Director: Bryan Michael Stoller
Writers: Michael Kube-McDowell and Jule Selbo
Cast: Mark Blankfield, Joseph Carafello, Catherine Battistone, Jason Horst, John Marzilli, and Paul Sparer
Composers: Ken Lauber and Hilary Bercovici
Air Date: 10/12/1986
After winning the lottery, Harlan and Margery Bender (Joseph Carafello and Catherine Battistone) are approached by Tinker (Mark Blankfield)—a family acquaintance who, having invented pills that can unlock the full potential of the human brain, requires financing for his miraculous drug. Rejecting Tinker’s proposal, Harlan dumps the pills onto the floor and orders his son Jonathan (Jason Horst) to clean up the mess—with an ironic outcome.
This episode offers a cringe-worthy, unamusing twist on the concept of a “smart pill” enhancing human abilities beyond natural limits. Science fiction buffs would therefore be wise to forgo “The Bitterest Pill” in favor of Limitless (2011), which benefits from a thought-provoking interpretation of the above premise.
“The Bitterest Pill” deserves criticism for its annoying group of characters: Margery, a flirtatious and inattentive housewife; Harlan, a mean-spirited father who shouts at the top of his lungs when provoked; Jonathan, an abused yet poorly behaved child with only mildly sympathetic qualities, and an eccentric mad scientist named Tinker, whose absent-minded genius routine borders on the obnoxious.
Also problematic is the superfluous nature of the opening scene, which explains how Harlan and Margery acquire ten million dollars in spite of their idiotic tendencies—a narrative detail that could instead have been revealed through a brief line of expository dialogue.
“The Bitterest Pill” is marred by juvenile humor and headache-inducing performances. The main theme of this episode should be noted, however, for its captivating potential as a science fiction trope.
Overall Quality: 1/10
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