Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Creepshow: Model Kid & Public Television of the Dead

Nothing will get your lousy butt killed in the EC Comics that inspired the Creepshow franchise faster than abusive behavior. That is particularly true when it happens within families, but comeuppance comes just as surely in the workplace. Viewers will see examples of both in the first episode of Creepshow’s second season, which premieres Thursday on Shudder.

“Model Kid,” directed by showrunner Greg Nicotero, is about as classically
Creepshow as you can get. Joe Aurora learned to love Universal-style monsters from his loving, but ailing mother. Unfortunately, when she succumbs to cancer, he is sent to live with his Uncle Kevin, who has contempt for nerd culture. The poor kid is not given the time or space to grieve, but an advertisement in a Creepshow comic book offers a sinister way to deal with his mean-spirited guardian.

The elements of “Model Kid” are all very familiar, but the cool looking Mummy and Gillman have their nostalgic appeal. Of course, the “Gillman” is what you call a Creature from the Black Lagoon sort of character, without infringing on Universal trademarks. There is indeed quite a bit of appealingly nostalgic design work in the opening story, but John Esposito’s story itself is pretty standard stuff and Nicotero fails to lean into its potential for catharsis.

However, Nicotero kicks the season premiere into high gear with the wickedly funny “Public Television of the Dead.” It is Pittsburgh, 1972. The local PBS affiliate’s top show,
Mrs. Bookberry’s Magical Library, is poised to breakout nationally, but the awful co-host is determined to have the time-slot currently held by Norm Roberts’ Bob Ross-style painting show. Roberts is a Viet Nam vet, who has found inner peace through paint, but he has the survival skills his station manager and producer are going to need. Things are about to get Evil Dead-ish when Ted Raimi, playing himself, brings a certain book to the station’s antique appraisal show.

Rob Schrab’s mash up of pledge drives,
Mister Rodgers, and The Evil Dead is laugh out loud funny and the gory effects make a worthy homage. Plus, the pitch-perfect period details totally scream 1970s public television. Mark Ashworth channels Ross in a way that is both sympathetic and completely nutty. Todd Allen Durkin and Marisa Hampton also provide solid comedic support, while keeping things as grounded as possible, playing George the producer and Claudia Aberlan, the station manager.

Fans should note, the first episode of season two already shows marked improvement over the first season in one respect. This time around, the Creepshow Creep is given more time to do his creepy shtick introducing each story. That is cool, because the host is always a critical part of anthology, especially one directly modeled after vintage horror comics.

As a result, the season opener will probably leave the faithful very satisfied. “Model Kid” stays true to the franchise spirit, but “Public Television of the Dead” is the story you will want to re-watch several times over. Highly recommended for franchise fans and regular genre viewers,
Creepshow season two, episode one starts streaming this Thursday (4/1), on Shudder.