Tuesday, February 23, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I like to call "Swamp Thing In The Way She Moves" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A walking salad bar, a plan - Panama!
Season One / Episode Three : From Beyond the Grave

Grandma snuffed it between episodes, but she's still sticking around to make life difficult for Anton Arcane and his creepy-peepy fingers.



Jim and Tressa visit Savannah's grave, indicating for the first time pretty much whose funeral it was that everyone was attending last episode. I mean, I know they mentioned it, but it was almost sub-sonic --- plus, this time we learn that Savannah lived to a comfortable old age of (subtracts 1930 from 1990) ... sixty. Well, at least it ... was a full life.

Tressa is startled the next morning by Everett Baxter (Brett Rice), a greased-up convenience-store pickled wiener in wire-frame glasses. Sweating pure salt brine, Evvie delivers unfortunate news in the form of an eviction notice and a previously-unrevealed codicil to her mother's will dictating that (A) Tressa gets nothing and (B) get the fuck out of my house.

"Good morning, I'm a Vienna Sausage in a suit. Have you heard the good news about Jesus Christ?"


This sends Tressa and Jim on a quest to find what they know to be grandma's legit will, hidden somewhere in the swamp or the house or possibly in the sky, for all I know. Emotional dismay over the confusing revelations visit upon both Jim and Tressa complicated and terrifying dreams. Jim just gets scared by grandma leaning in too close for a kiss from her favorite (?) grandson, but Tressa gets a full-fledged late-series M*A*S*H quality series of night terrors, and even gets to haul her dead mom's disembodied arm out of a hole in the mud. Neat!

A slightly tone-deaf figure approaches Tressa from behind, singing this popular ditty I'm sure we'll all remember from Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve:

See the ship
Hear it speak
From deep down in the hole

See the ship
Hear it creak
It has a secret to unfold

AWWWWW SUFFRAGETTE


And guest-starring grandma as the ghost of Huckleberry Finn


Even in her waking world, Tressa is getting haunted by off-key ghosts. Even worse, Anton Arcane shows up to hissingly libido-ize the whole scene, and to drop major hints that he arranged for all this alternate will nonsense.

In literally the funniest bit of physical action I've seen recently - and definitely on this show - Anton confronts Baxter as the lawyer pulls an all-nighter at his office. Before he even speaks, the first thing Mark David Chapman's Anton Arcane does is to tip Baxter's desk lamp backwards 90 degrees, so that the light is shining under his chin like a flashlight during a scary story at camp. And then he launches into his very intimidating confrontation with Baxter - this is fine over-the-top evil guy comedy. If the show keeps it up, they may end up having something here (I strongly suspect they won't have anything, but I live in hope).

Genuinely funny.


Jim serenades Swamp Thing with the most musically-incompetent version of the song so far, and then Tressa demands an encore so, frankly, every character on this show clearly hates the audience and is punishing them.

Still, time is running short - very short, considering the running time of these episodes - so Jim gets to have a dream which explicitly explains where the actual will is hidden, and even then Swamp Thing has to straight-up tell him "Look, it's right here, I'll get it for you" before Jim even gets close.

Jim and Tressa hop into the swamp, unaware that they're being hunted by oily human pluot Baxter, armed with a child's bow and arrow set. It's the SOUTH, Baxter, get a rifle. Even that bird man from last episode got a rifle.

"I said, have you heard the good news about Jesus Christ!!!" 

When Tressa believes she's found the will's hiding place, Jim's contribution is the troubling admission that he can't really tell the difference between dreams and the waking world. No time to act on that obvious cry for help, though, as Baxter comes trundling through the forest, firing blunted plastic arrows at the duo. This would be a good time for Swamp Thing to get off his grass and contribute something to this episode besides kibbitzing kids' dreams, but it's Jim who manages to stop the chaos by hucking thick chunks of wood at the evil lawyer. No Jim, you promised, no more knocking the skulls of middle-aged men wide open with branches!

The injured Baxter is set upon by alligators, after which Jim and Tressa visit grandma's grave and leave her hat and stuff just lying in the nearby dirt. IN BETWEEN THESE SCENES, however, is a twenty-second interlude during which a shirtless Anton Arcane performs Hotspur from Act 1, Scene III of Henry IV in his laboratory/cave thing, shouting at the top of his lungs, turning over tables, and accidentally looking right into the camera at least three times. It's baffling, and I have a strong suspicion that someone said "Mark, we need you to show how upset Arcane is at the undermining of his plan, but we don't have any lines written. Can you fake it?" and it went from there.

Yup, right into the camera, there.


Still, easily the best scene of this episode, which is now over. See you in two weeks!


1 comment:

Patrick Clark said...

Looking over the IMDB page for this show, and it was a career killer. All of the lead actors bios include the phrase "...known for Swamp Thing....", which is not something you want to be known for.

Kari Wuhrer, who appears in 10 episodes as Abigail, seems to be the most prominent player in this series to actually get a bigger role down the line, starring in Sliders for 3 years.

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