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Death Slot: ‘Freakylinks’

Freakylinks was a half season FOX series from 2000 that has the unique distinction of being cancelled 3 times within 13 episodes and was still a pretty damn good show.

After The Blair Witch Project was the massive underground hit that redefined cinema (for good and ill) in 1999 it’s creators (Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale and Daniel Myrick and their company Haxan) became the most sought after people in film. Soon enough the FOX network enticed them into creating a series for the 2000 TV season not based on The Blair Witch Project, but in the style of the film. The ensuing program would be known by the less than easy to roll of the tongue Freakylinks but it was originally titled Fearsum while in production (the unaired pilot even holds this title).

Before the series was marketed though the Haxan guys used a similar tactic to how they marketed The Blair Witch Project… viral internet marketing and obfuscation of the true nature of the upcoming series.

Freakylinks.com was a real website (no longer working but for a few years was kept up) that boasted real interaction with the shows “characters”. Initially no one knew this was a fake paranormal site designed to advertise TV series but it functioned as a real 2000 era site to talk about ghost sightings and the like.

In the series this was also the website run by the characters to the point that after an episode aired the story of that encounter would be added to the Freakylinks site as if it were a real event. These days this might seem goofy or hokey but remember this was in the infancy of what we think of as the internet and just the initial Blair Witch site snookered people so did Freakylinks.com (frames and all).

What was Freakylinks the series though?

The general story was one of Derek Barnes who used to run the site with his twin brother Adam, who died under very mysterious circumstances.

Now Derek uses the site to gather and catalog “the strange and unusual” hoping to find a clue as to what happened to his brother.

He is aided in this by Adam’s fiance Chloe, Derek’s best friend Jason and his tech gal Lan (subtle).

Also there is a shadow character that knows FAR to much about things that go bump in the night and pops in how and then in the form of Vince Elsing who may or may not be completely crazy. That is the general plot flowing through the episodes but the show takes a case by case manner to present things yet always preserving continuity. This is a series that must be viewed in order (more on that later).

Shot with a mixture of handheld and standard horror camerawork the “monster of the week” stories are all VERY interesting and more than once did NOT go where the viewer (even a jaded viewer such as myself) thought they would. In fact, episode 2 “Subject: Threethirteen” had a jumpscare in it that was both earned and deserved. This show did not skimp on the horror elements even though there was a great deal of humor as well.

The strongest reason Freakylinks worked was the characters. Not only were the actors all fantastic but I would argue that the character interactions were more of a reason I returned week in and week out to the series. These people acted like real people in very unreal situations.

The main cast was Ethan Embry (Dutch) as Derek and Adam Barnes, Lisa Sheridan as Chloe Tanner (Invasion), Karim Prince (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) as Jason Tatum, Lizette Carrion (Over There) as Lan Williams and the amazing Dennis Christopher (Fade To Black) as Vince Elsing. The show didn’t pull back on the awesome guest cast though as we had appearances by Jennifer Aspen, Ron Canada, W. Earl Brown, Jeffery Combs, Peter Onorati, Daniel Roebuck, John Billingsley, Eric Balfour and Eric Szmanda just before he got CSI.

The series was surprisingly well written and acted and as stated previously it had moments of genuine horror for television. Freakylinks is also hopelessly dated now though. The internet lingo, the digital handheld video (it was from the Blair Witch guys after all) and even the reliance on pay phones might make 2018 viewers snicker a little but remember that at the time this was the height of technology.

If I am praising this show so much (and it has a devoted fanbase today) why was it cancelled 3 times and only lasted for 13 episodes?

That is because FOX is run by morons. As I stated earlier the series is continuity based even though it might seem to be a “Monster of the week” kind of series. FOX aired nearly every single episode out of order to the point that it became a joke among fans that we could always look forward to the new episode referencing next weeks episode in the past tense.

It got so bad that this is the order FOX aired this continuity based series. “Pilot”, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 1, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 8, Episode 7, Episode 10, Episode 9, Episode 11 and finally Episode 12.

Basically the only episodes that aired where they took place were the pilot and the finale. Can you imagine what it was like attempting to keep the story straight? One week Chloe has lost her psychiatry license then she has it again then the team has to help her not lose it and then she has it again and finally the episode that CAUSES her to lose her license airs. It’s things like that which drove viewers away.

That is one reason viewers tuned out and this led to FOX cancelling the series after only airing 5 episodes. A letter writing campaign forced FOX to burn off 4 more episodes in the dead zone that is January of 2001 but the ratings for those 4 were even worse than the initial 5 so it was cancelled again.

ANOTHER letter writing campaign (using the internet ironically enough) made FOX burn off the the final 4 episodes in the summer of 2001 to no fanfare whatsoever (not even really advertising it). FOX was done with the series and after taking a year and a half to air 13 episodes Freakylinks was gone. The website continued for another year or two and was eventually archived on the official Haxan website but even that is a dead link now.

Did Freakylinks deserve better?

Of course it did, I would not writing about it if there was not merit here. There was never a DVD release and it did rerun a few times on the (now defunct) Chiller network, but those episodes were STILL run out of order AND were cut for time to add more commercials.

I have a homemade DVD set from my initial FOX broadcasts which I have placed in continuity order and that will have to do for now.

 

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