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Wild Palms

Entry updated 23 February 2017. Tagged: TV.

US tv miniseries (1993). American Broadcasting Company/Greengrass Enterprises/Ixtlan. Created and written by Bruce Wagner. Executive producers Wagner and Oliver Stone. Six hours. The first two-hour episode "Everything Must Go" directed by Peter Hewitt; the next one-hour episode "The Floating World" directed by Keith Gordon; the next one-hour episode "Rising Sons" directed by Kathryn Bigelow; the next one-hour episode "Hungry Ghosts" directed by Keith Gordon; the last one-hour episode "Hello, I Must Be Going" directed by Phil Joanou. Cast includes James Belushi, Kim Cattrall, Dana Delany, Angie Dickinson, Brad Dourif, Ernie Hudson and Robert Loggia. 5 60-minute episodes. Colour.

This is the closest US television had gotten to Cyberpunk by the early 1990s, and to hammer the point home William Gibson has a walk-on part as himself. The series is loosely based on a series of comics by Wagner published in Details magazine (1990-1993). The year is around 2007. Harry Wyckoff (Belushi) is a California attorney whose life is turning weird; he keeps seeing a possibly hallucinatory rhinoceros; his son is cold and withdrawn. He joins a group of religious cultists (the "new Realists" who believe in "synthiotics") run by a sinister senator, a figure apparently based on L Ron Hubbard (see Scientology), who has a new media television network, "The New Reality", that projects holograms ostensibly for entertainment purposes (see Media Landscape), actually for mind control, with the help of Drugs. Nanochips, the Japanese and conspiracy theories are involved. It is often difficult to separate Virtual Reality from mundane reality. People suffer from image sickness. The whole thing is a paranoid tapestry, saturated in pop culture both contemporary and as projected into the Near Future, unusually virulent for television (especially the blinding scene, which deliberately evokes the fate of Oedipus), and is somewhere between completely over-the-top comic-strip melodrama and genuinely impressive intensity. It is certainly stranger than any television predecessor, with the possible exception of the cult television series Twin Peaks, which many critics thought it somewhat resembled. Perhaps the outstanding sf television of the early 1990s, though there are certainly plot oddities not really cleared up. Of Wagner's three books on the film [see his entry], the most directly relevant may be Wild Palms: The Teleplay (1994). [PN]


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