Director: Timna Ranon
Writer: Michael McDowell
Cast: Richard Romanus, Sam Anderson, Howard Dayton, Catherine Battistone, and Paul Sparer
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 6/9/1985
Upon awakening in a simulacrum of his apartment, chain-smoker Frank Bigalow (Richard Romanus) finds himself tortured by an enhanced smoke alarm when he attempts to light a cigarette. The man in charge of this sadistic operation, Dr. Synapsis (Sam Anderson), then explains to Frank that he may leave the simulation room only after he quits smoking of his own accord.
By sprinkling a satirical premise with the perfect amount of ‘80s cheese, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” makes for an enjoyable Tales from the Darkside offering. Though ludicrous at times, this episode maintains a captivating presence due to the complementary performances of Richard Romanus and Sam Anderson.
Having conveyed realistic anger when appropriate, Romanus made credible the premise of a man forced to live through torment until giving up smoking becomes a choice of willpower rather than coercion. In one notable sequence, Bigalow eviscerates a giant smoke alarm while screaming at the top of his lungs—an effect that draws attention to the protagonist’s desperate state of mind despite the tongue-in-cheek vibes contained therein.
Also worth mentioning, Anderson provided Dr. Synapsis with a subtle air of taunting condescension so as to additionally infuriate Bigalow after denying him cigarettes. The snide manner embodied by Anderson is most effective whenever Bigalow begins to visibly weaken, during which new temptations are added to provoke infantile reactions from an already disturbed individual.
While Romanus’ acting should be commended, little attempt was made to accentuate the claustrophobic tendencies that one would undoubtedly experience after being trapped in a faux apartment for days or weeks on end.
Though intentionally hyperbolic, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” delivers a resonating lesson on the importance of conquering one’s vices through self-discipline as opposed to relying on controlled measures implemented by others. Note that for all the restrictions imposed upon Bigalow, the program never forcibly prevents him from smoking; rather, after exposing the main character to irritating stimuli over an extended period, Dr. Synapsis allows Frank to resent and consequently break the addiction that enslaved him for so long.
Dated special effects notwithstanding, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” offers an intelligent satire on the extreme lengths to which certain people will go when working to drop a particularly nasty habit. Similarly, a clever twist ending serves to demonstrate the absurdity of forgoing moderation in favor of total abstinence.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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