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.