Matthew Ain't No Ghetto Star...
posted by Mike on 9/16/02
If there’s one thing that could be said of the last 20 or so years, it’s that the American public is obsessed with aliens. No, not that sweaty, chiseled Mexican named Raul that your wife has out twice a week to clean three leaves from the swimming pool while you’re at work. I’m talking aliens of the extra-terrestrial variety. Perhaps some would trace it all the way back to Roswell, but even that wasn’t such a big phenomenon before the 70’s/80’s rolled around. I think the real fascination during this era began with Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind, and just escalated with each new fuzzy (or fearsome) alien story. The two opposing storylines being that they were either coming to save us from ourselves, or crush us under their three-toed feet.
As we have seen with “The Phoenix,” aliens coming to Earth to do good deeds and make women bake a fondue in their undies is a staple of 80’s pop culture, not only in movies, but especially on television. While many would point to Mr. Spock as the template for this, or even My Favorite Martian for those really sick bitches out there, two other shows come to mind when I think of the “Phoenix” formula. One is the series version of Starman, which (as I’ve mentioned before) I’ll get around to trashing eventually, and the other is a lesser known piece of bad television kismet, a show that started out so poorly that the writers changed the premise of the show halfway through its first (and only) season. It was here and gone in an instant, its only claim to fame being that its biggest star went on to fight the Mayans with Chuck Norris and scream “FRAAAAAAANK!!!!” at Dolph Lundgren for two solid hours. Well, I guess the producers can be proud of the fact that they outlasted both the Phoenix AND Manimal, but I doubt I’d break out the Dom Perignon over such a meager achievement. Hardly anyone (short of myself, of course) remembers this little bit of televised anal leakage, but that fact won’t stop me from subjecting you all to its horrors…
My twenty-two episode mission: To explore strange new malls… to seek out new chicks, and new ways to bang them… to boldly go where three other shows have gone before!
The Powers Of Matthew Star was cursed to fail from the beginning. The show was originally slated to debut the fall of 1981 under the title of “The Powers of Daniel Star,” but the show’s two major stars were both badly burned during a stunt gone awry, and so the show was delayed until 1982. My guess is that they should’ve taken this as the omen it was and quit while they were behind. But hey, what do I know? I don’t write the shows, I just make fun of them.
The show starred Peter Barton as Matthew Star, a prince from the planet Quadris who is sent into hiding on Earth when his father, the King, is overthrown by alien terrorists. Hmmm… a ruler who seems powerless against the might of a handful of militant rebels. I wonder if his name was George W. Star… at any rate, Matthew is sent hurtling to earth in full Superman style fashion and meets up with Walt Sheppard, played by Louis Gossett Jr. (who hasn’t made anything worth watching since Diggstown, I might add), a fellow illegal Quadris emigrant and friend of Matthew’s father who is there to guard Matthew, and help him develop his telepathic and telekinetic super powers (which seems redundant, since all of the rebels have the same powers. On Earth, yeah, he’s a super hero. But on Quadris, he’s just… well… Matt.)
Matthew attempts to use the Force to raise his ratings
The show begins 16 years after Matthew arrives on Earth. Walt has earned a job as a science teacher/football coach at Crestridge High School, your stereotypical California school of the 80’s variety. You know the kind… where all the kids eat outside for lunch under air-conditioned awnings while breakdancing to the Boogie Boy’s “Fly Girl” playing on their boombox… and Matthew attends there, of course, the shy, but likeable outcast, who just happens to be the most attractive guy at the school, but gets less play than a sequel to A Boy And His Blob… Attending there allows him to lead a somewhat productive life (well, as productive a life as a teenager can expect, in any regard), but always under the watchful eyes of his father’s favorite pet black man. Damn… even in space, they only give you forty acres and a mule…
Hilarity ensues when Matthew has to explain to Lana that he left his condoms at Lex Luthor’s house…
Each week, something astounding would take place at Crestridge High, prompting Matthew to use his super powers to save the day… In other words, stick a helmet on him, change Crestridge to Angel Grove and you have any one of a hundred Power Ranger episodes. It was formulaic, juvenile tripe at its worst. The plots got more pathetic with each episode. Here’s let me give you an example from the Peter Barton Home Page:
“It's science fair project time at Crestridge High School, and while Matthew is busy saving one project (a garbage-powered, self-running lawn mower) that has run amuck, a teenage girl has invented something more practical: a revolutionary new house paint that has, unfortunately nullified Matt's powers. Walt tries to find out what is in the paint, but the girl (a boyfriend-less genius) is working with an institute who offers her a scholarship for her idea, and they have told her not to divulge the formula to anyone. Away from the paint Matt's powers return but Walt fears that if Matt spends an extended amount of time near the paint, he will lose his powers permanently. With the help of Matthew, Walt manages to get a copy of the formula from the lab she is working in. Walt finds that one of the other effects of the paint is that once it reaches 103 degrees, it becomes extremely explosive!”
So what is this supposed to be, a moral lesson about the dangers of huffing? Did this episode save thousands of teenage boys from breathing modeling glue fumes? (And yes, I huffed in Jr. High, which probably explains quite a few things, doesn’t it?) Here is this alien with powers untold, who could in a matter of weeks take control of the entire country, and instead of something marginally cool like kryptonite, his weakness is blue metallic krylon… that’s it. I’ve had it. Stick the proverbial fork in me! I don’t think I can deal with dredging up these cinematic nightmares anymore. I need to focus on more important stuff, like Rosie O’Donnell’s baby, Onimusha 2, and the new He-Man figures … No wait… that’s someone else’s gig, isn’t it… Ah well… on with the show!
On my home planet, the titties were only THIS BIG!
Halfway through their first season, the network ran out of the high school episodes, since none had been filmed after Barton’s accident… Oh, let me take a second to elaborate on that. I was having breakfast when I first read about this, causing me to spray Winnie The Pooh Honey Bee cereal all over my lap in laughter. The setup was thusly. Gossett’s character was tied to a chair in a burning building. Matthew was supposed to drag Gossett through the flames to safety, while still tied to the chair. The flames were simulated by road flares that were situated on either side of the path Barton was to use. Halfway through, Barton tripped over his own foot and fell on top of one of the flares, setting himself on fire. Gossett (who was only PRETENDING to be tied to the chair) jumped up and threw himself on top of Barton to smother the flames, burning himself in the process. This put both the stars out of action for over six months. I bet that, to this day, Gossett is still kicking himself over risking his life for THIS show… if it was for a major role in the remake of Roots, that I could understand. But as a teenage white alien’s Stepin Fetchit? Those must have been the “baby needs a new pair of shoes” days for old Louie…
So, by the time they got back to filming, they had a new production team, and the rest of the supporting cast had moved on to new jobs. So, much like Buck Rogers, the entire show was given an overhaul. Now, after being discovered by the government, Walt and Matthew work as undercover agents for the U.S. Government, while Matthew continues to enhance his powers, which now seems to include super strength, self-teleportation, and shape-shifting (perhaps he should’ve tried teleporting onto another show.) They have a superior, a gruff X-Files type boss named Wymore. Each week, Wymore would contact them on Matthew’s secret communicator ring (Jesus Christ…shoot me now…) and send them off on another mission… sometimes as stunt flyers at an air show, other times as circus performers, and then, it got REALLY stupid:
As Matthew is busy cheating Walt at cards by using his powers (which he denies), his communication-ring flashes, bringing them in contact again with Wymore. Wymore explains to the both of them that the country's most important asset is being drained: The US is being drained of brilliant people. Many of these great thinkers are disappearing and then turning up in foreign countries as defectors. A Middle-East sheik named Omar has arrived in the country, possibly to take possession of some of the missing men. Walt and Matt are sent to Washington, D.C to find who is holding these brilliant men. Once in D.C, they talk to a daughter of one of the missing men and learn that he had joined a dating service, "Heart's Desire", which becomes the link to all those who had disappeared. Going undercover, this causes Matt and Walt the risk of losing their lives.
Nothing like getting brainwashed while trying to get a little, eh? Of course, that’s not so uncommon of an event here in the U.S. These days we calling it “dating.”
Yessir, Mr. Star, sir! I’s clean out your sinuses right nice like!
As well intended as these changes were, nothing could change the fact that the show’s ratings were shit. Not even all of Matthew’s super-duper (but less super than Superman’s) powers could pull them from the ratings dungeon. The show was cancelled before they’d even finished filming their final episode, and so the network substituted the original, never-before-released pilot, which told the story of Daniel Star, a young alien exiled on Earth with his mentor Max, a white man with a mechanical robot arm who worked as a janitor at the local high school. In this thrilling episode, (ironic in its scheduled run, since it ended the series, but should’ve ended the series when it was first shown to the network bigwigs two years prior) Daniel discovers his powers just in time to save his bus from going over a cliff. I kept waiting for him to discover his time travel powers and go back to refilm the last 13 episodes so that they were somewhat watchable, but it was not to be.
Matthew uses his powers to transform into Rick Springfield
Gossett, as we know, went on to star in numerous films… some good, but most not-so-good… others (Curse of the Mummy, anyone?) were downright terrible. These days he can be seen most often on Showtime’s original series Resurrection Boulevard, where blacks, Asians, and Hispanics all live on the same street, showing that minorities truly can live in peace…so long as they keep whitey out of the neighborhood.
Peter Barton, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite so fortunate. He spent a brief period of five years playing Doctor Scott Grainger on The Bold And The Beautiful. The rest of his career has been one guest starring role after another, including shots on The Fall Guy, Baywatch, Love Boat – The Next Wave, Pacific Blue, and even appeared in a 1983 episode of “Battle Of The Network Stars”… despite his magical alien powers, however, he still lost out to Gary Coleman… how’s that for Karma…
The show recently re-emerged in reruns on TV Land., so the curious can check it out at their leisure. I wouldn’t recommend it, however. It can cause tumors. Big ones… See me flinch?… bzzzz… see me flinch?