|The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006)
Starring: Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Patton Oswalt, Mindy Sterling, Corey Burton
Director: Chris Prynoski
The following text is a word-for-word transcript from an imaginary conversation between two executives at the Sci-Fi Channel:
Sci-Fi Channel Executive #1: I say, what’s next in the pilot pile, old chum?
Sci-Fi Channel Executive #2: Hee, hee. “Pilot pile.” You’re funny.
SFCE1: I know. That’s why I’m an executive at the Sci-Fi Channel. But enough jocularity. Television is a very serious business. What’s the next pilot up for consideration?
SFCE2: It’s called “The Amazing Screw-On Head.”
SFCE1: Excuse me, but I believe I just said that that’s enough jocularity.
SFCE2: Indeed you did, and it was very wise of you to do so, but I’m being completely and totally serious. That’s actually the title of this pilot.
SFCE1: But…but that’s crazy talk! Pray tell, what is it about?
SFCE2: You mean, besides an amazing screw-on head?
SFCE1: Wow, you mean, it’s not just a clever name? There actually is an amazing screw-on head? That’s brilliant! My God, we must add this show to our fall season post-haste!
SFCE2: Such quick thinking! Why, it’s no wonder you’re an executive! You truly are a genius.
SFCE2: As are you, Executive #1. As are you.
Of course, that’s not how it happened at all. Not even remotely. Would that we could have been a fly on the wall for the actual pitch meeting for “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” the one between the creators of the show and the network, because we can only imagine that it involved a great deal of back-and-forth conversation where the only phrase spoken by the folks from the Sci-Fi Channel was, “Yes, but, it’s called ‘The Amazing Screw-On Head.’”
True, that is what the series was called. But, you know, it’s not like it was false advertising.
Someone at Lionsgate deserves a raise for even attempting to sum up the show on the back of its DVD release with this single, succinct sentence: “President Lincoln calls on the resourceful robot secret agent Screw-On Head to stop the diabolical Emperor Zombie and his Vampire Queen, Patience, from unleashing the Occult Powers of a melon-sized jewel, Mr. Groin, to turn back the powers of Evil.” Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s also slightly inaccurate, but the bit that’s wrong (the jewel has no actual name -- Mr. Groin is the name of Emperor Zombie’s manservant) doesn’t change the completely bizarre nature of the show one whit.
Given the concept, which came from the mind of Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”), it’s no wonder that the series is animated rather than live-action. Frankly, it’s more of a wonder that the network provided executive producer Bryan Fuller with the money to produce the pilot in the first place. Then again, given that the voice cast included Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”), David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”), Molly Shannon (“Saturday Night Live”), Mindy Sterling (the “Austin Powers” films) and Patton Oswalt (“The King of Queens”), how could they really refuse?
“The Amazing Screw-On Head” features hilarious dialogue spattered among the probably-not-historically-accurate goings-on. Giamatti manages to imbue Screw-On Head’s dialogue with the kind of drama we haven’t heard from a TV hero since Adam West played Batman, but the performance that stands out is David Hyde Pierce as Emperor Zombie. Not that it’s a real surprise, given Pierce’s comedic gifts, but he takes the shambling corpse and gives him such a cheery, jovial voice that you’ll laugh from the mere incongruity of it.
Unfortunately, you’ll only get to laugh for 22 minutes. Despite how gorgeous the show looks and how fascinating and hilarious it is, the Sci-Fi Channel took a pass on the series; they probably only released the pilot on DVD in order to make back some of their investment. Why, one wonders, didn’t Fuller pitch the show to Cartoon Network as part of their Adult Swim line-up? The Sci-Fi Channel is gradually growing more hip, thanks to “Battlestar Galactica,” “Doctor Who” and “Eureka,” but they’re not exactly known for their sense of humor. (As proof, witness the fact that, right around the same time they were airing “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” they were also burying the should’ve-been-a-cult-smash British series, “Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace,” without much in the way of promotion.)
Maybe someday we’ll see the return of the Amazing Screw-On Head – Lord knows there are countless more adventures yet to be told – but when that time comes, here’s hoping that he ends up on a more appreciative network.Special Features: It’s always a bit weird when it takes longer to enjoy all of a DVD’s special features than it does to watch the main feature itself, but that’s what’s going on here. “The Amazing Screw-On Head” itself is only 22 minutes long, but you’ve got full-length audio commentary, a 14-minute featurette (“From Comic to Cartoon: Making ‘The Amazing Screw-On Head’”), and storyboard comparisons as well. This show, my friends, was much loved by its creators.