Dark Horse Comics.
This is from sometime in the late 1990’s. I can’t remember which one of you guys sent me this photo, or its date. But I’m running it primarily because of that old red t-shirt, which I loved so much that it nearly fell apart before I threw it out.
It was the “official” t-shirt of the Mary Washington College Department of Psychology, and I thought it was for one of the academic years I attended. But … it looks like it says 1989-1990, and I feel like I even remember that. (It’s a little hard to make out.) I went to MWC just afterward, between 1990 and 1994. I”m not sure what the story is here; maybe an upperclassman gave it to me?
The t-shirts were sold by psychology majors to raise funds for … something. Was it a picnic at the end of the year, or a trip or something? God, I’m getting old.
My only disappointment with that shirt was that I wore it for years without hearing a single relevant “Star Trek” joke.
I suppose that “Wizards and Warriors” was what passed for “Game of Thrones” in 1983. Except it was cheesy as hell (which of course meant that I loved it as a fourth grader), and it didn’t last longer than eight episodes.
It was CBS’ mid-season replacement for my beloved “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” (the Bruce Boxleitner retro adventure series that I’ve written about here previously), which was cancelled due to low ratings. “Wizards and Warriors” ran in its 8 PM time slot, and then itself was cancelled due to low ratings, so it never saw a second season. (I believe both shows were competing with NBC’s ratings juggernaut, “The A-Team,” which every kid in the world loved except me. I was weird.)
“Wizards and Warriors” was really just an obvious effort to capitalize on the popularity of the “Dungeons & Dragons” role-playing game. The show was campy stuff. The pilot episode, which you can watch in its entirety over at dailymotion, was entitled “The Unicorn of Death.” It dealt with a time-bomb hidden inside a princess’ birthday present, which strikes me as a pretty surprising plot for a sword-and-sorcery program.
It had a cast that went on to better things, though. One was Julia Duffy, of “Newheart” (1982-1990) fame. Another was “Grease” (1978) veteran Jeff Conaway, who most 80’s kids will remember from “Taxi” (1978-1983). The dastardly villain of “Wizards and Warriors” was played by the terrific character actor Duncan Regehr, a “that guy” actor who popped up in a lot of genre roles in the 80’s and 90’s. Here’s the thing about Regehr — I want him to be a real-life bad guy. He’s got an absolutely sly, suave, villainous face and manner — and his name just sounds like a villain’s name. If he’d left acting to commit a series of high-profile crimes in the real world, that would be wickedly, awesomely meta.
Dark Horse Comics.
A show like “The Exorcist” must be difficult to write. It stands in the shadow of some of horror’s greatest films (William Friedkin’s 1973 original and the third movie in 1990). Its plot device is inevitably redundant. (How many possessed innocents can we see strapped to beds while priests pray at them?) It seems easy to stray into camp. And it seems like a story concept that is tough to structure into a serialized format.
But the second season of “The Exorcist” was … fantastic. It surpassed the first season, and I’d rate it a 9 out of 10.
The ten-episode arc wisely changes things up a bit from Season 1, which was maybe a bit too reminiscent of the films. Our priestly dynamic duo are on the road in America’s northwest, and on the run from a Vatican that has been infiltrated by followers of the demon Pazuzu. (As stupid as all of that sounds, the show actually depicts it quite well.) As the story proceeds, there are a couple of surprise plot developments that will contradict most viewers’ expectations. (I won’t spoil them here.)
The characters are all likable and all well played. Ben Daniels remains possibly the show’s strongest asset as the senior priest; he’s just a superb actor. John Cho also gives a fine performance as the head of a foster home where a demon runs amok. Alfonso Herrera is quite good as the apprentice priest — his character is better written this time around, and isn’t saccharine to the point of annoyance. And Herrera himself seems more comfortable in the role. The kids are damned cool — all of them, and their interaction with their foster father was surprisingly sweet and funny — which raises the stakes emotionally when the entire household is besieged by a sadistic force.
The weaknesses here were minor. I think the ten episodes could have been shortened to seven or eight, to make them tighter. (I realize I write that about a lot of shows, and I’m not sure why.) The first five episodes were tightly plotted, while the second five were a little loose. I think better editing would have entirely excised the flashback scenes depicting Daniels’ character and this season’s new female exorcist, played by Zuleikha Robinson. (Yes, that is indeed Yves Adele Harlow from “The Lone Gunmen” and “The X-Files.”)
The flashbacks were cheesy, even if they gave Daniels a chance to show his range. They depict his tutelage of Robinson’s character decades prior, complete with some cliche pulp novel stuff. (Ugh.) We’re shown that the priest is younger because of his blond, surfer-esque haircut. (Really?) The flashbacks were out of place, and a little too campy. They reminded me of the comic book style of the “Highlander” films and TV series — this show could have done without them.
I also found myself slightly annoyed by a dearth of exposition about the process of exorcism itself. After the films and now two seasons of the show, I wanted to know more about the key actions here that affect the story’s resolution. Do some prayers or methods work better than others? Then why not use them all the time? Why are some interventions more lengthy or difficult? We are told that the demon attacking this family is different than Pazuzu, who we’ve seen in the past (though Pazuzu still puts in an appearance this season). Can the demons coordinate their efforts, or at least communicate with each other? If not, why not? These seem like logical questions to ask, both for the characters and the viewers.
But there is something more that bothered me. If a demon is intelligent and wants to harm people, then why make its presence known — and why torment or kill only a few people? Why not remain undetected until it can commit a mass murder? Or even perpetrate an act of terrorism, and harm far greater numbers of people by causing riots or wars? That would suit evil’s purposes far more than the garish individual spectacles we find them performing in horror tales like these. (Maybe I’m just analyzing too much.)
Anyway, I cheerfully recommend “The Exorcist.” It might be the most grownup horror show on television.
And one more thing — there’s some fun to be had here recognizing actors from other roles. Daniels was a member of the Rebel Alliance in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016). And there is actually another “The X-Files” alum here — even if it was only a small role. I thought that Harper’s mother looked familiar — the actress playing her was Rochelle Greenwood. She’s none other than the teenage waitress who witnessed Walter Skinner getting shot waaaaay back in 1996’s classic episode, “Piper Maru.” (Can I remember faces or what?)