Friday the 13th the Series: And Now the News

Superman has his Fortress of Solitude; I have the TV Tomb of Mystery. Dare you join me in crossing its threshold? Speak, friend, and enter. You are not imagining this.

Today's excursion:

The third episode of the second season of:

When this aired in the late 80s, it was the 2nd most popular syndicated show behind Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here's the voice-over prologue that opened the early episodes:

"Lewis Vendredi * made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store... and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back and the real terror begins."

* For those non-French speakers in the audience, "Vendredi" is French for "Friday."

Not mentioned or pictured above is Chris Wiggins as Jack Marshak:

He's not featured in "And Now the News," so he won't factor into any of the below, but he was the scholarly father-figure of the bunch. (Think Niles from Buffy or Artie Nielson from Warehouse 13.) Eventually, Ryan (John D. LeMay) left the show and was replaced by a character named Johnny Ventura (Steve Monarque.) But that's an excursion for another afternoon.

In case you want to look at the show's imdb page, it was re-named Friday's Curse at some point, and that's how it's listed over there. It will always be Friday the 13th: The Series to me, and for what it's worth that's the name under which it's re-run on Me-TV Saturday afternoons, so someone should tell them. 

The show had no connection to the Friday the 13th film franchise, though fans of the show have a few theories as to how they tie together. (My personal favorite is that Jason's hockey mask was one of the haunted items from the store, let loose into the world for the spread of evil by Satan, Inc. Hell, it makes as much sense as anything else in the movies; considerably more, in fact.)

Each episode sank or swam according to the strength of its haunted object -

an antique radio in the case of "And Now the News" -
and the performances of its guest stars. This one does well on both counts.

Kate Trotter plays Dr. Avril Carter, caretaker of the haunted radio, and
plays Dr. Kevin Finch, head of the insane asylum / her doomed colleague.
Kate's performance is both severe and over-the-top. Which are exactly the right notes to strike when guest-starring on this series. Subtlety should be left at the door.
Other characters include the sort of folks you'd imagine in an insane asylum: the cynical orderly, the nurse who barges into a room and yells "DOCTOR!" only to be told that "DAMN IT, I'M WITH A PATIENT!" and a few different inmates, including one listed amusingly as "Hulk Maniac" in the credits. 

The way the haunted radio (which, we see ominously, has a frayed cord i.e. it's powered exclusively by Satan) works is like this: first, it broadcasts future-news related to Dr. Carter's career advancement i.e. "Dr. Carter received the Nobel Prize for her pioneering work at the insane asylum, etc." This is followed by different news related to the death of a patient at the asylum, which she then must make happen. She places the radio in the identified patient's room, where it then narrates some horrifying chain of events designed to make the patient take his or her own life rather than face them. i.e. one of the patients is afraid of fire, so the radio "breaks" the story of an out of control fire that has trapped everyone at the insane asylum, causing the patient to leap from the window in terror. Dr. Carter then collects the radio, goes back to her office, and receives an 'attagirl from Radio Satan.

Micki and Ryan get wind of the haunted radio being the property of a deceased mental patient at the asylum and go to investigate. 
They get the runaround, so Ryan decides to hop the electrified fence. "This is crazy," says Micki.
"Trust me."
He's quickly apprehended, scolded, then let loose. At which point, Micki opts for Plan B:

Which brings us to what separates Friday the 13th from the pack. Namely:

First, her name is Robey. Why civilization has not stopped everything to suss out the meaning and mystery of this is beyond me. How can we so brazenly carry on with our everyday lives while this modern-day Sphinx tasks us to solve its riddle? Second, her accent defies description; it is unlike any other accent ever recorded on television, perhaps on Planet Earth. It's inconsistent, for one. In this episode, she says "Or perhaps we could took to someone" while in others, she pronounces "talk" the way it's pronounced anywhere else in the English-speaking world. This happens every episode. Third, she carries herself as if she's a pleated trouser amongst blue jeans. Her every move and mannerism suggests such inflated self-regard that the viewer is constantly asking his or herself, "Is she, like, royalty * or something?" (With perhaps the follow-up question, "If she is... I mean, why the hell is she named "Robey?") 

* Interestingly enough, she was royalty, for a short time. She married Charles Beauclerk, Earl of Burford, in 1994; they were divorced in 2001.

It's almost as if she's an alien in human form whom we see forever experiencing human emotion for the first time. Not that she's unattractive, or that I'm writing these remarks from a "Who the hell does she think she is" perspective. It's just that after the third or fourth time you've seen her stroll across the set as if she was balancing a candle on her forehead, you find yourself yelling out questions at the tv screen.

Or at least I do. 

And fourth, as charitably as I can possibly put it, her over-acting has got to be at least half of the reason why anyone watches the show.

Both Wiggins and LeMay (and later Monarque) play to type (Wiggins very staid and proper; LeMay / Monarque, very smart-ass) Robey goes her own crazy way in every episode. Micki's actions are often unfathomable, and her reactions vary so wildly that you can't get any kind of handle on a throughline. I'm tempted to say this was a genius move on the actress' part, as it keeps the viewer glued to any scene she's in to see what crazy thing she's going to do next. Take this scene for example, where she handles the telephone as if she is trying to merge it with her face.

Was it intentional? Tough to say for sure. I'm tempted to say no, of course it wasn't, but there's little to cross-reference from her c.v. Outside of bit parts in Raw Deal and The Money Pit, Robey's acting career was pretty much limited to this show. (She is the female lead in a crazy-sounding movie entitled Play Nice (1992) but I've never seen it. It's definitely on the list, though.)

Are these Barbies?
Whatever the case, re-cast the role with just about anyone else, and you might focus on other aspects of production that are wanting (the effects, some of the plot conveniences/ silliness, etc.) But with Robey in the frame, all you can do is say "Robey? Robey?" to yourself in a stupefied tone, over and over.

Anyway, Dr. Carter is told by the radio that Dr. Finch must die, so die he does:

Shoved into "Hulk Maniac's" cell, where he's savagely beaten to death.
Micki and Ryan show up, get captured and slapped around a bit, but Dr. Carter's lack of urgency in feeding their souls to Radio Satan causes the tables to be turned.

Her attempts to reason with it elicit only her own electrocution.
Literally seconds after this radio just fried the doctor and shot both herself and Ryan across the room with lightning bolts, she approaches it and picks it up.
There's a fun little bit at the ending. Just as Micki is bemoaning the difficulties they face in tracking down all of these haunted artifacts, the radio suddenly switches on and promises a way to make everything easier for the both of them, for a price.

They hurriedly put it in the vault with the other supernatural oddities and bolt the door before it can tell them anymore. Roll credits.

The show had a great, moody theme song, easily the equal of its better-known counterpart from Tales from the Darkside. You can hear it here.

"And Now the News" was directed by Bruce Pittman and written by Richard Benner. It's a good representational example of the series: much of the plot hinges on some pretty wild coincidences, (unlocked doors, characters knowing things - like where to turn on and off the power at the insane asylum - they really shouldn't, convenient lack of security / surveillance at key points of entry, etc.) Robey acts crazy, Ryan does something stupid, and the taken-for-granted-by-everyone-in-the-cast idea of a malevolent force beyond our world that promises things to people if they perform some act of evil on its behalf but is unable to prevent Micki and Ryan from finding (and besting) its proxies. 

As well as some groovy atmosphere and memorable imagery.

Back to the shelf with you, "And Now the News." Until next time.

The Closet of Mystery is an ongoing catalog of one man's attempt to stave off the acquisition of any more impulse-buy DVDs until he can take better inventory of the ones already in his possession.


  1. I am intrigued by this Robey. She seems like she'd be a cahracter in an Owen King novel. (That may be the first time anyone, anywhere has even contemplated such a sentence, much less actually written it. I'm a proud trailblazer.)

    This series has been on my radar for years, but I have never seen a single episode. It sounds bonkers, especially if this is a representative episode. It certainly sounds as if it bears no relation to the movies, except that it maybe has a "damn-the-logic! full-steam-ahead!" attitude, and maybe works best on you if you are drunk and/or stoned.

    I may have to try and track this episode down and give it a look.

    1. It's one of my faves from the series. I'm sure there'll be more popping up here and there during the course of this Closet of Mystery business, but like the song goes, who knows where or when.

      Well, I guess we know where. Just not when.

      I sure hope Owen King has an awesome Robey story. I may have to ask him that myself.

    2. I finally made time to sit down and watch this. It's kind of terrible, but in an appealing way, and it kind of feels like one of the "Friday the 13th" movies in a way that I can't explicate.

      The haunted-radio idea was actually a pretty good one. And the opening scene with all the snakes has a sort of classic horror-comics vibe to it that always charms me.

      That Robey, though...man, she sure does scream a lot. Gotta use what you've got, I guess.

    3. Appealingly terrible is pretty spot-on.

      Robey starts off as a curiosity, and then the more you take in, the more fascinated you become. She's such a bizarre actor/ onscreen presence.

  2. I had no idea there was a show. It looks to me kind of like Tales From the Crypt. Meaning.. a cheese fest!

    1. Tales from the Crypt had a better budget and higher profile. I'm sure one or two of those will show up in the Closet of Mystery posts, as well, as I've got all 7 seasons.