Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teri Garr Channels Joey Tribbiani: The Starlog Project: Starlog #173, December 1991

Did you ever see the episode of Friends in which soap opera actor Joey Tribbiani is interviewed by a reporter for a soap magazine? All goes well until the final question, when he is asked which daytime soap, other than his own, is his favorite. He responds, “Oh, I don't watch soap operas. I mean, excuse me; I have a life, you know.” The reporter thanks him and says that she’s sure that “the readers of Soap Opera Digest will be very interested to hear that.”

Meet Teri Garr. You probably already know her from Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Young Frankenstein (or even an episode of Friends, in which she played Phoebe’s long-lost mother). She also guest-starred in an episode of the original Star Trek series, “Assignment: Earth.” Asked about that role, she tells interviewer Bill Warren: “I have nothing to say about it. I did that years ago and I mostly deny I ever did it.” She doesn’t stop there; she says “Thank God” the episode didn’t become a spinoff series (as was intended): “Otherwise, all I would get would be Star Trek questions for the rest of my natural life – and probably my unnatural life. You ever see those people who are Star Trek fans? The same people who go to swap meets.”

Oh, dear, someone stop her. Hand her a drink. Call her cell phone to distract her. But no, she goes on. When Warren presses her for memories about the episode’s director, Marc Daniels, she gracelessly says, “He’s dead. I like Gene Roddenberry, but I don’t remember those people. I really don’t want to talk about Star Trek. That’s what I told them about this interview. If it’s a science-fiction magazine, they’re going to ask me about all this stuff that I don’t–” and she finally shuts up. I’m sure the readers of Starlog: The Science Fiction Universe will be very interested to hear that.

And what Oscar-worthy screen gem of timeless storytelling was Teri Garr’s interview intended to promote in the first place? Mom & Dad Save the World.

Ah. Much better than Star Trek.

Starlog #173
80 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

This is the issue that proves that you can never get too much Star Trek. I garr-antee it.

The rundown: Call it meanness or just happenstance, but of the three main photos on the cover, the one the editors chose to showcase Teri Garr is not from Mom & Dad but from her Star Trek days, the cads; Alien Nation is featured on the contents page. Communications letters include everything from someone distributing pen pals from Russia and eastern Europe to tons of feedback on Beauty & the Beast to yet another Lost in Space lover complaining that his favorite show don’t get no love from Starlog, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features the Gremlins; Little Nemo in Slumberland was a sumptuously illustrated and incredibly creative comic strip from the early decades of the 20th century, and I would love to see someone do it well on the big screen – which apparently was attempted in a 1989 animated musical version that only in late 1991 was seeing theatrical release, reports David McDonnell in his Medialog column; Boolog reviews The Pixilated Peeress, Lunar Justice, The Man Who Could Read Minds, The Cult of Loving Kindness, and Specterworld; Fan Network includes Lia Pelosi’s directory of fan clubs and publications, plus the convention calendar; and Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge finishes his report – begun last issue – on witnessing a total eclipse of the sun.

Lee Goldberg provides a fun overview of science-fiction television pilots that never made it to series; Lynne Stephens interviews DeForest Kelley about Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; there’s more Trek in the form of Ian Spelling’s interview with Jonathan Frakes, who discusses his directing career; and don’t forget Kyle Counts’ chat with actor Carel Struycken, who talks about his role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as The Witches of Eastwick (let’s face it: John Updike doesn’t make it into the pages of Starlog very often, so it deserves a mention when he does), The Addams Family and even Ewoks: The Battle for Endor; and Ian Spelling talks to Star Trek: The Next Generation head honcho Rick Berman.

Teri Garr tells Bill Warren some nice things amidst an interview that doesn’t go terribly well for anyone (Warren writes: “People have their ‘on’ days and they have their ‘off’ days; this must be one of Garr’s off days, as she seems hesitant during the interview, occasionally answering questions with only a ‘Hmmm.’ She’s an intelligent, witty woman with a sardonic sense of humor; she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, as the saying goes. You have the feeling she would be a terrific person to run into at a party. This, however, is an interview.”); an easier interview was probably Marc Shapiro’s chat with Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula; Bradley H. Sinor interviews novelist Mercedes Lackey; Steven M. Tauber provides a four-page “SF Yellow Pages,” with illustrations by Leah Rosenthal; Edward Gross contributes an episode guide to the single season of Alien Nation; in his Videolog column, David Hutchison announces the release of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on video; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column highlights books written by various Starlog contributors.
“Heading into the unknown five years back, [Rick] Berman and everyone associated with The Next Generation realized the tremendous gamble about to be undertaken. If The Next Generation flopped, it could permanently tarnish the Trek image, cost Paramount a potential fortune, and even harm the film series featuring the original cast. ‘There was obviously a sense of risk and doubt in the beginning,’ notes Berman. ... ‘We were a sequel. We were science fiction. We were going to be on syndicated television. None of these things had ever really succeeded or, if they had, they hadn’t for a long time.’”
–Rick Berman, executive producer, interviewed by Ian Spelling: “Leader of the Next Generation
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