Weird Science: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 DVD review
Starring
John Mallory Asher, Michael Manasseri, Vanessa Angel, Lee Tergesen
Director
Various
Weird Science:
The Complete Seasons 1 & 2

Reviewed by Ross Ruediger

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 eird Science,” a series based on the John Hughes movie of the same name, looks dreadful. Even Hughes’ original was one of his weakest outings from the good ol’ glory days of Shermer, Illinois. (Admittedly, that’s akin to saying “Return of the Jedi” was a weak “Star Wars” entry.) Could this one-gag movie translate into a series? Regardless, I gave it a chance for one big reason: Vanessa Angel. If, like me, you view “Kingpin” as the jewel atop the jagged Farrelly brothers crown, and a comedy milestone of the 20th century, then you’ve probably spent many hours watching Angel strut her wares alongside Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray. Yeah, Vanessa Angel is a smokin’ hottie, but that’s by no means the end-all, be-all of her talents. I’ve no idea if she was the first choice for Claudia, but it seems like the kind of role that many actresses would turn down based on the script. In any case, she ends up being an anchor for that film’s madness, and it’s no mean feat that the actress held her own alongside such seasoned co-stars.

But back to “Weird Science.” It’s related to the Hughes movie only at its core. Indeed, as the show goes on, it owes far more to “I Dream of Jeannie.” The first episode is similar to the film, with Gary (John Mallory Asher) and Wyatt (Michael Manasseri) conjuring up their dream girl Lisa (Angel) with a few inexplicable computer maneuvers. She’s a genie in a PC, able to grant the teens any wish – but the kicker is that the wishes ultimately wear off, though Lisa has no control over when that is. Result? At the end of every episode, all can be returned to normal so the gimmick can start over next week. Lisa’s often as inept as she is perfect, which frequently leads to wishes being granted in ways they weren’t quite wished for. The show even has its own Chett (Bill Paxton in the movie) played by Lee Tergesen (HBO’s “Oz”), who’s a comic foil for the three central figures.

The first three or four episodes confirmed my initial gut feeling of the show’s suckitude – even darling Vanessa wasn’t enough to save it. The acting is atrocious and storylines insulting. Surely this series -- on the air for five seasons -- had to have some redeeming qualities? Around the fifth episode, “The Feminine Mistake,” the show begins to get into a comfy, goofy groove that continues to gel as “Weird Science” moves forward. The boys become more likable, Lisa’s antics funnier, the scenarios more creative and the show overall more charming. By the time the second season kicks off, it even somewhat outgrows the silly “Wish granted!” premise and the writers make more imaginative use of Lisa’s powers. Case in point: in “Tale of Two Lisas,” Gary and Wyatt pull Lisa so hard in different directions with their wishes that she splits into two different Lisas – responsible Lisa and naughty Lisa. At first it seems perfect, but eventually Wyatt and Gary learn that their original, complete Lisa’s ability to simultaneously be an intelligent woman and a party girl is what they loved most about her. Angel is frequently dressed in skimpy, revealing outfits showcasing her fantastic bod, yet it rarely seems exploitative, and her winning personality is a big part of what keeps the proceedings afloat.

Make no mistake, “Weird Science” is never going down in TV history as any sort of landmark, but if you know going in that it’s a no-brainer, it’s amusing fare just as “I Dream of Jeannie” was back in the ‘60s. Bonus points to this set for retaining the catchy Oingo Biongo theme tune, as in this era of costly music licensing, one would think it might be the first thing to go for the DVD release. Double bonus points for keeping the “Bride of Frankenstein” clips intact for the opening credits as well. Noteworthy trivia: John Mallory Asher went on to marry Jenny McCarthy, as well as direct her in numerous films. The mind boggles at the fact, while watching him play the scrawny, horny teen of this series. Further, his mother is Joyce Bulifant (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) and she also plays his mother in this series.

Special Features: Two separate commentary tracks are on the pilot – one with Asher and Angel and one with Manasseri flying solo. Disc three features two more – “The Bazooka Boys,” again with Asher and Angel and “The Most Dangerous Wish,” again with just Manasseri. The Asher/Angel tracks are good fun while the Manasseri tracks are a bit stale, although that’s mostly because he’s got nobody to interact with. More than anything else, what comes through is the three leads’ great affection for the series and their time spent working on it. Disc four’s also got a cheesy interactive trivia quiz and cast bios. There isn’t a whole lot here and hopefully future sets will include some on-screen interviews with the cast and/or creators.

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