Monday, January 11, 2016
They Came From Outer Space Episode #1 Review and *SPOILERS*—Just For the Hell Of It Mondays
Hi, Hello, How Are You?
Directed By: Sidney Hayers
Starring: Dean Cameron and Stuart Fratkin
First Televised: October 9, 1990
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
Welcome to a very special edition of Just For the Hell Of It Mondays, specially crafted for a young feller who simultaneously comprises part of the ownership and target audience for this website. Last week, Weird Science DC Comics Blog Dot Blogspot Dot Com’s own Eric “Your Imaginext Friend” Shea reminded me of a television program that my brother and I watched when I was but a tender teenager, a show so silly and stupid that the sheer joyful memory of it is a regrettable waste of brain cells. I looked online for information and snippets of this wonderful show, but found the Internet, for once, lacking—and so I hope to remedy that and begin the deluge of information definitely forthcoming about They Came From Outer Space, a television program about two aliens who skip going to university so they can hang out in Los Angeles and scam women, with my review of the pilot episode. Little Eric Shea, this one is for you!
Let’s step into the Just For the Hell Of It Mondays Time and Espresso Machine and zip back to the before-time—the Long Long Ago—of the year 1990: the Berlin Wall had fallen and the USSR was close behind. Academy Award-winning film Goodfellas would teach us all to laugh at violent Italian stereotypes again. And a push by Hollywood studios to purchase network television channels, coupled with the exponentially-increasing establishment of cable television as a standard home amenity led to a rush for programming to fill all of this newly-available broadcast time. Many, many stupid television shows forgotten to time aired during this period, but the stupid television show I’d like to review today is They Came From Outer Space, specifically episode number one: Malibu or Bust!
Fraternal twin brothers Abe and Bo have left their home planet Crouton to attend prestigious Cambridge University in England, probably as part of a campaign by the university to entice students from outside the area and garner more out-of-state tuitions. While cruising in their spaceship, which looks like something stolen from the set of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Abe reinforces the seriousness of their stay on Earth; that they must keep a low profile and stick to their studies lest they be picked up by nefarious alien-kidnapping agencies. Bo looks at a porno magazine and this causes steam to pour from Abe’s collar. This is the first notable trait of Croutonians: they have an empathetic bond; whatever happens to one brother is felt by the other. Also, when they get horny, steam issues from their bodies, which is arguably the more interesting trait. Abe expemplifies that it’s not limited only to getting “turned on” when he slaps himself and Bo reacts in kind. Actually, I’m not sure if this is a trait of only Croutonian twins or just Bo and Abe or what. Are all Croutonians fraternal twins? If not, do single children feel nothing, having no sibling to whom they can transfer their reactions?
Instead of answering those questions, Bo points at the magazine and sort of blinks out of the picture, only to appear on the magazine cover posing with a model in a bikini named Tami. Here is another Croutonian trait: “inanimate object transference,” as described by Abe, which seems to be their power to project themselves into any non-living solid matter. Abe helpfully points out, however, that Bo has to return to his regular form within one minute or he will be stuck in the magazine for ten hours, which seems satisfactorily arbitrary.
Meanwhile, on Earth, at the apparently severely underfunded Department of Extraterrestrial Investigations for the U.S. Military, Lt. Col. Tom Barker—who famously called in the “Operation: Red Herring” Communist strike against Lake Michigan that turned out to be a hoax—and Lt. Pat Wilson are tracking Abe and Bo’s space jaunt on what looks like a Tandy home computer. Lt. Col. Barker is anxious to get his hands on these aliens and interrogate them in hopes of erasing his earlier career humiliation. He also bemoans losing an earlier pair of captured Croutonian twins, the Petullis sisters, to the Science Division before he could talk to them. If the Science Division is as poorly-funded as this guy’s department, then they probably just checked their fingernails and took their blood pressures. Enthusiastically, Barker pounds the top of the Radio Shack computer and causes it to lose the Croutonian spaceship’s signal, because that’s how computers work.
Back on the ship, Bo is attempting to convince Abe to skip stuffy old Cambridge University and head over to Malibu, California, which you could have guessed from the title of this episode. Abe agrees to visit Mailbu (where Tami the bikini-clad magazine model claims to sunbathe in the nude) for a little while and then head straight over to Cambridge for some higher learning. As they approach Earth, Bo has forgotten to take all routine landing precautions and they crash-land in a Southern Californian junkyard. They emerge unscathed from the wreckage and are immediately beset by a junkyard dog, and here’s where another Croutonian power reveals itself to us: “mind speaking,” which Bo performs by holding out his hand and speaking colloquially while the dog continues to bark its goddamned head off. This, somehow, equals communication and Bo is able to calm the dog down by agreeing to return with a poodle and a bowl of champagne. Yes, in this show even the male canines just want to get laid. In discussion with Abe, Bo comes up with a really cockamamie plan for their time on Earth, which is essentially to stay in America and lie to their father, then, after an appropriate amount of time, claim that their ship was stolen and have dad come pick them up. This is the stupidest, most half-baked plan that could have been conceived—for one thing, they will not end up with university diplomas, from Cambridge or otherwise. For another thing, it’s basically a sustained, four-year lie. In truth, it’s exactly like some stupid shit I would have come up with as a teenager, so let’s move on.
Now we learn about the penultimate (at least in this episode) and most-used Croutonian ability in the series: energy transference. To achieve this, Abe and Bo link elbows like they’re about to promenade at the square dance, and then Bo points at one thing and it disappears, then that same thing reappears wherever Abe is pointing. In this way, they are able to reconstruct a Corvette, complete with energy-transferred red paint job from the junkyard owner’s truck, as their personal vehicle. Now I know what you’re thinking: I can understand them teleporting parts together to form a car, but how could it have started right up? Did they energy transfer oil and gas into the car as well? And that’s why I love you, my fellow insane comic book enthusiasts. While the Croutonian brothers are proving their skills at teleportation auto mechanics, the junkyard owner (a stereotypical hillbilly, complete with a floppy oversized felt hat and a red bandanna hanging out of his back pocket) watches them from afar, and makes a direct call to the Dept. of Extraterrestrial Affairs after they’ve left. Because it’s well known that junkyard owners and antique dealers have personal access to various secret military organizations.
Our alien heroes pull into a diner and consume an exorbitant amount of food. Abe explains to the waitress that they need to replenish themselves because energy transference and their other Croutonian tricks require increased metabolic effort, which is totally the most normal small talk you might overhear at any American diner. Just as they are finished eating, a blonde woman with one blue and one green eye, in a leather motorcycle jacket with a blue bikini top on underneath (I had to mention this because it is such a bad-ass outfit) and clutching a large suitcase bursts frantically into the diner and takes a seat. Bo and Abe clearly think she is attractive (and its clear because steam starts issuing from beneath both of their collars), so they start loudly wolf-whistling from their seats across the establishment. The annoyed waitress gives them the bill and tells them to get the hell out of there, which really isn’t very nice; they’re sitting before the evidence of at least sixty dollars worth of food, she could stand to make a hefty tip if she would be more polite. Just then, an ominous black car pulls into the gas station across the street from the diner, and two men step out as a gas station attendant dressed like an Arabian sheik steps forward to fill their tank for a little racism delectamentum. They ask questions about the blond woman, who is watching from across street and starting to panic. Noticing that the brothers are having trouble paying their bill—they only have British pounds, you see—she covers their tab, then asks if they will return the favor and sneak her away from the joint. And what do you think Bo and Abe say to that? I know what I would say: sorry babe, but the ‘Vette is a two-seater.
As we see the two military goons racing towards the diner in hopes of intercepting the aliens, we see the same two men who were asking questions at the gas station sitting at the diner’s counter, pulling pretty much the same routine with the waitress. After some light banter and threatening, she tells them that the blonde woman left with Bo and Abe in a red Corvette very recently. The larger man thanks the waitress with a tender menace and the two men take off after their prey. On what look to be the dustiest back roads in Southern California, Abe is driving the Corvette while Bo and Mysterious Blond Woman, whose name is Karen, make time in the passenger seat. This, of course, causes Abe to get a steamy Croutonian boner, so Bo makes him pull over so they can have a private conversation. Bo addresses the very issue I wrote about earlier in this review: why should Bo commence his mackin’ when Abe is going to feel all the pleasure? To remedy this, the brothers agree to switch places, which seems all well and good to Karen. But I have a few more questions: if Bo has sex to completion, does Abe cum in his pants? If Bo goes down on a woman, does Abe taste it? Hey, where are you going? Don’t you want to talk about this a little more? What if Bo gets pegged?
Cut back to the diner where Col. Barker is pressing the waitress for information. She’s not intimidated by anyone but fat assholes in cheap suits, however, so she demands twenty bucks. Because the government just loves to frivolously spend our tax dollars, they pony up the money, and she tells all about Bo and Abe and the hot blond woman with one blue and one green eye. Just then, a weary-looking sheriff sits next to the military dopes and moans about not being able to capture those bank robbers that got away last night. He even goes so far as to describe the crime: two guys held a security guard at gunpoint while a gorgeous blond woman with one blue and one green eye stuffed fifty grand into a suitcase. And so the viewer is able to put together a big chunk of the story. Thanks, convenient exposition! Even a moron like Lt. Col. Barker is able to figure out that this bank robber and the woman with his Croutonian targets are one and the same. He seems to suspect Bo and Abe of being her accomplices in the robbery, and who can really blame him?
After a long while of driving, our heroic trio are somehow only six miles away from the diner, and they decide to pull over to hole up in a motel for the evening. Abe naturally tries to get Bo laid, but Karen refuses so instead they get a room and play with the coin-operated vibrating bed. Karen spies her two pursuers skulking around the parking lot and warns the Croutonians about them, and moments later the two burly men burst into the motel room to find the brothers lying side-by-side on one of the beds looking very conspicuous. Finding the bathroom door locked, the bigger burly man orders the less-burly one to tie up Abe and Bo, which he does in the Scooby-Doo cartoon way of making them stand back-to-back and winiding a rope around them several times. While malarkey is going on, Karen dips out of the bathroom window and takes off in the Corvette, passing by the officers from the Department of Extraterrestrial Activities as she peels out. Col. Barker and Lt. Wilson, along with that random sheriff from the diner, get out of their van and advance on Bo and Abe's motel room!
From here, it’s basically a micro version of the antics in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, or even the hallway chase scenes in the aforementioned Scooby Doo, Where Are You? The final Croutonian power is revealed: the ability to assume anyone’s voice, I guess, because Abe imitates Tami, the sexy model from the porno magazine that Bo was looking at in the beginning of the episode, and talks dirty. This turns them both on and somehow brings their body temperatures to a high enough level that they burn away the binding rope. They leave the motel room but are immediately beset by the military men and the sheriff, so the brothers use energy transference to exchange their pursuers' shoes with some nearby potted plants, effectively immobilizing them for the time being. Bo and Abe steal a cop car, blah blah blah, and big surprise, they save the day. The bank robbers and Karen are fleeing in a golf cart for reasons too meaningless to explain, and Bo assumes control of it using inanimate projection and oh, the hijinks. The hijinks!
This show is more like some meandering and partially-falsified recollection told by a precocious four year-old than a coherent television program. It’s so obvious that the key players and probably the creator are Canadians, because its whole aesthetic is just a few years behind the times. And maybe that’s for the best; even in 1990 it injected the show with the right level of naivete and puerile sexual observations that you could chuckle at the show without being repulsed or too annoyed. On a personal level, I watched They Came From Outer Space religiously with my brother—we called it “Hi Hello How Are You” after one of their oft-repeated phrases—and to see it again after so many years gave me fond reminiscences of times hanging out with him that didn’t suck. And plus we would annoy the shit out of our parents repeating things from the show, which was another bonus. For what it’s worth, the formula for this episode more or less repeats for the rest of the one season that They Came From Outer Space existed, so if you’ve seen it then you’ve gotten the idea. And if you can enjoy some low-budget, Porky’s style tomfoolery with a little space magic thrown in, then you should check it out.
Bits and Pieces
Sure, the premise of this show insults our collective intelligence, and it looks more like a high school theater production than a network television program, but I’m not writing this review for your gross, cynical tastes. I’m writing this for Little Eric Shea, and I think Little Eric Shea fucking loved this episode. It’s got hot chicks, it’s got two dudes with superpowers and arguably kick-ass wardrobes, and it’s got a bitchin’ Corvette. I dare say Little Eric Shea would have found this to be a perfect show, but he would never have given it a perfect score. Thus, I am forced to give the pilot episode of They Came From Outer Space a respectable