Today we continue our on-going series of retro-reviews as we take a look at the original Amazing Stories television show that aired across the 1985 and 1986 seasons on NBC. Executive Produced by none other that Hollywood’s science fiction impressario, Steven Spielberg and featuring scripts and direction from some of tinsel town’s hottest (1980s) talents.
Spielberg negotiated an unprecedented deal with NBC back then; a million dollar’s per episode budget, an entire two seasons purchased outright and Spielberg would have complete creative control; the show was nominated for 12 Emmy’s during its run and won several, for supporting acting, cinematography, sound editing and makeup.
Though often panned by critics, it was enjoyed by many – enough to make nostalgia a factor in returning the show to the air over thirty years later.
The name Amazing Stories was originally licensed by TSR Inc., then publishers of the magazine, to NBC for use as the show’s title; in 2015, the current publishers of the magazine again licensed the name for its use.
SEASON 01: EPISODE 05
THE AMAZING FALSWORTH first aired November 5th, 1985
Directed by Peter Hyams
Story Developed by Steven Spielberg, Joshua Brand, John Falsey
Teleplay by Mick Garris
Story by Steven Spielberg
Gregory Hines … Falsworth
Richard Masur … Trent Tinker
Don Calfa … Messenger
Suzanne Bateman … Gail
Robert Lesser … Young Man
Joseph G. Medalis … Jimmy
Sally Stark … Older Woman
Warning: Spoilers may be ahead.
Directed by Peter Hyams, who gave us 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Outland, End of Days…not even he can save us from this terribly telegraphed, untwisted idiot’s plot of a story.
Gregory Hines’ talent is wasted as a night club performing psychic (thanks to Campbell, we have to continue to endure the sad idea that “psychic phenomena” and “paranormal happenings” are considered to be part of the science fiction tableau) who’s touch of an audience member reveals a serial killer.
Idiot’s plot – the term used for a story that would not hang together except for the idiotic choices made by the characters. We begin this episode watching a club performer nervously walk down an alley she need not walk down; of course she is strangled to death by the “Keyboard Killer” (he uses piano strings); we continue to watch in utter fascinated horror as a skid row bum – witness to the murder – runs to a phone booth – IN FULL VIEW OF THE KILLER – to call the police. Surprise – he’s killed too.
As the police arrive (miraculously with just a couple of seconds of the phone call) the killer enters a night club by the back alley door and takes a seat (with no one wondering why he’s come in the back way; with no hostess seating him, no waitress taking his “one drink minimum” order) as Hines – The Amazing Falsworth – takes the stage.
I’ll not belabor with more detail: the killer masquerades as a police officer, luring Farnsworth to his home where all is revealed, there is a struggle and Falsworth manages to prevail, cue another call to the police.
This one is hardly worth the time, though Hines’ performance is pretty good.