Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stark Raving Mad: A Show That Should Be On DVD But Isn't

Batty, bonkers, crazy
Loopy, loony, hazy
Chaotic, neurotic, peculiar and amazing
Demented, deranged, particularly strange
Frantic, raving, shaky, flaky, making me insane!

After he was an immigrant cabbie in Wings and before he became an obsessive compulsive detective in Monk there was Stark Raving Mad. In this short lived NBC series Tony Shalhoub was the exact opposite of Detective Monk when he played Ian Stark, an off the wall horror writer with a twisted sense of humor.

Fresh off the success of his first novel, Below Ground, horror novelist Ian Stark (Tony Shalhoub) is assigned a new editor, Henry McNeeley (Neil Patrick Harris). Henry has many "issues": he is a germaphobe, easily-frightened, claustrophobic, asthmatic with vertigo and a serious-minded Yale graduate who doesn't fit in with Ian's bizarre way of doing things.

Jake Donovan (Eddie McClintock), Ian's live-in typist is short in the smarts department but tops in the humor department. He delivers enough great lines to keep the viewer constantly laughing and waiting to see what bonehead thing he will do next. McClintock does a brilliant job with not only the verbal aspect of the comedy but the physical aspect as well. Sometimes the things he does are just as funny as what he says.

Maddie Keller (Heather Paige Kent) is Ian's good friend and neighbor. Her dream is to be a psychologist so she works at the bar that is downstairs in the building she and Ian live in to pay her way through community college. She dates more than her fair share of men and has anger management issues. As Ian so eloquently puts it about Maddie "she's my only normal friend".

Topping off the cast of characters is Tess Farraday (Dorie Barton), Henry's long-time girlfriend. She's a spoiled rich girl who loves getting her own way and will often stop at nothing to get it, even going so far as trying to fix up Ian and Maddie (with hilarious results).

Fans of the show remember the classic Halloween episode where Ian insists Henry get back at his cousin who terrorized him on the holiday as a child. Henry is reluctant to do so but after a bit of teasing from his cousin he agrees to Ian's plan. Things don't quite work out the way they are supposed, however.

While every single episode is fantastic, others stand out in the only season of Stark Raving Mad such as "The Pigeon". Ian knocks a pigeons nest off his balcony while boxing with Jake. Despite a chastising from Jake, Ian doesn't give the eggs a second thought, that is, until he becomes convinced Mama Pigeon is stalking him to seek revenge for her eggs. "Four Colds & A Funeral", "The Stalker", "The Dance" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" are other stellar episodes.

Notable Guest Stars: Steven Weber (Brian Hackett from Wings) appears as Ian's obsessed stalker "Rattlesnake Rod" in episode 8 "The Stalker". Kelsey Grammer of Frasier fame makes a guest appearance in episode 17 "The Grade" as Maddy's contemporary literature professor who gives her a "B" on a paper she turned in about "Below Ground"--a paper Ian and Henry wrote! Harriet Sansom Harris (known to Frasier fans as Bebe Glazer, Frasier's conniving agent) appears as Henry's boss, Audrey Radford. Much like her character on Frasier, Harris' Radford steals every scene she's in with her over the top behavior. Chris Sarandon appears twice as Audrey's husband, Cesar who is more interested in men than Audrey. Director Wes Craven appears in episode 18 "The Pigeon" as Terrance Sterling, a famous author who is Ian's idol.

With actors like the amazing Tony Shalhoub, the always fantastic Neil Patrick Harris, the adorable Eddie McClintock and very talented ladies like Kent and Barton it's unfortunate that Stark Raving Mad only had a run of 22 episodes from September 23, 1999 through mid 2000. The show was certainly capable of becoming a long-running series as it had strong characters, great humor and writing and excellent actors to present the material.

Hopefully, at some point Stark Raving Mad will be released on DVD so the fans of the show can finally have each and every episode in crystal clear quality so we won't have to watch the split episodes on You Tube to get our Stark Raving Mad fix! (Note: all 22 episodes can be found on You Tube here.)

Ian: You hugged the world's greatest childrens author to death.
Henry: I didn't kill anybody.
Ian: You didn't use a gun or knife, but, surely sir, you took his life.
Henry: Would you cut that out?
Ian: If you hadn't let him get so near ya, he wouldn't-a died from your bacteria.
Henry: Please, Ian, would you show some respect? My childhood hero just died.
Ian: No one's denied the man has died. His death is surely bonafied. But you must
confide, he wouldn't have died if you hadn't committed homicide.
Henry: Alright, I've heard enough. I'm leaving.
Jake: But still the children keep on gravy!
Ian: Grieving.
Jake: Grieving!
--Episode 4: "Four Colds & A Funeral"

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