Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Amazing Stories" Episodes That Do Not Suck

With "Amazing Stories," the Complete First Season finally scheduled for release, you too can have the fun of trying to decide which are the good episodes and which ones stink.

Everyone agrees that this expensive anthology series -- created and produced by Steven Spielberg, who also came up with the stories for several episodes -- was uneven; you expect an anthology show to be somewhat uneven, but this show was not "Twilight Zone" uneven, where the bad episodes are at least bad in a familiar way; the bad episodes of "Amazing Stories" were so bad that you wondered who was in charge. And considering that producers Joshua Brand and John Falsey ("St. Elsewhere") quit the show after only a few episodes, it may well be that no one was in charge, except Spielberg, and anyone who's seen Hook or Always knows that his taste in scripts isn't always the best.

Anyway, from the first season, I can think of some episodes that most people agree upon as "good ones." There's "The Doll," a charming fantasy/love story written by Richard Matheson and starring John Lithgow in a performance that won him an Emmy; that's the definite highlight of the season. There's also the one-hour "The Mission," starring Kevin Costner and directed by Spielberg; "Secret Cinema," writer-director Paul Bartel's adaptation of a short film he'd done years earlier (and which was more or less plundered by the makers of The Truman Show); "Mirror Mirror," Martin Scorsese's horror story about an obnoxious Stephen King-ish writer (Sam Waterston) who keeps seeing his monstrous doppelganger in the mirror; and "The Main Attraction," a very silly but funny story about a jock who literally becomes magnetic after a meteor hits him -- co-written by Brad Bird, who also makes a cameo appearance as a scientist.

The bad episodes include "Remote Control Man," about a guy who gets a TV and -- get ready for this, you'll never guess what happens -- the people in the TV come to life; "Boo!" a surprisingly lackluster comedy ghost story from Joe Dante; and some weird allegorical thing with Dom DeLuise as "Guilt" and Loni Anderson as "Love" (directed by Burt Reynolds, for all you fans of his behind-the-camera efforts). I'm sure I'll be reminded of some of the other clunkers when the DVD comes out.

Most of the really terrible episodes are in the second season, but the second season also includes the most famous and memorable episode of the series, Brad Bird's animated "The Family Dog." So I'll have to get season 2 for that episode alone.

5 comments:

Christopher said...

Interesting thing about "The Doll": Richard Matheson wrote it for the fifth season of the original Twilight Zone, but it was one of the multiple scripts that got cancelled when producer Bert Granet was replaced by William Froug. (Source: The Twilight Zone Companion.) I was surprised and pleased to see that it finally got made, but I would've rather seen it done by one of the TZ revivals than by Amazingly Bad Stories.

And tastes differ. I hated "The Main Attraction," finding it an overly broad, overdone, one-joke piece, nearly as bad as "Remote Control Man." I wasn't that fond of "The Mission" either; the ending was rather silly.

Christopher said...

Whoops, the HTML tags didn't work. Let me try that first paragraph again:

Interesting thing about "The Doll": Richard Matheson wrote it for the fifth season of the original Twilight Zone, but it was one of the multiple scripts that got cancelled when producer Bert Granet was replaced by William Froug. (Source: The Twilight Zone Companion.) I was surprised and pleased to see that it finally got made, but I would've rather seen it done by one of the TZ revivals than by Amazingly Bad Stories.

Anonymous said...

"Mummy, Daddy" is my favorite episode of Amazing Stories.

Mik said...

Oh The Mission is great. Right up until that inane ending...

Actually that ep was seen in cinemas in the UK. Though for the life of me I really can't remember what Amblin movie it was supporting...

jenny said...

Mik, I think the movie you saw in the UK was actually called "Amazing Stories", and was released as an anthology film a la "Twilight Zone" the Movie" here in the US.
Weird that I happened upon this post, as about 15 minutes ago we were all sitting around here at work remembering "Family Dog", and when each of us saw it. Talk about a watershed! We were all remembering our favorite scenes, and the stories behind it...and determined to bring it into work and watch it again(it's been over a decde since I've seen it).