This is almost a William Sadler twin spin as he starred in The Outer Limits’ Valerie 23 just yesterday. Here, he is playing a completely different character, and pulling it off magnificently. I have been aware of who he was for a long time, but it is finally sinking in what a major talent this guy is.
The episode — the premiere of the series — starts off with with a great score by Ry Cooder who you will know by his work with, oh, everybody. It reminds me of a carnival, a calliope. I have read some complaints about the score, but maybe it is appropriate as this whole episode is a merry-go-round.
Sadler has been the state executioner for 12 years until liberal pantywaists get the death penalty overturned in his state. Sadly the Executioners Local 101 is unable to save his job.
Sadler foresees the Reality TV genre 10 years before Survivor by envisioning a show featuring death row inmates. Rather than taking that winning idea to Hollywood, he decides to become a vigilante, killing off those who the justice system has let slip through its fingers.
The first recipient of this frontier justice was instantly recognizable as one of Ahnold’s first victims in T2 — the cigar smoking dude in the bar. You see this guy in a movie, don’t expect an arc.
The great Gerrit Graham (from the classic Used Cars) is the 2nd victim. They were really bringing out the big guns of character actors for this first episode.
Naturally, the episode comes full-circle just like the merry-go-round whose theme started the episode. Sadler’s vigilantism is not appreciated by “the man” who has just re-instituted the death penalty.
- Breaking the 4th wall does not always work, but Sadler pulls it off here, and also gives the episode a real noir vibe.
- Again, I am baffled by the screenwriter’s lot in Hollywood. Robert Reneau is co-credited as writer of this episode. He had 2 screenplays produced 20 years ago, then nothing. WTF? OK, they were Action Jackson and Demolition Man, but at least I have heard of them.
- Who exactly is the Crypt-Keeper for? Seems more of a kiddie thing, but then there was nudity in the episode, too. That’s what killed Sears — you can’t please everybody; pick a niche.
- Pretty shrewd of Warner Brothers to put this out as “Season 1” and mention nowhere on the box that it is only 6 episodes. This is why you have no friends, Warner Brothers.
- Directed by Robert Zemeckis, of the aforementioned Used Cars and Back to the Future.
- A close-up of the hot-line to the Governor reveals that this takes place in Arkansas (Area Code 501). As this episode aired in 1989, that Governor would have been one Mr. William Jefferson Clinton.