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.

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