(1961, 1985, 1977)

Howdy folkses! How are you all enjoying your quarantine? It seems we are doomed to experience the apocryphal Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." I say apocryphal because the phrase actually derives from a speech given by Englishman Joseph Chamberlain, father of mid-20th Century Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, as misremembered by his other son Austen Chamberlain in correspondence with a friend. It was originally just a casual observation about the news of the day circa 1898 and is about as Chinese as a Yorkshire pudding. Still, as curses go it's a rip-snorter and I highly recommend it.

Despite all of the idle time our current stay-at-home restrictions afford us it's been a bit of a challenge to focus on writing the kind of absurdly detailed articles we specialize in here at MMT. My day job has me trapped somewhere in that nebulous "essential life-sustaining services" category and I'm often quite spent by the time I drag myself back to Million Monkey Towers for a bath and a bad movie.

I've opted therefore to present a second helping of The Pilot Project rather than a feature-length review. It's a dyspeptic buffet of questionable hygiene, featuring three rough and rancid TV morsels from days gone by, served continental style in convenient bite-sized portions for your dining pleasure.

Sounds awfully tempting, does it not? Sure it does! Plus I can knock each of these bad boys out in a couple of hours and still have room for dessert.


The screenshots are shit but it was the best print I could find.

So you're a 1950's TV producer named Whitney Ellsworth and you used to have a very popular show called The Adventures of Superman. It had its ups and downs in terms of quality over its six seasons but it still has a solid following among both adults and children and, more importantly, it brought you in a whole mess of tasty sponsorship dollars over the years that paid for both your house and that snazzy '58 DeSoto that's currently in your driveway, getting a wax job from a Mexican immigrant named Rodrigo, who also mows your lawn and supplies the sexual satisfaction to your young trophy wife you yourself can no longer provide since that unfortunate dictaphone accident you had while plooking your secretary back in the spring of '56 [citation needed].

Your original plan was to continue on with series seven in 1959, but setbacks occurred, first delaying then canceling production entirely. First, John Hamilton, the actor playing blustery newspaper editor Perry White, died of sudden heart failure in 1958. Although a demoralizing blow to the cast and crew this was by no means an insurmountable obstacle. You figured you could just hire another actor and say he's Perry White's brother taking over the family business. Problem solved! But then there came a sudden tragedy from which it seemed impossible to recover.

Your top-billed star, who in the minds and hearts of an entire generation of kids actually was Superman, had died violently in 1959, igniting a smoldering, whispered scandal that would resonate throughout Hollywood for decades to come. The official coroner's conclusion for George Reeves' death was suicide by gunshot to the head, but the foul miasma of murder hung over that verdict and the doubt would never be adequately resolved.

Under the circumstances it would be both distasteful and disrespectful to carry on with a new actor, and in any case fans and the media would never accept anyone else in the role. At first you proposed shifting the show's narrative focus to the supporting cast, using existing footage of the late Mr. Reeves only as needed to advance the plot, but the powers that be at the studio decided it was too much of a risk. Word would doubtless get out during production, the media would cry foul and the audience would be baying for your blood before the first episode had even aired.

Still, that new '61 DeSoto you test drove yesterday was purring like a sweet eight-cylinder kitten, and having a three-year-old car in Hollywood is like waving a big red banner that says "washed-up has-been" every time you drive it. You feel something simply must be done to appease the Superman audience and reel in those precious sponsors!

"Tell 'em Groucho sent you!"

How about a spin-off series? You had tried and failed with The Adventures of Superpup a few years back, but then again you were pretty coked up when you came up with that shit. You're mostly off the hard stuff now aside from an occasional speedball to loosen you up before awards ceremonies [citation needed].

You need something new and exciting that will appeal to the youngsters of 1961, something with a fresh yet wholesome vibe to get the sponsors to ante up for your new ride.

You need The Adventures of Superman for the teenybopper set! You need Superboy!

Boy of steel? Looks a bit doughy to me.

We open with a brief recap of the famous Superman origin story, about how he was sent off in a rocket from Krypton before the planet went kaplooey, how he came to earth as a baby and was adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and how the now-teenaged Clark Kent's "meek, retiring manner hides an exciting secret" only he and his Earth parents know.

"I can't live this lie anymore...I like East German men."

Yes, the shy, handsome, teen-aged Clark sits at the back of his high school classroom with his perky girlfriend Lana Lang, pretending to be a normal, average, everyday kid, unable to discuss the holes he shoots in the walls of his bedroom every night as he grapples with his Super Puberty. Yes, I am starting the review with a superhero masturbation joke, and yes, I am just slightly ashamed [citation needed].

Today is public speaking class, with students delivering speeches on the subject "My Father's Occupation." The first girl we meet is excitedly finishing up a story about her globe-trotting engineer dad, who designs and installs water filtration systems all over the world. She's just so very proud of him, and the teacher reinforces her vexatious smugness by declaring "he certainly does have a very interesting job." Well, yes. Doesn't he just?

Next up is pale, dour Jimmy Drake who looks far less enthusiastic as he steps to the head of the class to begin his speech. He sheepishly states "My father is the doorman of the Aero Theater. Period!" Which gets a big chuckle from the rest of the kids but displeases the teacher who feels he should elaborate on the dull, reptitive labor his father performs. He goes to sit down but she stops him to inquire "is that all you have to say?"

"Listen, lady...he's a doorman. He opens a fucking door."

Jimmy asks to be excused and the teacher tells him that's fine for now, but she's going to have to continue to humiliate him at the next public speaking class and he'd better be ready with a more suitable and expansive description of his dad's banal and menial job.

Clark and Lana catch up with Jimmy on the street walking home from school later and they try to make him feel better, but he confesses that having listened to everyone else tell such swell stories about how cool their fathers' jobs are he can't think of an interesting or positive thing to say on the subject of his own dad's profession. As they speak they look across the street to the Aero Theater and see the Dad himself, dressed up like a dime-store sultan's personal Groom of the Stool and looking about as excited to be doing his doorman job as Jimmy was to talk about it.

"It wouldn't be so bad if his majesty would stop eating so much fruit."

Jimmy excuses himself to go commiserate with Dad, and Lana provides a little awkwardly delivered exposition, conveying that Jimmy's dad had to work hard to raise him "without even a wife to help him." She concludes that this is way more impressive than installing some silly filtration system that probably saved tens of thousands of brown people's lives in some stupid South American backwater.

No. It's really not.

As Clark and Lana walk off to do their homework they pass three shady-looking mugs parked across from the Theater in a white convertible the size of a hopper barge. These gentlemen, we discover, are scoping out the Aero for a daring daylight robbery!

One of them sneers that the other two are acting like they're getting ready to knock over Fort Knox rather than some rinky-dink hometown movie house, but the driver says cheerfully "You're gonna think it was Fort Knox when we divide up the loot."

"And Fort Fairlane and Harrison Fort, too!"

The three ne'er-do-wells decide they've done enough scoping out for one day so they comb back their greasy gangster hair and drive away.

Meanwhile Jimmy is sitting at a tiny desk in the tiny apartment he and his father rent above the movie theater, paralyzed by his deep-seated feelings of shame and inadequacy. Dad is up there, too, practicing drawing for an art correspondence course. It's an odd detail that sticks out like a purple willie and you just know it's going to be integral to the plot later on.

Dad can't help but notice that his son is looking even more bleak and despondent than usual, and when he finds out what all the sighing and pensive stares are about he gives Jimmy a little father-son straight talk about how he's not the only guy out there with a bland, crappy, uninspiring occupation. Responsibility and circumstance keep lots of folks stuck in jobs they despise for most of their lives, he says. He reminds the kid that the whole point to his working this particular shitty job is so that his ungrateful crotch spawn can go to college and hopefully have better opportunities than he had himself.

It's quite a nicely written, well delivered monologue, actually. Actor Ross Elliott, who appeared as a supporting player in over 250 films and television programs, including the schlock classics The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) & Tarantula (1955), does a fine and believable job portraying a decent, loving man willing to make sacrifices to provide for his son.

"The day you graduate college though I'm gonna get me a case of Thunderbird and hire every hooker in Smallville!"

Once this touching father-son bonding is complete we rejoin our three would-be criminal masterminds in a distractingly cheap set representing some unspecified location. Is it a secret villa? A hotel patio? Are they squatting in someone's lanai in central Florida? This is frustratingly unclear, but wherever they are they're discussing the vital details of their big, fat movie palace robbery.

We first learn that the oldest of the three, a guy named Shifty, is supposed to "keep Superboy busy" as the other two actually carry out the crime.

He has a face like a widow's fart.

Shifty is fully aware that he will get three to six months in jail for his part in the scheme, but he expects to get $50,000 for his trouble, a not-insignificant sum at a time when you could get a decent-sized, 4-bedroom house for around $12,000. We also learn that the two younger men, Gunner and Jake, have undergone plastic surgery to hide their identities, so presumably they're well known among the police and criminal set. As Jake splits to attend to some details we fade to a sign that explains to us how knocking over a two-bit movie house in a tiny Midwestern town could make three people reasonably wealthy:

This also explains Dad's "Carnac the Magnificent" cosplay earlier.

He keeps the costume in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's porch.

Ok, I know the 50's and 60's were the golden age of over-the-top, over-hyped movie promotions, but displaying $200k in uncut diamonds seems like something that might just be reserved for a star-studded premier at Grauman's Chinese or the Loew's Paradise, not the go-to draw for a little heartland theater so tiny the ticket-taker lives in a garret above the marquee.

I also think these criminals are awfully credulous to think anyone would actually display real diamonds when a handful of glass pebbles would serve the purpose just as well and with absolutely zero financial risk. Plus why is poor Shifty only getting $50,000 of that $200k? He's the one who's going to be doing the time for the crime while the other two live it up and spend the money. I think Shifty is getting shafted. Those other two assholes are probably headed straight to the Cayman Islands and poor Shifty's never gonna see a dime.

We cut to the diamonds being placed in a simple glass display case just outside the theater, guarded by two uniformed officers, which is probably about a third of the entire Smallville police force.

Jake, who has again parked right across the street in the big white barge, takes note of this arrangement and drives off to pick up his co-conspirators and initiate phase one of the operation. This involves dropping Shifty off at an abandoned shack just beyond the edge of town.

Sure, they'll just leave you here now to deal with Superboy and they'll both be waiting outside the prison gates six months from now with hugs and kisses and a big bag of cash.

Shifty settles down in the shack with his trusty sniper rifle and waits for police Chief Parker to pass by in his cruiser, as he very conveniently does at exactly the same time every day just in case somebody wants to do a robbery in town and leaves a patsy here to take a few pot shots at him. Sure enough he shows right up and Shifty immediately shoots out his tires.

The Chief for some reason gets out of the car and crouches back behind the trunk instead of hunkering down inside the cab and immediately calling for backup. There's a fire fight back and forth for a bit, then the Chief scurries his way back to the open car door. He grabs the CB and calls Superboy.

Meanwhile back at the Kent residence Clark and Lana are doing homework together under the watchful eye of mother Martha.

Martha's hobbies are baking, needlepoint and making sure Clark doesn't get any nookie.

Lana looks up and casually asks "What's wrong with the light?" The lamp is indeed flashing on and off in the most peculiar way, almost like a signal of some kind...

Clark suddenly tells Lana he doesn't feel like doing math problems anymore (smooth subterfuge there, buddy) and that they'll have to finish them later. Lana complains that he promised to help her with all her math problems. She looks about ready to make an issue of it, too, but Martha steps in and asks if she'll help her make cookies for the church social instead, saying "perhaps when we're finished Clark will feel like working on them again."

"Maybe Clark is getting tired of doing all your damn homework for you, you brazen little hussy."

As soon as Lana is out of the room Clark slips behind a bookcase through a secret door, to a secret room where he keeps a secret radio.

Once he gets the skinny from the Chief about the incident at the old shack he changes into his lumpy Superboy duds, hops through a hole in the floor into a cave, then out the cave via another secret door in the rocks, which seems needlessly byzantine to me. He leaps up into the sky, watched by a very confused bird that's been bawkwardly edited in for just a split second before we cut to our hero speeding through the air.



Superboy arrives and the Chief tells him the guy in the shack has been carefully keeping him pinned down, but doesn't actually seem to be trying to hurt him.

"I stood right up with a bullseye pinned to my ass but he just sent a few shots over my head. It's a conundrum."

Instead of using his super invulnerability to end the standoff immediately Superboy decides to use his finely honed negotiation skills to talk Shifty downand convince him to surrender of his own volition. He's not terribly persuasive.

"You up there! You'd better come out!"

Shifty answers by firing another shot in Superboy's general direction.

Back in town Gunner and Jake are driving up to the Aero to enact phase two of the heist. Jake helpfully reminds Gunner not to breathe in any of the sleeping gas they're going to use so that when the two guards later collapse from it the audience will know they're not dead. It's a family show from 1961. You can threaten to kill somebody but you're not allowed to actually kill them.

The two mugs wander over behind the guards and mill about awkwardly, looking about as discreet as a pair of turds on a white tile floor, glancing warily over their shoulders and loitering suspiciously by the box office window.

The guards...don't even notice them. They're too busy staring deadpan at the diamonds they're supposed to be protecting.

"Them's kinda shiny, ain't they?"

So Gunner tosses the little sleeping gas smoke bomb, Jake smashes the glass of the display case and they make off with the diamonds. As the criminals drive off Dad rushes out of the theater to assist the two unconscious guards but succumbs to the lingering knockout gas and collapses beside them.

Meanwhile back at the shack Superboy finally decides to use his super-strength and bulletproof abs to disarm and capture Shifty. He runs towards the shack and bursts in through the wall.

Couldn't he have just walked through the door like a normal person?

As Superboy is escorting Shifty down to the police cruiser the Chief gets a call from his dispatcher notifying him of the theft at the theater. When the chief informs Superboy of the robbery he takes off flying back to town and we get another brief, almost subliminal wildlife insert shot, this time of a disaffected chipmunk.



As Superboy wings away the Chief makes Shifty change the flat tire at gunpoint.

Gunner and Jake, meanwhile drive up to a second vehicle they've parked along their escape route and drive away in it leaving the empty convertible abandoned along the side of the road.

Superboy arrives at the Aero just as Dad and the two worthless guards are waking up. Dad provides a plate number, a general description of the thieves and the direction they headed in and Superboy is off again on what will be a fruitless chase. He lands briefly at the convertible, takes note of the license plate, then takes off into the air again, watched this time by a disgruntled squirrel with a secret drinking problem.



Superboy lands back at the theater to chat with Dad about the thieves, and the theater owner starts whining about how his premiere is ruined without the Rajah's Diamonds. Superboy says he'll take Dad over to the police station to look at mug shots and promises to provide some imitation diamonds for the premiere.

Back at the station Dad finishes looking through the reams of mug shots this rinky-dink Kansas shit-hole PD happens to keep around just in case some big city bad-actors show up in town ready to cause trouble.

Yeah, it may be famous but there's still only like 27 people living there.

Superboy finally figures out that Shifty's little shooting gallery display was probably a distraction related to the theft, so they look up his known accomplices Jake and Gunner Ferde in the rogue's gallery.

I don't blame them for getting the plastic surgery. Sheesh!

Of course Dad can't identify them from these pre-surgery photos, so Jimmy suggests his Dad draw the criminals for them using his mail-order art skills. As Dad gets started on the sketches, Superboy sends Jimmy to the furnace room for a bucket of coal.

Superboy and the Chief discuss how Shifty won't talk, and how the sentence of 3-6 months he'll get for the criminal mischief and resisting arrest they plan to charge him with is pretty small potatoes against what would be his cut of the diamonds, and what a couple of backwater bumblefucks they are! Just tell Shifty you're gonna charge him with attempted murder, that he'll be looking at a minimum of ten years in the poke if he doesn't give up his fucking accomplices stat. Lean on the bastard! Make him sweat! Do the "good cop, bad cop" routine and and rough him up a little! Jesus, do I have to do your damned jobs for you, people?

Jimmy comes back in with the lumps of coal and Superboy uses his super strength to squeeze them into diamonds so Dad's boss can salvage his precious premiere. This seems like it could be a sweet little side gig to me, but Superboy is way too honest and pure for that sort of thing.

I wonder if he can also do this
with his anus.

So Dad finishes his drawings and Superboy lays down a little plan. He's going to bring Shifty in, have him look at the pics and ask him a few questions, all the while using his super hearing to listen for changes in his pulse. It's a lie detector test that Shifty won't even know he's taking and it's actually a pretty decent plot conceit.

Shifty is brought in and Superboy asks him if he knows about the jewel robbery. His pulse goes up. Then Superboy asks about Jake and Gunner Ferde and his pulse goes up even more, then he shows him the drawings Dad made and his pulse goes through the roof.

He looks like a suspicious potato.

Once Shifty has been taken back out Superboy deduces that the two guys in the drawings must actually be the Ferde brothers, and the Chief immediately posits that they must have had plastic surgery to change their faces. I'm not sure I buy into the logic of how they reached these conclusions so quickly but it sure is convenient in terms of wrapping up the story in the next seven minutes.

Superboy comes up with a ridiculous, completely reckless plan to trap the Ferde brothers. He suggests they publish Dad's sketches in "every paper in the country," giving the name and address of the artist. Since the thieves will know that they can't be convicted by the sketches alone, but only by the eyewitness who drew them, the only way to protect themselves would be to eliminate Dad.

"So they'll bump me off then you can charge them with both robbery and murder? Count me in!"

So the two idiot criminals are gonna waltz right back to the scene of the crime and expose themselves to needless risk when they could instead sneak out of the country and be living on an atoll somewhere, sipping mai tais while a half-naked native girl rubs suntan oil on their felonious keilbasas? Yeah, right!

Cut to the Ferde brothers in a hotel reading a newspaper and getting ready to waltz right back to the scene of the crime.

We cut to Clark sitting at his desk at school, using his ex-ray telescopic vision to look all the way across town into Dad's apartment. Jesus, Superboy! You're not even gonna be nearby when the thugs go in for the kill?

Eventually he sees the Ferde brothers drive up to the theater. There's a ridiculous moment where he actually picks up a newspaper with the drawings in it to compare them and make sure they're the right guys. So much for super-memory. Then he actually takes the time to quickly finish his math test and hand it in to the teacher before asking to be excused from class!

"Smell ya later!"

Gunner, meanwhile calls up Dad claiming that Jimmy has had an accident and is waiting for him at "the emergency hospital." Dad accepts this claim immediately and without question, grabbing his coat and hat and leaving his apartment despite that he's basically been sitting there waiting to be drawn out of the safety of his home and assassinated. He rushes down the street and right into the waiting arms of Gunner, who knocks him on the head with the butt-end of his pistol and shoves him into Jake's waiting car.

Meanwhile Superboy leaps into the air to give chase, sadly unobserved by any woodland creatures at all.

Jake and Gunner take the now-unconscious Dad outside of town. They lay him out on the road and plan to run over him in an attempt to make his death seem like a hit-and-run accident unrelated to the diamond heist. There's so much wrong with this, but I'm fatigued from all the disbelief I'm meant to be suspending right now, so let's just carry on and get this shit over with.

Superboy flies along the road trying to catch up with the criminals, who very helpfully back up about half a mile before speeding in for the kill, giving Superboy just enough time to swoop in and get between them and Dad, causing what will doubtless be an extremely difficult to describe insurance claim.

There's no adjuster in the world gonna approve this.

Speaking of insurance claims, we cut now to the theater office where we learn that the insurance company covering the diamonds has offered a full scholarship for Jimmy as a reward for his Dad's part in recovering them, which if you've ever had to deal with any insurance company about anything ever you know is absolute bullshit. No insurance company ever paid out anything to anyone that wasn't pried out of their fingers with a fucking crowbar.

The company has also offered Dad a job in their Metropolis office even though he has zero experience in insurance and his skills consist exclusively of making pencil portraits of criminals and opening doors for crafty Midwest provincials who like a good half-price matinee. In any case he declines their kind offer, preferring to stay in Smallville in his shitty apartment with his shitty job and his shitty son.

"I like being looked down upon by the entire community in which I live. It builds character."

He also thanks Superboy for saving his life even though it was Superboy's clumsy plan and bumbling miscalculations that nearly got him killed in the first place.

We end the episode as we began it: in a public speaking class where Jimmy is now presenting a prideful oral essay on why his Dad is the best darn theater doorman in the whole U.S. of A.!

The End.

To be honest this wasn't awful, but it was a sloppy and slapdash production that could have used a couple of rewrites and maybe some recasting. The story was fairly typical for a Superman episode of the time, but rather threadbare. It could have effectively been told in about fifteen minutes. Filling it out to a full half hour required it to jump through some pretty obtuse and tedious hoops. The supporting cast were all pretty good considering what they had to work with, but Superboy Johnny Rockwell was boilerplate bland and generic, providing little emotional inflection and almost no delineation between his Superboy and Clark Kent personas. Bunny Henning's Lana Lang was just plain annoying, barely there as a believable character and with a distinct amateur regional theater vibe about her. It's a shame, really. The Adventures of Superman, despite the inconsistency of its middle seasons had achieved something of a renaissance in its sixth and final year. With a little more care and attention The Adventures of Superboy might have become a well-loved classic in its own right.

Should've stuck with Superpup.


The second course in today's bad TV smorgasbord is a surprisingly acrid and unpalatable concoction whipped together with some otherwise promising ingredients by some otherwise talented people, but that nonetheless collapses in on itself like an over-baked souffle.

The trite, mid-80's, UK-produced fiasco Timeslip, not to be confused with the well-written 1970 series of the same name, was intended as a sci-fi anthology featuring stand-alone tales framed by the commentary of a mysterious character called "The Hacker," who has somehow discovered the password to unlock time itself. He uses this awesome power to watch poorly-scripted, ill-conceived teleplays depicting "visions of the world as it might be." Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

The pilot episode, The Block, was based on a story by Robert Holmes, a prolific British screenwriter with a career in television stretching back to the late 1950's. He emerged as one of the most important writers in the original run of Doctor Who, providing scripts intermittently from 1968 until his death in 1986. He was responsible for some of the program's most critically acclaimed stories including "The Ark in Space," (the very first Doctor Who story I ever saw) "Terror of the Autons," "The Time Warrior," "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and perhaps the most celebrated story of the show's original 26 seasons "The Caves of Androzani."

I am over 300 different kinds of nerd.
Doctor Who is just one of them.

It's impossible to know how much of Holmes' original concept made it into the final script by Jim Hawkins, whose resume is littered with single-episode stints on long-running shows and brief associations with short-lived series. It's not a terrible story per se, but it is a story we've seen before and will probably see again. Sadly the sterile direction, bland dialog, colorless characters and stubborn insistence on ripping off bits and pieces of everything not bolted down from other, better things conspire to destroy both its artistic credibility and its value as entertainment.

Still, it has got a heaping helping of 1980's scifi cheese, and in the absence of any other nutritive or entertainment value I guess that'll have to do.

We open on the darkly handsome Hacker, diligently slaving away over his Commodore keyboard, telling us via a mellifluous voiceover how he "knew there was a password to the future" and that "it was just a matter of time" before he found it.

It's John Taylor from Duran Duran.

No, seriously. It is.

We get some painfully dated synth music and a moody montage of The Hacker searching for the elusive key. Now, I've never been privy to the mysterious world of computer hacking before, but apparently the way these guys figure out our passwords is by typing in every word they know in no particular order until one of them works. Who knew?

After typing in words like "astra" and "zenith" and who knows how many others for God knows how many months, the brooding, buoyant-haired boffin notices that the server he's trying to infiltrate is called "Timeslip," so he types that word in on the off-chance that whoever programmed this shit would be stupid enough to actually display the necessary password right on the login screen.

Lo and behold it works, and his monitor displays an animated tunnel graphic with some random geometric shapes swirling around in it just like the sequence in Tron (1982) where Flynn gets sucked inside the computer world, except infinitely less intriguing or aesthetically interesting. He now has access to the first of what the producers vainly hoped would be an endless series of ironic cautionary tales about the technology of the future.

The future, it seems, is blurry, badly-rendered and oversaturated.

This is one of those dystopian societies where a lot of information is stiffly conveyed via CG graphics and the monotonous, synthesized voices of ever-so-slightly self-aware computer programs that are watching and monitoring us hapless humans' every move. We see a boxy, pixilated graphic of an office building and a text box appears indicating that an armored taxi is requesting immediate entry. It states that there has been a civil disturbance and some fire damage to the vehicle. A huge door opens to let the taxi in and we see that the vehicle is actually currently on fire.

It looks like something from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) which had opened in the UK earlier that year.

The burning car sways back and forth at a reckless pace through a black tunnel, and it's apparent the driver can barely see where he's going through the flames. There are several shots from inside the vehicle showing the extent of the conflagration and how difficult a time the driver is having controlling it, but when the cab pulls up at a loading door in the side of a building all the flames are magically gone, and no one so much as mentions any of this again.

Ho-hum. Just another dull night at the office.

A rather plain-looking, slightly balding fellow gets out of the cab and enters the building. We learn via a voiceover by The Hacker that this is Greg Shanklin, a gentleman lucky enough to have a good job in a world of mass unemployment, who has made the ultimate mistake of falling in love with a hot secretary despite strict rules against diddling underlings in the company for which he works.

Trouble always starts with a dick and a dame, amiright?

So it's gonna be the "Forbidden love in a surveillance state" angle. Why not? It worked for Brazil (1985) which had been released in the U.K. to tremendous acclaim just ten months before Timeslip aired. This is just the first of many narrative and stylistic elements here that have been ham-handedly lifted from Terry Gilliam's film. The costumes and sets feature a similar color palette and utilitarian feel, and both stories hinge largely on the awkward, often oppressive interplay between technology and the humans who depend on it.

I'll give points for this early example of face recognition biometrics in sci-fi entertainment because I am a generous reviewer of justifiably forgotten trash.

This entire building, we learn, is controlled by an anthropomorphic security program named "Lee," represented by a single display monitor sitting on a table in a harshly-lit room. Why Lee needs a monitor to look at when he's just a piece of semi-sentient software is unclear, but his voice is provided by Manning Reed, the guy who played the sheriff in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).

So he went from actually working with Kubrick to voicing this knock-off, half-baked HAL 9000 wannabe in only five years? That's got to hurt.

Lee tells Greg that the building is secure and everything is normal, but there is an urgent message waiting for him from the personnel office he should listen to immediately when he gets upstairs. Could it perhaps have something to do with his forbidden inter-office love affair?

Greg gets in an elevator and engages in a bit of idle chit-chat with an elevator operator software program, which he refers to as "Billy." Billy is obnoxiously cheerful and if he had a face you'd want to smack it every time he opened his disingenuously perky, stridently enthusiastic mouth.

Greg exits at the eighteenth floor and walks through some sleek, sterile hallways to a sleek, sterile office right out of an 80's music video featuring a lighting scheme right out of Blade Runner (1982).

Everything is frigid and industrial, with only the occasional angular object d'art to show that any part of it was designed by human hands. He asks his personal computer assistant program "Candy" to activate and give him a "credit update," which sadly is not a euphemism for anything more interesting or erotic.

Candy...and a little head.

Candy mentions the urgent message from personnel but Greg tells her he will deal with it later, instructing her instead to brief him on the executive credit requests it is apparently his job to oversee.

Incidentally I just typed the word "brief" as "brif" and I think I accidentally coined a new dirty word.

Example: "I'll bet he'd like to brif all over Candy's interface."

Feel free to borrow it. I've got more.

We now cut to a woman named Jenny entering the elevator and asking Billy to take her to the 18th floor. He tells her no-can-do, as she is not authorized to visit that floor of the building. Lee butts in, demanding to know what she wants on the forbidden floor and she explains that she needs to speak with Mr. Greg Shanklin. She convinces Lee to ask Greg if he will see her, and naturally he says Lee should send her right up.

He's probably gonna brif all over her, too.

Jenny is played by Viginia Hey, who already had some dystopian sci-fi credibility for her work as the Warrior Woman in The Road Warrior (1981), and who would later feature as the spacey, spiritual, bald and blue Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan in the far-out Australian-American TV series Farscape (1999-2003).

I'd much rather be watching her in these other things.

Back in his office Greg asks Candy to shut off the surveillance cameras and put on some soft, sexy music, because he's a randy old horn-dog who just can't keep his high-speed interface to himself. When Jenny comes in, however she's anxious and distracted. She tells Greg the company bigwigs have learned of their relationship. She insists they need to stop seeing each other as they will surely both lose their jobs if they continue the affair.

Candy tries to interrupt them several times with company business, insisting Greg can't ignore credit requests while he's on duty, but he has other plans. He orders Candy to change the official log records to indicate that both he and Jenny have left the building and to take them both off the entire recognition system until he tells her to reinstate them. He tells Candy that he and Jenny are going up to the conference suite and that after he gives the word they are "not to be interrupted unless it's a matter of life and death."

As they enter the suite he orders Candy to take them offline.

What could possibly go wrong?

Lee's cheesy CG rendering of the building indicates that there are now zero personnel on the premises, despite that Greg and Jenny are currently on the conference room table initiating a "data exchange."

I spy with my little eye something that begins with "n" and ends with "ipple."

While they're in there briffing away like a couple of futuristic rabbits Lee orders all the other programs to go dormant so he can institute nighttime security protocols, helpfully telling the empty building that this is normal lockdown procedure. Candy indicates that she will continue running her credit monitoring, but everything else will be shut down until morning.

There's a needlessly cheap-looking sequence where the lights go out in various parts of the building, but instead of simply shutting the lights out with the cameras running it's done with extremely jarring edits. I suspect the practical reason for this is that the lighting arrangement had to be completely reset between the "lights on" and "lights off" sequences, but the result is unnatural, like switching between still photographs of the same spaces taken from two just slightly different angles.

Greg and Jenny finish their lugubrious lovemaking and when they step out of the conference room Lee can't identify them and labels them as intruders.

Maybe that whole "going off the grid" thing wasn't such a great idea, Greg.

Greg can't get Candy to reactivate and identify them, so Lee orders them into the elevator to be taken to a detainment area. When they refuse, he begins locking all the offices and placing the building's defences online.

The remainder of the story is basically Lee trying to hunt down and eliminate Greg and Jenny due to his rigid computer logic, like the aforementioned HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's also reminiscent of the security program in Demon Seed 1977 that takes over and locks down a house to pursue its own agenda against the wishes of the occupants.

Yeah, I'm getting as tired of pointing out things this show is ripping off as you are of reading about them, but it's my damn job people. Cut me some slack.

So now we're into the sub-genre of "buildings trying to kill you" sci-fi, that was strangely popular in the 1980's and early 90's. Earlier in 1985 there had been a Canadian TV movie called The Tower about an automated office building that killed the people in it to provide fuel for its systems. The following year saw the schlocky "security robot goes on a killing spree" classic Chopping Mall (1986), and the year after that Doctor Who joined the fray with the underrated Seventh Doctor story Paradise Towers about a luxury housing high-rise with a murderous mind of its own and a sinister secret lurking in the depths of its sub-floors.

In 1993 Paul Reiser would star in another film called The Tower about an office building security system's attempts to eliminate an employee it doesn't recognize because it thinks he's an intruder, a plot so similar to Timeslip: The Block you'd think it was a feature-length remake. Except, of course that the very idea of anyone wanting to revisit this dreck is patently absurd. We'll just have to chalk it up to a trope permeating the culture long enough to circle back around and outlive its usefullness.

So the first thing Greg decides is that they should go back to his office and see if they can access Candy and clear up this whole wacky misunderstanding, but Lee tracks their movements and blocks them with some kind of energy barrier.

The technology is simply breathtaking.

Lee again tries to get them to enter an elevator and go to the 26th floor detention suite, but again they opt to flee via the stairs, still thinking that if they can somehow access the mainframe they might somehow get Lee to stand down.

Jenny and Greg whisperingly confer in the corner of a stairwell landing and Lee uses his super surveillance to record and attempt to amplify their voices enough to make out what they're saying. As is pretty standard in these kinds of "computers gone wild" narratives, the computer needs to tell us everything it's about to do before it does it, lest we're too stupid or disengaged to figure things out for ourselves. Lee says "Activate audio enhancement," for example, right before we see a surveillance POV shot with graphics indicating that he's enhancing the audio.

I must admit, the whole "tell us what you're doing before you do it" thing is a major pet peeve of mine in any genre of film or television. It smacks of both a lack of confidence on the part of the director in his or her own ability to convey vital information without explicitly stating it, and a vexing underestimation of an audience's capacity to piece a plot together for themselves.

I can watch an awful lot of trash and find lots to enjoy, but I immediately turn against any film or TV program that treats me like I'm not smart enough to "get" what it's trying to show me. Yes, I'm talking to you, Tim Burton's Big Fish (2003), which is an infuriating piece of shit regardless of the undeserved praise critics and audiences alike have heaped on it.

I'm not afraid to be a maverick outlier, cutting boldly against the grain of overwhelming public opinion...especially when I'm right.

Jenny and Greg find an emergency computer access terminal nestled in the stairwell a few floors up, but it's sealed inside a cabinet. They grab the nearest blunt object, which happens to be a fire extinguisher, and start banging away at the door, which owing to the way it breaks apart is clearly made of budget-grade 1/8th inch plywood spray painted gray to make it look like metal. You can just barely see this through the haze of the fire extinguisher's ejectamenta which for some reason starts spewing out all over the place almost as soon as Greg picks the thing up.

I guess it got a little over-excited.

They finally get inside the cabinet to find that the terminal is out of order. We know this because there's an "out of order" sign cellophane-taped to the front of it that looks likes it was made with a dot-matrix printer.

Worse yet, this attack on company property has caused Lee to label them as not merely run-of-the-mill intruders, but as dangerous intruders.

As the unwitting fugitives head up towards the 30th floor, Lee finally manages to isolate their previous covert conversation.

I feel like I've seen this before.

Oh, right.

When Lee hears them talking about taking him offline he decides to take detention off the table, opting instead for a more extreme protocol. His new mandate is to "erase the intruders." I think we all know what that means.

"I'm gonna rub ya out, see!"

Jenny and Greg reach a big red security door labeled "authorized personnel only" and are shocked to find that it's been electronically locked like every other non-stairwell door they've come across in the entire fucking building.

As they bemoan this totally-should-have-been-foreseen obstacle some thick yellow smoke starts pouring from a nearby vent.

"Acid gas!" cries the all-but-useless Jenny as the absolutely-useless Greg opens a panel to try to bypass the lock and nearly gets fried by a 4000 volt current Lee purposely passes across the circuit board.

Must have been low amperage or Greg would have lit up like a tiki torch.

It seems this ploy was a miscalculation on Lee's part, however, because with the panel burned out the fugitives are now able to force open the door and gain access to the mythical 30th floor.

Through the red door and up a flight of stairs Jenny and Greg find Lee's "manual override," which is just a lone computer terminal sitting on an otherwise empty desk in what appears to be a barely-used storage room. They start frantically typing in commands to try to shut him down, but Lee has another, rather unlikely trick up his sleeve.

He activates a "vacuum zone" in an attempt to suffocate the hapless duo. This is represented by a bunch of wind machines blowing shit around the room as Greg tries to prop open a door and Jenny cries that the whole "override" thing is not going to work. Greg, struggling against the wind, pulls her away from the monitor and they try to escape into the next room.

There's just a bit more material pilfered from Brazil here as they're overwhelmed by flying bits of office paperwork.

They make it through the door just before it slams shut, embrace each other in relief and look tenderly into each other's eyes, but their celebration is short-lived.

Lee now announces a 30-second countdown to their termination. They walk over to the elevator and tell him they're willing to give themselves up and voluntarily go to detention, and at first it seems Lee is willing to accept this solution. When the elevator door opens, however the car is nowhere to be seen and the vacuum-wind begins to suck them towards the open shaft.


Shredded paper spills out from a bunch of contractor bags piled in a corner, and the hapless lovers are surrounded by flying confetti as they desperately try to hold on to the door frame of the lift. Eventually a huge cylindrical storage tank falls over and starts to roll towards them.

In addition to his ability to spontaneously create a vacuum, Lee also wields the mighty power of telekinesis.

Just as it looks like Jenny and Greg are totally briffed, doomed to be either crushed by the tank or swept into the elevator shaft, everything suddenly stops, the lights go out and the room falls quiet.

Greg manages to pull the injured and unconscious Jenny to safety, and as he leans against the wall exhausted Candy suddenly activates and emits a peppy "Hi Greg!" like they're a couple of high-school friends from the Valley and she just ran into him at the Galleria.

It turns out Candy finally shut Lee down because Greg was about to be killed. It turns out she'd been monitoring things throughout the entire ordeal and had seen absolutely everything that had happened to them. Greg asks why she didn't intervene sooner. She replies "You asked me to cancel you off the recognition system, you asked me to alter the database so the building looked empty and you told me not to interrupt you unless it was a matter of life and death. I only do what you tell me!"

That was a foolproof fucking plan you dreamed up there, cupcake.

Greg has Candy restore all systems except that pesky, murderous Lee and takes Jenny down to some kind of cheesy healing pod to have her energy recharged.

Women are much like cell phones and electric toothbrushes in this way.

Back in the elevator Candy reminds Greg that he still hasn't listened to the message from personnel so he asks her to play it for him. Surprise! It's an official warning that his affair with Jenny has been noted in his record. He is being informed that no action will be taken for this transgression, but he will be in big trouble if it happens again.

No more briffing for you, young man!

Greg starts laughing maniacally as we fade back to The Hacker skulking in his lair, ready and waiting to deliver the episode's postscript.

"Greg had forgotten one simple rule. Computers are like children: the smarter they get the more careful you have to be in what you say in front of them."

Thank you for that timely advice, John Taylor of Duran Duran.

There's a famous Arkham House anthology called Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, featuring short fiction from H.P. Lovecraft and a number of his friends and correspondents whom he had encouraged to write within the subgenre he had created. There's a story in there called "The Space-Eaters" by Frank Belknap Long, and in that story there's a tiny alien creature that burrows into a man's skull and causes his brain excruciating pain every time it moves.

Watching Timeslip: The Block was kind of like that.

The End. Thanks Yorkshire Television!


So here we are at the dessert phase of what has doubtless been one of the most unpalatable meals you've ever had the misfortune to consume, and we're not about to get all succulent and toothsome on you now. We have an anti-culinary theme to follow through with here and we're far too committed to even think of backing out now.

So here's Andy Kaufman in Stick Around (1977), doing his childlike, adenoidal "Foreign Man" shtick a full year before being cast to play the same basic character on Taxi (1978-83), except here, instead of being a human from the fictional Baltic island of Caspiar, he's supposed to be a bumbling, obsolete robot butler of the distant future.

Who can tell the difference?

Taxi, is of course an Emmy-winning TV classic and one of the most fondly-remembered programs of its era. Stick Around? Not so much. If it weren't for some wag on YouTube I'm quite sure this rejected pilot would have rotted in a vault somewhere until the last inhabitants of Earth embarked on their great celestial exodus to colonize other worlds before the inevitable supernova of our sun. If only it were thus.

"Distant future" my arse. I'll probably still be alive and writing shitty reviews by then.

We cold open with some futuristic space noises, as Robot Foreign Man Andy engages in a chess match with his owner Vance Keefer. Vance's wife Elaine comes in to ask when he'd like to eat dinner that evening, but he waves her off, saying he can't be bothered at that particular moment because he's trying to concentrate on the game. She asks him "Why? I thought you programmed Andy to lose!"

Joke #1: Indicate an allegedly humorous aspect of future technology.

She tells Vance that she got a good deal on some steaks, only $58/pound. Vance tells her he remembers when they were only $32/pound.

Joke #2: Indicate an allegedly humorous parallel between contemporary and future life.

Elaine keeps trying to ask Vance about when and where they should eat and he dismisses her by saying "Ask the computer to figure it out." As she does so Andy wins the game and Elaine reports that the computer says "we're gonna eat inside at 4:30 and it's fish balls and it's gonna rain."

Joke #3: Indicate an allegedly humorous aspect of daily future life. I think you get the picture.

Now we zoom in on Elaine and she addresses the audience at home directly: "Robots that don't work, computers that fall apart...if you think things were complicated in 1977, just stick around!"

Must we?

I recall thinking at this point that I'd better brace myself because the next 28 minutes were gonna be a brutal fucking experience, and that was before I even heard the theme song, which is the musical equivalent of that ugly pincer bug thing Khan puts in Chekov's ear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Like that invasive, trauma-inducing parasite this tune will burrow deep inside your ears and make you scream in unbearable pain. If you absolutely must watch this shit because you're some kind of desperate, masochistic Andy Kaufman completist then for the sake of all that is good and pure hit the fucking mute button during the opening credits. This tune is insidiously toxic and will become your constant, unbearable companion and the incessant, maddening soundtrack of your mind for at least the next three weeks. It will slowly fade towards the end of that excruciating trial, but by then it might be too late for your health and sanity.

You have been warned.

After the opening titles we join our mismatched servant and master in Vance's antique shop, which mostly features artifacts from the 20th century. He has all sorts of knick knacks and appliances on display, but he seems to specialize in toasters, as there are at least five of them strewn about the place.

There's some "comedy business" here where Andy is supposed to be working but is too busy recharging himself, something Vance has apparently told him not to do at the shop because it sends the electric bill through the roof.

There's no reason this should be funny.
And it isn't.

Like pretty much every joke in Stick Around it's fatuous and flatly written, and there's no attempt made by the performers to add any zest to it to try to make it work. Does this recharging process tickle? Does it hurt? Does it give him some kind of synthetic erection? We just don't know, because whatever he is saying or doing at any given moment Kaufman unceasingly wears the same vapid, befuddled, bug-eyed gaze he will sport through his entire five seasons on Taxi.

Compare this banal attempt at humor to the hilarious episode of Futurama (1999-2013) where wisecracking robot Bender becomes addicted to the high of ever-escalating power-ups and you can see how adding just one little extra layer at a time can turn something bland into something brilliant.

It just makes me miss him even more.

Vance keeps insisting that Andy is outdated and malfunctioning, especially when he botches the simple job of wrapping one of the toasters a woman has just bought as a gift.

Toasters are the most inherently comical of all small kitchen appliances.

Vance is pretty much your standard sitcom foil, an exasperated blow-hard with little patience and even less charm, but third-tier character actor Fred McCarren adds an extra dimension of insufferability by playing him as a whiny, self-absorbed nebbish who feels he must pontificate on every ill-informed thought or opinion that passes through the vacant, echoing corridors of his skull. McCarren had a moderately successful career playing these kinds of parts, mostly in one-off guest appearances on television, but also in a few films such as Xanadu (1980) and Class Reunion (1982). This was his first credited role.

You'd have thought it would have been a career-killer. We should be so lucky.

Vance apologizes to the customer and asks if she could perhaps return for the toaster later after he's had a chance to wrap it himself. She says that's fine, and also indicates that she's interested in some sort of vintage planter.

Vance says he has just the thing.

You all saw that coming, didn't you?

So she takes off to do some shopping elsewhere and as Vance berates Andy for his ineptitude another gentleman comes shuffling in. Vance shows the guy what he claims is "one of those old fluorescent lamps from the 60's," but the guy tells him it's actually a heater.

It turns out this guy is actually from the 20th century, a "Cryogenic" as the inhabitants of 2055 America call them. There's a hint that Cryogenics are considered second class citizens or looked down on in some way, but Vance indicates that he has a Cryogenic neighbor and personally has nothing against them.

Networks used to bundle rejected pilots together as summer replacement anthology series. Stick Around was broadcast once, so Matt Groening may actually have seen it.

The guy says he has something any antique shop owner should enjoy seeing and pulls out an old .38 revolver. As Vance admires it the guy points it right at him, demanding money and telling him to put up his hands.

The panda anticipated this.

Vance frantically calls over Andy to protect him, telling the robber that he's bulletproof and practically indestructible, but idiot Andy says "No, I'm not," and hands over the till without so much as a protest. He even goes so far as to offer the guy additional money they keep stored in the back of the shop.

Later that evening Andy is sitting on the sofa back at the Keefer's apartment, where Vance is whining about his constantly malfunctioning and Elaine is trying to mend some damage to his circuitry through an access panel under his boxy epaulets. She finishes the repair and they send the robot away to his cupboard so they can have a private talk.

It seems Elaine has had Andy since she was a child and he was her constant companion growing up, having even helped to raise her. She's deeply attached to him, but her selfish, jealous, perpetually butt-hurt husband has been trying to convince her to get rid of him so they can buy a newer model.

Andy has been listening in from the next room, so when the doorbell rings he makes a big, conspicuous deal out of the fine job he's doing by going and answering it.

The visitor turns out to be Joe Burkus, the Keefer's Cryogenic neighbor, who thinks Andy looks like some Jewish guy he used to know back in the 20th century.

It's just not a 70's sitcom without a quirky neighbor.

As Elaine welcomes Mr. Burkus into the living room Andy tells Vance how he's done answering the door now so he's going to go make the bed and fluff the pillowcases and iron the sheets, because he's a good and useful butler who definitely should not be melted down as scrap or sold for spare parts.

Prove it, tin man.

Burkus asks if it's true that Vance was robbed by a Cryogenic and laments that when one Cryo does something wrong they all get blamed.

That's about as much development as this aspect of the future world gets, at least in this pilot. The show is far more interested in giving Kaufman the opportunity to bumble through badly-written set pieces with his silly voice and crude slapstick than in exploring any intriguing sci-fi concepts.

Elaine suggests they have some drinks before they all go shopping together, which makes me wonder...did people really do this? I've never once gone shopping with a neighbor no matter how friendly we were, but I've noticed it happens in old sitcoms all the time.

Anyway Andy comes back from his chores in the bedroom and because he's malfunctioning again he walks in backwards. Elaine points this out and he corrects himself. She asks him to fix them some "Vita-Cool" which is apparently the Slurm of this particular era.

I wonder if there's a "Vita-Cools McKenzie."

There's a brief conversation about how Burkus' wife Jenny is still frozen, and that his greatest fear is that someone will find a cure for what killed her and bring her back to life and he'll have to look at her saggy boobs and pretend to be interested in all that pointless, droning shit she talks again. This might have been funny except we're also clearly supposed to buy into Burkus being a super sweet guy and a great neighbor, so it just comes across as weirdly dissonant. The show is generally too broad a farce to also manage dark and edgy satire.

So Andy, in his efforts to prove himself worthy of his continued employment and existence, makes an extra special presentation of the drinks, complete with skewered fruit and swanky cocktail umbrellas.

He then proceeds to cheerfully walk up onto the back of the couch and dump the entire tray onto the floor.

For Vance this is the last straw. He states in no uncertain terms that Andy is to be immediately sold. Andy says he's absolutely fine with whatever they decide, and that whatever happens to him Elaine shouldn't worry. Then his arm falls off.

And so we fade to what must have been the most welcome commercial break in television history.

This is as good a time as any to mention that Andy Kaufman would later play another malfunctioning robot butler in Heartbeeps (1981), a film that makes Stick Around look like Casablanca (1942).

When we return we fade in on Vance and Elaine as they relax together inside a giant toaster.

Again with the damn toasters.

The two seem to be in some kind of blissful, trance-like state, and they don't even seem to notice when the doorbell rings. A tall, broad-shouldered robot in a white uniform steps jauntily across the living room to answer it, and when Burkus steps in he's surprised to see that Andy is no longer the Keefer's butler.

He looks like a crewman on The Love Boat (1976-1990)

Burkus asks the new butler, a recent model robot on loan from Elaine's parents named Earl, if Andy has been sold yet, and Earl snarkily tells him no, saying "If you ask me they'll have to give him away!"

Earl is played as a sniping homosexual stereotype by middling character actor Craig Richard Nelson. Pretty much everything in Stick Around has aged badly, from the jokes to the costumes to the sets to the music, but this very 70's, camp cliche may be the worst thing about the whole project. Every time Earl opens his mouth you want to wince, simultaneously disgusted by the portrayal and embarrassed for the actor being asked to perform it.

Burkus asks what the Keefers are doing in the giant toaster thing and Earl explains that it's a "harmonizer" that promotes peace and resolves personal conflict. Just at that moment a bell goes off and the two lovebirds rise from the slots, calmly and blissfully cooing "I love you's" to each other.

Elaine had hoped that a good session in the machine would change Vance's mind about selling Andy, but despite his current tranquility he's as determined to do so as ever. He does admit, however that just because he wants to get rid of Andy it doesn't mean he likes Earl any better.

"Just what the fuck do you like, Vance?"

So the Keefers step out of the thing and suggest that Earl show Burkus to "the leisure room," indicating that it's just about time for an "I Love Lucy" rerun. Burkus is shocked that they still show it in 2055 but Earl assures him "They never stopped!"

Comedy face: Activate!

Andy now shuffles out to answer the doorbell and Earl sassily informs him he's ten minutes late for that job, girlfriend. Earl conjectures that Andy has a problem with one of his coils (oh, I'll bet he does) but after a little sneak peek into one of the shoulder circuit panels Earl declares that it's pointless to even attempt a repair. As he passes by Andy to lead Burkus to the leisure room, Andy sticks his foot out and purposely trips him.

"Snap! Who's the sassy bitch now?"

So we fade to Burkus and the Keefers finishing up their meal, with Earl mincing about clearing the dishes and snarking about what an absolute beast of a messy eater Vance is. Vance asks him "how'd you like to have your connecting rods pulled," and Earl retorts "How'd you like to have your hair pulled?"

"Only if you also slap my ass!"

As Earl retreats to the kitchen there's a perfunctory jab at vegetarians, where Burkus the 1970's Neanderthal just cannot believe they've been eating plant-based substitutes instead of actual meat. I'm sure this seemed like cutting-edge satire in 1977, but in today's culinary world where tofu, seitan, tempeh and twelve varieties of Tofurky are readily available in every supermarket it seems a quaint and pointless observation at best.

Elaine crows about what a great cook Earl is and Vance dismissively states that he should be for what her parents paid for him. Just then there's a great crash from inside the kitchen.

Vance shouts, asking what's happening, but Andy emerges with a tray full of dessert, claiming nothing is wrong. He says there was a window stuck and he just lifted up Earl to help him reach it. Vance says for the million and a half dollars Earl cost he shouldn't need help, in fact he should be able to do pretty much anything. Andy responds "I bet he can't fly."

"Andy, you little scamp! What are you up to?"

Next thing you know Earl comes stumbling in the front door, filthy, disheveled and banged up like a two dollar whore on Two-fer Tuesday.

It was worth every penny he earned.

It turns out, of course that Andy didn't just help Earl close a window, he actually threw him out of one, which to be honest would be a nearly irresistible temptation if the opportunity arose. This incident effectively ends the argument over whether Andy should stay or go, however as even Elaine must now agree that it would be foolhardy and perhaps even dangerous to keep him. She reluctantly agrees to sell him.

We cut to a married couple proverbially kicking Andy's tires to see if they want to purchase him.

Well...this is awkward.

The woman notes that his body seems to be in good shape and Andy turns to her and replies "Thank you. So is yours!"

Vance doesn't want the couple to be offended and possibly fail to rid him of the troublesome robot, so he tells them Andy's comment is a joke, explaining that they had him upgraded with a sense of humor a few years before. This seems to satisfy the credulous rubes, and they ask Andy to go ahead and tell them a joke.

This is where Kaufman gets to demonstrate his "Foreign Man" shtick in earnest, lifting a routine from his own standup shows where he tells a long, involved joke in a made-up foreign language. He would later recycle this exact gag for Taxi.

Is it still intellectual property theft if it's not at all intellectual and you're stealing it from yourself?

The wife seems to be extremely pleased with what she's seen so far, but the husband isn't quite so sure.

Elaine walks in, and when the lady asks how Andy is with housework, she tells her he's just average, clearly trying to spoil the sale. Andy for his part turns to the lady and says "I don't do windows."

That's a reference to an old Windex ad campaign. I know this because I am old.

Elaine is worried that Andy won't be treated well or will break down from the stress of separation wherever he ends up, but Vance is determined to be rid of him today, even if he has to lie to close the deal.

The woman meanwhile asks if Andy is programmed for dancing. It seems she's taking a class in 20th century ballroom and her husband isn't into it at all. Vance, of course claims that Andy is a great dancer and he invites her to try him out.

Andy is hesitant at first but does a passable job of it, and the woman is actually kind of impressed with his sweet moves. When she asks if he "dips" however he demonstrates his skill by sweeping her off her feet and planting a big, wet kiss right on her mouth.

He came factory-installed with the standard "sexual assault module."

After an uncomfortably long time they are able to pry Andy away, and the husband asks in a shocked and disgusted tone "Does he have a Libidorator?"

She sure hopes he does.

As the husband drags her out the door the woman says to Andy "You can call us...I'm in the book!" Ha! Like anybody still uses the phone book.

Vance complains that Andy has pulled stunts like this to sabotage every potential sale. He reiterates that whether they sell him or send him packing or have him scrapped, he needs to get the fuck out pronto.

Andy tries to appeal to nostalgia for all the experiences they've had together, and when Vance turns away and refuses to listen, he instead goes to work on Elaine. He speaks of how he helped to raise her when her parents were away, of all the wonderful moments they shared baking cookies and playing games together. Elaine is torn, but she knows that it's either Vance or Andy at this point and she's already made her choice.

Meanwhile the doorbell rings and when Andy opens it who should be there but the comically mismatched husband and wife, who announce that they've talked it over and decided they're gonna buy him after all.

We all know who wears the pants in their family.

Andy abruptly shuts the door and tells the Keefers no one was there...

We fade to the basement of the Keefer's apartment building where Andy is busy attaching jumper cables from the power generator to the circuit boards beneath his epaulettes, presumably as a prelude to frying himself out of existence.

Yes! Do it...DO IT!

Vance comes down looking for Andy, probably at the prompting of his wife. He asks what he's doing Andy replies that if he can't live with them he doesn't want to live anywhere. Vance tells him to go ahead and kill himself, but warns he'll only be breaking Elaine's heart. Which is pretty fucking harsh coming from the guy who drove the poor sap to it in the first place.

Robot suicide: always good for a laugh.

Andy has an emotional breakdown now, accusing Vance of hating and mistreating him (fair enough), and claiming that even when he handed the money over to the robber in the shop it was not because he was malfunctioning but because he wanted to keep Vance from getting hurt (probably bullshit).

He says that everything he does for Vance is because he still cares about him, despite the constant berating and abominable abuse he has had to endure at his hands.

They end up having a little heart to heart talk now where they speak freely, let go of some misconceptions about one another, drink a little wine, have a few laughs and a really good cry...

...leading inevitably to sudden passionate sex and weeks of unanswered text messages.

The short of it is that Vance relents and tells Andy he can stay. Just then Elaine comes running down the stairs, overjoyed at what she's just overheard from her voyeuristic perch beyond the generator.

They engage in a group hug, but because loveable old dope Andy forgot to unhook the cables they all get hilariously electrocuted.

D'oh! That Andy!

He manages to switch off the power before it kills them and they all have an amiable end-of-sitcom chortle as the closing credits begin to roll.

Well I suppose it's pretty clear not only that I think this sucked, but also that I just don't much care for Andy Kaufman. I know he has a huge following amongst the irony-loving hipster crowd and that many truly gifted comedians look up to him as some kind of groundbreaking genius, but for me his odd, dispassionate stand-up routines and obnoxious publicity stunts always seemed either to hinge on making the audience uncomfortable or to be distasteful expressions of genuine cruelty. In acting roles he seems to repeatedly play the same few stock characters or to be strangely disinterested in his own performances. To each his own, I suppose, but at best I've never found him funny and at worst he inspires actual antagonism. That said, I think even many of his most stalwart fans would have a hard time finding much to enjoy in Stick Around.

As I've pointed out above it shares quite a few plot elements with Futurama (which is one of my favorite shows), but I think It's vanishingly unlikely that the latter program could have been inspired by it in any way. It's far more likely that they both emerged from some of the same shared influences. Both seem to owe a particular debt to Woody Allen's excellent sci-fi parody Sleeper (1973).

Which features a cryogenically frozen 20th century guy waking in the future and disguising himself as a robot butler.

Whereas Futurama ambitiously strikes a balance between madcap comedy and authentic human emotion, transforming cultural references into outrageous satire and repurposing familiar sci-fi tropes to tell genuinely intriguing stories, Stick Around seeks only to be passably amusing but fails even at that. It's anemic and forgettable, and six months from now I'd be surprised if I could remember a single pertinent detail about it.

Except the theme song. That fucker's gonna haunt me for the rest of my life.

The End.

Want more shitty TV? Of course you do! Check out The Pilot Project #1 here!

Special thanks to Instagram user Propagatrix for suggesting I review Stick Around.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in April, 2020.

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