Welcome to the second part of my week in television!
Hell’s Kitchen (Monday Night, FOX)
The Red Team crashed and burned in dramatic fashion this week and, as a result, poor Sam lost his dream of working for Chef Ramsay. Somehow, Antonio and Brynn survived, despite doing far worse. Still, I have to say that I appreciate that Chef Ramsay is being a bit nicer when he kicks the chefs out. He had some nice things to say to Sam before sending him out the door. Sam seemed like a nice guy so I’m glad that he left with words of encouragement instead of being told to go to Hell.
I Lived With A Killer (Friday Morning, Reelz)
The premise of this true crime show is right there in the title. The episode I saw profiled the ex-wife of Omar Mateen, the prick who was responsible for the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The show was undoubtedly exploitive but, at the same time, it really did capture a very real fear. I mean, what must it be like to discover that someone you were close to, someone who you slept beside and who you slept with, was capable of committing such an evil act?
Last Man Standing (Friday Evening, CMT)
As I think I’ve said in the past, LastMan Standing is the epitome of a good “background noise” show. It doesn’t require that you pay much attention to it and the show itself is never good nor bad enough to distract you from anything else that you have to get done. This Friday, I was cleaning around the house and I had Last Man Standing on for two hours. I’m pretty sure one of the episodes featured Tim Allen’s son-in-law getting into a fight at a baseball game while the other featured the eldest daughter worrying that she had missed out on getting an education. As I said, I’m really not sure what happened but it provided adequate background noise while I was doing some dusting and vacuuming.
Lonesome Dove (Wednesday Night, DVD)
This week, the #WestWed live tweet concluded it’s viewing of the 1990 miniseries, Lonesome Dove. The cattle drive finally reached its conclusion, sadly without Robert Duvall’s Gus McRae, who died as the result of an infected arrow wound. Tommy Lee Jones’s Woodrow F. Call did survive, though with the knowledge that he was the last of a dying breed. He brought Gus’s body back to Texas and buried him. It was a bit of a sad episode, to be honest. Still, it was a great miniseries and I’m glad to have watched it.
The Office (All Week, Comedy Central)
On Tuesday, I caught the Prison Mike episode. “I AM HERE TO SCARE YOU STRAIGHT!”
Real Life Catholic (EWTN, Thursday Night)
Chris Stefanick travels the country and talks to “real life Catholics” about their life and their faith. On Thursday’s episode, he talked to a police detective, a lobsterman, and a hermit monk who lived in a Maine lighthouse. Usually, this isn’t my type of programming but, after spending the day being bombarded with horrific images from Afghanistan, this show did provide some relief.
I watched two episodes of this wonderfully shallow 90s cop show on Friday afternoon. Every was very attractive, often undressed, and occasionally violent. It was a lot of fun, up until the end of the day’s first episode, when Chris (played by Rob Estes) was shot by a suspect. Fortunately, the end of the following episode, it appeared that he was on the road to recovery. Yay!
South Park (Comedy Central, all the time)
I watched one episode on Friday morning. Chef returned to South Park after spending the summer with the Super Adventure Club. Yay! Except …. oh my God, there’s something wrong with Chef! The Return of Chef has always been an interesting episode. On the one hand, it was an episode that Trey and Matt had to make after Isaac Hayes walked off the show, supposedly to protest the way the show poked fun at religion. (It’s been suggested, by both Hayes’s son and the creators of South Park, that Hayes’s resignation letter was written by some Scientologists in Hayes’s entourage while Hayes was too weakened by a stroke to really understand what was going on.) And indeed, there’s a lot of anger in this episode. Not surprisingly, there’s also a lot of sadness. One gets the feeling that Trey and Matt were deeply hurt on just a professional level but also on a personal level by what happened with Hayes.
Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)
Chris Hardwick is a charming host and he seems to genuinely love talking about The Walking Dead. To be honest, it’s been a while since The Walking Dead has been the show that everyone’s talking about but Talking Dead is still fun to watch. If nothing else, watching it is a good way to relax when you’re wondering whether or not Maggie’s dead.
The Ultimate Surfer (Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday Night, ABC)
This is a new reality competition show that premiered after Bachelor in Paradise on Monday, in which a group of surfers compete to be the ultimate surfer. I kind of like that they didn’t try to do Surfing with Celebrities or anything stupid like that. These are real surfers and they were fun to watch and it helps that everyone on the show is extremely attractive. Shallow that may sound but it’s an ABC reality program. You don’t watch a show like this because you care about the people involved. You watch because you want to see attractive people on the beach or in the ocean.
And so another week comes to a close. You may remember that, last week, I announced that I was taking a break from watching the news this week. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, I spent most of this week worrying about everyone stranded in Afghanistan and getting increasingly more and more angry with the government that appears to have abandoned them. That the attacks on Thursday were expected by anyone who had been actually paying attention to the situation did not make them any less horrific. I watched a lot of news this week.
Here’s some thoughts on the non-news related programming that I watched:
American Justice (Tuesday Night, A&E)
A&E has apparently decided to revive the old true crime mainstay, American Justice. I watched an episode of Tuesday and while it was well-put together and it highlighted an interesting crime, it just wasn’t the same without Bill Kurtis introducing the story while standing behind police tape and wearing a trench coat. Dennis Haybsert does a serviceable job as narrator but no one can replace Bill.
Bachelor in Paradise (Monday and Tuesday Night, ABC)
David Spade’s time as guest host came to an end with this Monday’s episode and I was sorry to see him leave. He had exactly the right “who cares?” attitude for this silly show. As for the rest of the episode — well, I’m glad Demi is there because she brings the drama and she doesn’t pretend to be impressed by anyone. And I have to applaud the show for taking a lesson from ParadiseHotel and intentionally embracing just how silly and stupid it all is. Unfortunately, a lot of the people on the show are kind of boring when left to their own devices so let’s hope that the rotating hosts can keep things lively.
On Tuesday, Lance Bass took over as host. Also, Thomas — one of the more controversial bachelors from the previous season of TheBachelorette — joined the cast. As soon as he showed up, Aaron — who was also on the previous season of TheBachelorette — started to complain that Thomas wasn’t on Bachelor in Paradise “for the right reasons.” Like, seriously, Aaron — take a Midol and shut up. There are no right reasons for being on Bachelor in Paradise.
I watched Road House on Wednesday night so I had to watch BarRescue on Thursday morning. I don’t remember much about the two episodes that I watched because they do tend to all blend together. Mostly, I just remember Jon Taffer yelling a lot and the guest bartenders saying stuff like, “We’re going to keep the cocktails basic because all of you suck.”
Big Brother (All the time, CBS and Paramount Plus)
This season is turning out to be fairly dull but I’m still watching the show and writing about it over at the Big Brother Blog!
Dragnet (Weekday Morning, MeTV)
Because I’ve been sick and dealing with some other things, I started this week with a month’s worth of Dragnet on the DVR! On Sunday, I started watching.
The first two episodes that I watched were recorded on August 2nd, a Monday. These episodes also started the third season of the show, which was rechristened Dragnet1969. The third season is the season that focuses on what the 60s version of Dragnet was best-known for, Joe Friday and Bill Gannon lecturing hippies. The first of Monday’s two episodes was one of my favorites. Joe and Gannon are assigned to appear on a public affairs talk show where they debate a hippie newspaper editor and an sanctimonious professor. Joe and Gannon win the debate but the hippie (played by Howard Hesseman) gets all of the best lines. The host of the show wears a good deal of love beads, just to make sure that the audience knows he’s a commie. The 2nd episode featured Joe and Gannon working the night shift in the Juvenile Department, which meant dealing with a suspected shoplifter, an abandoned baby, and a stoned hippie who insisted on being called Prince George. Joe was tough but fair and probably didn’t convince a single person to change their ways.
On August 3rd, a Tuesday, the first episode of Dragnet featured Joe and Gannon trying to convince a group of black high school students to consider a career in law enforcement. Not surprisingly, many of the students were not particularly enthused about joining the LAPD. Gannon and Joe decided to recruit a black cop who was a former football player to make their case for them. The cop was reluctant but Joe told him, “If you talk to these students now, you might not have to put handcuffs on them later on.” The episode got even more cringey once it became obvious that a young O.J. Simpson was playing one of the high school students who was debating whether or not to become a cop. This was followed by yet another cringey episode, in which Joe and Gannon headed up the Command Room to coordinate the LAPD’s response to the “civil disturbance” that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Again, the show meant well (i.e., “Look at how professional the police were, even at a moment of great unrest.”) but it was hard not to cringe at the sight of the command center — staffed by several dozen white officers and one black patrolman whose only function in the story was to ask Joe and Gannon to explain things to him — smiling as they bragged about how the LAPD was doing a better job of keeping the peace than other police departments that night. There was little thought given as to why people across the country were rioting.
On August 4th, a Wednesday, the first episode of Dragnet featured Joe and Gannon pursuing dishonest tow truck drivers. Get ’em, Joe! As opposed to the previous four episodes, there was little moralizing or preaching to be found in this episode. Instead, Joe and Gannon just did their jobs. I liked it because, as a result of watching too many episodes of ParkingWars, I don’t particularly like tow truck operators. This was followed by an episode where Gannon and his wife went to Joe’s apartment for dinner. Joe dealt with some noisy neighbors. I always enjoy episodes where Gannon and Joe are off-duty because they act exactly the same as when they’re on duty. They don’t even loosen their ties. During the course of the dinner party, someone tried to burglarize the building’s laundry room so, of course, Joe and Gannon drew their guns and ran out of the apartment. Arrests were made and the laundry room was safer.
OJ On Dragnet
On August 5th, a Thursday, the first episode found Joe and Gannon working in the Robbery Division. They weren’t investigating crimes. Instead, they sat in an office and dispatched other officers. They did interrogate one quasi-hippie who tried to hold up a convenience store. He was shocked to discover he was going to jail! Take that, you ungrateful hippie! This was followed by an episode in which President Johnson came to town and Gannon and Joe coordinated with the Secret Service to keep him safe from all of the L.A. hippies. Though it should have been fun, it was actually a pretty boring episode.
On August 6th, a Friday, the first episode featured Gannon and Joe escorting “one of those lady authors” as she did research on a story about women at the police academy. The writer made the mistake of telling Joe, “I’ve never been high on cops” so it soon become Joe’s mission to educate her on why the police are important and also why she should totally be high on the cops. The writer wanted to do a profile on recruit Anderson. Unfortunately, Anderson’s fiancé didn’t want to her to become a cop. It was a bit of a mess but everything worked out in the end. Anderson decided she wanted to be a cop. Joe replied, “Well, I’m glad to hear that. A lot of time and money has been spent on your training.” Awwwww! This was followed by an episode in which Joe and Gannon met with business owners and encouraged them to start a neighborhood watch. “Get involved!” Joe commanded them. It was a bit dull.
On Monday, August 9th, Dragnet returned with two episodes. The first one was one of those unfortunate Dragnet episodes in which Joe, Gannon, and a private busybody citizen attempted to reach the kids. This time, they recruited a bunch of anti-drug teens to come up with posters and slogans that could be used to keep other teens from smoking marijuana and dropping acid. The anti-drug teens were so incredibly earnest and square that it was hard not to feel that they probably drove more kids to drugs than away from them. The 2nd episode featured Joe and Gannon investigating a case of police brutality. It turns out that the detective did go overboard but it was just because he was frustrated by not being appreciated by all the hippies on the streets.
On Tuesday, August 10th, the DVR did not record Dragnet. Maybe I forgot to set it. Maybe the cable was temporarily down in the middle of the night. It happens but, because Dragnet is an extremely episodic show (with every storyline resolved within 30 minutes), missing an episode is not as big a deal as missing an episode of modern show would be.
On Wednesday, August 11th, the DVR did record. The first episode found Joe and Gannon working the telephones at the police station, dealing with various situations that occurred as a tidal wave rolled towards California. Two hippies showed up at the station, demanding their right to hang out with their hippie protest signs. Joe kicked them out. This was all observed by a priest who was taking notes for an article. Fortunately, the priest learned that the police should never be doubted. This episode ended not with the usual details about whether or not anyone was convicted of a crime but instead with the narrator ordering the audience to appreciate the cops who work the front desk. This was followed by an episode where Joe and Gannon helped to train dogs to sniff out narcotics at the airport. Apparently, this was a new thing in 1969. The highlight of this episode was a lengthy dog training montage in which Joe and Gannon watched as dog-after-dog failed to track down the marijuana. Fortunately, the dogs got their act together by the end of the show.
On Thursday, August 12th, the first episode featured Joe working undercover to take down a crooked vice cop. As I’ve said before, I love it when Joe and Gannon go undercover because neither one of them is ever the least bit convincing as people interested in breaking the law but no one ever seems to notice. Joe pretending to be on the take and awkwardly reacting to a flirtatious waitress made this a classic episode. The second episode featured Joe and Gannon dealing with spoiled middle-class teenagers who thought it was no big deal to steal cars. Interestingly enough, I instantly recognized that one of the teenagers was played by the same actor who appeared as a LSD-loving hippie in the first episode of the third season. I looked up Lou Wagner on the imdb and discovered that he played four different characters — all of them out-of-control teens — on Dragnet. Wagner is also one of the two last-surviving cast members of the original Planet of the Apes. (The other is Linda Harrison.) Wagner played Lucius, the young chimpanzee who helped Taylor to escape. “Never trust anyone over thirty, Lucius,” Taylor told him at the end of the film.
Friday, August 13th, got started with an episode in which Joe and Gannon used a gigantic, bulky, multi-part computer to track down a gang that was stealing disability checks. This was one of those fun episodes where everyone was amazed by technology that was top-of-the-line in 1969 but which looks like an antique to modern viewers. There’s a certain amount of elitism that goes with laughing at an episode like this because it’s not like anyone in 1969 could have imagined what the world would be like in 2021. But that’s okay because, seriously, watching Joe and Gannon stare in amazement at that huge computer with its dot matrix printer was just too much fun. This was followed by a rather effective episode in which Gannon and Joe investigated a case of child abuse.
Monday, August 16th, started off with an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigates a series of burglaries being committed by someone calling himself The Crimson Crusader. He only stole comic books and movie posters but still, theft is theft and no one gets away with breaking the law when Joe Friday’s on the case! The second episode featured — YES!!!! — Joe and Gannon going undercover to investigate a prostitution ring. This time, they pretended to be farm equipment salesmen who were in L.A. for a convention. Once again, they didn’t even bother to loosen their ties before going undercover. Everything about them screamed, “Cop!” but no one seemed to notice. The undercover episodes are some of my favorites.
Tuesday, August 17th, got started with an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated a gang of check forgers. Did I mention they were hippie check forgers? Joe and Gannon had to decide whether or not to trust an informant. Did I mention that he was a hippie informant? This was a fun episode, as most episodes where Joe and Gannon have to deal with hippies are. Whereas past episodes at least humored the idea that hippies were idealistic but misdirected, this episode left no doubt that they were all crooks sponging off of decent society. This was followed by an episode in which a child was bitten by two dogs that might have been rabid and Joe and Gannon had to track down the dogs. AGCK! Rabid dogs are actually one of my big fears so this episode actually effected far more than you might otherwise expect.
Wednesday. August 18th, started off with an episode in which Joe, during his opening narration, explained that “Hippies see the world as being square. They want to change the world but, like all of us, they get overanxious. That’s when I go to work.” The actual case, though, had nothing to do with hippies. It involved Joe and Gannon trying to discover who had abandoned a 4-day old infant in a garbage can. It turned out that the culprit was Donna, who was knocked up by her boyfriend Tony right before he left for Vietnam. This was actually a pretty serious episode and it was pretty well-done. Joe and Gannon’s fury that someone would be so irresponsible as to abandon a baby was palpable. “You’ll never make mother of the year, lady,” Joe snarled as he arrested Donna. This was followed by an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated a case of embezzlement at a department store.
Thursday, August 19th, started off with the final episode of season 3 and yes, once again, Joe went undercover! A militia leader approached Joe about getting a licence to sell machine guns. Joe pretended to be willing to help but it was just so he could arrest the guy for illegally selling guns. Interestingly, for a season that loved to scold hippies, the third season ended with Joe arresting someone who disliked the counterculture even more than Joe did!
The second episode to air on August 19th was also the first of the show’s fourth (and final) season, during which the show was called Dragnet 1970. It featured Joe and Gannon investigating the shooting of two police officers during a liquor store robbery and it was actually a very serious episode, one that featured none of the preachiness that dominated season 3. This was a straight police procedural and it was well-done, if a bit dry. To be honest, it was so serious that I kind of found myself hoping a hippie would show up, just so Joe could yell at him.
Friday, August 20th, started off with an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated a double murder. The killer turned out to be a nerdy college student who wrote “gloomy poetry” and who claimed to be an exisentialist. “What’s an existentalist?” Gannon asked the student’s English teacher. “No one knows,” the teacher replied. This was followed by an episode with Joe went undercover — YAY! — to arrest a jewel thief. Helping him in his undercover operation was a policewoman. “Don’t worry,” the captain assured Joe and Gannon, “she’s capable and she looks good out of uniform.” Yes, welcome to 1970.
That brings us to this week!
On Monday, the first episode featured Gannon and Joe, waiting for a missing man to show up at a hospital. As they waited, they also investigated a series of other cases. One man brought in a dead woman who he claimed has just passed out in his car. It turned out that she was actually living with the man when she died but, because the man was on probation, he didn’t want anyone to find out the true circumstances of her death. Still, it was determined that she died of natural causes so the man was “released into the custody of his probation officer.” It was a bit of a dry episode, to be honest. It needed some hippies. This was followed by another dry episode, in which Joe and Gannon tracked down a burglar who was also a con artist and a bigamist. The criminal insisted on being called “mister.” Joe informed him that, from now on, he’d only be known by his prisoner number.
Tuesday returned us to the deadly world of hippies! This time, Gannon and Joe were investigating the case of a 12 year-old who overdosed on seconal. It turned out that he got the pills from the local hippie commune. While this episode featured some pretty Manson-like hippies and a scene where Gannon and Joe lectured a bunch of new teachers on the dangers of drugs, it actually wasn’t as campy as the anti-drug episodes that aired during the show’s third season. Still, I did have to smile a little when Joe and Gannon made a point of warning people about taking the meds that I take every day for my ADD. This was followed by an entertaining little episode where Joe and Gannon had to determine whether the man who had confessed to a murder was actually guilty. In typical Dragnet fashion, this episode featured a length explanation of how finger printing worked.
Wednesday featured two excellent episodes. The first featured Joe and Gannon investigating the disappearance of a high school student who turned out to be not quite who she was believed to be. An actress named Jill Banner gave a great performance as the missing girl. The second episode featured Joe and Gannon going to court and helplessly watching as three burglars they arrested were allowed to go free because a material witness was not able to make it to the trial in time. It was a well-acted episode and it was interesting that the point of the episode seemed to be that it was better that the three burglars go free than that they be convicted in an unfair trial.
The first of Thursday’s episode was an interesting if somewhat dry one. A prisoner in Colorado was up for parole but he still had a 14 year-old arrest warrant in Los Angeles so Joe and Gannon had to investigate the old crime and see if there was still enough evidence to justify charging the man. It turned out there wasn’t. Interestingly, after season 3 was all about criticizing the Left for being too easy on criminals, the first few episodes of Season 4 seemed to emphasize that the importance of protecting the rights of even the most obvious of criminals, even to the extent of letting a guilty man walk rather than violate proper procedure. This was followed by an amusing episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated a series of burglaries that had been masterminded by a diabolical and clever 12 year-old.
Friday started off with Gannon and Joe arresting a con artist and sending him to jail. It was typical Dragnet stuff. This was followed by another Dragnet drug episode, in which Joe and Gannon searched for a missing addict who, having completed rehab, had fallen back into his old habits. This episode was actually handled fairly well, largely because the addict was hooked on heroin, an actual dangerous drug. (Previous Dragnet drug episodes often portrayed marijuana as being the most dangerous drug on the planet, which made them easy to laugh at.) Still, it wouldn’t have been an episode of Dragnet without at least one scene of Joe telling off a snooty pro-drug academic and that’s what happened during this episode. Then again, snooty academics are kind of annoying so it’s always fun to watch them get put in their place.
Wow, I watched a lot of Dragnet last week. In fact, I watched so much that, for space considerations, I’m going to have to divide this post into two separate parts. So, look for part two of my week in television to post in about ten minutes!
When she was a teenager, Tara (Catherine Lidstone) was the only witness to the drowning of her brother, John (Michael Blake Kruse). He fell off a bridge after taunting her about her desire to be a professional photographer and telling her that their parents would be forever disappointed in her. Ouch!
Ten years later, Tara is still struggling with her brother’s death. She spends her time vlogging about photography, working a demeaning waitressing job, and carrying on a toxic relationship with Derek (Sam Krumrine). When Tara discovers that Derek has been cheating on her, she starts to spiral into depression. Fortunately, her best friend — Amy (Angela Gulner) — has a solution!
It turns out that Amy’s family owns a really nice house on the beach! Amy suggests that she and Tara spend a weekend up there, without phones, without WiFi, without any connection to the outside world. (Sure, how could that go wrong?) Tara is reluctant but she finally agrees to Amy’s plans.
At first, it seems like the perfect getaway. The house is big. The scenery is beautiful. And yet, Tara can’t help but feel that something is amiss. She hears strange sounds in the house. Some of her possessions end up disappearing. Even though she’s with her best friend, it soon becomes clear that there are some unspoken tensions between Amy and Tara. Amy is sick of Tara feeling sorry for herself. Tara feels that Amy is spoiled and has never had to struggle. Fortunately, since it’s only the two of them, they should be able to work through any issues pretty easily, right?
Then, Lucas (Peter Porte) shows up. Lucas is handsome and charming and really good at fixing things. He also says that he just happens to be a huge fan of one of Tara’s favorite books, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. When Amy says that she’s never heard of the book, Tara says, in shock, “But I did a whole vlog about it!” Hmmmm…..
Soon, Lucas is staying in the house with Tara and Amy. Tara likes him. Amy likes him. Does Lucas have an agenda of his own?
Of course, he does! And, let’s be honest, you figured that out as soon as I mentioned him. As I’ve said before, the best Lifetime films are always a little bit predictable. You don’t necessarily watch these films to be shocked. You watch them so that you can talk back to the screen as the characters in the movie make the most obvious mistakes possible. That’s part of the fun of a good Lifetime film. From the minute that Lucas shows up, it’s obvious that he’s not just some innocent hiker who happened to stumble across the beach house. It’s obvious to everyone but Tara and Amy.
But that doesn’t really matter. Though it may be predictable, Dead In The Water is still a lot of fun. In fact, it’s probably one of the more enjoyable films that I’ve seen on Lifetime recently. This film delivers exactly what you want from a movie like this — attractive people in attractive locations dealing with sudden melodrama and a lot of sexual tension. Director Nanea Miyata does a good job of generating suspense, especially early on in the film when Tara is struggling to figure out whether or not there’s really someone in the house or if her own paranoia is getting the better of her. In the two main roles, Angela Gulner and Catherine Lidstone both give good performances. You believe them as best friends, right down to their occasional disagreements. Seriously, the occasional disagreements are a key part of having a best friend. You love them even when you know you’re driving them crazy.
Dead In The Water was a lot of fun. Keep an eye out for it.
Doomsday Mom is a Lifetime true crime film, based on the disappearance of 16 year-old Tylee Ryan and 7 year-old J.J. Vallow and the subsequent arrest of their mother, Lori Vallow, and her new husband, Chad Daybell. Both Lori and Chad were heavily involved in the Doomsday movement, the belief that the end times were quickly approaching and that only the righteous would be saved. (Hence the title, Doomsday Mom.) Apparently, before the children disappeared, Lori and Chad had said that they had become demonically-possessed zombies. While the police were investigating the disappearances of Tylee and J.J., they also uncovered evidence that suggested that Lori and Chad may have been involved in several more deaths and attempted murders, including those of Lori’s ex-husband and her brother and Chad’s first wife.
It’s a disturbing story but it’s also one that hasn’t been resolved yet. Both Lori and Chad are currently in prison, awaiting trial. While the state of Idaho has ruled the Lori is not mentally competent enough to stand trial for murdering her children, the state of Arizona has still indicted her for attempting to kill one of her ex-husbands. Meanwhile, Chad will be facing the death penalty when his trial finally begins. Because neither has been convicted of any crime, they are still considered to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If they are found guilty, there’s still the question of how many of the mysterious deaths that occurred within their orbit were the result of foul playe and how many were just coincidences. (Lori’s brother, for instance, died at a rather convenient time for Lori but everyone still seems to agree that he had been in poor health long before Lori even met Chad.) There’s also the question of whether or not Lori is actually legally insane or if she’s just faking it to get out of being sent to death row.
That proves to be a bit of a problem for Doomsday Mom, which is a film that suggests a lot of things but can’t actually come out and take a definite stand on anything, beyond the fact that Lori and Chad were a creepy couple who believed in some strange things. Though the film clearly believes that both Lori and Chad are guilty, it still has to try to maintain some sort of ambiguity. Hence, we learn that people have died but we never learn much about the circumstances of their death. We learn that Tylee was rebelling against her mother’s strict rules but we don’t learn much details about those rules, beyond Lori insisting that Tylee stay home to babysit so that Lori could go to church whenever she felt like it. We don’t see much of Chad’s first wife, nor do we learn much about his family.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t really learn much about Lori and Chad’s doomsday beliefs, beyond the fact that they were convinced the world was ending and that the people around them were being possessed by demons. The film suggests that both of them were motivated by their own ego. Lori and Chad enjoyed being mini-celebs in the Doomsday movement. But, by not exploring how they came to have such beliefs in the first place, it’s hard not to feel that the film is refusing to give us some very important clues to understanding how all of these murders could have occurred in the first place. Presumably because the question of Lori’s mental competence is still in the air, the film cannot take a clear stand on whether Lori really believes all of the things that she says or if she’s just using all of the doomsday talk as a cover for her own selfishness. As often when happens when a film about a true crime case is rushed into production, Doomsday Mom often leaves the viewer with a number of unanswered questions.
On a positive note, both Lauren Lee Smith and Marc Blucas are chilling in the roles of Lori and Chad. Smith, in particular, is frightening as she switches from being a normal, overprotective mother to a wild-eyed religious fanatic, seemingly at random. Playing the role of the concerned grandparents of the missing children, Patrick Duffy and Linda Purl do a great job of capturing their desperation as they start to realize that, despite all of their hopes and efforts, they will probably never see their grandchildren again. The scene were they learn the fate of Tylee and J.J. is poignantly portrayed by both Duffy and Purl.
I always have a slightly problem with films like Doomsday Mom. I’m not a fan of rushing films into production to take advantage of a tragedy still being in the news. But Doomsday Mom is a well-acted and well-directed film, even if it can’t provide us with the answers that we may be looking for.
This cover, featuring two people packing in a hurry, is from 1962. Barye Phillips is one of my favorite pulp artists. His work has been featured many times in the past on this site and will be featured many times in the future!
The 28th music video played on MTV on August 1st, 1981 was this video for One Step Ahead by the Split Enz.
If some of this video appears to be familiar, that’s because Michael Jackson was apparently a fan and he based his later moonwalk on the walk that Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner does in this video.