American Horror Story. Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The Walking Dead. Season 9 of American Idol. This Halloween season, you're likely watching (or at least having nightmares about) television's most frightening series. But rubber men, Nosferatu, and zombies (not to mention Tim Urban) are meant to petrify remote-wielding audiences shielding their eyes with their Snuggies. Instead, there were some famous TV episodes that unsettled us merely for catching us off-guard. Not only did Boy Meets World do so with their famously bizarre Scream parody, 1998's "And Then There was Shawn" — read Matt Patches' oral history of the episode here! — but series like Looney Tunes, Doug, and Family Matters all made us as unsettled as we were confused during their long, goofy runs.
See seven surprisingly unsettling series below — and remember just how scary the cushy 1990s could be. (I do believe in Stevil, I do, I do, I do!) Quantum Leap [Image Credit: NBC] We still might not know who was in the grassy knoll, but in Quantum Leap's history, Sam (Scott Bakula) was sitting right in Lee Harvey Oswald's seat, aiming to shoot and kill President John F. Kennedy in 1992's "Lee Harvey Oswald." Being in a killer's mind is frightening enough, but Sam's struggle to remain himself — and not a cold-blooded murderer — was a surprising, emotionally taxing turn for the fun, time-jumping series. Oh boy, indeed. Punky Brewster [Image Credit: NBC] We know that refrigerators store perishables, but, as children, we weren't sure that included humans until Punky Brewster's 1986 episode, "Cherie Lifesaver." Following a game of hide-and-seek gone awry, Punky (Soleil Moon Frye) is forced to give Cherie (Cherie Johnson) CPR after finding her stuck inside the refrigerator. If we already feared the closet and under the bed, "Cherie Lifesaver" led us to fear the entire house. Tiny Toons [Image Credit: Warner Bros] Looney Tunes has produced many unsettling images throughout its multi-decade run: mice that promote racial stereotyping, skunks sexually assaulting cats, humans and animals being reduced to mere accordions. But perhaps no episode was as jarring as Tiny Toons' 1991 episode, "One Beer," in which Buster, Plucky, and Hamton imbibe in, as the title suggests, one beer, steal a cop car, and put all young starlets to shame with a DUI that leads them over a cliff. Dead Tiny Toons characters were too much for young audiences to bear — the episode was eventually banned. But it got Wile E. Coyote thinking about what he can accomplish if ACME launched a beer line... Doug [Image Credit: Nickelodeon] Doug's brush with popularity during a 1993 episode "Doug Rocks the House" came with quite the emotional price. After knocking down an old abandoned house with a rock — in an attempt to impress bully Roger — Doug discovers that the house belonged to Patti before she moved out following her mother's death. Heavy stuff for a boy who's biggest problem is figuring out which of a dozen identical green vests he should wear each morning. Family Matters [Image Credit: ABC] Urkel's (Jaleel White) poor social skills were frightening enough, but Family Matters brought fear to a whole different level during the Child's Play-inspired 1996 episode, "Stevil." After Urkel buys a ventriloquist dummy in his likeness, a lightening bolt brings the toy to life and "Stevil" begins a tortuous rampage, leading to the dismemberment of Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams), among other terrible actions. Eventually, the episode reveals Urkel was merely having a nightmare — but sitcoms hadn't seen anything so scary since Brady Bunch's Oliver. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air [Image Credit: NBC] The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) had previously confronted trouble when a couple of guys up to no good starting making trouble in the neighborhood. But that was when his neighborhood was Philadelphia! So it was surprising when, in 1995's "Bullets Over Bel-Air," Will found himself facing fatal danger near his new, posh neighborhood when he was shot during an ATM mugging. The series (and Smith) had gained popularity for showcasing goofy antics, but family matters got downright serious when a crying Will sparred with Carlton over a gun the latter purchased for protection. Carlton hands him the gun and Will removes the bullets and continues to cry... and then the episode ends. Even a whole album of Tom Jones music couldn't cheer us up after the somber episode. iCarly [Image Credit: Nickelodeon] The most unsettling TV moment of all? iCarly references Snoop's death on The Wire. Damn you and your irresistible pop culture-loving charms, Jennette McCurdy. More: Mockingbird Lane Pilot React: A Halloween Special Not So Special Modern Family Does Halloween early: Which Shows Are Playing Dress-Up Next? 15 Pop Culture Felines That Turn Us Into Scaredy Cats From Our Partners:Exclusive New ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’ Trailer! (Moviefone) Most Ridiculous Horror Movies Ever(Moviefone)
Jay Roach’s political comedy couldn’t have come at a better time. Just as the U.S. is beginning to suffer from the fatigue that comes with enduring the final months of the heated presidential campaign between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis give us exactly what we need: a good laugh.
The Campaign stars Ferrell as Conservative Senate shoe-in Cam Newton who gets himself in a bit of a campaigning pickle – if you can call a widely publicized sexual slip-up a pickle – and prompts the powers that be (an evil duo courtesy of the always fantastic John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) to bring in a ringer: Marty Huggins (Galifianakis). Huggins is flanked by his two trusty pugs and spends his days giving empty trolley tours of his tiny North Carolina town – a naïve happy existence that flummoxes his former political operator of a father (Brian Cox). But once Marty’s appointed campaign manager gangster Tim (a ruthless and surprisingly hilarious Dylan McDermott) Pretty-Womans the grinning familial misfit into a standard cutthroat political candidate the messy misinformation-driven games begin.
Everything we’ve ever feared or discovered about our shiny politicians during campaign season is magnified for the sake of this 90-minute cathartic joke. Right as Romney and Obama are getting headlines for the underhanded loosely regulated practice that is the campaign commercial Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters take the seemingly lawless practice to a wonderful hyperbolic place where having a mustache makes you a friend of Sadam Hussein and splicing quotes to blaspheme your opponent is kosher. Oh wait that last part is actually true.
This story from frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay along with Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell plays on the clichés of the campaign trail and dresses them up with baby-punching and butt-licking. Right out of the gate we’re treated to Ferrell cheating on his wife with a squealing harlot in a porta-potty. The writers have no mercy for the political world and coincidentally neither do most of us. And even as the film stretches the limits of our ability to stomach schlocky gross gags it’s not entirely uncalled for. In fact this over-the-top flick is practically an extension of the way many of us view the idea of campaigning in the U.S. – the key is abject cynicism.
Raunchy gags are the name of the game but The Campaign doesn’t shirk the necessary weight of its source material. Sure Ferrell’s requisite nude scene merits a few giggles but it’s the moments that are centered on speeches and strategy that really make the film. They’re rife with spot-on frustrated commentary about the emptiness of political speeches and promises and draped in the hilarious inflections of the films’ funnymen.
But beyond the parts that make us laugh hard enough to eke out a sideways tear The Campaign actually has something that most raunchy Ferrell comedies only purport deliver: a heart-warming gooey center. We can chalk this up to Galifianikis’ Marty who represents the political fantasy we try to believe in every election: the existence of a truly honest well-meaning politician. He’s the guy who runs on the platform that “Washington is a mess” and he actually believes he can clean it up. When Cam is running his mouth about loving America Marty is the one who actually offers up idealistic solutions. To some extent Marty is a character we’ve seen before but he’s this bright spot that keeps The Campaign from becoming a long-form rant.
In addition to Galifianakis’ lovable Marty we find gems in the form of McDermott – whose phantom-like presence throughout the film is always worth a laugh – and newcomer Katherine La Nasa as Rose Cam’s gut-wrenchingly opportunistic Barbie of a wife. Oddly enough a big name like Jason Sudeikis receives low-billing this time around and perhaps it’s because his role is a rather mild one for a man who’s solidified himself as the overgrown frat-boy du jour. Still it’s Galifianakis who carries the film and Farrell’s usual shtick that provides the platform for his character’s unavoidable goodness.
The Campaign is a surprising oddly adorable summer comedy combining the disgusting cringe-worthy visuals we’ve come to expect from a Will Ferrell flick with the brains we hope for any time we see the word “political” tied to a film.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to don his cyber alter ego once again in the third Terminator installment, tentatively titled T3: Rise of the Machines, but will do so without the help of his T1 and T2 cohorts. Although the sequel will still follow the adventures of now-twentysomething John Connor, Edward Furlong will be replaced in that role by a new actor (yet to be casted). Jonathan Mostow (U-571) takes over directing duties from James Cameron and Linda Hamilton will not return as Sarah Connor. Principal photography is set to begin in April.
Tom Cruise, an outspoken supporter of the Church of Scientology, visited the U.S. ambassador in Germany Wednesday and asked him to help improve the organization's status in that country. Why, you may ask? Apparently Germany views the group as a moneymaking venture rather than a valid religion, and has barred Scientologists from government jobs.
Joel and Ethan Coen, the quirky creators of Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There, are in negotiations to remake the 1966 British caper comedy Gambit. The story revolves around a British thief involved in a heist of a lifetime and is being touted as a vehicle for actor Hugh Grant.
Universal Studios is suing MGM for false advertising and unfair competition in regards to the current ad campaign for MGM's February release Rollerball, a remake of the 1975 camp classic. The studio is upset that the broadcast spots claim Rollerball comes from the creators of Universal's The Fast and the Furious, when in actuality only one screenwriter, John Pogue, is credited on both films. A temporary restraining order was issued by a federal judge Tuesday to stop the ads from running.
Jude Law is in talks to star in David Mamet's Diary of a Young London Physician, an updated take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz is also being considered for the female lead. Hmm, didn't she say she was taking a break?
CBS will maximize its chances to get ahead in the May sweeps by moving the two-hour final episode of the upcoming Survivor: Marquesas to Sunday, May 19, instead of waiting until the following Thursday. During the last week of the May ratings book, CBS will air no fewer than fours of the hit reality show. Smart move.
The Stephen King miniseries Rose Red, the first two parts of which aired Sunday and Monday night, gave ABC a much-needed boost in the ratings. The spooky three-parter about a haunted house in Seattle took in 20 million viewers Sunday and 18.7 million on Monday, mightily beating the competition. The third part airs Thursday.
For the first time ever, Fox News Channel beat CNN in viewership during a one-month period, which hasn't been accomplished by any other cable news channel in nearly 15 years. You realize, of course, this means war.
ABC has announced that The Wayne Brady Show will be taking over the timeslot currently occupied by The Rosie O'Donnell Show when the talk show goes off the air. This leaves Caroline Rhea, whose show was widely thought to be taking over Rosie's slot, to find a new time of her own.
There might be a little life left in the VHS format after all. Based on a new digital VHS (D-VHS) format, Fox, Universal, DreamWorks and Artisan have announced they will release high-definition movies on videocassette in June. We'll see if can they really compete with DVDs.
Rocker Courtney Love is one step closer to getting her way. In her counter-suit against record company Universal, the California Court of Appeals granted Love clearance Monday to pursue her challenge of California labor laws that hold recording artists to contracts longer than artists in other fields. Universal originally sued the singer for breach of contract when she refused to record for them in 1999.
The sexual harassment trial against the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, began Tuesday in a L.A. court. A former employee who claims she was fired after refusing the 68-year-old singer's sexual advances filed a $2 million lawsuit against Brown in 2000. Brown has issued a statement denying the accusations, which he calls "baseless and outrageous."
Singing legend Carol Channing was hospitalized in New York Tuesday after she became ill backstage before a scheduled appearance on The View. Apparently stricken with a virus, Channing will remain at the Lennox Hill Hospital for a day or two, according to her publicist.
R&B singer Chante Moore married fellow crooner Kenny Lattimore in Jamaica New Year's Day, Lattimore's record label Arista Records told The Associated Press Tuesday. Moore was previously married to actor Kadeem Hardison and they have one child together.
Author Susan Sontag will be providing liner notes to rebel rocker Patti Smith's retrospective album. The album will feature lyrics, notes, original artwork and previously unavailable photos of the legendary rock 'n' roll singer.