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Maniac Mansion
ManiacTitle.jpg
Maniac Mansion title card
Genre Family sitcom/Science fiction
Created by Eugene Levy
Starring Joe Flaherty
Deborah Theaker
Kathleen Robertson
Avi Phillips
George Buza
Opening theme "Maniac Mansion" - sung by Jane Siberry [1], composed by Lou Natale
Country of origin  Canada
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 66
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel The Family Channel
YTV
Original run September 17, 1990 – April 4, 1993

Maniac Mansion is a Canadian science fiction/family sitcom very loosely based on the LucasArts video game of the same name.

The series, filmed entirely in Toronto, Ontario, was produced by Atlantis Films for The Family Channel in the United States and YTV in Canada, and aired for three complete seasons. There were 66 30-minute programs in all.

Contents

Premise

The plot of the show is loosely based on the 1987 computer game Maniac Mansion, with several liberties being taken with the characters and stories.

The show centers around the Edisons, a family living in a large mansion in the presumably American town of Cedar Springs, headed up by father Fred (Joe Flaherty), an eccentric scientist, his wife Casey (Deborah Theaker), and their children, teenage Tina (Kathleen Robertson), pubescent Ike (Avi Phillips) and toddler Turner (George Buza). Living with the Edisons are Casey's brother Harry Orca (John Hemphill) and his wife Idella Muckle-Orca (Mary Charlotte-Wilcox).

Prior to the beginning of the series, Fred inherits the mansion from his father, also a scientist, as well as the evil, extraterrestrial meteor that was discovered living under the mansion several generations ago. The meteor possesses odd supernatural powers, causing strange things to happen around the house, including mutating toddler Turner into the body of a full-grown man and turning Harry into a creature with a human head and a fly's body. Often throughout the series, Fred performs various outlandish experiments in an attempt to return them to normal. Aside from these science fiction plot elements, the show largely followed the format of a typical sitcom, with plots revolving around such typical fare as sibling rivalry, marriage troubles, wacky neighbors and teen angst.

Maniac Mansion's brand of humor is similar to that of Canadian sketch comedy program Second City Television ("SCTV"), which shared much of the same cast and writers as Mansion. The show is filled with pop culture references and occasional parodies of movies, television shows and commercials, which served as the basis for most of the humor in SCTV.

Another staple of Maniac Mansion's humor was for the show to frequently break the fourth wall. Characters (primarily Harry) would often address the camera and talk about how the episode was going, while a few episodes were entirely meta-referential. For example, a few episodes take place "behind the scenes" of the show, where it's revealed the Edisons are actually playing themselves in a show about their lives, while the series finale, set in the future, features a grown-up Turner as a television executive who ends up creating Maniac Mansion.

Cast and characters

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Main characters

Recurring characters

  • Dr. Edwin Edison (Colin Fox)
  • Richard Pratt (Mark Wilson)
  • Allasyn Pratt (Wendy Hopkins)
  • Keifer Pratt (Patrick Gillen)

Guest stars

  • José Ferrer as himself (2-08, "The Celebrity Visitor")
  • Teri Austin as herself, (2-10, "Lenny...One Amour Time"; 2-11, "Lenny...One Amour Time: Part 2")
  • Dave Thomas as "Hudgie DeRubertis" (2-13, "Buried by the Mob")
  • Martin Short as "Eddie O'Donnell" (2-14, "Down and Out in Cedar Springs")
  • David Cronenberg as himself (2-19, "Idella's Breakdown")
  • Andrea Martin as "Dr. Fontana Blue" (2-19, "Idella's Breakdown")
  • Jayne Eastwood as various characters
  • Dewey Robertson as "The Atomizer" (3-10, "Wrestling with the Truth")
  • Eugene Levy as "Doc Ellis" (3-17, "Freddy had a Little Lamb")
  • Jan Rubes as "Uncle Joe" (3-20, "It Ain't Over 'Til Uncle Joe Sings")

Development and production

The idea for adapting Maniac Mansion into an episodic television series originated with LucasFilm animators Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser. After playing the game and developing the idea, they pitched the concept to George Lucas, who also saw the project's potential[1]. LucasFilm teamed up with The Family Channel (now ABC Family) and Toronto-based production company Atlantis Films and began to expand the idea.

Atlantis contacted Eugene Levy, former writer and cast member of SCTV, and offered him the chance to help create and produce the show. Atlantis' original treatment depicted Maniac Mansion as a darker horror-comedy in the vein of The Munsters, but after Levy rejected the premise, he was given the creative control to shape the show in his own image[2]. Levy recruited a number of his former SCTV alumni and developed the show into a less supernaturally-oriented family sitcom.

Original run

Maniac Mansion premiered in September of 1990 on The Family Channel and YTV.

Upon its debut, Maniac Mansion received extremely positive critical response. Time Magazine named it one of the ten best shows of 1990, calling it "the looniest, sweetest family comedy of the year"[3], Entertainment Weekly described it "100-proof hilarious" [4], the Toronto Star called it "delightful" and "wonderfully innovative and imaginitive TV"[5] and the Los Angeles Times called it a "stylized, sharp-edged comedy that's a bit like David Lynch on helium".

The series was cancelled after three seasons and 66 episodes, most likely due to poor ratings in North America. The series was rerun on Family Channel until 1994, on YTV until 1997, and on Showcase until 2002. It has not aired on Canadian nor American television since.

Home video

In 1992, Family Channel video released two first season episodes of Maniac Mansion ("Flystruck" and "Fred's A-Courtin'") on VHS as "Maniac Mansion: The Love Collection". The tape has long since been out of print and copies on Amazon are being sold for as high as $50.[citation needed]

Despite an internet petition to bring Maniac Mansion to DVD which has since accumulated 603 signatures, there are currently no known plans for the series to be released on DVD.

Differences from the game

Although the series and game share several superficial similarities, they are vastly different in terms of plot and characterization.

In the original game, an homage to B-grade horror movies, the plot centered around a group of teenagers who venture into a dilapidated mansion to rescue their kidnapped friend. The mansion is inhabited by the quirky yet murderous Edison family: Dr. Fred, an insane scientist who is possessed by an evil meteor from outer space; his wife Edna, a grotesque, sex-starved nurse who is into BDSM; their son Weird Ed, a paranoid paramilitary survivalist; and their pets, a pair of talking, ambulatory tentacles.

In order to conform to the show's family-friendly status, the game's trademark risqué black comedy and violence had to be omitted and the plot was modified to the point where there was only a vague connection to its source, the primary links being that the show is set within a mansion that houses an extraterrestrial meteor, and the character of Dr. Fred Edison.

In the show, Dr. Fred is portrayed as a goodhearted though clumsy family man rather than the possessed mad scientist shown in the game. The other members of the Edison family were completely changed in name, appearance and demeanor, and additional original characters were added.

The meteor is seldom referenced in the show, although it's prominently featured in the opening credits of the first season via an expository newspaper clipping, explaining that Dr. Fred's grandfather Louis Edison discovered it under his mansion. Throughout the series, Dr. Fred can be seen conducting various experiments either harnessing the meteor's supernatural powers, or experimenting on the meteor itself.

In Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, the 1994 sequel to Maniac Mansion, the TV show is briefly mentioned, serving as one of the plot points in which the game's protagonist must collect the royalties that Dr. Fred was promised from the creation of the TV series based on the original game (which, in the fiction of the game, was wildly successful and made millions of dollars).

SCTV connections

Eugene Levy, who created the show, was an original cast member and writer on Second City Television. He developed with show with fellow SCTV writers Michael Short, Paul Flaherty and David Flaherty, and director Jamie Paul Rock. Occasional SCTV actor Peter Wildman contributed some writing, as did Joe Flaherty, John Hemphill and Mary-Charlotte Wilcox.

Additionally, nearly all of the cast, with the exception of Kathleen Robertson and Avi Phillips, were involved with SCTV. Joe Flaherty was part of the original line-up, John Hemphill and Mary-Charlotte Wilcox were supporting players and writers in its later seasons, and George Buza had appeared in a single episode. Deborah Theaker had been a part of The Second City stage show, but was not part of the television program.

There are numerous SCTV references throughout the series. Levy, Martin Short, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin all made one-off appearances on the show, as did minor players Juul Haalmeyer, Tony Rosato and Robin Duke. A few jokes are reused and in a couple of episodes, the characters of "Count Floyd" and "Happy Marsden" can be seen playing on television sets.

References

See also

External links


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