Nightmares & Dreamscapes: You Know They Got a Hell of a Band (TV)
Starring Steven Weber, Kim Delaney, Jacinta Stapleton
Written and Directed by Mike Robe
Occasionally Stephen King's short stories are just demented, quirky fun. They're not really deep or touching (I hear some of you pooh-poohers out there… and yes, many of King's stories are deep and touching), but they're just a whole hell of a lot of fun. And "You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band" is one of those. I love this story. On the surface it's sort of weird and silly, but there's definitely an undertow of terror.
"You Know…" tells the story of Clark and Mary Willingham (or Rivingham for the sake of TNT… and for cripe's sake will someone PLEASE explain to me why in the hell writers adapting King's work randomly change names? What's the point of this?!!?) Sorry… rant over. Anyway, Clark works for a big computer company and may be getting transferred soon, so he suggests to Mary – a teacher who's off for the summer – that they go on a little trip to see Oregon before they leave it.
Clark, convincingly portrayed as a sort of mock macho trailblazer (you know, one of those guys who works behind a desk all the time, so when he gets out in the wild feels he's got something to prove) by Steven Weber, decides they should go a little off the beaten track in an attempt to avoid traffic and save time. Of course, shortly after leaving the main highway, they come to a fork in the road that isn't on the map, and Clark chooses one, ignoring Mary's desire to turn around. He has to press forward and prove… something. And sure enough, the road gets worse and worse and they get more lost the farther they go.
Up to this point Robe, who's also a producer of the series and has worked some as a writer/director/producer on TV, has done a pretty decent job. He strays a bit, making Clark a 50's and 60's music buff and having a strange occurrence with a melting CD and Mary having a hallucination (I know where he got it from, but I think he took it too literally and too far); but I was a little surprised that I wasn't hating it already. Usually, when I'm that fond of the story, it gets butchered… it's just my luck.
He kept Mary's strange dream nearly word for word, which was great because it includes one of my favorite King lines… well, maybe just about ever. "That's just some guy's body… broken for you, and for many." I love it. And in context, a really interesting line as well, since it's in reference to flesh in a jukebox… and seems to suggest something rather painful in regards to making music for other people.
So, Clark and Mary have gotten lost in the woods… like Hansel and Gretel… and stumble upon Rock And Roll Heaven, Oregon, a town Norman Rockwell may have drawn… at least at first glance. But it wouldn't be Stephen King if it was Rockwell, now would it?
Clark and Mary go down into the town, which is where Robe sounds a few false notes (ha ha). First off, the look-alikes really don't look very much like the people they're supposed to look like. Second of all, the revelation comes a little too quickly (and over the top, too… that scene with the waitress, by the jukebox… c'mon guys… we're not stupid). The acting was good. Weber has gone a long way towards proving he's a friend of King fans (it's not his fault no one can touch Nicholson's Jack Torrence), and Delaney is always good. William McNamara too, who plays Ricky Nelson, I've followed since Doing Time on Maple Drive.
But the real star of the whole episode, whom I absolutely loved, was Aussie actress Jacinta Stapleton, who played the terrified and haunted waitress Sissy Pryor. She was fabulous and carried the tone of the episode in her beautiful ghost blue eyes… especially in that final scene. She hasn't done too much according to the IMDB, at least not Stateside, but I sure as hell hope she does in the future. She was really great and worth watching the episode for.
All in all, Robe does a pretty decent job, bar a few awkward steps, and delivers an episode with a cool look and a fairly well handled adaptation of a story I really enjoyed. Usually I love it or hate it… in this case I didn't do either, but it's a mark of achievement that I didn't hate it. I'm really hard to please when it comes to King adaptations. Though this wasn't the highlight of the series – without a doubt that honor rests with "The End of the Whole Mess" – it was far from the dregs (I'm looking at you, April Smith).
3 out of 5