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Home » Culture and Criticism

Strange Frequency

Submitted by on August 23, 2010 – 9:37 AM11 Comments

I stood in front of the DVD player for a good ninety seconds, staring at Strange Frequency's Netflix sleeve and wondering why in the name of beer and skittles I had put an Erik Palladino vehicle in my queue.

Not that Palladino is a problem, really — Dr. Dave sucked, and Palladino kept getting cast as that doofy-horndog Dr. Dave type, but when he's allowed to play something less fratty, he's pretty good. I liked him on Joan of Arcadia. Still: a VH1/"rock-and-roll version" of The Twilight Zone from the dark heart of the doofy-Dr.-Dave era, co-starring such non-guarantors of quality as Eric Roberts, Danny Masterson, and John Taylor of Duran Duran? What happened there?

I finally figured out that I'd meant to add Dennis Quaid vehicle Frequency to rewatch it for The Crushed Film Festival. Oops. (And: nerd!) But I decided, what the hell, it's here, I'll watch it. I kind of wanted to see John Taylor's version of the middle-aged-rock-star hairstyle "update" that makes the guy look more dated and desperate than sticking with his original look would have.

The try-hard coif didn't disappoint — it's from the Steven Tyler/Jane Jetson soccer-mom school, with bonus bandanna to hide suspected thinning in the front — and the series overall is better than most TZ aspirants. That isn't saying much, though, and it isn't to say that Strange Frequency is good; the pacing is frustrating, and while each twist is fairly clever, it's inevitably telegraphed too soon and over-explained afterwards.

The exception is the final segment, which stars Judd Nelson. The muted performance he gives is such a departure from the work he'd done 15 years previously that he's almost unrecognizable, and it's the one segment in which the second twist is edited effectively; what seems like the same excessively long build as the previous three sections is actually a form of red herring that lets the real climax sneak up on you, and then boom! Cut to black. Neat work.

But it's no surprise that SF only aired four episodes**; the rock "hook" isn't a hook at all, and at the time it aired (2001), Danny Masterson was probably the ranking name…enough said. It's not a bad idea, but it suffers from the same problem as most Twilight Zone reboots or take-offs — and many original TZ episodes themselves, really — in that the plots get stretched (or compressed) into 22 minutes instead of being allowed to develop at their own pace.

If you've seen it, discuss. If you haven't, don't bother.

**My mistake; it looks like they made a second volume featuring Roger Daltrey and Jason Gedrick, among others. Feel free to discuss that one, too, although I'm utterly untempted to watch it myself.

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11 Comments »

  • Miss Twitch says:

    I remember watching that with my music-obsessed ex when it first came on! Most of it seemed like the cutesier episodes of Tales from the Crypt, but the Judd Nelson segment is the one that comes back to haunt me, particularly when in the kitchen.

  • Cyntada says:

    Per the Amazon blurb:
    "What will win out, sledgehammer, guitar or feather-duster?"

    Oh. My. God…

    (Of course, I *do* want that on a T-shirt now.)

  • StillAnotherKate says:

    "For the love of beer and skittles" Heh.

  • Elisa says:

    Okay, I have no idea about this movie, but you should TOTALLY do "Frequency" with Dennis Quaid. That is a good movie and also…Dennis Quaid. Enough said.

  • Jenn says:

    I love "Frequency"! I remember seeing the trailer in the theater with a friend of mine – he said, "That looks really dumb" and I said, "That looks totally awesome!"

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I know nothing about this show but am now curious to see the famed "Judd Nelson episode." Is it on Hulu or YouTube?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Apparently it was one season of 12 episodes, including one starring James Marsters: http://hubpages.com/hub/Strange-Frequency-A-Twilight-Zone-Style-Look-into-the-World-of-Rock

  • Erin W says:

    I totally remember Strange Frequency! I know for sure I watched it in its original airing on VH1, back when VH1 had actually watchable programming like Behind the Music and Bands Reunited and The List. And the only episode I remember is the Judd Nelson one, because the end was a pretty severe shock for my sheltered little high school self.

    I can't believe it's on DVD!

    Count me in on Frequency, too. Remember at the beginning when Quaid is wearing the bomber jacket and riding his motorcycle and the soundtrack is playing "Heat Wave"? Woo!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Erin: I still miss Bands On The Run and it's been, like, a decade.

  • Soylent says:

    Ahhhh Behind the music. I still get bitter every time I see the BTM reboot where it's all glowing and focusing on the artists comeback. For Elvis' sakes, that's not why we watch the show, VH1

  • Louisa says:

    I always pity Erik Palladino a little bit nowadays, because he looks so much like Professional Scumbag Joe Francis. I think I even read Palladino saying people yell at him in bars because of it.

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