Director: Charles Picerni
Writers: J. Randall Johnson and G.J. Pruss
Cast: Morton Downey Jr., Dorothy Parke, Peter Van Norden, John Kassir, Warren Burton, M.K. Harris, Ami Rothschild, Candace Savalas, Jeannie Epper, Victor Paul, Wally Rose, Steve Picerni, and Ted Grossman
Composer: J. Peter Robinson
Air Date: 7/17/1990
Hoping to increase his ratings, a sleazy television host cleverly named Horton Rivers (Morton Downey Jr.) visits a haunted house where, according to legend, a string of grisly murders were committed. Despite the warnings of psychic Roland Workshafter (Warren Burton), Horton proceeds to tour the macabre mansion with a camera crew—and several uninvited “guests”—at his side.
For those who recall the trashy antics of Geraldo Rivera, Morton Downey Jr., and other such “journalists” who gained notoriety during the era in which Tales from the Crypt was produced, “Television Terror” will not disappoint. Also worth mentioning is the creepy atmosphere that permeates nearly every scene, thereby accentuating Downey’s hyperbolic portrayal of himself in such a fashion that will appeal to fans of the horror/comedy crossover genre.
Establishing the perfect tone for any horrors that may await Horton on his ill-advised trip through the home of a late murderess, J. Peter Robinson’s musical score adds a decidedly chilling quality to the opening credits sequence. It should be noted that any resulting tension fails to survive following the humorous introduction of Downey’s repugnant character; however, an ominous air is nevertheless present from start to finish, even though Horton’s goofy behavior takes center stage at all times. By combining scary elements with amusing situations in the most effective manner imaginable, “Television Terror” provides the quintessential example of how a balanced approach can be implemented while working within the aforementioned horror/comedy genre.
While the premise for “Television Terror” may fail to resonate with a post-1990s generation, this episode nonetheless earns its reputation as a true series classic. Specifically, a striking social commentary sheds light upon the shameless fear-mongering that defined many so-called reporters from decades past (and the present, albeit to a less extreme degree). Also commendable is the fact that Downey himself was chosen to portray the main character, thus allowing an otherwise tongue-in-cheek concept to be complemented with a subtle form of realism.
A brilliant, if somewhat dated, episode, “Television Terror” offers an ingenious examination of the ironic undertones contained within its narrative. Additionally praiseworthy is a gruesome twist ending, which will no doubt “shock” those familiar with Downey’s so-titled method of reporting.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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