse Garon,” wearing blue suede shoes and still denying being Elvis Presley, departs.  Wes Freewald has not taken a photograph of him.

Above:  Elvis Impersonators

Character Beats

Of all the World Chronicle staff members, Grace Hall has the most firsthand experience with vampires.

Tucker Burns has been a fan of Elvis Presley since childhood.  He spent many Saturday afternoons watching Elvis movies the local UHF television station aired.

Wes Freewald’s parents are fans of Elvis Presley.  Wes is not.  In late May 1977, during the week Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope debuted, the Freewald family drove four hours one way to attend an Elvis concert.  The parents dressed Wes like Elvis, who gave him a blue scarf.  Nevertheless, Wes cared more about Star Wars.

Vera really needs a boyfriend, husband, whatever.

Donald Q. Stern may hold a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

Above:  Vampire-Elvis Impersonator

Great Lines

Grace Hall, to Donald Stern:  “How many times do I have to tell you I didn’t know he was a vampire until our second-to-last date?”

Tucker Burns, to Wes Freewald:  “Hey, man, not everybody in our generation is a raving scifi geek, all right?  I mean, in a straight fight, I would pick the King of Rock and Roll over Han Solo or Captain Kirk any day.”  Wes Freewald:  “Okay, now this discussion is over.  We’ve got to draw the line somewhere, Tucker.’

Wes Freewald:  “Even though the King never did make a scifi flick, we’ve got to help him.”

Grace Hall, to Wes Freewald:  “Why are you dressed like Little Richard?”

Jesse Garon:  “Teenage girls and scifi geeks say, ‘slayer.’ I’m a vampire hunter.”

Jesse Garon:  “Those sons of bitches have soiled the name of the King of Rock and Roll for the last time.”

Donald Stern:  “You know me–always on the look for a mass vampire movement.”

Above:  Lobo

In-Universe

This episode plays out within a few hours, from late one night to early the next morning.

There is an army of vampires bent of global domination.  See He’s Dead, She’s Dead, the seventh episode produced and the fifth one broadcast.

Above:  Vera with Donald Stern, Spraying Garlic

Comments

The King is Undead is the twentieth episode produced and broadcast.

The King is Undead contains many references to Elvis Presley’s wardrobe, lyrics, and movies in dialogue, as well as visually.  Vince, an alcoholic homeless man, points to a canine and tells Grace, “It’s just a hound dog.”  Grace, speaking on her cellular telephone, says she was “all shook up.”  Sal the Pig-Boy pleads, “Don’t be cruel.”  He also dresses like late Elvis.  Donald Stern tells Tucker and Wes, “It’s now or never.”  A group called the Blue Hawaiians wins the award for best Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet.  The list goes on and on.

An Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet?

This episode is enjoyable.  The concept is properly wacky, and the execution of it excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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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

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 the Sci-Fi Channel aired episodes out of order.

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 12: Pig Boy’s Big Adventure (2001)   2 comments

Above:  Monica, Sarcastic Savage Simian

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Pig Boy’s Big Adventure

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 11, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-116

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

Lizette Carrion as Monica, the “Savage Simian”

Jim Chovick as Dr. Harcourt Fenton

Christopher Hoffman as Dr. Elias Fenton

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Michael Grossman

Above:  Fiendish Fentons, Dastardly Doctors

Brief Summary

For at least five weeks’ worth of issues, the World Chronicle has been publishing front-page stories about the “Savage Simian.”  Headlines have included, “Savage Simian Spotted in Schenectady,” “Savage Simian Stuns Scientists,” “Savage Simian’s Sinister Spree,” “Savage Simian Startles Schoolyard,” and Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef.”  Publisher Donald Stern enjoys speaking in alliteration.  He says, “This savage simian is a sensation.”  He informs the staff of his new money-making venture, 1-900-GOT-CHIMP, which collects tips about the Savage Simian while charging callers $4.95 a minute.  He tells the reporters, “I want the Chronicle to be one-stop shopping for Savage Simian scoop, speculation, and scandal.”  His goal is publish a story with the headline, “Savage Simian Speaks.”

Pretenders to the title of that precocious primate populate the area around the reception desk.  Vera the receptionist rebuffs one would-be Savage Simian, who, dejected, departs.

Grace Hall departs for two weeks of vacation in the Mediterranean.  She arrives at the beginning of a revolution.  She calls Donald Stern for help.  He calls in favors, for he has influence at the U.S. Department of State.

Wes and Tucker, investigating the story of the Savage Simian, keep seeing a sinister man, supposedly from Animal Control.

Sal and other hybrids prefer the term “manimal,” a term in use prior to the infamous, short-lived series from 1983Manimal (1983) was “unabsolvably inaccurate,” according to Sal.

Wes and Tucker encounter the Savage Simian and the sinister, sneaky fake Animal Control man at an empty theater.  The intrepid investigative reporters retrieve the Savage Simian’s dog tag and a device the faux-Animal Control agent used to inject the Savage Simian with a tracking microchip.  Wes and Tucker give the dog tag to Donald, who immediately swears them to secrecy.  He has a similar, secret dog tag for Sal.  Now the publisher begins to understand the importance of that object.

Wes and Tucker rescue the Savage Simian from the sinister, sneaky faux-Animal Control man at a park.  They take the sarcastic simian to the archives of the World Chronicle.  Donald Stern is stunned to see the snarky simian, who snaps about the negative press the World Chronicle has created about her.  The Savage Simian’s moniker is Monica, and she bemoans people trying to feed her bananas.

Twenty years prior, one Dr. Harcourt Fenton went to prison for fifteen years.  He had transplanted animal organs into the children of impoverished, desperate parents.  Sal learns that his mother was not a sow, but that he spent time in Dr. Fenton’s laboratory.  Monica, a militant anti-human activist, encourages Sal to leave the World Chronicle.  The two manimals wear fedoras and move about in Manhattan until agents of Dr. Ellis Fenton, Harcourt’s son, capture them and take them to a laboratory at the Elias Center for Advanced Animal Medicine.  Wes and Tucker are already there.

Dr. Harcount Fenton, a sinister surgeon, transplanted a porcine kidney into the young Sal, still dressed in diapers.  This operation caused Sal’s transformation into a manimal.  Furthermore, the fiendish Fenton deceived Sal’s destitute parents by telling them that their son had died.  Sal eventually went to live on a farm, where Donald Stern found and hired him.

Wes and Tucker rescue Sal, in mortal danger from the two fiendish Fentons, and liberate the other manimals from their menageries.  Sal is the sole manimal who does not want to kill the dastardly doctors.  The dastardly doctors die off-screen.  The other manimals manage to flee then to scatter around the world.  Sal returns to the safety of the World Chronicle.  Donald Stern publishes one last alliterative headline about Monica:  “Savage Simian Storms Science Sanctuary.”  Sal wants to find his parents.  Donald Stern states his support.

Marines escort Grace Hall into the offices of the World Chronicle.  She expresses how much she enjoyed their company on the aircraft carrier.  Donald Stern thanks them for returning her safely.  The Marines express their gratitude for what the publisher did for the Marine Corps in Grenada in 1983.  They salute Donald Stern, who returns the salute.

Wes, Grace, Tucker, Donald, and Sal eat out at a Chinese restaurant.  Each of the humans wears a pig snout.  Donald orders vegetarian food, pleasing Sal.

Above:  Simulated Savage Simians Sitting

Character Beats

Sal the Pig-Boy does not eat out (until the end of this episode.)  The mask takes an hour to put on and is uncomfortable to wear.

Wes frequently quotes Star Wars movies.  He quotes Episodes IV and V in this episode.

Dr. Harcourt Fenton’s name is mud.  He seeks to learn from his “mistakes,” who have pulses.

Above:  Manimals Moving About Openly in Manhattan

Great Lines

On a front page of the World Chronicle:  “Woman Gives Birth to Porcelain Geisha Doll.”

On a front page of the World Chronicle:  “Al Sharpton Wins ‘Dartboard of the Decade” Award.”

Vera, to a faux-Savage Simian:  “Get your filthy paws off me, you damn dirty ape.”  (Obviously, this is a reference to Planet of the Apes, 1968.)

Tucker Burns, to Grace Hall:  “I can’t believe it.  We have to go play Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler with ape monsters, and you get to go on a Mediterranean vacation?”

Later in the episode–Sal, to Wes Freewald and Tucker Burns”  “Didn’t you guys ever watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?”

Wes Freewald, after the fake Animal Control man disappeared the first time:  “Who was that masked man?” (Obviously, this is a reference to the Lone Ranger.)

Monica:  “What good is it being a half-woman, half-animal if you can’t make a joke?”

Tucker Burns, to Wes Freewald:  “You know, one of these days, you’re going to be stuck in a situation without a Star Wars quote.”  Wes Freewald, in reply:  “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Above:  Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef

In-Universe

Due to the video quality of the episode posted at archive.org, few dates on front pages of the World Chronicle are clear.  However, the date on the issue with the headline, “Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef,” is clearly February 6, 2001.  This episode, therefore, occurs after that date.

Donald Stern has a photograph of himself standing beside Pope John Paul II in his office.

What did Donald Stern do at Grenada in 1983 that won him the admiration of the U.S. Marine Corps?

Above:  Sympathetic Sapiens in Snouts

Comments

The passage of time within this episode is problematic.  At the end, Grace proclaims that she spent two weeks on an aircraft carrier.  If we take her word for it, this episode plays out in between two and three weeks.  That is possible, but improbable.

I am gob-smacked.  This great episode is full of geeky goodness.

“Dr. Harcourt Fenton” is, of course, a reference to confidence man Harcourt “Harry” Fenton Mudd, whom Roger C. Carmel played with roguish delight in Mudd’s Women (1966), I, Mudd (1967), and Mudd’s Passion (1973), in the live-action (1966-1969) then the animated (1973-1975) Star Trek series.  I prefer to ignore that bastardization, Star Trek:  Discovery, as much as possible.

Yes, I enjoyed writing this post.  The main alternative was watching the world go to hell in a hand basket.  Escapism has its place, I concluded years ago.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Spoilers!   1 comment

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Above:  The Sled, Burning in Citizen Kane (1941)

A Screen Capture

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The admonition to avoid spoilers is valid for only a brief period of time; it expires, as far as I am concerned, well before a decade after the release of the material in question.  I watch a weekly YouTube series covering Babylon 5 (1994-1998) episode by episode.  The host keeps stating that commenters ought to refrain from making comments about subsequent episodes.  I do not make comments on YouTube videos, but I do consider the admonition to be ridiculous.  The last filmed (yet not aired) episode of the series is nearly 20 years old!  Besides, one can read full details of all episodes on numerous websites and in a set of five books.  By the way, Jeffrey Sinclair is Valen.

In other old news, Rosebud was Charles Foster Kane’s sled and a symbol of his lost childhood (Citizen Kane, 1941).  Also, Leonard Vole committed murder and ultimately got what he deserved (Witness for the Prosecution, 1957), Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star (Star Wars, 1977), and Darth Vader was Luke’s father (The Empire Strikes Back, 1980).  Furthermore, Captain Spock died (Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, 1982) and rose from the dead on the Genesis Planet (Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock, 1984).  If that were not enough, the Bruce Willis character did not know that he was dead in The Sixth Sense (1999).  Finally, water has long been wet.

Shall we relax regarding spoilers, especially regarding content more than a decade old?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

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