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Sunday, April 02, 2006

2.01 --- The Once and Future King

Directed by : Jim McBride
Written by : George R. R. Martin (story by Bryce Maritano)
Starring : Jeff Yagher, Lisa Jane Persky
First aired : 27th of September, 1986.

Gary (Jeff Yagher, an accomplished TV actor) is an Elvis impersonator, with the added touch that he incredibly resembles the King himself. He is stuck playing smaller venues, until his manager, Sandra (Lisa Jane Persky, The Big Easy, When Harry Met Sally), informs him that he's been booked for a string of Vegas shows. Gary is however unexpectedly downbeat - he sees Vegas as the career factor which killed Elvis, and is reluctant to accept the offer. After Sandra casually informs him that she met Elvis once in Vegas and he gave her a scarf as a memento, Jeff bolts the room and hits the road. While driving in the middle of the night and listening to Chuck Berry's Maybellene, Gary is forced to swerve for his life when a drunk driver enters his lane from the other direction. He avoids the direct impact, but crashes off the road into the bushes.

After some time, he wakes up, strangely unharmed, and decides to pick up his guitar and continue through hitch-hiking. The first car which stops to him is a 50s-looking pickup truck...driven by Elvis Presley himself (Yagher in a dual role) ! At first, Gary can't quite believe it, but then he sees on the newspaper that the date is 3rd of July 1954. - just one day before Elvis historically went to the Sun studios and cut his first record - he is positive that he went back through time. Elvis is amazed that Gary knows he booked studio time for 4th of July, and after his boss mistakens Gary for Elvis' brother, Elvis starts believing that Gary is actually Jesse, his twin brother which died at birth. Seeing this as his opportunity to work together with Elvis, Gary lies that he is Jesse, and the two agree to meet each other after work to exercise some material.

Alone in the abandoned warehouse, Gary and Elvis find out that they have some creative differences - while Elvis is favouring some old-style ballads, Gary wants him to play real rock'n'roll. After bursting into a sequence from That's All Right Mama, Gary is shocked to see Elvis, looking aghast, wholly disapproving of that "immoral" stuff. Few rough words later a tussle ensues, and ends with Elvis impaling himself on a broken guitar neck. Gary is devastated, but while burying Elvis, he comes to an idea - he's gonna take his place and become the King...and nobody will notice ! The next day, he heads off to Sam Phillips' Sun Records studios, casually plays That's All Right Mama during a break...and the rest is history.

Fast forward to the 70s, as Elvis, now fat and aged, is pacing around his hotel room talking to somebody how he isn't himself, and how he owes a life to somebody. His correspondant is a young fan - remember Sandra from the opening ? - who he gifts a white scarf just before ushering her out as he prepares for his next Vegas performance. As Sandra exits, Elvis/Gary takes a seat and sorrowfully looks into the distance...with Are You Lonesome Tonight ? gently echoing in the background.

***

Season 2 of the 80s Twilight Zone kicks off with this elegiac piece of alternate history of rock'n'roll, or to be more precise, the King of it - Elvis Aaron Presley. Directed by Jim McBride, previously of Breathless with Richard Gere (english language remake of Jean-Luc Godard's classic A Bout de Souffle), who later also directed Jerry Lee Lewis' biopic Great Balls of Fire and a vastly underrated crime thriller The Big Easy, this is a fine TZ episode, working on an interesting time-travel concept concocted by writer Bryce Maritano.

Yagher, while not being a incredible Elvis lookalike everybody seems to think, is just fine in his dual role, managing to draw a line thick enough for the viewer to clearly separate one from another. The rest of the cast are all bit-players, though it ought to be noted that Sam Phillips, Scotty Moore and Bill Black all look their part. Overall, in the world of Elvis fiction, The Once and Future King takes a good 2nd place with me - right behind Don Coscarelli's gem Bubba Ho-Tep.

Graceland trivia : Red West, who plays young Elvis' boss at the truck company, was in real life an actual friend of real Elvis Presley. They attended the same highschool in Memphis, and West later became first his personal driver, and eventually his bodyguard as well.

Comments on "2.01 --- The Once and Future King"

 

Blogger Tim said ... (12:01 AM) : 

I enjoyed this episode, but the casual dropping of the N-word was pretty jarring, especially for such a fundamentally light-hearted episode.

 

Anonymous Big Kev said ... (1:56 AM) : 

the was the last episode I've seen..I'm not sen the 80's TZ since the mid 90's..this was the last i saw on tv... damn I need to buy thse DVD's lol

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:18 PM) : 

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

 

Blogger GusF said ... (8:09 AM) : 

This is certainly a relatively light hearted episode by Twilight Zone standards. Yagher is convincing in the dual role and the fact that he looks the image of Elvis certainly helps make it more believable.

Not a classic by any means but it's a fun episode and a nice way to spend 25 minutes. In fact, there are very few episodes of any of the three series that could be described as "fun" but this is definitely one of them.

 

Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (4:22 PM) : 

This episode is a bit stupid and copies the same idea of Act Break back in season 1 (somebody travelling back in time to take the place of a historical figure and using their knowledge of their work to become them).

 

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