Tales From the Darkside 216: Printer's Devil

It's tough being a writer. Even tougher, I'd imagine, than trying to find a decent apartment in New York City. Which is why there have only been two episodes of Tales from the Dark Side covering that subject while this episode, which opens with Rick from Magnum PI toiling away on a novel called 'Into The Void', marks the third episode to broach the subject of struggling authorship. Based on the number of times he crumples up and discards his attempt at a first page, it's fair to assume that Rick's Muse isn't doing her job.

Rick's inspiration finally comes from a far darker place, an ad played on a rock 'n roll radio station promising that, with the help of a writer's agent, literally anyone can be turned into a literary success. Rick is skeptical naturally but when his latest freelance writing check fails to arrive in the mail, and the editor in charge of sending it proves intransigent, Rick has nothing but desperate options left.

Alex Kellaway, the agent in question, runs a strictly non-traditional workplace, with his punky secretary (pictured above), and hourly deliveries of obscene amounts of food to his office. The enormous man claims expertise in his field, however, and announces that so long as Rick can pass a simple test, a writing career is in the cards for him. The test, oddly, involves holding an electrified tin can while the agent takes readings on a machine in a teak box. The test is positive - according to the box he could make as much as $150,000 in his first year! So long as he's willing to agree to the agent's terms, which ominously involve the secretary spilling some liquor on his tie and taking it out of the room, no doubt so that it can be employed for voodoo later on.

So just what is the secret of the agent's success? Magic! That's right, all profitable writers have gotten that way via a willingness to cast spells in aid of their own career. Rick, should he want to make it as a writer, will simply have to slaughter a few animals at the beginning of each project. Rick's skeptical, but the agent proves himself by extracting money from the miserly editor who's been ducking Rick's calls. Just a simple jab of a voodoo doll and he's willing to play ball.

Convinced of the agent's power, Rick takes the knife and embarks on his new career as an animal sacrificing author. Things go amazingly well for him after that, he makes money churning out trashy westerns and action novels as his agent demands them. He gets himself some swanky new digs, and even starts dating the editor who wouldn't look at his first novel. She, in a cute detail, mistakes him for an animal lover when she sees the caged bunny he keeps near his desk.

Everything is coming up Milhouse, it seems. The agent can't sell Rick's work fast enough, his magically enthralled girlfriend is beautiful and successful, and animals for slaughter are cheap and plentiful. His only real problem is that she doesn't much like living in apartment full of wild animals, which is actually a pretty reasonable complaint. Come to think of it, if he's making so much money he could buy himself a place out in the country where his menagerie would have its own out-of-the-way living space. Really, that seems like the most elegant solution, especially when the punky secretary drops off an adorable baby bear, soon for the slaughter.

Rick decides to draw the line at killing the bear, so he sacks his agent, announcing that he's now too good to write the kind of popular drivel that the man wants to sell. After he storms out of the office, the agent does the only logical thing in the situation, something that Rick should have seen coming, really. Alex pulls out the missing tie and get his voodoo on.

The show then cuts into the near future, were Rick and his girlfriend are suffering from the effects of the curse. No one's buying his work and she was fired from her job for publishing her boyfriends terrible book of poetry. Things are looking bleak for Rick until he, at the request of said girlfriend, checks in with his agent. Rick's dream novel, Into the Void, can sell, Alex explains, so long as Rick is willing to make a slightly larger sacrifice…

Yep, he's going to kill the girlfriend because writers are cowardly and superstitious lot. An appropriate ending to a fun episode of Tales from the Dark Side, one that didn't let its obvious metaphorical point get too woefully heavy-handed. Oh, and I forgot to mention the final twist - although technically it's the second last twist since it actually comes before Rick murders his girlfriend - once he agrees to the terms of the deal, the agent hands over his voodoo doll to the punky secretary, announcing "he's all yours now"!

That's right, the secretary was the devil all along, and the grotesque agent was merely her henchman! Does that really add anything to the story? No, but it's still a fun note to go out on.

1 comment:

soggybottom said...

No, the secretary just had a crush on Junior...

She picked him out of the crowded waiting room at the beginning and said "You can thank me later". Then she calls him "good-lookin'" when bringing him the bear. And when Kellaway says "He's all yours now" and hands her the doll with his tie on it at the end, she kisses it. Junior is about to kill Brenda, and once he's done that, the secretary can have him all to herself.

That's all that was meant by that. There's no way the dingy secretary could be the real one in charge.