Sunday afternoons are fucking boring, man. Sunday afternoons in New Hampshire are even worse. Enough to make you want to hang yourself, in fact. Nothing to do. Nowehere to go and the only thing on TV is golf, candlepin bowling and QVC. Of course, I’m talking about back in 1989 when I first caught wind of Friday the 13th: The Series. Things haven’t changed much since those days, though. There’s still nothing on TV, you just have hundreds more channels to surf and a lot of paid programming.
This review also marks the first TV on DVD review I’ve done, which is a feat since there’s a lot more to watch than one lousy movie. I’m not too hot on TV shows released to DVD because I never really feel the need to revisit them once I’ve gone through a whole season and the boxes tend to sit on the shelf forever before I sell them to Gamestop for video games. Maybe it’s because I like reruns but if you’re going to catch up on a single season of TV, do it this way. No ads, no waiting. Just one long rush of continuity. I caught up with Lost and The Sopranos this way and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Louis Vendredi was an occultist and antique dealer who made a deal with the devil to let him live forever and gain great quanitities of coin as long as he did the devil’s bidding. In this case, the devil bid that he sell all these cursed antiques that did nasty things to the people who bought them. However, he grew tired of being Satan’s puppet and instead opted to break the deal which ended as he plummeted to hell. All his shit wound up in probate and gets passed on to his niece, Micki and nephew, Ryan who promptly hold a fire sale to get rid of the antiques and the shop. Along comes Jack Marshak in the middle of the night bearing the truth about Uncle Louis and the antiques and this begins the cousins’ quest to get everything back and placed in a special vault that can contain the evil.
This is the basic set up of the series which is like a highly serialized version of any horror anthology show you can think of. Each antique sets the backdrop with new characters in each episode with the overarching plot about getting back the goods and it’s not a bad idea, either. You could carry this show on forever (it lasted three seasons) or, should it get cancelled, you just end it with the quest to get back the last item. Not a bad device, if you ask me.
Like I said in the intro, I caught on to this show in 1989 when it used to run back to back with another suspiciously Canadian looking show, The War of the Worlds. Eventually it would end its run and would be replaced by this cyborg cop show that I can’t remember the title of, but really, it all depended on your market. Friday the 13th: The Series was, in fact, a show developed with syndication in mind and was never tied to any single network. In my locale, it was run at the strange aforementioned timeslot on sundays on a UHF station that would eventually become a UPN affiliate or whatever it’s called these days.
The show stars John LeMay who also stars in the 9th Friday the 13th movie, Jason Goes To Hell as Ryan and Louise Robey a Canadian model known best by her last name and also known for a cover of the Tim Rice song One Night In Bangkok from Chess as his cousin Micki. Both are capable actors given the shows shaky budget. The show is also notable for featuring episodes directed by Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, both featured in this set.
The real star of the show, however, is the writing. Each week features a new cursed item with the kind of irony found in the pages of Tales From The Crypt or any given episode of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike The Zone and much like Tales From The Crypt, the episodes tended to fall on the particularly violent side. You can get away with that on TV today, no problem, but back then this was unheard of. Each episode features a similar premise where Ryan, Micki and Jack have to gain the antique owner’s trust by some shady means in order to get the item back. Maybe they had to infiltrate, say, a frat or a monastery and it’s usually a clever if far fetched set-up. I’m pleased to report that early teenaged memories didn’t really cloud the works too much and the show holds up very well. It’s horribly dated from a fashion and pop culture perspective as Micki is the fiance of an awful yuppie and Ryan dresses exclusively in a wardrobe provided by Chess King, but who gives a shit, right? Shaky acting and special effects barely marr a show with such strong writing and clever execution.
The DVD presentation isn’t too bad, either. Often times, the master tapes of a show like this, sit in some vault, horribly kept and don’t preserve too well, but the show comes across nicely on DVD, only a little grainy and occasionally a little too dark. You get some extras, but they’re pretty weak limited to some promotional clips that run less than a minute and then a 9 minute sales reel used to peddle the show to potential networks. They’re really not worth talking about. The show is a genuine piece of cult TV, though, so it’s just nice to finally have these on disc since finding them anywhere in broadcast is nigh-impossible.