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Death Slot: ‘Perversions of Science’

Based on the EC Comics series, Tales From The Crypt was a monster success for not only HBO in 1989, but for the idea of cable television being taken seriously as a medium. When Tales From The Crypt appeared on the scene the anthology series was all but dead and Crypt reinvigorated it. Smart stories with flashy casts and big name directors showed the audience that horror can be both entertaining and fun simultaneously.

This time we are not looking at Tales From The Crypt, but the long forgotten spin-off series Perversions Of Science, Crypt’s science fiction themed counterpart.  But to look at Perversions Of Science, we must first delve into the history of Crypt.

Crypt won many awards and was an audience favorite, deservedly so. Until it’s final season Crypt was a high quality series that earned the ratings and accolades which give viewers fond memories of the series. That final season though was rough. To save money production was moved from America to the U.K. and the bulk of the guest cast were British actors largely unfamiliar to American audiences.

Officially this was done to “Bring new faces and talent to the viewer” but it was really all financial as season 6 was starting to bleed viewership off and HBO was attempting to reduce costs while still making enough episodes to syndicate down the line (for syndication you need 100 episodes).

After season 7 HBO still saw some life in the “franchise” though and attempted a Science Fiction version of Crypt in Perversions Of Science. Originally titled Weird Science (the name of the Science Fiction EC comic book that was a companion piece to the Tales From The Crypt comic) it was altered to Perversions Of Science to avoid confusion with the John Hughes movie of the same name.

Perversions Of Science featured the same producers as Crypt (Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis) and much of the same crew not to mention shooting in Los Angles again. This was a high end production with a large per episode budget rivaling that of only Amazing Stories back in the 1980’s. This caliber of production attracted large names to it the same as Crypt had years prior. All in all it was formatted the exact same, simply genre flipped.

Yancy Butler, Keith Carradine, Jeffrey Combs, Heather Langenkamp, Jason Lee, Kevin Pollak, Jeff Fahey, Jamie Kennedy, Ron Perlman, Kathleen Wilhoite, Sean Astin, David Leisure, Laraine Newman, Adam Arkin, Elizabeth Berkley, Edie McClurg, William Shatner, Wil Wheaton, Paul Williams, Harvey Korman, Peter Jason, Chris Sarandon, David Warner, Lin Shaye and even Joey freaking Buttafuoco would all appear in front of the camera. Behind the camera directors such as Russell Mulcahy, Sean Astin, Walter Hill, Tobe Hooper, William Malone and William Shatner. Aided in this task by writers such as Peter Atkins, David Goyer, David J. Schow, Mark Verheiden and Andrew Kevin Walker it was easy to bring forth unique takes on classic EC comics tales of science run amok and like Crypt, all of the episodes have some kind of twist ending

Since this was an official Tales From The Crypt spin off and with the Cryptkeeper being a pop cultural icon at this point Perversions Of Science needed a host to rival him… and they did not succeed. Here we have Chrome, a very late 1990’s CGI construct of a “sexy” robot woman for a host.

Voiced by Grease 2‘s Maureen Teefy, Chrome would lead the viewer into the episode via opening her boob and the camera zooming in.

Needless to say Perversions Of Science was not high minded in terms of who it wanted for an audience as this series would amp up the sex and debauchery far more than Crypt did. This could be seen as simply adapting to the new world of pay cable television which was becoming more and more graphic, but really it was a move that reeked of desperation. Many episodes featured naked women when they served no purpose in the story.

Hell, the building Chrome lives in has knocked out windows that spell “SEX” and even the logo has a half circle in the shape of a boob with a hard nipple. Subtle this was not.

William Shatner in “Boxed In”

Despite the talent behind and in front of the camera Perversions Of Science did not fare as well with critics nor audiences. In fact, it was almost ignored at the time it came out in 1997.

Very little coverage in magazines and even HBO failed to promote it very well.

Lasting only ten episodes, the series flew under the radar to the point many people today are shocked to find out that an expensive Tales From The Crypt spin-off even existed. More people know about the thoroughly awful children’s cartoon Tales From The Cryptkeeper than are aware about Perversions Of Science.

All of that said it would be wrong to write off the series outright as there are many fantastic episodes.

Tobe Hooper’s “Panic” and William Malone’s “The Exile” are standouts, and in fact of the ten episodes I can only name two that I feel were genuinely bad television. The rest such as Shatner’s “Boxed In” are fun, but forgettable.

Others, such as “Given The Heir” are good ideas that for whatever reason just weren’t executed well.

One thing that may have doomed Perversions Of Science more than any other factor was it’s tone. In Tales From The Crypt outside of the odd episode here and there you knew it was a horror series at it’s core… with Perversions Of Science there was no consistent tone whatsoever.

One episode would be hard sci-fi meant to make you think and ponder the piece, then the following next week a slapstick comedy episode followed by an action adventure tale set 400 years in the future.

A series, even an anthology series, needs to set a tone and Perversions did not do this. Do not mistake tone for variety though as a variety in storytelling is a positive but there must be a tone. You can not expect an audience to not know each week what KIND of show they are watching. The Outer Limits in 1963 told a massive diversity of tales but you always knew what the show would FEEL like. Perversions Of Science failed in this regard.

The 10 episodes are not on DVD and HBO seems to have zero interest in releasing them. They can be found fairly easily on YouTube though so I suggest seeking the show out.

 

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