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'Tales from the Crypt' nostalgia recap: Sparks from the start

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “The Man Who Was Death” | Aired June 10, 1989

In a world where the horror craze continues to flourish (for better or worse), there’s no better time to exhume the beloved anthology series Tales from the Crypt for a fresh outing of recaps and reviews.

Each week at The Community, we’ll take a look at one or two episodes, check out some fun facts, and examine the envelope the show continued to push. It was HBO, after all.

Okay, kiddies, let’s cue the music:

The start of the show’s seven-season run began in the summer of 1989 with a story ripped directly from EC Comics—specifically from issue #17 of The Crypt of Terror. Here we get the first glimpse of our storyteller, the Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir). Being über-familiar with the host’s shrill laugh, this first-episode Keeper was a little subdued, as if he had a head cold. No worries—the puns were aplenty.

Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors) , “The Man Who Was Death” stars William Sadler (The Green Mile, Roswell) as the title character (ironic, I know). Really, Sadler is a prison executioner—the one who flips the switch (twice, for good measure) on the electric chair. His name is Talbot, and he loves his job. As an electrician turned executioner, he delights in extinguishing the lives of lowly criminals. In voiceovers and direct-to-camera conversations, Talbot pokes fun at the prisoners’ blubbering and last-minute requests (“Wait—the governor is going to call!”).

Tales from the Crypt - William Sadler as Talbot

Then everything changes for Talbot when the death penalty is outlawed. The man is out of a job, so he goes drinking. He talks to the sympathetic barkeep (played by character actor Roy Brocksmith, Arachnophobia), and in the end, it’s not the job Talbot misses; it’s the work. And the work still needs to be done.

So Talbot becomes his own demented version of a vigilante and sets out to electrocute those who slipped through the judicial system. But he’s less like Batman and more like a serial killer-ish Judge Dredd. First up: a bad dude who gets fried on a rigged fence. Next: a murderous husband and mistress get zapped in a hot tub.

Finally, after a long-winded voiceover tirade about women, Talbot targets a stripper who’s to be barbecued in her dancing cage. But Talbot’s hot streak ends when the police arrive. Talbot gets arrested—just as the death penalty is reinstated!

The final scene throws it back to the first. Sadler’s Talbot is frantic, pleading with the guards, insisting that the governor will call with a pardon. But it’s too late for any of that—what goes around, comes around. And the switch is flipped … twice, for good measure.

Tales from the Crypt - William Sadler

Crypt Keeper Final Thoughts: “Don’t worry, though, I’m sure he never knew ‘watt’ hit him. So remember, boys and girls, safety first!”

Fun Fact: William “Bill” Sadler later went on to star in the first Tales from the Crypt feature film, Demon Knight (1995).

Notable Quote: “They say the electric current is so fast, the brain gets cooked just as soon as the switch gets throwed. Prisoner never feels a thing. Boy, I’d hate to think that was true.” —Talbot

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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