Wild Palms review by Matt Fuerst


I have a pretty decent home theatre setup, and I have had the same scenario happen time and time again. I have a person come over to my crib for the first time, and they all say "Let's watch some TV/Football Game/Trading Spaces". To which I respond: "Well, I don't have 'TV'." This always gets a very odd look. "What do you mean you don't have TV?" I got into a nice argument on Christmas day with a relative over at my house... going something like: The truth is that there is so painfully little I actually would watch on TV that I don't miss it at all. I struggled with the cable and satellite companies trying to get service, and finally got cable just to find (not surprisingly) that I hardly ever watched it. The few rare things I would watch, I decided to abstain from. I was tempted to watch the current Nip/Tuck season, but decided to wait for the DVD's since they are High Def and commercial free. Comparing that to a normal TV signal, it's a no brainer. My point here is that the very few things that I'd actually watch on cable are in my opinion far more entertaining on DVD. Same content, but in a better, more convenient format.

I am a little too young to have caught the Twin Peaks phenomenon when it was on TV. But thanks to the success of TV on DVD, it came out as a spectacular package last year (or maybe even in 2003, I forget). I greatly enjoyed it and since have kept my peepers peeled for similar type movies and shows. I saw the press release for Wild Palms and it seemed very influenced by the Twin Peaks phenomenon. Into the Netflix queue it went. Over the past 2 weeks I took in the 6 episodes. Wild Palms was definitely an ambitious project. Set in 2008 (the show aired in 1993) technology has arrived that allows television to be projected in 3 dimensions into peoples living rooms. The owner of the technology, Tony Kreutzer (Robert Loggia) happens to be a Senator, and has more nefarious plans for his technology. A struggle is occurring right underneath the noses of American between the "Fathers" and the "Friends". Using the technology, Kreutzer and his cronies plan on taking control of the world by doping the minds of the people. The underground resistance is trying to fight against the fascists, but with limited resources its an uphill battle.

Enter Harry Wykoff (James Belushi) a corporate lawyer who ends up working for Kreutzer. Wykoff is more involved in the "Friends" and "Fathers" than he realizes, as his wife happens to be the daughter of the "Friends" resistance and his son may well be a planted mole from "Fathers". Wykoff is manipulated by both sides.. the "Friends" are encouraging Harry to delve into Kreutzer's operations and feed the information back to them. Kreutzer and the "Fathers" plan on using Harry to destroy the resistance once and for all. Harry's situation is even more incestuous when it comes to light that his mother-in-law is Kreutzer's sister... Had Harry been living his whole life as a sham, with his destiny already written for him? All this occurrences are far too unusual to be sheer coincidence.

Wild Palms is packaged on DVD as a series of 6 episodes. The first two episodes are joined into one continuous piece, making it about an hour and a half long, and the remaining 4 episodes are traditional TV-hour-length, 40-some minutes long. One problem with the show is the pacing. While interesting, fairly little is actually revealed about what's actually going on behind the scene for the first 5 1/2 episodes. Once Harry finds the first "frayed edge" and starts pulling the string, the whole story comes unraveling very quickly. This isn't to say that the episodes aren't interesting, because for the most part I did find them well done and enjoyable to watch. I wouldn't call myself a huge James Belushi fan, and before this I would have told you I would have had trouble taking him seriously in a dramatic role, but he did a pretty reasonable job. Apparently there is quite a Kim Catrall following (who plays a damsel in distress role to both Harry and Kreutzer) but I personally am more of a Dana Delany fella, who plays depressed Grace Wycoff, Harry's wife.

While watching the Wild Palms DVD I was reflecting on how far film technology has come in recent years. The show is 4:3, which is fine, but the quality of the picture is very low. I initially just chalked that up as "Well that's the going standard at the time for broadcast TV", but then I paused for a moment, ate a bearclaw, and realized that the Twin Peaks (to which Wild Palms is oft compared) Season 1 DVD has spectacular picture quality. As good as any mainstream film of today. So, I am going to have to chalk this one up to poor workmanship. Not that I particularly blame them, since I am sure the Wild Palms DVD set isn't going to burn up the sales charts.

Overall, an interesting little experience. There is almost enough there to entertain you on a consistent basis, but there isn't really enough to justify me to recommend you spending 4+ hours of your life in the Wild Palms world. If you want a quality, odd television series, check out the real deal - Twin Peaks.

4 out of 10 Jackasses
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