TV Review: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief”

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Holiday, Reviews
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TV Review: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief”

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Tales from the Darkside: Seasons of Belief (Season 3, Episode 11; First Broadcast December 29, 1986; Laurel Productions; Dir. Michael Mc Dowell)

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What say we get this VEWPRF season started off right? What better way to get a season started than with an episode of my favorite TV show? That’s right, I’ve got a holiday episode of Tales from the Darkside and I’m not afraid to review it! Like so many other Darkside episodes, this one is based on a short story. This time it’s based on a short story by Michael Bishop a Locus and Nebula Award winning writer. The screen play was written by Michael McDowell who also directed the episode. McDowell is also the man who created Beetlejuice as well as wrote some two dozen books. So what I’m saying is, in this episode, we’re in good hands. Unlike some holiday episodes, this will be a joy to watch. And with that, I just guaranteed you won’t even read past the opening paragraph, didn’t I? Look, I like some things, okay? I try to review things I think I’ll enjoy. Of course, since my program is being handed to me by forces I don’t really understand, it might be crap. I can’t see that happening since at worst a Darkside episode is just dull, but it might. C’mon! Read on and see what happens!


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This R SRS story, I R SRS momma.

We begin with what looks like the most conventional Christmas episode sets that the team was able to produce. It still holds the requisite cheapness demanded by a Darkside episode, which is nice. While it may look dingy or dark to some, I appreciate that the houses in Darkside often look like houses of real people I’ve seen. A family is getting ready for Christmas. One complaint, E.G. Marshall seems a little old to be the father of these two small children. He actually looks like he should be Margaret Klenck’s father, instead of her husband. It’s a strange little bit of miscasting, but Marshall pulls it off in the end. He’s not bad, but he looks old for the family. Not really important, but I thought I’d comment as that’s what I’m being forced to do here.

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Don’t they look baffled?

The kids reveal that they don’t believe in Santa Claus. The parents mention some of the old “But you really should” standbys like Santa hitting a switch to break gifts. A toy train then breaks as soon as she mentions this, which gives the kids a moment of pause. The Parents then let them open a gift each, which turns out to be an atlas and a box of crayons. This gets their minds off the evils of Santa for a moment or two and they settle in to listening to Good King Wenceslas for a while before the children announce that they are bored and demand a story. The Mother claims they don’t know any stories, but the boy claims they make up stories all the time.

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Ooooh, these really are my kids, aren’t they? I’d always hoped she had an affair and they were the milkman’s or something.

The little girl is sort of cute, but the boy is practically gnawing on the tree in his desire to chew up the scenery. The father makes a suggestion to the mother behind her hand, but she says that story is too scary. The little girl’s eyes light up and she declares that a scary story is the only thing she could possibly want. The Father starts to tell the story by writing the name of the monster out on a pad of paper. The kids read the name and he claims that they’ve done a dangerous thing, the most awful thing in the world, by saying the name out loud. With that mystifying statement hanging between them, we cut to commercial.

COMMERCIAL1

Fangled huh?

Did you know Pringles used to call their product “New Fangled Potato Chips”? Yeah, I didn’t either. Evidently though, they rock. A father brings home the wrong bag of chips for the picnic. However, it seems that the family knew dad was a complete and total screw up, because they went and got a thing of Pringles ahead of time. So they can explain that Pringles are made a new way, and packaged in an air tight tube. This must be when they were first released, because I seem to remember that quite quickly a cabal of potato chip makers got the food laws changed to bump Pringles off the market. Watch the ad and feel the illegality. Actually, Pringles came back by using the word “crisps” instead. That showed ‘em! I’m still sort of enamored of “New Fangled Potato Chips” and plan to use it in everyday speech.

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Don’t pull that crap on me. I’m not some idiot, I’m six already.

Instead of explaining the cliffhanger we ended on, the father launches into a story explaining that there are a great many sights at the North Pole. He then mentions the smell of Mrs. Claus’s cooking, which leads the mother to interject that Mrs. C’s specialty is lasagna and goes on to claim that Eleanor Roosevelt gave her the recipe. Pointing out The North Pole and mentioning that there is a cave on the other side of the mountain that protects the workshop. That is the place where the… Grither lives. I hesitate, because the father does. He never actually says the name, allowing the children to say it. Evidently, The Grither doesn’t like hearing people talk about him.

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Soon, I’m going to eat those sweet brains of yours.

It seems that The Grither’s ear grow every time someone says his name. The boy laughs, rolls on his back, chews up whole sections of the floor and shouts “GRITHER! GRITHER!” Leading the mother to explain that his ears are now twice as large as they were just five minutes ago. Not only that, but now The Grither knows where they are. At that moment, a light behind the mother goes out and this starts to freak the daughter out. The daughter begs them to stop telling the story, while the parents claim that they might have enough time to finish the story before he gets there. The son says “Grither” over and over again because he wants to make sure that The Grither doesn’t get lost and go home to the North Pole. The son is sort of a little bastard and I’m surprised he’s lived this long. He very much comes off like the sort of kid who sticks his hand in a blender because someone once told him not to. Also, the kid is a lousy and obnoxious actor. We should cut him some slack, because he’s a child, but children annoy me and I hate him.

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File Photo. Proving we need better files… and to learn what “Photo” means.

Now we begin to describe the Grither and he has big hands and huge arms, meant for grithering. He also sings a song, which the children challenge the adults to sing. The parents do, to the tune of “O Come All Ye Faithful” which seems to affect the kids a bit. Even the boy is taken aback to find that the song has actual words. The Parents are accused of making the song up, the daughter noting that it doesn’t rhyme. But as the mother tells us, monster songs never rhyme. While explaining that The Grither can fly, the father namedrops Bangor, Maine which is the then home of Stephen King.

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I’ve done it again. Time for Depends.

The Daughter gets freaked and begs them not to finish. However, the parents point out that if they don’t finish, then the Grither will come all the faster. They never actually explain what will happen if they do finish, or anything else really. While the kids are getting really scared, the phone rings and the kids beg them not to even pause for a moment. They do though, and the kids freak out even more. I should point out here that the performances of the parents are really excellent. They play like they’re just winding the kids up, teasing them gently for fun, but with an air that suggests this might all be real. It’s sort of cute really, because while you know this is a Darkside episode, you sort of wonder if it won’t end with The Gither being Uncle Mike in a mask or something. It doesn’t help that when the father answers the phone, all he says into it is “We’re all here.” before we cut to commercial.

COMMERCIAL 2

You fap to that?!

Huh, I was just shown the shortest Coca Cola commercial in history. Ten seconds, and no more. Someone is pouring coke from a bottle into a glass. While that’s going on a choir sings that it’s the real thing and then shouts COCA COOLLA! And then we’re done. I can’t find it online so, watch this one instead.

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Pictured: Fake Grither

So when we come back, the kids are waiting and inquire where The Grither might be in his progress towards the house. The Mother claims that he’s in NYC or possibly Philly if the wind is with him. The Father comes back in and just says that someone wanted to know if they were all going to be home tonight. The daughter asks if it could have been The Grither, to which he says he’s not sure. They wind the kids up a bit more, telling The Grither’s origin story. It seems he was born out of rage and sorrow, but no one knows why he does what he does. The kids are getting wound up, demanding that they finish the sorry, when someone starts banging on the door. The kids then loose their shit when the person at the door starts singing The Grither song. The daughter hides behind the tree and shrieks while throwing presents to defend herself. Except it turns out to have been Uncle Mike at the door.

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Got your head!

Now, we get the explanation. See, Father told Uncle Mike the song over the phone and then tells the children that The Grither is no more real than Santa Claus. See, Santa is just a nice story and The Grither is just a nasty story. If one doesn’t exist, than neither exists. You can’t have one if you don’t have the other. The daughter demands that they didn’t finish the story, and before the mother can admonish her for not getting the idea that the whole thing is a sham… a massive wind blows the door open and throws everyone back. The wind is so strong it knocks over the tree, but the son manages to close the door acting quite heroic really. And then awesomeness happens! After the mother claims that it wasn’t The Grither, but just the wind, THE GRITHER ATTACKS! Huge foam rubber hands smash through the windows, grab the parents by the head and breaks their necks! So you see kids, if you don’t believe in Santa, The Grither will come and kill your ass!

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Happy Holidays kid.

Personally, I love this episode. I love that they assert the reality of Santa by claiming that The Grither exists. This is way more fun than just saying you should believe in Santa or saying that faith is important because… well… it is. NO! Old Pagan Rules my lovelies! The monster kills people who call on him and punish the unbeliever. If these kids had believed in Santa, they wouldn’t all be living in Uncle Mike’s bachelor apartment now. So kids, my darlings, my sweet ones, believe in Santa or I’ll send a monster to kill you. Sweet dreams and Happy Vague Early Winter Possibly Religious Festival. As for what became of the children… the girl (Jenna von Oÿ) went on to play Six in Blossom. The Boy (Sky Berdahl) went on to be a dentist. Not joking. He’s probably a good dentist, and I hope he’s happy with his life.

Official Score:
80 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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