Tag Archives: television

BILL HICKS: ONE NIGHT ONLY, IN THIS STORY.

American: The Bill Hicks Story
American: The Bill Hicks Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill Hicks used to joke, in his stand-up comedy act, that persons who worked in marketing (and/or advertising, if I recall) should kill themselves. His next line was even funnier: one of these fictional marketers, seemingly unaffected by this venomous suggestion, reacting with approval, “Say, Bill’s really tapping into that ‘anti-marketing’ demographic.”  He was not aiming his humorous ire at real persons in a nightclub’s audience, but rather, at Wall Street culture’s nonstop blaring on every broadcast channel, its gaudy visuals on almost every printed page.

Hicks was what I like to call a comic pugilist; he brooked no disrespect for his point of view, abrasive and provocative though it was.  He suffered censorship problems, got edited (or just plain dropped) from a few television shows, had to find his success in England after many Stateside career frustrations.  He kept slugging away at his favorite topics – religion, drug use, hypocrisy, war – until his tragic, premature death from cancer, in 1994, when he was just thirty-two.

I wonder what he would make of today’s media-saturated world, in which we swim in e-mail and Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  Two decades after his time in the spotlight, it seems, everyone is in marketing (and/or advertising), and everyone has a “Brand of one“, and we bloggers are no exception to this. Just yesterday, for example, when I learned that actor Russell Crowe might be developing a Bill Hicks bio-film, I thought, “Say, that’s going to be excellent for his brand,” because hey, it’s 2013, and we think (and say, and write) things like that now.

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THIS IS NOT A “NUMBER”, IT’S A “FREE” STORY

Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, in a scene fro...
Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, in a scene from the episode “Free for All”, appears on the cover of the first continuation novel based upon the series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I became a fan of the brilliant and weird T.V. series, The Prisoner, before I was wizened enough to comprehend just what made it so great.  It’s become a classic of Sixties television and the pop culture of that decade although it strained to be not of its time, but outside of it. Irish-American actor Patrick McGoohan had already played a “more realistic” variation of James Bond in the series Danger Man – renamed Secret Agent for U.S. viewers – but he wanted The Prisoner to push hard in the opposite direction, so his ex-secret agent is abducted to “The Village”, an Orwellian mind-control experiment wrapped in the phony elegance of a resort community (the show filmed at a real Welsh beach hotel), employing all manner of fantasy gadgets and bizarre schemes to break his will.

Each of its 17 episodes forced the protagonist, “Number Six” (his real name is never used) to defend his physical and mental freedom from the creepy minions of an unseen interrogator, the inevitable “Number One” – who “only” wants to know why Six resigned, what he knows, and whether he’d be willing to “join the team”. Six wants to escape, to unmask One, and to shut down the Village. Each scheme to conquer him would involve some fantastic device: a machine to televise his dreams; a mind-swap, with another agent; even a double who apes him so well, he is forced to impersonate himself.  A giant, roaring balloon enforces “permanent guest” status; it’s called Rover, but this is no playful pet.

Some of the materials may feel like Swinging Sixties artifacts (i.e. the “speed-learning” computer, designed to brainwash Villagers, takes up one entire wall; it would fit on your desktop today) but the ideas discussed have real power, even today. Watch any scene in which a control-room team scrutinizes Six in his dwelling – see if it doesn’t remind you of the current firestorm surrounding corporate and government surveillance of our citizenry. Even the ritual hand salute of Villagers looks somewhat like an eye peering through a keyhole; that surely cannot be a coincidence. In a final twist, Six [REDACTED]… well, as the Villagers are fond of saying: “That would be telling.” You’ll have to watch and decide what happens.

A RICHARD MATHESON TRIBUTE STORY

English: American science fiction author Richa...
English: American science fiction author Richard Matheson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Richard Matheson has left us, and more’s the pity, for he gave us so much.  This is not even a full list of his “Number 1 hits”, let alone of his full body of work:

Film: for Roger Corman, he converted Edgar Allen Poe’s gripping prose into the silver-tongued speeches of Vincent Price villainy; The Masque of the Red Death is lurid and comical.  He turned a regular guy into The Incredible Shrinking Man; unleashed a world of vampires upon the anti-hero lead of I Am Legend (that actors as different as Price, Charlton Heston, and Will Smith have portrayed Neville speaks volumes about how malleable, and mythic, that story has been).  He launched grieving men on otherworldly searches for love, in the distant past (Bid Time Return, filmed as Somewhere In Time) or in the Afterlife (What Dreams May Come);

Television: He dreamed up, for The Twilight Zone, the “toy aliens” who invaded a farm house, a World War I pilot whisked to 1960, the gremlin on the wing of that airliner, etc.  He is “to blame” for the transporter accident that split Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk into warring “angel” and “devil” twins.  He let loose a demented, never-seen (and possibly, supernatural) trucker to besiege Dennis Weaver’s terrified motorist, in Duel.  He sent Kolchak, the Night Stalker on his first monster hunts.  He influenced Stephen King; The X-Files even named a UFO-seeking senator after him.

He was also kind and generous towards his fans; for instance, he once sent out a friendly, and helpful, reply to an awkward letter I had written to him, seeking professional advice from a Grand Master.  Besides possessing such epic talent, he was reputed to be quite an excellent person, too, which suggests that those are not mutually exclusive traits, after all (take that, “divas” everywhere!). He is Legend, all right.