Our very own Cory Robinson decided to take a break from shaking his booty at the Dennis DeYoung concert (Don’t know who that is? Look him up, the man’s responsible for most ’70s and ’80s radio chestnuts) and review another episode of Amazing Stories. Domo arigato Mr. Robinson.
By Cory Robinson
The episode starts out with a high-school science wiz named Andrew who is trying to finish his science project by building a small but powerful TV antenna that can pick up signals from different parts of California. Andrew’s antenna works, but it picks up signals far greater than anywhere in California including all around the United States, and even parts of China. Andrew happily tells his teammates that he succeeded with his science experiment but they are none too happy because it was supposed to be a group project and he refuses to have them help him with the project. Andrew tries to apologize and asks his two partners to come over and see the antenna for themselves, but when they get to his house they find that the antenna is no longer working.
After some “fine tuning” from his classmates, the antenna starts admitting sparks and the television comes back on to show a broadcast of some short people with large heads and crab-like hands reenacting scenes from I Love Lucy in a inaudible language. The boys are quick to realize that they have picked up a signal from another planet but they are very confused on why they’re television station in space has a shot for shot recreation of an episode from I Love Lucy. The other two boys (Jimmy and George) conclude that this signal was picked up from another planet ten light years away and that the aliens must have picked up some of Earth’s signals and really enjoyed the old television shows.
The boys stay up well into the morning watching a rip-off version of Burns and Allen when an alien newscaster comes on in his native language showing pictures of astronauts coming to California in about ten years which should fall on the date that the boys finally saw the broadcast. All three of them agree that they should find the aliens to find out more about what they want and to see if they could help them. After some searching around, the boys easily find the aliens who have no problem blend in for some reason even though they all wear shady trench coats with novelty glasses complete with a giant rubber nose. At first the boys have a hard time communicating with the aliens but George pulls out his handy dandy bassoon and starts playing the NBC theme to the aliens as a sign of goodwill which just happens to work. After having a chaotic lunch with the aliens, the boys believe that the three alien astronauts want to get the autographs of all the television stars that they watch back on their planet, but after running into Milton Berle (coincidentally played by Milton Berle) on a Hollywood Star tour, they later find out that the aliens want to take whatever classic stars still alive and take them back to their planet in order to film new episodes of their classic TV shows of the past.
Milton Berle politely refuses (by actually talking in the alien’s language, so how he knows it is anyone’s guess) because they don’t have good cigars in space. The aliens get very downtrodden because most of the people they want are dead but whoever is still alive flat out refuses. The aliens can’t go back to their planet without some of the comedy stars of yesteryear but they are running out of options. To find out the end of the episode, you can watch it here on the NBC site: http://www.nbc.com/amazing-stories/video/fine-tuning/2909098
This episode was very odd but it had quite a bit of charm to it. It falls into one of the longest running themes of Amazing Stories which is nostalgia and it’s nice to see a take on old forms of comedy while delivering the message that it never truly goes away and finds a new audience (even ones from light years away) The makeup effects on the aliens are very good albeit very creepy, but the hands look like they were constructed out of cardboard in ten minutes with quick sharpie lines added to show fingers. Milton Berle does a good job speaking the alien language and it’s nice to see a cameo from an old television star but I would have liked to see one or two more special cameos instead of just getting Milton Berle. The script had a lot of holes in it but you can tell they were more banking on the kookiness of the story and the feeling of nostalgia rather than having a well-rounded script. The aliens’ voices by Frank Welker are a nice touch but it also feels like he is re-doing the voice of Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters.
Overall I would rate this episode a 7/10 mostly because it just feels average. The story is okay, the acting is okay, but as said before that it has a lot of charm going for it and the ending really drives home the message they are trying to get across. If you are a fan of watching TV Land late at night, you will get a kick out of it more than others but overall it’s a decent episode to watch even if you haven’t seen it before.
Come back next week as I take a look at episode #8 entitled Mr. Magic, starring Sid Caesar who probably should have been in the Fine Tuning episode as well but I guess he had a good enough excuse starring in the next episode of Amazing Stories.