The Hitchhiker – Why Are You Here? (03/10/87)

I’ll say this for The Miracle of Alice Ames, at least it wasn’t painful just to watch.  Why Are You Here? is the most visually offensive episode since New Year’s Day.

A limo rolls up in front of a club and an unctuous windbag pops his head out of the sun-roof.  He is “Jerry Rulack, Duke of the Night” on the TV show Night Sight.  I give the episode credit for its prescience in predicting the future of TV.  Not so much for predicting reality shows like The Kardashians, but for predicting how shitty TV in general would be.  The show being filmed in this episode is like every DJ portrayed on TV — they would draw an audience of close to zero.

Jerry gets out of the limo and leads us to “. . . clubs like this.  Currently the hottest or coolest club in town.”  He promises to take us in and ask the question which is apparently the beloved catch-phrase of the series which is sweeping the nation:  “Why are you here?”

We follow him through the crowd in the club.  A mixture of punks, dandies, flashing lights and coke-heads.  Nothing wipes that game-show host smile off his face, though.  And the finger-snapping — what the hell is all that finger-snapping for?  He approaches a woman at the bar who is dressed like the widow at a Corleone funeral and asks her name.  She is the only character I don’t hate so far as she screams “F*** off!” in his smirking face.  Then he springs his A-material, “Why are you here?” and she just scream-screams in his face.  And he never missed a snap with those fingers.

He travels through the club filming more weirdos, punks, coke-snorters, and — the horror! — two gay guys.  The blaring music, flashing lights, frequent camera edits and finger-snapping go on and on and on.  He sees a couple making out and asks his idiotic signature question, “Why are you here?”  The woman shows her boobs and the episode even manages to make that boring.

Jerry interviews some dandy in the coke-room.  He appears to be wearing a blazer over a wife-beater which shows way too much chest hair.  Was there ever a time when this would have been cool?  He also appears to be using a make-up pencil to accentuate his butt-chin.  He leads Jerry and his crew up to a private area to see “the most beautiful, sweetest, sought after, fought over, richest girl” in town.

The girl turns out to be Helen Hunt up in the VIP room surrounded by hanger-ons.  Jerry asks his usual insipid question, “Why are you here?”  She says, “Nowhere else to go,” and he gives her insipid answer a big raspberry, thumbs-down and childish face. Honestly, who would watch this shit? And who would watch this shit?

With the exception of Jerry’s barely-seen crew, every character in this episode is repulsive.  I had hopes that Helen Hunt might elevate the material, but was disappointed.  She has always seemed like a nice person, but she is just grossly miscast in this role.  Maybe her relatability was supposed to be a counterpoint to her bum-exploitation [1] and crack-smoking [2], but it really just made me want to watch Twister again.  Unfortunately Brad Davis, who is on screen nearly every second, is dreadful.

There actually was something here that could have been salvaged.  It was a target-rich environment for satire — the club scene, reality TV, divas — but nothing lands.



  • [1] In the homeless meaning, not anal.
  • [2] In the drug meaning, not anal.
  • Rated 3rd worst episode of the series in IMDb’s increasingly credible ratings.
  • Also from this director:  The Legendary Billy B.  Despite being born in New Zealand and working down-under during the 1980’s, even Ray Bradbury Theater knew better than to hire him.

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