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TeeVee Mailbag VI: Currying Favor

Hell of a thing, this Internet. It can bring people together who might otherwise never meet. It can spur total strangers to political action. It can entertain, amuse, and at its best moments, even enlighten. All the world's information right at our fingertips, as that creepy old guy says in all those Magnavox commercials. And all thanks to the Internet.

But the Web has a darker side, too. An ugly, seamy underbelly that was unthinkable just a few generations ago. Back in the old days, when computers were big and klunky and only used by oily losers walled off from the rest of us, if someone had an unnatural obsession with something -- say, a book or a song or a conspiracy theory or even, for the sake of argument, hardcore Swedish pornography -- they pretty much kept it to themselves. They had no place in this world to air their secret shame. And we were the better for it.

But now... now... the Internet allows that troubled loner who may have thought that he was the only one to understand the subversive pleasures of Jim Varney to find others of his demented ilk. And they can sit around in their virtual chat rooms for hours, discussing the finer points of "Ernest Goes to Jail" or "Ernest Scared Stupid" or those car commercials Varney did for Sacramento-area dealerships owned by John L. Sullivan in the late '80s. Then, presumably, they masturbate.

Creepy? Sure. Unthinkable? We used to hope. But then the other day, we here at TeeVee stumbled across an online cult of women who worship Tim Curry as a god. And let us tell you, they do not take too kindly to having their deity taunted.

You may be aware that we're in the midst of our annual Fall TeeVee Dead Pool, to see which new show will be the first cancelled by craven network executives. And many of us Vidiots picked Over the Top, a sitcom starring the aforementioned Tim Curry and one Annie Potts. We did this for a number of sensible reasons -- its hackneyed premise, its re-shot pilot episode, the fact that the producer was once boffing the programming chief but was thrown over for Chandler Bing. But to a man, most of us also singled out the sainted Tim Curry as one of the primary reasons for Over the Top's likely fall. Maybe it's because we were forced to sit through "Annie," maybe we never fully understood the appeal of "Legend," maybe that uncomfortable evening we spent at the Santa Monica Nuart watching the midnight screening of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" scarred us more than we thought, but we can't envision an America where TV viewers are giddy over the thought of prolonged exposure to Tim Curry.

Reasonable thinking? So we thought. But to the Clan of the Curry-ites, it was unpardonable Blasphemey against their messiah. User774866@aol.com was the first to call us on the carpet:

I've read some of your opinions for some new TV shows. Over the Top is the only one which has not yet aired. What did you base your opinions on? Did you or any of your colleagues actually watch an episode? Every one of your people had negative comments about Tim Curry & Annie Potts which had nothing to do with the show. I know at least a dozen people who have gone to about 6 or 7 tapings of the show & they've LOVED it!! I think you've all let your personal feelings about the actors cloud your objectivity. Personal attacks & sarcastic comments about the actors don't make a good review.

One of us -- we won't mention the Chinaman's name -- wrote User774866@aol.com back, in a vain effort to explain that while we certainly appreciated her devotion to Mr. Curry, common sense made it abundantly clear that Over the Top was going to be eight kinds of awful. He thought he was being helpful. Little did he know, he was digging his own grave.

Because soon, this poor, unnamed TeeVee writer of Chinese origin was being flooded with letters by outraged Tim Curry fans, each one more idiotic than the last. BUDMOMMA@SKAT.NET opined:

I agree with you that TC will probably not do well in comedy TV. But to say that I am an ape because I enjoy long exposure to him is not very nice!

Tim is truly great in what he himself hates most-- Rocky Horror--Legend--It. He's definatly a little weird in his private life too--pretty much in love with himself, I'd say.

Anyway, I'm still a fan. You wouldn't expect Stephen King to write romance, would you?

Which is what we thought "It" was. But that's neither here nor there. ScrtOMana@aol.com was the next to express her outrage:

I beg to differ with your opinion from your website. I think "Over the Top" has a very good chance of doing very well for ABC, but if opinions like yours keep showing up, who knows what will happen. Have you even seen the show?

Where do you base your opinions? Let me guess, you've seen a couple Tim movies and figured you don't like the guy. Annie made a couple sitcoms that didn't work so you're ready to throw her out too. Don't forget, Tim and Annie have also done very well but I know sometimes it is hard for reporters to see the good things. Remember Three Musketeers, Muppet Treasure Island, Designing Women? Those were very popular.

As for the reason ABC remade the pilot episode. Probably because they changed 2 of the characters. They replaced the daughter and the maid. I think that is a very good explanation for reshooting the pilot. The new pilot is almost identical to the original.

Yes, you are entitled to your opinions. Just realize, not everyone dislikes Tim and Annie as much as you apparently do so give the show a chance. We Tim fans are not "closet" people as you seem to think. We are regular folk just like you.

Oh... somehow we doubt that.

But it was Dixilee@aol.com -- apparently the chief priestess of the cult -- who finally sent us over the edge in her praise of the blessed Curry:

I was saddened by your recent "prediction" regarding ABC's "Over the Top." My friends and I have been eagerly awaiting this series as we have the highest opinion of Mr. Curry's and Annie Potts' comedic abilities and were delighted to hear that they would be working together once more.

Your comments in reply to a note from a friend of mine regarding Mr. Curry's career made me wonder whether you are familiar with the body of his work:

Oh, God, are we ever... his performance in the DOA comedy "Oscar," his scenery-chewing throughout "Congo," and of course, "Muppet Treasure Island" where he's out-acted by a gaggle of sock puppets.

i.e., that "Tim Curry has spent his entire career as a supporting player." Actually, he starred in his first film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (which, 22 years later, is still playing world-wide)

Yes... to an audience of freaks...

and has created leading roles on Broadway ("Amadeus" and "My Favorite Year," for both of which he received Tony nominations.

And naturally, when it came time to make a movie of "Amadeus," the Tony-nominated actor was passed over in favor of the guy who played Pinto in "Animal House."

As the Pirate Captain in "Pirates of Penzance," he was given the Royal Drama Academy Award in Great Britain, not to mention having portrayed the title role in the BBC's 6-hour series, "The Life of Shakespeare."

Wasn't that on Fox last Saturday?

Truly, Mr. Curry has paid his dues and then some.

And made us pay, too.

We have been hoping that this new TV series will give him scope to demonstrate some of his other talents; his singing voice is just short of operatic

In the same way that L.A. is just short of Baltimore.

and his skill at mimicry very fine indeed (best demonstrated in the British film "Blue Money," in which he did impressions of eight or ten vocalists ranging through Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, et al).

Yes, I *am* a fan of Tim Curry. He is perhaps the most multi-talented actor on the planet, in my opinion.

I understand that you personally are less than charmed by Mr. Curry's skills and I do not ask that you plug his new series, but it would be greatly appreciated were you to give it a fighting chance before condemning it sight unseen.

Apparently, the First Church of St. Tim of Curry is laboring under the impression that our little TeeVee Dead Pool will have some sort of undue influence on the populace at large -- that impressionable TV viewers will stumble across our Web site and be tricked into not watching Over the Top. Or even worse, that gullible ABC executives are reading our site and will decide to yank Over the Top toot sweet, thus robbing the Branch Curry-idians of their badly needed doses of Tim. Jesus, even we aren't megalomanical enough to think that our opinion carries any weight.

(On the off chance that they're right, however, and ABC executives are reading this... please, please, please cancel Hiller & Diller. And do something about those ads, Jamie.)

We don't know what the Curry coven was thinking by sending us a spate of pro-Tim, anti-Us letters. Maybe they hoped it would change our minds, that we would slap our collective foreheads and say, "Goddamnit, what were we thinking? 'Clue' is one of the underrated gems of American cinema! And his Russian accent in 'Hunt For Red October' isn't the least bit comical!"

Well, they thought wrong, damnit.

If anything, this little episode has turned us even more against Tim Curry and all that he touches. Whereas before, we were willing to just critique the merits of his body of work, we now find ourselves hating him and all that he stands for. And rather than force us to rethink our admittedly hasty opinion on Over the Top, the Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Curry-dom have instead made us eagerly await the failure of that show as well as any future projects Tim Curry happens to be involved in.

We hope you're happy, girls...

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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