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The Piller of Our Community

By David Michael Wharton     November 07, 2005

Michael Piller
© N/A
A sad week for SF fans, as Michael Piller has passed away to cancer. As a fan of the man's work, and what I know of the man himself, that saddens me. And as somebody who has faced down and survived the Big C himself, it infuriates me every time somebody else doesn't much less as talented and decent a human being as Piller by all accounts was.

For those who don't know the name, this was a guy with his stamp on almost every incarnation of modern TREK (exec producer on NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE NINE, and VOYAGER). The guy who, along with son Shawn, helped craft Stephen King's THE DEAD ZONE into a surprise hit for USA, a success that almost certainly lead indirectly to the existence of THE 4400 (under the auspices of another TREK vet, Ira Steven Behr). Perhaps most importantly, he was key in instituting the program beginning with NEXT GEN that opened the door to unsolicited spec script submissions. It was a commitment to helping out those further back along the writing path that he continued on DEAD ZONE, with the show's website posting detailed writer's guides for each season. This was the guy who wrote NEXT GEN's "Best of Both Worlds" two-parter, one of that show's finest hours and one of SF TV's best cliffhangers ever.

He was a true talent. He will be missed. And could somebody please cure f*&%ing cancer already? What a waste.

* * * * *

Well, I don't even want to think what you people's standardized test scores are like, since you clearly can't follow directions. Last week, after two columns on the subject, I clearly requested no more emails on the subject of TV on DVD. And what do I get? More emails on the subject of TV on DVD. And, damn it all, I'm too nice a guy not to run them all.

You shouldn't take advantage of my good nature like this, people. It's terribly cruel.

Let's hit it…

RemoW writes: "Maybe I am just old now. But we need THE EQUALIZER on DVD. Woodward was the man!!!

If loving THE EQUALIZER makes one old, then call me Methuselah. And while we're at it, let's get SPENSER: FOR HIRE and the subsequent Avery Brooks spin-off A MAN CALLED HAWK on disc too.

Sean writes: "I read your article last week. But seeing all the replies with shows gave me some ideas and comments myself. Number one on my DVD wish list HANDS DOWN is THE TICK. MAX HEADROOM? Maybe but only if it came with the Coke commercials too (Remember those?). Do you remember a time travel show from the early 80's featuring a kid and a time traveling guy? The time travel device was like a pocket watch. There was this episode where they went on the Titanic before it sank and the kid wanted to warn the captain? There was another show that I LOVED that was on at the same time as THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. It was called TALES OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY or something like that? It was a guy and his plane in search of this golden statue or something like that. Kind of Indiana Jones'ish. If that one's already out and I didn't know about it, sorry. I'm out for now!"

I actually don't think I ever saw an episode of TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY, but God knows it's got some fans based on the comments over the past few weeks. And you certainly can't go wrong with monkeys (gold or otherwise).

MutanSentry writes: "One show that should be brought out on DVD, the animated series EXO-SQUAD. Damn fine storytelling, probably better suited for Adult Swim than Saturday mornings. Another toon, FREAKAZOID! The other crazy 90's superhero cartoon, like THE TICK this belongs on my shelf."

Wow, EXOSQUAD. That's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time. I have only vague memories of that show, but I remember it being above average compared to a lot of the 30-minute toy commercials it competed against. You know another one I wouldn't mind seeing a disc of, if only to see if my nostalgic fondness for it is misplaced? STARCOM. The one with the magnetic toys? I've still got a mess of those toys stuck to the air vent in my office. Good times.

Tim writes in to add several new suggestions to the list, including the Richard Dean Anderson/Jon DeLancie collaboration LEGEND (hey, we might be getting BRISCO COUNTY finally, so why not?) and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Yes, it is deeply, deeply wrong that MUNSTERS is on disc and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. We must rectify this, please.

David Ludwig writes: "I'd like to see some of the espionage shows from the 60s -- THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., IT TAKES A THIEF and especially THE WILD, WILD WEST. (And if they ever put out JOHN DOE, then they ought to go whole hog and include its earlier twin, CORONET BLUE.) Finally, and most obscurely, there was a pilot called THE GHOSTBREAKER (a precursor to even THE NIGHT STALKER) that MGM has buried somewhere in their vaults; I'd love to see that surface one of these days, too."

Thanks for writing, David. My lists have been rather rooted in the past few decades and I know there are heaps of shows such as the above that I've only seen rarely if at all. That's the great thing about DVD, is it gives us the chance to experience shows that were long dead before we first peeped our first phosphor dot. And if they release WILD, WILD WEST, maybe I can finally get the foul taste of the Will Smith movie out of my mouth.

James writes: "Yes, this is a week late. But I had Bird Flu and you gave an extension…

TV I'd love to see on DVD:

ROBIN HOOD - aired on PBS in the last 80's, early '90's. Probably a BBC import. But it was oh so very good. Swords, swashbuckling, robbing from the rich, giving to the poor, and, best of all, it was on PBS, so my Mom always let us watch it!"

Oh, absolutely. I believe the official title was ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, and this is the show that has single-handedly prompted me to seriously consider buying a region-free DVD player, and the show has been available over in Merry Olde England for sometime now. Series lead Michael Praed is still the definitive Robin for my tastes, and the show was never the same after he departed and the hood was taken up by Jason Connery. But what a send-off Praed's Robin got (no spoiler warning, it aired in 1984, for God's sake). Add in a perfectly motley band of Merry Men, the ominous presence of forest god Herne the Hunter, and a lovely Clannad soundtrack, and this show is long overdue. And I still have unsettling dreams about "The Seven Swords of Wayland"…

"SQUARE ONE TV - also on PBS. The PERFECT show for a budding Math Geek.
'Mathman! Mathman! Mathman! Mathman!' Heh. I also have '8 Percent Of My Love' stuck in my head to this day. Plus the Mathnet segments have been scientifically proven to be 1000 times more mathematically accurate than your average episode of NUMBERS. 'Frankly, Mathnet… I mean Mathnet, Frankly.' Ah, those were the days…"

I'll see your SQUARE ONE TV and raise you a BEAT THE GEEKS.

"I would also pay copious sums for the cartoons SABER RIDER & THE STAR SHERIFFS, CENTURIONS, VOLTRON (either version), DUCK TALES and GUMMY BEARS."

Bouncing here and there and everywhere…

Good news, a first volume of DUCK TALES hits shelves tomorrow. So we all know where James will be spending his paycheck this week.

Scott writes: "QUARK, a show from the late 70's with Richard Benjamin. I couldn't convince ANYONE that the darn thing ever happened until the net came along and some folks managed to post clips, audio and screencaps (undoubtedly captured on Sony Beta or 8-track)…

It's bound to have the rose color lens of distant nostalgia, but I remember the Double-Mint twins arguing over which one was the clone. Adam Quark always being beamed down into waist deep water. His killer pet named Ergo (shades of the alien in Dark Star). Space baggies. Parodies of Star Wars and Star Trek. And Andy the robot! 'Mank you.' 'No, Andy, 'thank-you'.' 'You're melcome.'

Good stuff…"

How's that acid trip treating you, Scott?

Don Joe writes: "I've always thought the late 80's-early 90's show FRIDAY THE 13TH should've been on DVD yesterday. It was so creative and gory and well acted and believable (given the limits that the show put on itself). I'd recommend it to any sci-fi/fantasy fan. Another show that should be on DVD, while it wasn't well-liked, is FASTLANE. It wasn't very deep beyond character interaction (and occasionally plots), but I loved it for what it was; pure, simple fun. Pretty girls, fast cars, and the antics/stresses of the three leads; what else do you need? Then, there [was] a short-lived show on the Sci-Fi channel called THE CHRONICLE. It was grand, goofy, sci-fi fun and it definitely should be on DVD. Finally, there's the great LIVING SINGLE, the show that FRIENDS completely copied from, but never really duplicated. It should definitely be on DVD."

I'll be honest, it's hard for me to respond. Not because you don't have some good choices in there, it's just that my eyes started bleeding at the mention of FASTLANE, and it's damnably hard to type while hemorrhaging from the eye sockets.
Josh writes: "Your viewers might not remember this very short-lived show, but I think it's worth mentioning: VOYAGERS. This show was great and unfortunately short lived. But as a dedication to the unfortunate death of one of its stars I think they should dig it out of the archives and show it again. It was AWESOME early 80's sci fi that I think people should know about."
I don't remember it either. And yet I'd still rather watch it than STAR TREK: VOYAGER.

cleonhard writes: "I couldn't agree more about the need for ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE DVDs (although, fortunately, I have been able to make my own). What I'd REALLY like, though, is the old Jay Mohr series ACTION (another FOX show… they appear to be the kings of abandoned gems). I've had about half the series taking up permanent residence on my Tivo for over a year now, but to have the whole run on DVD would be a dream come true. Now that NEWSRADIO has finally been released, that's the only thing that's really still gnawing at me. Well, that and the rest of LARRY SANDERS. Sigh."

Wow, somebody other than me watched ACTION! And you're right, if I ever become fabulously wealthy, my first project will be to launch a network consisting entirely of great shows Fox has killed. We'll call it OutFoxed.

And don't get me started about LARRY SANDERS.

As long as you have comments on anything other than TV on DVD, drop me with your comments. Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks…

* * * * *


ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7 PM CST, Fox) "Notapusy/Mr. F." AD returns with back-to-back episodes, one of which features an "inner beauty pageant." Bueno.

SURFACE (7 PM CST, NBC) Laura makes an ominous discovery about the creatures in Cirko's files.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (7:30 PM CST, CBS) "Matchmaker." After a professional matchmaker tells Ted his ideal significant other is already with someone else, he steals her files and tries to meet her.

PRISON BREAK (8 PM CST, Fox) "Slight of Hand." Michael is forced to sacrifice an innocent to maintain the plan. Although where he came up with a newborn baby with which to stock the pentagram is anybody's guess.

MAKING OF 'HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE' (8:45 PM CST, HBO) Also known as "How to Adapt a 12,000 Page Novel Without Really Trying."

MEDIUM (9 PM CST, NBC) "Judge, Jury & Executioner." Joe gets jury duty, which would be mundane enough if Allison weren't having premonitions about the defendant.


BONES (7 PM CST, Fox) "A Boy in a Bush." How many is that worth in the hand?

GILMORE GIRLS (7 PM CST, WB) "Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out." It's a rare show whose episode titles spur you to reach for a dictionary.

HOUSE (8 PM CST, Fox) "Daddy's Boy." R. Lee Ermey guests as House's dad. Which explains quite a bit, actually…

MY NAME IS EARL (8 PM CST, NBC) "Stole Beer from a Golfer." They're really saving time on episode titles for this show, aren't they?

SUPERNATURAL (8 PM CST, WB) "Bugs." Bugs, Mr. Rico! Zillions of 'em!

THE OFFICE (8:30 PM CST, NBC) "The Client." While Michael's out wooing a client, the office staff finds, and acts out, his screenplay.

BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "Truly, Madly, Deeply." Shore confesses his (entirely justified, if you ask me) fear of clowns while assigned to a case involving one. Plus: bestiality!

NIP/TUCK (9 PM CST, FX) "Tommy Bolton." Sean bonds with the mafia princess, while Christian reconnects with an entirely different kind of family.


VANILLA SKY (7 PM CST, Bravo) Not Cameron Crowe's finest hour, but man, that opening sequence was creepy immediately post-9/11.

LOST (8 PM CST, ABC) "Abandoned." Sawyer's injuries are making their pleasure hike through the jungle tricky. Meanwhile, back at the camp, Shannon continues to get her Scrooge on as Walt continues to appear to her in visions.

VERONICA MARS (8 PM CST, UPN) "Rat Saw God." Abel Koontz returns and asks Veronica to track down his missing daughter.

MYTHBUSTERS (8 PM CST, Discovery Channel) "Steel Toe Amputation." The guys determine just how protective those protective steel-toe boots can be.

INVASION (9 PM CST, ABC) "Fish Story." Russell and Dave search the Glades for Larkin in the aftermath of her SMALLVILLE-worthy auto accident.

SEVEN FACES OF DR. LAO (9 PM CST, TCM) Still one of the best fantasy movies ever made? You better believe it.

DRAWN TOGETHER (9:30 PM CST, Comedy Central) Captain Hero's ex shows up to remind him of their "marriage pact."


THE O.C. (7 PM CST, Fox) "The Swells." Sounds like the name of a porn family.

ALIAS (7 PM CST, ABC) "Solo." Rachel strikes out on her first solo mission, while Syd sits back at APO craving pickles and a foot rub.

SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Splinter." The writers introduce silver kryptonite into the show's mythology. I don't remember what silver kryptonite does, but I'm hoping it's something along the lines of "causes Kristen Kreuk to spontaneously combust."

EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (7 PM CST, UPN) "Everybody Hates the Laundromat." Actually, I'm pretty ambivalent about it.

REUNION (8 PM CST, Fox) "1990." Supposedly this is the episode where we finally find out which of the relatively uninteresting friends winds up dead in the "present," and if it isn't the bitchy model/actress (or "mattress"), then my wife will be writing angry letters by night's end.

NIGHT STALKER (8 PM CST, ABC) "The Source." Kolchak investigates the baffling mystery of why the hell they're making another HIGHLANDER movie.


GHOST WHISPERER (7 PM CST, CBS) "On the Wings of a Dove." Blah blah blah Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts blah.

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Secret Boyfriend." Malcolm falls for a popular hot girl whose secret shame is that she's also quite bright.

THRESHOLD (8 PM CST, CBS) "Progeny." This episode features an exploding lawyer, and you can't go wrong with that.

NUMBERS (9 PM CST, CBS) "Convergence." Don investigates a series of robberies where the thieves steal only high-end items from rich folk.

MASTERS OF HORROR (9 PM CST, Showtime) "Dance of the Dead." Tobe Hooper directs a Richard Matheson short story, adapted by the writer's son, Richard Christian Matheson.


TEEN TITANS (7 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Hide and Seek." Raven squares off against Monsieur Mallah while protecting a trio of future superheroes she's assigned to protect.

OLD SCHOOL (8 PM CST, ABC) Is Will Ferrell nudity ever not funny?

LOCUSTS: THE 8TH PLAGUE (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) You know, at some point Sci-Fi is going to run out of animals to mutate and have run amok.


PENN & TELLER: OFF THE DEEP END (6 PM CST, NBC) The brash one and the quiet one alakazaam a submarine out of existence.

THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "Marge's Son Poisoning." Bart bonds with Marge until bullies make sport of his new proto-Oedipal tendencies.

CHARMED (7 PM CST, WB) "Battle of the Hexes." Billie accidentally transforms herself into a superhero. Whee.

FAMILY GUY (8 PM CST, Fox) "Brian Goes Back to College." Brian gets fired from his job writing for the New Yorker when it's discovered he lacks a college degree, so it's off to enroll at Brown he goes.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE IN THE 80S: LOST AND FOUND (8 PM CST, NBC) The real question is, how much of this material deserved to be found?

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (8 PM CST, ABC) "Color and Light." Tom and Lynette learn a bit more about their new neighbors.

ROME (8 PM CST, HBO) "The Spoils." They belong to some guy named Victor.

AMERICAN DAD (8:30 PM CST, Fox) "Stan of Arabia." Part two of two, as Stan renounces his American citizenship and decides to stay in Saudi Arabia.

This concludes our broadcast.


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