The Hitchhiker – Tough Guys Don’t Whine (09/28/90)

I always respected the late Alan Thicke for being such a multi-talented guy.  He wrote insipid TV theme songs (Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life), starred in a long-running insipid sitcom (Growing Pains), hosted an insipid talk show (Thicke of the Night), and had writing credits on many shows of varying quality. [1]

A reporterette says to film producer Mickey Black (Alan Thicke), “Your films create heroes we don’t always feel comfortable siding with, but you seem to.  Tell me Mr. Black, [2] is it social consciousness or is it middle age machismo?” [3] He replies, “Skip the feminist rhetoric.  My pictures are about survivors.  They may not be heroes to you — ”

She cuts him off to complain about the violence in his movies, but a gun-fight breaks out nearby.  They take cover and Mickey pills out a pistol to protect them.  “Where’s your rhetoric now?” he quips.  Within seconds, it is all over.  One of the gunman comes over immediately to high-five Mickey for their great ruse on the reporter.  The scene is over so quickly, and the actress so impassive that it is an utter waste of time.  Was she panicked at the gunfire?  Did she fear for her life?  Was she appalled that Mickey carried a concealed weapon?  Was she conflicted that his weapon might now be the only means to save her life?  Did she have an epiphany about the 2nd Amendment?  Did she forget to turn off the iron this morning?  We’ll never know because of the way they raced through the scene.  She does call him a jerk though.

Mickey heads to a dive bar to scout a location for his next movie.  I’ll give him credit for guts.  The bar is filled with typical Hollywood 1980s drug-dealers — studded denim jackets, mullets, permanents, sleeveless shirts, fingerless gloves — and a stripper who is covered up with more clothes than I wear to work.  Mickey tries to recruit the gangstas, but they take off after another low-life.  Mickey sees potential in the stripper, though.  He unwisely makes sure gang-leader James knows he is taking the girl, Penny, back to his place.

Update: Not Milo.

Back at his place, Mickey gives her a tour of his home, and takes a bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator before offering to drive her home.

James and his gang walk up to Mickey’s front door, switchblades drawn.  Fortuitously, the front door is unlocked so they can walk right in.  When James takes one step in, Mickey puts his pistol to James’ head like he was waiting in the dark by the door rather than getting Penny drunk in the kitchen.  In an amazing, barely revealed move, Mickey is able to at-once shut the door on the rest of the gang, push James against the wall, and put the gun to his head.  Also unseen, I guess during this Bruce Lee caliber balletic swirl, he was able to lock the door so the rest of the gang couldn’t enter and kick his ass.

Penny sides with Mickey because she thinks he is going to make her a star.  So we can rule her out as the brains of the gang.  Mickey forces James to his knees at gunpoint.  After telling James — correctly, by the way — what an idiot he is, Mickey pulls the trigger.  The gun just makes a click.

OK, once again, this series seems so unbelievably awful that I have to question my own intelligence.  I have replayed this scene a dozen times — there IS an audible click like an empty chamber being fired.  What is that click?

  1. After the sound, the hammer is still in the cocked position.
  2. The hammer was already in the cocked position, so the sound was not Mickey pulling it back.
  3. Hearing the click, James flinched, so something happened, but what?
  4. James heard a click, flinched, then realized he was not dead.  Why then did he remain kneeling on the floor, and leave peacefully when Mickey ordered him to? Rather than, oh say, beating him to death?
  5. And what happened to his pals?  Surely I am missing something.

In the next scene, Penny is enjoying a bubble-bath.  Really, the only reason for this piece of sh*t to exist is to have a nude scene here.  But no.  Mickey not only awkwardly shields her with a yellow towel the size of a bed sheet as she gets out of the tub; he stops her when she tries to let it slide down.  For some reason, Mickey decides to dress her up in a costume which appears to just be a red sheet.  Looking in a mirror, she says, “I always thought I looked like an Egyptian princess.”  And with her blue eyes and blonde hair, she does look like the Hollywood version of an Egyptian princess.

Mickey has a blue sheet conveniently hanging on the mirror which he drapes over the red drapes already draped over her.  That Mickey is really taking no chances.  They do finally end up in bed.  The next morning he is wrapped in the red sheet and she is wrapped in the yellow sheet.

Mickey and Penny are awakened by Milo Yiannopoulos bashing in a glass door — am I dreaming this?  James instantly appears in Mickey’s bedroom.  Wait, so did he come in a different way?  He points Mickey’s own pistol at him.  There is another of those mysterious clicks, then James tosses that pistol aside and pulls out another pistol.  I don’t know, I guess the first pistol was supposed to create suspense.  Did Mickey recognize his pistol?  Then he knew it was not loaded.  Or is he thinking James, after returning some books to the library that morning, bought ammo, broke into the house, found Mickey’s gun, then loaded it?

James points the second pistol at the couple who are still in bed.  He says, “It must have been a hell of a party.”  Hunh?  I guess he means them having the sex, but what prompted the remark?  The bedroom is not in disarray, there are not bongs and whiskey bottles strewn about, there is not a pile of condom wrappers beside the bed, it is only the two of them in bed.  I guess it is the fabulously festive multi-colored linens.

Milo continues breaking every piece of glass in sight like a peaceful Antifa protester.  James marches Mickey and Penny downstairs at gunpoint.  Milo points a shotgun at Mickey’s head and pulls the trigger.  The chambers are empty — the third time that trope has been used in 15 minutes.

Credit where it is due, though.  This gang — James, Milo, Permanent, and Mullet — are cringingly repulsive human beings.  On top of that, the mindless destruction and the frequent sound of glass breaking create a literal physical reaction in the viewer.

Adding to this revulsion, Mullett holds a sandwich up to Mickey’s face and insists that he “Try some!”  When Mickey opts to stay on Atkins, Mullett mushes the sandwich onto his face, leaving his mug covered with mayo and sandwich debris.  It might not sound like much, but how often do you see a famous actor willing to display humiliation like that on screen?  Then Mullet forces him to take a swig of wine, probably a domestic — oh the humanity!  This is an uncomfortable — in the best sense  — scene.

Thicke is pretty good here.  He tells James there is $50,000 in the end table, to just take it and go.  James says, “Big man — thinks I want his money, thinks I’m after his things.”  He pulls out a knife and continues, “I’m here for your heart!”  He rushes Mickey, but Mickey karate chops him, steals the gun out of his waist, and pushes him back.  Mickey tells him to take his “street-meat” girl and get out.

Penny somehow takes offense at this.  She grabs James’ knife and rushes Mickey.  Mickey could handle the big thug, but little Penny manages to knock the gun out of his hand.  He takes the knife from her and holds it to her throat as James now goes for the gun on the floor.  James backs away from the gun.  Mickey cuts Penny’s cheek which somehow kills her.

Despite Mickey holding a gun on the gang, James is able to knock him down and start pounding his face.  Permanent pulls out a gun.  He points it first at Mickey’s head, thennnnn at James’ head.  At least he doesn’t pull the no-bullets gag again.  Then he pulls out a badge — he is the worst undercover cop since Mr. Orange.

Yeah, I didn’t see that coming, but WTF would I?  If they had sprouted wings and flown off to Capistrano, I wouldn’t have seen that coming either.

This is the third to last episode on the last DVD.  However, the 3 DVD sets only contain 30 of the 85 episodes.  Were they chosen at random?  Could the other 55 really be even worse than the ones in the collection?

I must say Alan Thicke does as good a job as he possibly could.  The problem is that he is Alan Thicke.  I respect his effort to expand his range, but there is just an inherent non-edginess to him that undermines an effort like this.  Just nothing to see here, move along.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Although, to be fair, one / two of them was / were Fernwood 2-Night / America 2-Night which earns him a lifetime pass from me.  Unfortunately, his lifetime, not mine.
  • [2] This is kind of stilted only-on-TV dialogue that bugs me.  I can’t recall any reporter ever directly addressing a subject in a question as Mr. or Ms.  OK, they might address the president as Mr. President, or say Your Holiness to the Pope or Barrack Obama.
  • [3] Ignoring the dreadful construction of her first question, how is this the choice we are given?  Social consciousness is generally regarded as diametrically opposed to machismo.  Surely he has a reputation as one or the other.  Oh, The Htchhiker is the writer’s only TV writing credit.
  • Title Analysis:  I guess it is a reference to Tough Guys Don’t Dance, but to what end?  They might as well have called it Catch-24 or To Kill a Mockingjay.  Who was whining?  Not the gang.  Mickey was actually pretty ballsy for a Hollywood crap-weasel.   Or maybe Mickey was a tough guy because he didn’t whine.  No idea.
  • This might be my longest post ever.  All I’m trying to say is, that new Death Wish remake looks awful.

2 thoughts on “The Hitchhiker – Tough Guys Don’t Whine (09/28/90)

  1. Maybe, the first, of many mistakes, they made was naming it after a disappointingly critical and commercial failure, Tough Guys Don’t Dance.

    • Hey, thanks for all the recent comments. I think I read about TGDD in some bad movie book years ago. Or I might be thinking about Wild 90 that Norman Mailer actually acted in . . . also a fiasco. I just looked at some of the reviews. Wow.

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