The Hitchhiker – Best Shot (04/28/87)

Attorney Steve, of the law firm Steve, Attorney at Law is cruising through the city in his new Porsche which I’m sure he pronounces with 2 syllables. OK, maybe that’s the correct pronunciation, but it still sounds pretentious. [1]  A regular client has landed in jail, but Steve is more interested in getting away for the weekend.

His buddy Brett is having an earnest discussion about the death penalty with a couple of his students.  I am pleasantly surprised that after setting Steve up as a dick, they didn’t make his buddy a staunch death penalty opponent (i.e Hollywood good guy).  His student, clearly not wanting an A in his class, finds the whole idea ghastly and cruel.  Actually I think I like Steve more than the student.

Brett climbs in and they hit the road.  Steve tosses a beer can out of the car.  He asks if Brett would like to drive — not because of the alcohol, but because he wants to show off his new toy.  As Brett tools along at 85, Steve suggests a shooting contest.  I am again surprised as this does not involve drinking shots at 85 MPH, and also does not involve guns.  Steve pulls a video-camera out of the back seat.

Brett pulls up beside a station wagon.  Very creepily, Steve films the dog in the rear, the kids in the back seat, then mom driving.  While Steve is turned around looking for his weed, a dude bounces off the windshield.  Brett was turned around too so did not see what they hit.  They stop.  Steve finds a dead body thrown down the embankment.  He tells Brett it was a dog.

Blah blah blah.  The episode is fine, but tedious to recap.  And, frankly, I’m so happy to again have the power, air-conditioning and wi-fi trifecta back after Irma, that this isn’t holding my attention.  The boys go to a roadhouse where they run up against the great Brion James.  Or maybe the middle section seems less interesting because the episode has such a great ending.

The dead man was a friend of James.  Some good ol’ boys from the bar bury Steve so just his head and shoulders are above ground.  Then they force Brett to drive over his buddy.  There is nothing graphic, but there doesn’t need to be.  The situation and the cartoony Tales From the Cryptian revenge make for a memorable conclusion.

Other Stuff:

  • [1]  That Nietzsche dude is on thin ice with me, too — an E sound on the end just sounds so richtig.

The Hitchhiker – Videodate (02/16/85)

Writer Jack Rhodes made a video for a dating service.  He says “I am 31 years old.”  The actor is a pretty close 33, so I can’t use my standard “f***n’ actors, man” line.  However, according to Hollywood age rules, he will probably end up with a 12 year old girl.  He awkwardly says, “I enjoy sports, traveling, movies, museums, and art galleries” rather than delivering some “A” material like “and I got yer Colossus of Rhodes right here, baby!” And he calls himself a writer.

A woman selects his video and they meet up at an art gallery.  In the first exhibit, visitors are encouraged to toss a TV set.  In another, several dummies [1] appear to be walking on a treadmill accompanied by wacky music.  The gallery has everything — atmosphere, visually interesting displays, social commentary, a guy in a beret . . . everything but, ya know, actual art.

They go back to Jack’s place and hit his B&W zebra stripe sheets — now that’s art!  Afterwards, he puts the woman in a cab.  We find out that it was not his swanky apartment.  He slips the doorman a few bucks to let him use it for his many con-quests.  I guess the owners never notice the rumpled sheets and empty liquor bottles.  Although I suspect there is never a package missing from the condom bowl.[3]

Whoa, this is new.  The titular hitchhiker finally appears eight minutes into the episode.  As Jack is driving home, he stops to tell the hitchhiker, “Sorry pal, I live just down the street.”  This is the first time we’ve seen him interact with another character. I wish I could say it was as exhilarating as that time Rod Serling broke the 4th wall, but no.  No, it is not. [2]

Turns out Jack was only pretending to be a writer; we learn that he is a TV salesman.  At his store, he is stalked by Barbara who earlier filmed him leaving the apartment.  She also films him driving home to his shabby apartment.  Inside, we see he has a bulletin board with pictures of his one night stands.  Even more classy, he has a handwritten banner on the board:  CHICKS.  There is another Festrunkian column marked FOXES which is sadly empty.

There was a VHS tape left at his door, which he pops in.  The woman stalking him is wearing just a bra and panties.  She says her name is Barbara and that she has been admiring him for some time now.  She tells Jack to meet her tomorrow at 5:30, then takes off her top.

They meet at the City Cafe.  After playing a godawful 1980s arcade game, they make plans to have dinner at her place tomorrow.  After 6 minutes of absolute nothing at casa de Barbara, she goes to change into something more comfortable.  As all men do, Jack sneaks back to peek at her changing.  They have dinner which kills another couple of minutes.

Blah blah blah.  There is a twist, but everything that precedes it is such a bore it is hard to care.  They had a lot going for them.  Gregg Henry (Jack) is still consistently working as a character actor 30 years later.  Shannon Tweed (Barbara) was so beautiful that even the godawful photographers at Playboy couldn’t ruin her layout.[4] They had the art scene to satirize, they had videodating, they had some arcade games, they had some bondage, and managed to do nothing with any of it.

The DVD will not play and the You-Tube quality is pretty bad.  I will not do what the Playboy staff could not — make Shannon Tweed look bad.  So no pictures.  Googling is encouraged.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Actual dummies, not the patrons who support this nonsense.
  • [2] Did Serling really break the forth wall?  Well, every episode, really.  In that TZ episode, it was more like breaking the first wall.
  • [3] Worst Thanksgiving football game ever.  Insert USC Trojans joke here.  Or any joke.  Just to get one in before this carnage is finished.
  • [4] Frequent crimes: Airbrushing girls to look like plastic mannequins, near-pathological refusal to have 100% nudity, a sheen on the model’s skin you could practically see your reflection in, gauzy filters, posed in my grand-mother’s house, relying on heavy make-up instead of girl-next-door types, rendering celebrities unrecognizable.  But I haven’t seen one in 20 years; I’m sure they’re great now.

The Hitchhiker – Joker (04/21/87)

Next up in rotation was an episode called Made for Each Other.  Sadly, disc 1 of the 3rd DVD set is not playing, and it is not online that I can see.  On the plus side, it starred Bill Paxton, so I’m not subjected to his performance.  RIP.

A home movie is playing of George W. Bush clowning around in a Hawaiian shirt, with snakes in a can, an exploding cigar, and the nuclear launch codes.  No, wait, it is Bush doppelganger Timothy Bottoms as psycho Peter (qu’est-ce que c’est).  He was picked up by the cops for being covered with blood.  All they got out of him was an address — the apartment of a woman named Teresa.  The police found her bathroom covered in blood, but no body.

The police question him about Teresa, but all he wants to talk about is his ex-wife Melissa (Kelly Lynch) We get a flashback of Melissa at her office birthday party.  She brings the party to a halt when she says it is not her birthday.  It had started when someone gave the Hot Cops’ least hot cop a few bucks and a fright wig and told him to go to the office as Tarzan to get the birthday ball rolling.  OK, maybe he brought the balloons, but where did the cake and ice cream suddenly come from?  As the party breaks up, we see Peter in the shadows giggling like a madman even though he is hidden from the office, and we already know who he is.  He tells the cop that it was actually his birthday, but I guess Melissa didn’t make the connection.

Seriously, WTF is this thing?

At home that night, Melissa is surprised by a joy-buzzer [1] on her refrigerator.  When she gets out the Orange Juice, we can see one of the few items in her fridge is a huge brown gelatinous blob.  I thought surely this was another prank, but she has no reaction to it.  The camera not only lingers on it, she leaves the door open so we can see it.  She puts ice in the glass, but it is the wacky fly-in-the-ice-cube gag.  Once again, she makes no connection to her high-larious ex-husband Peter.  Peter screams to the cop that Teresa and Melissa are the same person, violating the show-don’t-scream rule on screenwriting.

Melissa goes into a storeroom to change for her yoga class that night.  1980s office dweeb Alan says, “Would that I were a fly on the wall.”  As I was cringing at this subjunctive Shakespearean lament, Melissa replied, “As far as I’m concerned, you are a fly on the wall.”  I’m not sure it makes sense because they do seem to have some kind of relationship.  However, I admire the symmetry and the snappy diminution of him to insect status.

As she is changing, the lights go out.  She threatens to kick Alan, “really hard in a certain place.”  She walks around the storeroom in a really half-assed scene.  She could easily put her blouse back on or remove it completely, but she holds it her chest as she searches the large room and threatens Alan with a harassment suit.  This isn’t HBO, this is TV.  Alan suddenly appears in the aisle naked except for something down below which it is mercifully too dark to make out.  Peter has him at gunpoint and duct-tapes the two of the together.

He is wearing a mask and a hoodie, and his voice is electronically altered,  so I guess it is reasonable that Melissa still doesn’t recognize him as he giggles and dances around and photographs them.  He has also shrewdly disguised his height as he now seems to be 2-3 inches shorter than Melissa in this scene.  The next day the photos are sprinkled around the office.

Blah blah blah . . .

Peter confronts Melissa in her home.  Actually, he breaks into her house and confronts her, then does the exact same thing in the next scene.  It is just a bizarre waste of time.  The script is so inept, it is still not clear if Melissa is really his ex-wife or if he is delusional.  He chases her into the bathroom.  Soon water starts running under the door.  He breaks in to find Melissa has slit her wrists.  As he tells the story, he gets so worked up that he has a heart attack.

The cops did not find her body, but we do.  It is at a motel washing the red out of her hair.  She looks in the mirror and says, “Hello Melissa.”  The home movie continues running and shows a woman taking off a mask and laughing.

Well.  Either this was the most consistently incoherent series on TV, or I’m just not smart enough to watch it.

  • I think it is safe to say that Teresa was a new identity assumed by Melissa after she left her lunatic husband Peter.
  • I assume the woman taking off the mask at the end of the home movie is Melissa, but damn if I can make her look like Kelly Lynch. I’m willing to accept maybe it is the B&W, the poor transfer, the bright blonde hair, the previously unseen big smile and a little face blindness tripping me up.
  • If it is her, didn’t the cops watch this movie before interrogating Peter?
  • If it is not her, is the reveal just to show that Peter really is delusional?  I don’t think this is the case, but it would be interesting since they don’t seem too concerned about logic.
  • And what is the point of showing end of the film?  Having her say “Hello Melissa” at the motel already resolved the question of her identity.  Although her hair is still much darker than the woman in the movie.
  • How did Melissa fake her suicide for Peter?  Those cuts looked pretty real, but her wrists looked OK at the hotel.
  • Where did she get gallons of blood with 30 seconds notice that was good enough to fool Peter and the police?
  • The police say the blood stains were bovine.  What blood stains?  Peter had some blood on his face.  Melissa’s bathroom looked like an abattoir.  Stains is a funny way to describe either.
  • Are they saying this was bovine blood in Melissa’s bathroom?  Then why are they looking for a “body” if there was no human blood?  And WTF did she get cow blood?
  • Waaaaaait a minute.  One of Peter’s “pranks” was to smear blood on a new dress prototype in Melissa’s office.  OK, you can stop waiting — I got nothing.
  • She faked the suicide in her bathroom, so if you’re thinking Peter had some spare blood stowed there, nope.  If you are thinking Melissa smeared her own dress to set Peter up, that’s just too dumb to rebut.
  • Melissa didn’t do anything wrong.  At the end, why is she dying her hair, changing her identity back, and hiding from the cops at a motel?  OK, she is reclaiming her old life now that Peter is no longer a threat, but why run away?
  • In fact, some people might have actually called the cops when someone broke into their house and left novelty items,  sexually assaulted them in a storeroom, and later threatened their life.
  • This is out of the filmmakers’ hands, but the IMDb synopsis says, “Deranged Peter relentlessly stalks and terrorizes Teresa, a lovely young lady who Peter thinks is his ex-wife Melissa.”  But isn’t she Melissa?  She said she was Melissa.

I can’t, as the kids say, even.

I must say Timothy Bottoms was incredibly annoying, just as the role demanded.  He was great.  Kelly Lynch didn’t really have any heavy lifting to do, but she looked great.  Many of these episodes leave me feeling stupid because I think I must have missed some key points.  Surely nothing this incoherent could have been televised.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Do they even exist anymore?  Suffice it to say, it is not a sexual aid although that would be a pretty good name for one.
  • It took three writers to create this.
  • Amazingly, the director went on to work on such great shows as Fargo and Breaking Bad.  Or maybe it was a dude with the same name.  Colin Bucksey? No, probably not.

The Hitchhiker – Dead Man’s Curve (02/11/86)

Successful romance novelist Claudia Reynolds is going to her 21st high school reunion, so she ought to be 39.  Susan Anspach is 44 . . . f*in’ actors, man.

As she approaches her hometown, local dipshit Lance pulls out onto the highway in his red ’57 Chevy [1] to harrass her.  This is right before the directing credit for foreign dipshit Roger Vadim. [2]  How long was Lance waiting there for her?  Was he also laying in wait last year for the 20th anniversary reunion which ya might think she would have been more likely to attend?  Well, I guess she RSVP’d, but that still must have been a long day just awaitin’ for her to drive by.  He recklessly pulls ahead of her taking the most absurd hairpin turn in the US, speeding toward town.

When Claudia pulls her Mercedes up to the hotel, locals flock around her making a fuss.  Especially insane is her old friend Mavis who is happy as a Pekingese to see her.  She introduces Claudia to her young escort for the weekend — Lance.  She busts him for driving like an idiot.  He offers to “let me make it up to you” and grabs her bag, but she takes it herself.  If she doesn’t have enough problems, her old boyfriend is now the sheriff and he takes her bag upstairs.

The sheriff gets a little handsy and she gets rid of him.  Seconds later, Lance shows up with a bouquet of flowers.  Marion Crane didn’t get hassled this much checking into her hotel.  He cuts his hand opening a window, quotes from one her books, and suddenly she is charmed.  They go out for a drive.

Lance spins his car to a stop and offers Claudia a drink from a flask.  They find an old barn where they can have a roll in the hay, and see scrawled onto the wall “CLAUDIA SUCKS” which must be pretty encouraging to Lance.  They start making out and the jealous sheriff shows up.  Claudia plays the celebrity edition of do-you-know-who-I-am-now? that so endears famous, rich, privileged idiots to middle America.  Nice work making the low-life sheriff sympathetic, Vadim.

They go back to Lance’s place and he has a three-way with Claudia and her body double.  Afterward, as she cleans up, she finds a shrine to her in Lance’s bathroom.  He has pictures and copies of her books.  She realizes he is the son of Beau Bridges (the DVD won’t play and the You Tube sound is terrible so I might not have that exactly right).

Lance: I’ve been alone just like you.  My father went off and died.  My step-father ran off.  My mother . . . well, you don’t want to know.

Claudia:  You’re Beau Bridges’ son aren’t you?

Lance: Very good.  He went around with Susie Brennan a while.  But he couldn’t forget you, the way you ran out on him.  Went and killed himself on a curve.

Claudia:  It wasn’t like that Lance.

Lance:  Problem was, Susie was pregnant, see?  That’s where Tom Otterfield came in.  They got married, the whole bit.  Thought the kid was his.  At least he did until he read some book that hinted it wasn’t.  I wonder where he read a thing like that?

Claudia:  I’m sorry Lance.  I didn’t mean it.

Lance:  You’re not running out on me, Claudia.

I had to transcribe that to make sense of it, but I’m not sure it helped.  I get that Claudia wrote a roman à clef [3] about her small town.  But Lance’s father knocked up Susie while hoping to win back Claudia?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  And Susie lied to Tom about the baby being his?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  Is Lance suggesting his father killed himself?  On that crazy road, that isn’t necessarily true.  Anyway, his death occurred long before the book, so Claudia had nothing at all to do with that either. Didn’t her book have the standard disclaimer about “resemblance to any hayseeds, living or dead is purely coincidental”?  And what does Lance mean about her running out on him?

Lance seems threatening at that moment, but I am confused when he produces a pink dress.  Where did that come from?  They are at Lance’s place.  Did she wear that to the prom with his dad?  If so, cheers if she can still fit in it; but jeers for Lance banging his father’s prom-date.

Despite Lance’s dark turn, he drives her back to her hotel.  She goes up to her room and phones her agent to say she is flying back immediately.  Then she goes down the front stairs where Lance is parked.  Seeing the jealous sheriff at the base of the stairs, she takes the back stairs down and goes to her car to escape.  Wait, there are back stairs?  Then why was she originally going back down the front stairs to cross paths with Lance?

Darn the luck, the sheriff chased Lance away from the front door and Claudia runs into him in the alley.  He forces her into the car.  For some reason he is insistent on taking her to the reunion, maybe for those little triangular cream cheese-sandwiches. [4]  The sheriff sees this and chases them.

Lance again accuses Claudia of killing his father.  Out of the blue, she blurts out the true story.  Her before-he-was-sheriff boyfriend actually killed his father.  They were in a drag race and the sheriff cut him off, forcing him off the road.  Of course, you might as well blame Darwin for a crash while drag-racing on a road with a hair-pin curve.  Along about this time, the sheriff rams Lance’s car.  Yada yada, the sheriff goes flying off the road like the General Lee and explodes.

This seems to be heartbreaking to Lance, but I don’t know why.  He didn’t kill the sheriff, I swear it was in self defense.  He just witnessed the death of the man who killed his father — maybe you don’t drink champagne, but do you cry?  Claudia holds him and gives him a kiss, saying “It’s going to be OK.  Both of us.”  Hunh?  For cryin’ out loud, you’re a writer!

What the hell?  From Claudia’s point-of-view, Lance tried to abduct her for some sick reason.  From Lance’s POV, there is still that matter of her book which outted his real father, driving away his step-father, and sending his mother who-knows-where.  So why are they so kissy-face now?

Well, Susan Anspach looked beautiful as Claudia.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I might have the make and model wrong, but it was definitely red.
  • [2] Really, how much longer do we have to pretend Barbarella isn’t just dreadful? The photo in the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun was only Jane Fonda’s second worst picture.
  • [3] Hey Google Voice, it ain’t roman à CLEFF.  Stop being evil and get back to work.
  • [4] WTF aren’t those sold in stores?

The Hitchhiker – Man at the Window (03/12/85)

Dude, that ain’t a Segway. Take it out on the street.

Arthur Brown is covertly aiming his Popeil Pocket Parabolic microphone at people on the street.  And by covertly, I mean dressed in leather, reclining like Rose being sketched by Jack in Titanic, his motorcycle parked beside him apparently having been driven up onto the walkway.

He hears an old man complaining about being an old man, and he hears a young woman with a black eye talking on the phone about having an affair.  Quite reasonably, he follows the woman.  The titular hitchhiker tells us, “Arthur Bradley Brown steals the words of others and uses them like they were his own” — just like Amy Schumer.

Arthur slowrides, following the woman as she walks to the studio of her lover.  He leaves his bike parked perpendicular to the curb, and sneaks up the fire escape.  He finds her window, and watches her.  So in the first three minutes, he is eaves-dropping, endangering pedestrians, holding up traffic, stalking, blocking the road, trespassing, and Peeping Tomming.  Ladies and gentleman, our protagonist.

Arthur had wisely called before midnight to get the free suction cup attachment for the microphone, which he sticks to her window. Turns out the woman, Diane, is having the affair with another woman, Carla Magnuson.  She makes excuses for her husband and the black eye he gave her.

That night, Arthur goes to Diane’s house and snoops outside her window for a while.  She assures her husband she was just in the city window-shopping, and that there is no one else.  They start making out, which is fine, but I think this scene could have been accomplished without seeing Michael Madsen’s butt.

Arthur is a writer.  He transcribes the scenes he has witnessed into a screenplay and takes it to his agent.  He had been a hot new talent at one time, but the drugs derailed him.  His agent is glad to see he is better than ever.  He has a few suggestions, though.  Apparently, his agent also represents Stephen King — his editing advice is: don’t cut anything, more more more!  He wants to add a scene — inexplicably not a further exploration of the lesbian affair — but of the husband finding out.

At home, stuck for a 3rd Act, Arthur calls Diane’s house to instigate trouble.  Her husband John answers, and Arthur says he is her boyfriend.  John says, “I’m her husband, you son of a bitch.”  The next day, the scamp sends flowers to Diane with a card that says, “To my best girlfriend.”  She wisely tells the delivery boy to take them away before she gets another shiner.

Diane storms into Carla’s gallery and accuses her of making the call and sending the flowers.  The flowers, I get, but why does she think Carla made the call.  Wouldn’t her husband have said a man called, or your boyfriend called?  Arthur is eavesdropping again, this time with a camera.  He takes a picture of Carla giving Diane a back-rub next to a gigantic nude photo of her.  Because, if you’re having an affair with the wife of an abusive psychopath, ya really want to prop the super-sized evidence up in front of a window that doesn’t even have curtains.

Arthur goes to Diane’s house, and this time breaks in.  He installs a bug on her phone and leaves a picture of Diane’s nude photo in their living room.  Finding this, her husband, predictably, starts slapping her around.  Arthur actually feels a little remorse when he overhears this.

The husband — Michael Madsen, playing his usual role of a muscle-head who is not particularly muscular — is a cop.  He detects a signature on the nude in the photo. In a nice bit of exposition, he calls a buddy on the force to get a number for a photographer named Magnuson.  This allows Arthur to overhear the address.  In the bedroom, Diane has picked up the extension, so she also knows where her husband is heading.

All three take off separately for Carla’s studio like the opening of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  The husband wants to kill “the guy”, Diane wants to warn her lover, and Arthur is thinking if he saves Carla’s life she will so grateful they will have a three-way.  Arthur gets there first and tries to warn Carla that John is on the way over with a gun.  Diane arrives next.

Diane:  John’s coming.

Carla:  That’s what he said.

Hee-hee.  Both women are baffled who Arthur is and why he is there.  John finally arrives and Carla breaks a perfectly good whiskey bottle over his head.  When the cops show up, they inexplicably shoot Arthur who is just standing there with his hands up.

This one grew on me as I thought more about it.  The story could hardly be simpler.  Maybe the lesbian love affair was a shocker in 1985, but it can’t support a whole story in 2017; at least not without significant nudity.  The direction called attention to itself a couple of times, but that’s OK.  Some of the shots such as through the fire escape (pictured above) and Arthur’s motorcycle riding were stylishly designed.  Performances were competent.

Maybe it is grading on a curve, but an OK episode.