Welcome back to the ROX-TV website. We appreciate all the returning readers and drifters. Tonight, in keeping with the Halloween Season spirit, we will be checking out a long-forgotten series that most of you have never heard of. That’s right kids, tonight we are cutting into the “Freddy’s Nightmares” series (A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series) for your reading enjoyment. Who knew Freddy Krueger had his own show? Not only did it launch with a full twenty-two-episode first season, somehow it was cleared for a second season which also featured twenty-two episodes. (As an added bonus, I decided to throw in some Pineapple Express. So, if things get a little wordy or odd, you can thank the P.E. from Bristol Road)
That’s forty-four more than I knew about. I have a vague memory about the concept show, but it isn’t very helpful, I just know the idea about the show was familiar in some far-off way. Even still, I’m blown away at that number of episodes and how it was that I missed this “happening” the first time around. I was certainly alive in October of 1988, and yet…I can’t seem to conjure up a single image of this show or promotion. It’s not like I would have forgot. I dug horror movies in the late eighties and the early nineties. You could say there was a shit load of them floating around. I knew who Freddy was and would have taken great interest in a tv show starring the finger-knived killer. And still, no recollection.
I find that strange but possible. In the eighties, television wasn’t nearly what it is today, the internet didn’t exist, my family didn’t have a microwave yet, and the radio wasn’t the best source for information in regard to fringe tv series. I guess I just missed it and that’s that. In 1988, Freddy was riding high with a popular horror film series, which saw the fourth installment in August of that year (Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master). I guess the industry thought it was the right time to drop the series and in October of 1988…the series went live.
The show featured two horror stories each episode (most of the time), which was hosted by the man that made Elm Street famous in every town. It has been said or remarked that the show was cut from the same cloth as the Twilight Zone. I think comparing those two is a bit bold and not something I would have come up with. The Twilight Zone is in a category of its own and Freddy’s two season run probably doesn’t touch T.Z. on multiple levels, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I still find the idea of a Freddy Krueger television show interesting. The first episode dropped on October 8th, 1988 and was filmed by famous director Tobe Hooper (Author’s Note: I really dig Tobe Hooper’s work on the scary movie “Funhouse” which dropped in 1981. A year later in 1982 he directed “Poltergeist”. If you are unfamiliar with his work, check it out. Even with low budgets, he could get the idea across with the camera).
“Each episode tells a different story of a dark rooted and/or grim nature that takes place in the fictitious town of Springwood, Ohio, and in particular, on Elm Street; the same setting as the A Nightmare on Elm Street films. Though the Freddy Krueger character occasionally plays a part in the plot, most of the stories do not involve him (it is, however, often hinted that Krueger indirectly influenced the desolate nature of the plotlines).
Similar to the Crypt Keeper in Tales from the Crypt, Krueger’s primary function is to host the series. He is featured in regular bumper segments, where he offers an ominous or slapstick reaction to the happenings of the episode—culminating in him giving a quick, and usually eerie, epilogue at the end”.
-Excerpt from Wikipedia
For some reason, the above description does bug me though. Maybe it’s just me, but I never really got the impression from the first two films that Freddy was right to host a show. He was a scary figure from the get-go, but slowly he started turning into a parody of himself as the films went by. I never looked to Freddy Krueger for slapstick reactions or funny antidotes during a horror movie. Humor and Horror are two things I really like to keep separate as far as movies go. They don’t work well together in my opinion and really cheapen the scare factors of a movie. I can’t take Freddy Krueger seriously when he’s “playing with power”. A boogeyman doesn’t play with joysticks and talk up the “good graphics”, at least not in my world.
Although Freddy’s appearance stayed hideous for all time, the substance and scare quality really slipped as the movies kept piling up. Someone told this guy he was funny or perhaps it was a personal desire to take on a more vocal “prime-time” presence. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem like the correct course was always taken. Sometimes you just have to stay classy. For the most part Jason Vorhees kept it classy (at least until he was shot into space). It’s not like he ever started talking or telling sly jokes. The guy didn’t talk and that was that. What you seen, was exactly what you got. How did a funny Freddy go over? I guess it depends on who you ask.
So moving forward and setting aside a few minor gripes mentioned above, I was still interested in watching this series. How bad could it really be? I guess critics at the time were cold on the show but that could almost have been expected. Some of the episodes were drastically edited over killing/violence depiction. One of the shows saw as much as 8 minutes edited out for content. It’s hard to follow a forty-minute story missing almost one fourth of the content (largest example of the actual removal of and deleting of scenes). But hey, don’t forget I love horror movies and side streets like this series. If it wasn’t a Freddy Krueger production, I’m sure I’d go into the series with a little less skew, but I cannot divorce Nightmare on Elm Street from this series, so the bar was set higher. The films, were mostly big deals when they were released, and I guess I hold that status in view, when looking at the series.
Sometimes there is no better way to dive into a series other than headfirst. So, let’s take a look at the first episode, which was directed by Tobe Hooper. The name of the segment is “No More Mr. Nice Guy“. Let’s give it a chance and see if this bird floats…
Show: Freddy’s Nightmares
Title: “No More Mr. Nice Guy”
The show wastes no time in getting to some movement. The opening shot is of a nightly news cast straight out of the 1980’s. It looks legit and proper…. I know because I remember the late eighties and that’s exactly the vibe of those “Nightly News Break” moments. The news goes off without a hitch, until suddenly…the news anchor is turning into static right before my very eyes. Then he’s gone. Freddy takes over the air waves and the news anchor is transported to Freddy’s trial, where in this instance, he gets off on a technicality over the reading of his rights. I remember the story was slightly different in the first movie though, when Nancy’s mom informed Nancy that Freddy was let go because of the search warrant being fucked up. A signature in the wrong place or so the story goes.
The news anchor, who is shocked to have flown through time, but not enough to give up on his job. Someone hands him a microphone and a piece of paper…and suddenly the guy is back on the clock like he didn’t just travel through some sort of worm hole. From that odd and unique way of opening the show, we are then let into the courtroom, where Freddy is on trial for his life. He is accused of murder and for the trial, is housed in a tiny glass structure (in the vein of Hannibal). Freddy appears to also be handcuffed to a chain. For some reason, Freddy is wearing his signature red and green sweater. He is gripping his dirty old hat, which became a trademark of the character over time.
I can’t believe that these would have been his only clothes during that time but maybe he liked how it all came together. Freddy gets freed on some technicality, which is pretty unbelievable even in the context of this show. For the background and actors, everything seems to be in order, but the show has an “older” feel to it somehow. The color schemes are drab, and the show comes off like it should have dropped in 1977, at least in my view. As the prosecutor rested, the defense team submitted dismissal paperwork because of evidence obtained during an “illegal arrest”. The judge clamors on about how Freddy should have been read his rights at the time of his arrest and it takes us to a Miranda Warning type situation.
Freddy is instantly let out of his box, the chains are removed, and he starts to have crazy images of death and carnage. With the cuffs off, he walks out the front door. It’s a pretty unbelievable way to start the show, but its Freddy Krueger so what can you do. It’s weird because the show appears to have had a decent budget and yet…it comes off with a grey vibe. Perhaps a cross between “Fact or Fake” and “Unsolved Mysteries”, with a dash of “Murder She Wrote”. I know it sounds fantastical, but you can thank the Pineapple Express for the perspective.
Everything falls on the head of the cop in charge of the case and he takes it pretty hard. Meanwhile in the parking lot, the mob of angry parents forms up with revenge on the mind. Freddy, in the midst of all of this is back suddenly in his boiler room of horrors. The fucking news anchor is just gone, who knows what fate awaited him. Another thing that is wild to me, is how fast eight adults in town decide that murder is the course of action, and they all agree to get down without reservation. This town doesn’t play.
Left to his own devices, Freddy dusts off the old ice cream truck and checks out his boiler room “house”. Inside his tiny apartment type of living in the boiler room area, are all sorts of things that the police must have missed during the two-year investigation that brought the trial. Maybe if they would have done a little better with evidence collection, Freddy wouldn’t have been allowed to run free. The show does an odd thing and suddenly we are behind Freddy’s eyes. He looks at various objects in the room, which suddenly turn red… I’m sure they put a lot of thought into this when they were filming but the first two objects he talks about are a little confusing and hard to follow. All I caught was a cage and something about some meat? Whatever. So anyway, the only thing that makes any sense is that he picks up his glove with the knives for finger.
I’m not saying I “hate” this show, but in my mind…was there room for this type of television series, when the movies were still bringing in so much money? I know branching out can be lucrative and I don’t know the details, but I’m not sure if this series is a net positive or a net negative for the overall brand. At the very least, I’m thinking the show did no favors. A short time later we catch up with the cop Gene, who never seems to take off his uniform. He’s drinking a beer and reflecting with a picture. The plot thickens. After a bad conversation, the drinking cop decides to head into the station. Probably not the best idea.
On the other side of town, the mob has arrived and is looking for Freddy in his boiler paradise. Freddy can’t be found though because he just killed one of the cops guarding Gene’s house a little way away. Sometimes in life there is the question of “just because I can, should I really do this“, and seventeen minutes in… I’m really starting to wonder if I can get through it in one sitting. The idea of Freddy sneaking around town on foot, just really doesn’t sit well with the pre-conceived ideas I have about the guy. He was a terror, not the creep peeking in windows and walking everywhere. It felt beneath Freddy on some level. The inertia of the films seem to be the only thing that was really going for the series. Anyways…the mob turns up at the house where the cop was murdered but no one figures out that guy is missing, then the mob heads back to the boiler room for the big show down.
The cop Gene, that fucked up the paperwork one way or another, who has been railing for due process for the last twenty-three minutes, abandons his ideals and principles…. picks up a gas can and burns Freddy alive. “Tonight, the law is on vacation”. Somehow Freddy enjoys the burning and an intense rock guitar wails in the background, perhaps for too much effect. At the twenty-four-minute mark, Freddy addresses the viewers from his post as the host. Apparently the “nightmares are just beginning”.
One of the cool parts of this show, is the show’s promo shot, which pops up whenever it flips to commercial or comes back. That’s how it was for a lot shows in the 1980’s and I recognized it for what it was. A nice chunk of nostalgia. Anyways, the cop Gene is killed when he visits the dentist by Freddy Krueger. It was probably for the best, he was riddled with guilt over the burning of Freddy and feared the FBI would eventually figure out he played a part.
After some consideration and thought, I tried to come to a decent conclusion based on what I had seen. I watched the first episode several times and somehow after all of that, I still find myself torn. The show itself, for 1988 is pretty good. They had a budget or at least the first episode did and the actors picked up for the show were pretty decent. The quick short version of Freddy’s demise feels a bit rushed in hammering down serious details for the overall story line. The optics of the first episode are not disagreeable.
As a show with the branding of the Movie franchise firmly embedded in almost every scene…I have some strange feelings about the episode. You can’t judge anything on one experience, and I didn’t want to be overly critical. Sometimes things that I hated at first, would later become my favorites. For example, I hated Halloween III for a variety of reasons when I watched it. I would write the movie off, only years later to make it one of my favorites of the series. I didn’t want to shoot holes through a show I might end up liking after watching it more. The first episode may have well have been another Nightmare on Elm Street movie installment. It definitely adds to the story line, giving a nice visual view of how the Freddy hunt actually transpired, leading to his death. For fans, any time you can get more of a back story…it’s a good day. I plan on watching the rest of these shows, so it will be interesting to see how the series holds up as I get farther down the road.
With that being said, you must keep in mind that this series dropped the same year that Part 4 was released, just months a part. It seems odd then, that while Freddy is busy in the dream world, he’s also hanging out in town, hosting a scary show. It’s not a bad thing if everyone involved in the movie and the series were on the same page as far as direction and storytelling, but I don’t know if that was the case with this series or not. It seems like the more versions of a story is out there, coming from various sources, the odds of things getting clunky are pretty good.
As I think back at the basis for the first episode, which Freddy described as his own nightmare…other things annoy me slightly. Freddy was released from court on a technicality, right? So, he was freed, and the case was dismissed. If that was the case, why was the main cop Gene trying to bring him in again on the same day? “I’m taking him in, clean and legal” Gene says to the mob head. I wonder what changed in a few hours? Why did they let him go at all, if they were going to pick him up in a few hours? Probably the greatest cringe line of the movie was delivered by Gene as well.
“The law is the law, but tonight the law is on vacation”
The ethical compass then grabs a gas can and dumps it off Freddy, who is cornered in his favorite place. Freddy’s dialogue is a little wonky here. As someone is attempting to murder him, he calmly shoots back inflammatory remarks to his would-be killer. He doesn’t try to escape his fate, he simply chooses to be killed and talk shit in the process. Sometimes the last word really gets people off in their heads. The people that suffer from the “last word” syndrome are easy to spot once you disagree with them and they get pissed. Physical violence? It doesn’t seem to be as satisfying to these people as the last insult left to stand unchallenged. Anyways, Freddy just goes out in a blaze, instead of fading away.
The problem is, the law dog Gene is now suffering from some serious inner turmoil. He’s basically falling apart, which is weird because as he sinks, the people in his life try to bring him back up. Gene is having none of it and instead begins to crack up. He has some trouble with a tooth, and ends up at the dentist office. Bypassing some meaningless dialogue, Gene needs assistance and is in the chair.
“This will relax you” an assistant says, giving the cop a steady dose of nitrous oxide. For some reason, suddenly the assistant is in her undergarments. Apparently using nitrous oxide allows Gene to see people in their underwear. It’s weird because I’ve been tap dancing with Nitrous Oxide for some twenty plus years and I never seen any shit like that go down. Oh well…So Gene, the cop, gets knocked out with some NOS and a shot. Freddy shows up in the dream and finishes off the cop who burned him alive. Hence: No More Mr. Nice Guy. That’s the end of the show.
It was ok. Would I watch it again? Sure. Did it live up to the movie franchise bar? I’m not sure, but probably not. They had a vision, it played out on the screen just like they wanted it to, I just didn’t walk away impressed. Not even a little wow factor. Just like a shoulder shrug, one last look, and then on to what’s next. No residual effect, no thoughts about the content after the fact, just a been there and done that type of thing. Can something be un-inspiring and still good? Sure. I would watch this again and would even buy the box set if I could find it. It’s just not in the top five or ten if that makes sense. I plan to watch more of these, and I may be adding some reviews along the way, so keep coming back. Until next time…
ROX-TV Head Writer