Tales From the Crypt – Top Billing (S3E5)

In which we play the Price is Right Hi-Lo Game.  Disclosure: I have never seen the Price is Right Hi-Lo Game.

Sandra Bernhard (OVER-rated: Always had great potential, but not much good stuff after The King of Comedy and early Letterman appearances (before he became a bitter old man (which was about 20 years ago))) is an agent calling for her assistant.

John Lovitz (UNDER-rated: Always funny, but is almost never in anything I watch (he is a perfect match for the tone of this series, but only appears once in 7 seasons — see what I mean?)) enters her office carrying a rope which is only slightly longer than the one included in the Clue board game.

tftctopbilling03Lovitz says he killed her assistant and that she “is next, bitch.”  Berhard’s lackluster response completely suckered me in, thinking it was just a lousy line-reading.  When Lovitz makes a half-assed attempt to strangle her, it seems fishy.  When he says, “The silent scream is the loudest,” it is clear this is an audition.  Nothing that awful could make it into a movie.

Sadly, once again, Lovitz does not get the gig.  As he is leaving her office, he passes a line of other hopefuls.  While it is fun that they all have a piece of rope, it would have been better to have them be Hollywood purty-boys to further establish Lovitz’s desperation.  He then notices a flyer for parts in a production of Hamlet.

He takes one and sees Bruce Boxleitner coming out of the elevator (UN-rated: I know he’s been around for decades, but this is literally the first thing I’ve ever seen him in), a former acting pal who made it big.  He advises Lovitz not to worry so much about technique, just get a new wardrobe, some colored contacts, and “stoop” to doing commercials.

tftctopbilling04He goes to see his agent Louise Fletcher (OVER-rated: Got huge accolades and won an Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (she has worked steadily, but nothing to compare to her over-praised breakout role).  She also tells him he is no Mel Gibson or Bruce Boxleitner, and suggests plastic surgery.  Ouch — no wonder Lovitz never went back.

As she is dropping him as a client, she begins flossing her teeth.  The act is such a beautiful non-sequitur and so perfectly dismissive of his presence, that the episode deserves a A just for that few seconds.  Bravo!

Lovitz goes to a seedy part of town for the Hamlet audition.  Boxleitner is already there and believes his looks will get him the part.  The crazy director is played by John Astin (UNDER-rated: Another actor who is consistently good and funny.  He has a huge resume, but still seems like he should have been bigger.  He almost salvaged some unsalvagable Night Gallery episodes, and directed a few that were better than average (so I consider him under-rated in two categories)) who naturally selects Boxleitner because “he has the look.”

tftctopbilling09Lovitz watches a rehearsal, fuming in the wings.  And being TFTC, kills Boxleitner and gets the part.  Turns out Boxleitner and now Lovitz were not cast as Hamlet, but as Yorick.  And really, all that’s needed for that role is his skull.

That ending wouldn’t have worked if not for the great 2nd ending.  The 3rd ending with the police is merely superfluous.  The 4th ending features a mediocre effect, but is awesomely saved by a dog at the last second.  And the one where they return to the Shire is best of all.

A winner.


  • Title Analysis:  Serviceable, but no wordplay and irony-free.
  • Louise Fletcher’s competition for the Oscar appeared in these timeless classics that are surely huge DVD sellers, and that I hear people talk about all the time: The Story of Adele H, Tommy, Hedda, and Hester Street.  Fletcher could have been in a beer commercial and won.
  • On a more positive note, her award was presented by Charles Bronson, and she gave one of the classic tear-jerker acceptance speeches.
  • This was Myles Berkowitz’s third and final TV script credit on IMDb.  If the flossing scene was his, he was robbed in not winning an Emmy.  Sorry we did not hear more from him.

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