The Forgotten Comedic ‘Twilight Zone’ Featuring Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara
There’s obviously a ton of comedy content available in the world — a not insignificant portion of which involves Madea and Ernest celebrating holidays — which means that some movie and TV comedies have completely slipped through the cracks over the years. Case in point: the short-lived 1985 series George Burns Comedy Week.
While it only lasted for a few months, the talent behind this forgotten comedic anthology show is incredibly impressive, and some of the episodes are surprisingly good. Burns was basically the Rod Serling to this show’s Twilight Zone, playing host and introducing bizarre, self-contained stories each week. But the project came from executive producer Steve Martin, who admitted at the time that he “pilfered” the idea from Steven Spielberg’s anthology series Amazing Stories and didn’t even know what an anthology was.
Martin and fellow executive producer (not to mention Jaws screenwriter) Carl Gottlieb wrote several episodes, including the pilot, all about a highly suggestible woman with a photographic memory, played by the great Catherine O’Hara, who can (and does) become anything that is casually mentioned in conversation — including a bomb expert.
The next week’s episode found O’Hara’s former SCTV pal/future Schitt’s Creek co-star Eugene Levy playing a suburban dad who goes on a fishing trip that takes a decidedly dark turn.
Other episodes featured familiar actors like Carrie Fisher, Paul Reiser, Michael McKean and Don Rickles. And the behind-the-scenes talent included directors like Amy Heckerling and John Landis. Weirdly, one episode was penned by David Simon, who would go on to create The Wire, but apparently cut his teeth writing about how Patrick Duffy is obsessed with a literal dream woman, played by Geena Davis.
Also worth noting is the penultimate episode, which is a sequel to A Christmas Carol, where Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted for a second time the following year. This time, he learns to be frugal again, as long as he’s not such a dick about it.
Unfortunately, George Burns Comedy Week was reportedly “dealt a network time slot virtually sure to doom it,” and the show was ultimately canceled after just a few months. At least it can now be seen on YouTube, the only streaming service where you sometimes get to see 40-year-old All-Bran commercials.
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