No Hockey Masks or Machetes Allowed
(Top 10 Episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series)
For Tim and Sarah
Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990) may have been the best television show of the 1980’s. It is definitely in my top ten of TV shows. There was nothing like it on the air at that time. Combining the horror of past shows like The Twilight Zone, fellow anthology shows Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, and Night Stalker—with the modern horror of the films of its day (gore and sex) was brilliant.
This TV series has no relation to Jason or the Friday the 13th films except its producers. Originally it was to be called The 13th Hour, but it was probably a better marketing idea to cash in on the films. Strangely, now there is a TV show in the works based on the films and will share the same title. That’s lazy on the part of network execs. You can just as easily use the Jason name in the title and everyone will know who you are talking about. In England, the show was known as Friday’s Curse.
This show was created by Frank Mancuso Jr. and Larry B. Williams. Shot and produced in Canada. I wonder if this was one of the shows to give producers an idea how many great locations and how much cheaper it was to film in Canada. The eerie theme music was composed by Fred Mollin.
The premise is that two cousins by marriage who never met, inherit an antiques shop after its owner, Uncle Lewis Vendredi (played by great character actor R.G. Armstrong—Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, White Lightning, Children of the Corn), dies mysteriously. Micki and Ryan soon learn that the antiques sold there were all cursed by the devil himself. With the help of Jack Marshak, the three hunt down these objects, learn the dangers of this job, even feel guilty not being able to prevent deaths.
That’s what separates this show from a lot of copy cats (Warehouse 13). It’s very human and you get to know characters.
Also the talented group of writers and directors, actors, staff that ran this show, made it look and feel like a network TV series, not a low budget syndicated show. The stars had charisma, and melded well with each other. John D. Lemay as Ryan, pop star Robey as Micki, ever reliable Chris Wiggins as Jack Marshak, and later Steven Monarque as Johnny. 72 episodes were made, three seasons. Here’s the list:
1. Stick it in Your Ear (Season 3 Episode 4)
A hearing aid that lets the wearer hear the thoughts of people around him. Adam Cole is a mentalist in a double act that is going badly because he has a hearing problem. He goes to the ear doctor and promptly steals an antique hearing aide. This enables him to hear others thoughts. The only problem is the thoughts build up inside and if he doesn’t release them onto another poor unsuspecting soul, his body could release them for him, which is like an overload.
Why is this my favorite episode? How it handles the subject of con artists working in the so called “Spirit” profession. They make people think they have supernatural powers by using old Magician’s tricks, and steal hard earned money from the working class. It’s also one of the gorier episodes and a sex scene that the producers got away with because of late night syndication. But the script, direction, and acting is perfectly executed. It also contains my favorite quote and delivery between Jack and Johnny. Johnny: You guys won’t let me write about any of this stuff. Jack: that’s because you write fiction and that has to make sense. According to Wikipedia, this episode was influenced by Magician and debunker James Randi accused (and proved) that Healer Peter Poppoff used a hearing device to receive information about his congregation that he regularly cured of all medical problems they had.
2. Faith Healer (Season 1 Episode 12)
“First the glove heals, then it kills to pay for it.”
David Cronenberg directed this gem. The story bears some resemblance to the episode above, except a white glove that can heal, and if those ailments are not rid of in good time, the owner has the problems ten folds. What a unique and great idea, one I hadn’t seen used in horror television before. Just like the episode above, the makers had to have been following James Randi’s exploits to come up with this story. It also deals with body horror, which fit right in with Cronenberg’s other films. It even has one of Cronenberg’s mainstays guesting, Robert A. Silverman as a debunker, named Jerry, who specializes in faith healing con men. Jack and Jerry go way back, never seeing eye to eye about whether supernatural exists or not. The best thing about this episode is the twist in the story, something the viewer wouldn’t expect.
3. The Inheritance (Season 1 Episode 1)
This was the pilot episode about a killer doll. The episode that explains the premise of the show and introduces Jack, Micki, and Ryan. Sarah Polley is a little girl, Mary, who hates her stepmother, and to be frank, rightfully so. The woman is overbearing and controlling, and downright mean to the little girl. They wander into the shop and discover Uncle Lewis ready to close. They talk him into letting them look around and Little Mary sees a doll she wants. Lewis has second thoughts about selling it, and tells them to leave. Turning away a customer of cursed items has dire consequences, and the Devil or evil presence kills Uncle Lewis. Next we meet Micki who is about to marry a successful Lawyer. She has the intention of selling the shop. She meets Cousin Ryan. She convinces Ryan to have a sale so she can get back to her life, but Ryan really has nothing else going on. During the sale, Mary’s father buys the doll for her. The doll begins to talk to her, and they make a pact to rid themselves of the stepmother just as she wants to take the doll away. One late night they catch Jack Marshak sneaking around, and this is where Jack relates his story that he was the one that travelled the world collecting the antique oddities for Lewis to sell. They discover the manifest and the contract between the Devil and Lewis. The show is off and running.
4. Shadow Boxer (Season 1 Episode 8)
The cursed item is boxing gloves. When used, literally the shadow of a boxer appears on walls or buildings and beats their victim to death. A never- was been sweeps the floors and is prodded by fellow trainees at the gym, gives him cause for vengeance and builds an even bigger bloated ego. He first discovers the gloves in the manager’s office tries them on, and when the manager catches him, the shadow beats the manager to death. This definitely could have fit into the Twilight Zone. At one instance even Jack gets caught up in a tangle with that shadow.
5. Wedding Bell Blues (Season 2 Episode 22)
This episode is about a cursed pool stick. Danny is a talented pool hustler who is up to win 5,000 dollars in a big match. His fiancé Jennifer believes that he is the man who of her dreams. Jack and Ryan go off to find cursed snow shoes, leaving Micki to mind the store and eventually team up with that kid Johnny who is helping locate that pool stick. This is where we meet Johnny who ended up replacing Ryan as one of the main pursuers of cursed objects. This episode is notable for Lolita Davidovich guest starring as the sister of a woman who would do anything to make her boyfriend a success. Full of characters who care of nothing but themselves and pay the price for it.
6. Tattoo (Season 1 Episode 16)
This one is about a cursed tattoo kit. Gambler Tommy Chen can’t win for losing. He sees a rival gambler using a tattoo kit that not only gives good luck, but the tattoos he places on his victims come to life to ensure death as the price. Tommy kills the rival and takes the tattoo kit. His grandfather notices the writing on the box, he knows its evil and also the name of Lewis’s shop. He calls Jack and asks to return it. Which turns out that the kit is listed in the manifest. Tommy also owes quite a bit of money to the mob. He is given 24 hours to bring in a lot of money in a short time. An excellent episode that brings the gang into Chinatown and introduces the idea that they are a family, whether they believe it or not. The animation in this episode is tremendous, must have cost a fortune for TV.
7. Hate on Your Dial (Season 3 Episode 6)
Cursed 1950’s car stereo that can take you back to a simpler time, before you had to give people of color their rights. A poignant episode. Very well written (notable for replacing the adage of the N word with colored), extremely well-acted episode. You can see the influence of the 1988 film Mississippi Burning here.
Robert A. Silverman guest stars again, this time playing slow-witted Archie who buys the cursed car radio for his Brother Ray’s 1954 Chevy. When blood is drawn, the car can take whoever is in the vehicle back to that year. It’s no surprise that Ray hate’s black people, because his father (a member of the Klan) had murdered a black man and a mysterious witness put him in prison and eventually put to death by the state. Ray is enamored to be back in the past and see his father, whom he never met.
A ballsy episode, and frankly, I don’t think they can produce such a story these days in this PC world. Terrible times, no one should have to go through any kind of racism, or torment for their skin color or for any reason. But when dealing with villains of any kind, you can’t water it down (as in the last season of American Horror Story with Kathy Bates character). When you watch this episode, you come away informed and again, the villains in this episode have reason for the things they do, and the show doesn’t apologize, because they are villains. The ending is just and satisfying, the scenes with the Klan a lot scarier than anything the show has ever produced.
8. The Great Montarro (Season 1 Episode 6)
A pair of Houdin cabinets is the focus of this one. We get to see Jack discuss his early days as a magician. There is death as payment as always, and the victims get locked in the cabinets to guarantee magic works. Jack and Micki enter a magic contest. One of the few episodes where the owner doesn’t know about the curse. A very bloody episode. Once again we see Jack converse with people he knew back in his days as something other than a pursuer of cursed objects.
9. Bottle of Dreams (Season 1 Episode 26)
A bottle traps victims in their worst memories. This was an end of the season flashback episode, to help hype the coming season and help newcomers to find out more about the show. According to Wikipedia, this was also the result of a writers strike during production. Micki and Ryan are trapped in the vault with the cursed items. Rashid makes an appearance as does Uncle Lewis. It was an ingenious way of reintroducing Lewis, adding a possible helper and showing the audience all of the previous cursed antiques and backstory. Remember when shows used to use flashbacks? A thing of the past.
10. Cupid’s Quiver (Season 1 Episode 3)
This episode holds a special place in my heart. Not only was it the first episode I had seen, but on a Saturday night, watching TV with my brother and Father, trying to find something on at ten pm. I’m not sure why my Father stopped on the syndicated channel (the newly dubbed Fox 35 affiliate of Fox network) we thought this was a Fox show. I’m not even sure why it was on at ten pm, when usual time slot was eleven pm(on another channel, a CBS affiliate, it was on at eleven thirty and even spurred the local newscaster of the area to film a short commercial urging parents not to let their children watch this show). My brother and I were hooked( later to involve our younger sister in our obsession over Cursed antiques show), and our Father watched one or two more, then he didn’t care to watch anymore, probably the late hour and silly premise did it for him.
The Cupid of Malek makes women fall in love with the owner of the little statue. The three of them tear around a college campus looking for the statue and the person who owns it. You get to see some great animation with the use of the statue shooting arrows and his evil facial expressions. Denis Forest was great as both funny and a creepy would-be rapist. This episode was masterfully directed by Atom Egoyan, best known for such indie films as Exotica, The sweet hereafter, and Felicia’s journey.
It was hard to pick the top ten. I even had five more picked when I realized the article would be too long. I know I skipped fan fav’s as The Scarecrow, or Vanity’s mirror, The Quilt of Hathor, but these are my favorites. My list is way too long to include in its entirety.
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