Faerie Tale Theater (Season 1)

Quite easily the greatest 80’s kid TV show not starring Paul Reubens, Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theater is a crazy masterpiece that hits all the right notes: classic stories, edgy screenplays, the coolest cast of actors, and a self-aware sensibility that was light years’ ahead of anything being produced while Reagan was president (with- again- the notable exception of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.) The scripts are supposedly for kids, but clearly for adults, full of jokes and innuendos no child will ever get, yet completely sincere and sweet in their sensibility- two aspects which also describe Duvall’s own persona pretty well. She manged to squeeze out 26 episodes across 6 seasons with this clever pitch, and not a single dud among them. Let’s begin with the first season.

Season 1 was just two episodes: first, The Frog Prince starring everyone’s favorite coked-up comedian, Robin Williams, and the great Teri Garr as his spoiled romantic lead. They’ve got great comic chemistry, but they’re not the only ones: the king is played by the underappreciated comic genius of René Auberjonois (riding his Benson fame quite nicely,) and we get a cameo by Seinfeld favorite Michael Richards. On top of everything, the great Eric Idle narrates (and directs) the way only a Python can, setting the comic bar way high for the entire series. The Frog Prince remains one of my all-time favorites.

Not to be outdone, here comes episode two: Rumpelstiltskin, starring our favorite Fantasy Island small person, Hervé Villechaize in the creepiest role you’ll ever see billed as being child-appropriate. Shelley takes on the role of the miller’s daughter herself, and her dad is played by that great goof, Paul Dooley. Speaking of goofs, the King is none other than our beloved Ned Beatty, who brings out the genuine asshole that has always been implied in this classic tale. Bonus: a weird brief cameo by Harold and Maude’s Bud Court!

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