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My 2 Cents on Luvliner
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Bilbo67
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 Posted: Mon May 7th, 2007 06:50 am

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My 2 Cents on Episode 2.04: Luvliner
(5/7/07)



Hi.  I’m one of those highly introspective types you may have read about.  That’s not to say that I hear voices when I close my eyes for more than seven seconds, or that I’m an outwardly bitter social pariah who secretly harbors some kind of grandiose Jim Jones-style Christ complex (I couldn’t handle a high pressure job like that).  What it does mean however is that I’m not above talking to myself if there’s no good conversation to be had, and I’m perfectly comfortable with copping to my own foibles.  For example, I can tell you off the top of my increasingly-shaggy head that I tend to be forgetful, naïve, clumsy, obtrusive, and possess the interpersonal skills of a crack-addled vulture…but damn it all, when I say I’m going to do something I…eventually get to it…in a roundabout way…after much gentle cajoling from the people I initially shot my mouth off to…

Hard to believe it’s been almost four years since I’ve written an episode review from scratch.  To be perfectly honest, when I first sat down to do it I didn’t know if I had it in me anymore…then I remembered that in the interim I’ve honed what you could generously refer to as my craft, written an extremely well received Lexx fanfic, three novel manuscripts and a bunch of crappy short stories, and am actively trying—with little in the way of success as of this posting, but hope springs eternal—to make it as a genuine professional scribbler, so if I suddenly find myself incapable of whipping together something as simple as an episode review for one of my favorite shows, I might as well throw in the old quill and sell myself to science.

So here we go again! (your loss, lab coats) 

Luvliner.  An old episode.  One of the earliest from season 2, and until just the other day, one of only a small handful of Lexx eps that I have never seen (the others being Nook, and one or two eps from the middle of season 4), so while this may be nothing more than a bloated refresher course for many of you, as the old axiom goes, “If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me” (an ancient saying coined by some great mind from hollowed antiquity…Shakespeare, Goethe, Seinfeld…one of those guys).

This ep is also the subject of much controversy, because to my knowledge, it was only ever aired on American TV once, during Sci-Fi’s initial run of the show (back when the brain slugs at the network advertised Lexx as little more than plotless, convoluted soft-core porn…in fact if I remember, that’s what convinced me to give the show a try in the first place…but I digress…), which like many people, I missed.  Thereafter it was always pulled from the rotation, with the only explanation I could ever scrounge up being some variation of “it’s fucked up even by Lexx standards.”

So it goes without saying that I went into this ep with a few outlandish preconceived notions in mind, and true to my nature, most of them were wildly unfounded.  It’s really not a bad episode in the least.  But I understand why it was yanked.  For starters, this episode pushes the show’s old motto “Want some strange?” to the extreme.  Moreover, it dabbles in a couple of taboo subjects, not the least of which is rape.  While this is not the only episode to broach that topic—791 and a couple of others readily come to mind—the others play it for morbid humor (for as George Carlin once famously said on this very subject: “You can joke about anything; it all depends on how you construct the joke”).  This episode, however, presents it in an unmodified, straightforward manner that—at least to me—comes across as more than a little jarring, and perhaps even a bit out of place.  Add to that the overall seedy feeling of the ep and it’s easy to understand why the folks at Sci-Fi’s S&P department might have been hesitant to let it see the light of day.  Put it this way: if the film 8mm had been conceived as a jet-black dark comedy, it might have looked something like this episode.

On a lighter note, you may notice that Jeff Hirschfeld is given top billing in the writing credit.  As I’ve long held that he is the most mentally unstable of the three beans, I’ve developed a little theory about this ep.  I believe that during most of the writing sessions, Paul Donovan—and to a lesser extent Lex Gigeroff—were always quick to lay down a stern “absolutely not” whenever Jeff coughed up one of his more outlandish ideas.  This time, however, they decided they would allow Jeff a “just this once” episode, whereupon they stepped out of the writing room for ten minutes, allowed him to lay down whatever batshit insane ideas came his way, and promptly filmed all but the ones that the folks at Salter threatened their jobs over.  I have no way of proving any of this, but it would certainly explain some things.

Big breath…

All right, as I noted, this ep takes place early in season 2, so there’s quite a bit of nostalgia to take in.  Xev still has her clown wig, 790 still has blue eyes, the Lexx is still growing, and Stan has yet to experience a warm night in Prince’s heaving embrace, so one could argue that a generous portion of his dignity is still intact.  Speaking of Xev, this ep marks Xenia’s first full-length outing as everyone’s favorite carnivorous coquette, a watershed event handled in true Lexx fashion by…never once referencing it in the least!  Okay, so Kai is largely indifferent to anything not pertaining to his kooky desire to bury himself, and 790 hasn’t been in his right mind since…ever; but wouldn’t you figure that Stan, worrywart that he is, would at the very least find it curious that his friend has recently been vaporized and genetically reconstructed with all of her old memories intact by an asexual sentient plant lady he has the hots for?  You would certainly think so…but then again, this is a universe where pulverized human hearts can be repaired in a blender and the entire human race was covertly ruled for tens of thousands of years by a giant garden weevil, so taking weird stuff for granted is probably hard-wired into Light Zoners’ DNA.

And so, with nothing in the way of fanfare aside from some blasé porno music, we open on Xev, writhing around on one of the many silken beds that the living embodiment of evil just had to have installed in his planet-crushing super weapon for some reason.  She’s certainly not a sound sleeper, and for all she’s been through in the past few months, who could really blame her.  Given the excessive fidgeting and moaning we are subjected to (can you say “fan service” boys and girls?…sure, I knew you could) I can only assume that she’s either locked into one of those prolonged running/falling dreams we all occasionally have, or that that lumpy mattress made of petrified bug flesh is playing hell on her lower lumbar (I sympathize).

Whichever the case may be, it’s enough to roust Stan just in time to hear the Lexx intercept a transmission, which, with only a few slight modifications, could easily be retooled into the world’s most attention-grabbing Sprint commercial.  If I remember correctly—and bear in mind there are chunks of this episode I’m actively trying to forget even as I lay these words down—the opening image is a low angle shot of a beautiful woman done up in a minimal amount of leather…now I don’t know if it’s due to my warped preconceptions about this ep, or if my brain was simply broken at that moment, but for whatever reason I half-expected the camera to pan up and reveal that this was actually a guy.  In my own defense, I choose to simply shake my fist in Jeff Hirschfeld’s direction for causing me to head-fake myself like that.

Much to 790’s chagrin we are inundated by a loud, garish, never boring advertisement for the Luvliner.  Using little more than bright colors, a simple yet catchy bass beat, and a flesh avalanche of beautiful people spouting banal sweet nothings that sound like rejected Scorpions lyrics, our heroes are enticed to drop what they’re doing and light out for the happiest place in the quadrant.  I don’t know about you, but I had to watch this sequence a couple times, because I couldn’t stop cracking up at some of the wonderfully absurd lines.  It also got me to thinking…as I’m sure I’ve already bemoaned before, I briefly worked as a telemarketer when I was in college (and I’d rather test low-quality bulletproof vests for a living than go back to that waking hell).  Perhaps if I had dispensed with the company-approved script and introduced myself as the “pulsing python of passion” my sales would have shot through the roof and I’d have raked in a bundle on commission…or perhaps I’d still be mired in harassment litigation to this day.  There’s that road not taken again.

And so, quicker than you can say “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” the big bug makes a b-line for Luvliner.  Xev is all aflutter at the prospect of meeting some chaps who are “young, tan, cut and buff” (I’m…some of those things), while at the same time “cuddly, mature, and time-tested” (I guess Luvliner keeps a few J. Howard Marshall types on staff as well); Stan is oblivious to the fact that every time he sets foot off the Lexx someone tries to kill him (his fault for wracking his brain trying to figure out where what’s-her-name’s hand is I suppose); and 790 is in no position to object, because apparently he has an “off” command (where in the HELL did that go during season 4!?!?).  Our heroes appear to have struck it lucky for the first time since bumping into each other on the Cluster…until they arrive at the Luvliner satellite, whereupon we learn that flagrant false advertising is as universal in their universe as it is in our universe (a seven-layer redundancy, I know).

Gone are the happy, seizure-inducing neon lights, replaced with a rusty, corroded old space junker that resembles a giant metallic boil and appears to have been spray painted with used chewing tobacco.  It’s painfully clear that our heroes should know better, but Xev’s got a nuclear grade libido and that pesky cluster lizard curiosity and Stan…well, he’s yet to cross paths with Prince, so he only thinks he knows what good lovin’ is (I know I swore off of these, but dammit, it’s just so easy!).

It’s here that we’re introduced to Schlemmi.  Anyone who’s read my season 3 reviews knows that Jeff Pustil’s Fifi was one of the highlights of that season for me, so I was intrigued to see what his original incarnation was like.  Once again, my expectations seem to have gotten the better of me, because while he—and especially his partner—was definitely in need of some killing, Pustil’s performance gave me the impression that perhaps Schlemmi was once a fairly decent guy who had simply been beaten down by life.

Notwithstanding a sales pitch that includes the phrase “…and sheep that go baaa” (oh, to be a fly on the wall at that table reading), in his first few scenes, Schlemmi seems like a sleazy but likeable wiseass (his opening remarks to Stan and Xev remind me of my last few weeks at that aforementioned telemarketing hellhole, when I was actively trying to get fired [except the only urge I felt toward my computer was the throbbing desire to shot put it through the stucco]).  After all, when he gets his first eyeful of the Lexx he pretty much says what we all thought the first time we saw the show: “What the hell is that?”

To which Brian Downey summons every ounce of his Newfoundland charm and curtly replies “Da Lexx.” (never really noticed his accent until now)


No one likes being given the cold shoulder, so after nonchalantly vaporizing a small moon (which I guess we should assume was uninhabited), Schlemmi informs our heroes that it’s Bob’s Comet Day*, and their money is no good here.

Quote of the night -- 790: “Meat-love does not compare to metal-love.” (some oddly karmic words that will come back to bite him on the…neck stump).

Bartering done, Stan and Xev charter a moth (at this point we still don’t know where the hell they come from), and light out for the Luvliner in full spite of the fact that everything they have been told about it up until this point has been a boldfaced crock.  They dock, drop in, and whaddaya know, the interior looks like a grungy, post-apocalyptic Roman bathhouse that desperately needs to be fumigated and sprayed down with a fire hose filled with flea dip (reminiscent of Klaggya, actually).

From here we’re treated to all manner of bizarre sights and sounds (thank God they haven’t invented smell-o-vision yet), most of which I have attempted to purge from my short-term cranial coffer, although I distinctly recall animal sounds, a hairy-backed bloke who had the eyes for Xev (like that’s all that uncommon), and the advertised “gilded pool,” which appears to be a cement pond full of old tranny fluid (speaking of trannies…and fluids…but I digress again).  Of course it’s not yet too late for our heroes to turn back, write this adventure off, and wile the rest of the evening away by veging out and watching Kai stalk and kill the Golleen Clan (don’t think I’ve forgotten about them), but that would be uncharacteristically logical of them, plus there would be no show.  So, after meeting Schlemmi in the unctuous flesh, securing a pair of oddly shaped keys that look for all the world like scandalously misprinted Lexx novelty bookmarks, and stashing an irate 790 in John Holmes’ coat closet, Xev and Stan split up on the understanding that they will be in and out in two hours (of course Stan is ridiculously overestimating his prowess, but show me one person with a Y-chromosome who doesn’t).


Undeterred by the dank accoutrements and the ever-present smell of fungus, hay, and flop-sweat, Stan retires to his suite (aka The Hepatitis Hotel), which looks like a minimally refurnished version of the bathroom from Saw, whereupon a helpful computer cycles through a list of increasingly sickening liaisons (which I found eerily reminiscent of the recent presidential debates for some reason).  Let’s see if I can remember: we’ve got opposite sex and same sex…so far so good; something about animals…revolting, but I caught their drift; followed then by “hybrid” and “alternate.” 

Ok…(**massages his temples while cursing Jeff Hirschfeld under his breath**)…I think I understand what they mean by hybrid (although I’ll be good and damned if I’m going to try to conceive a mental image)…but what the hell do they mean by “alternate”!?!?!?  And for that matter, the scene seemed to cut away while the computer was mid-word, so what the hell else was on that list?  Good Lord, I half expected Tim Curry to pop up on that hologram in full Rocky Horror regalia.

Xev, as a matter of course, fares a little better.

As if it’s not bad enough that Stan and Xev are at high risk to contract terminal lockjaw from touching…well, anything in that flying septic tank, we’re introduced to Schlemmi’s partner Aulk (whose name I had to look up…I don’t think it was mentioned once, and if it was, I too must have still been dwelling on the “where is my hand” conundrum).  From the look/sound/etc of the guy, it’s clear from the get-go that he’s evil, however he still claims the mantle of being the most “normal” of the Luvliner regulars—albeit by unbelievably skewed subjective standards.  Whoever the hell he is, he’s been around the block, because he knows all about the Lexx, Stan and Xev, and how to tiptoe around an Assassin without getting his lungs pinned to the wall (how he knows all of this is anybody’s guess, but who knows, perhaps Thodin and his loose-lipped cronies swung by for a quick eye-opener before setting out for the Cluster).

Schlemmi, for all his artful B.S., seems to know little of Assassins beyond the fact that everybody knows they’re crazy for nookie.  There you go ladies…you heard it, you can’t un-hear it.

Alright, so it’s finally time to sample the local delicacies.  In Xev’s corner we have a buff, bronzed Harlequin model with perfect cheekbones, sculpted pecs, and dryer lint for brains.  In Stan’s corner: a somewhat prissy, quasi-androgynous second-rate Bond babe who ditched her makeup kit in favor of some genuine confidence (aces I say).  Of course Stan objects at first, no doubt still miffed at being swindled (like that will never happen again…they visit another freakin’ brothel two episodes from now!…remember folks, insanity = doing the same thing and expecting a different result), and while on one level I—as a fellow knuckle-walking social savage—can sympathize with his profundo “I’m the stunner, I can do better than this,” approach, the fact is our gallant captain is in the middle of a prolonged dry spell, and beggars should never be choosers (particularly when you consider that his most recent tryst that we know of was some nine years prior, and that was with the business end of Feppo and Smoor’s sonic electronic water pick).  And God bless her, the little minx doesn’t take no for an answer, eventually appealing to Stan’s softer side (his feelings, you know what I mean dammit!).  This segment was very well done, as it helps to demonstrate that lecher though he is, Stan’s got a sensitive side deep down…I assume Paul wrote this part.

Xev on the other hand, in what seems to be an equal-parts mix of reverse fortune and biting irony, quickly discovers that her stud has an increasingly frustrating flare for the verbose (shades of our old buddy Root, and totally out of character with the male of the human species as a whole, so this guy must be one of those “hybrids” I’ve tried so hard to forget about), forcing her to call on some of the superhuman strength she developed during all those years of doing isometrics in the Wife Bank and take matters into her own hands.  Poor lucky stupid bastard…if he hadn’t been obliterated moments later he wouldn’t have stood a chance against her.

And then there’s 790…everyone seems to have forgotten about him…everyone except Schlemmi… 

… 

Words are my thing…they’re what I long to do for a living…that said, I don’t have the mental acumen to accurately sum up 790’s run-in with the resident sleazebag, save the following bullet-points:

*Schlemmi’s previous conquests include fish girls, ape men, shell heads (!?!?!?), and a furry nympho leper.  If this is a truly accurate sampling of what else is out there in the Light Zone, then the cleansing was a godsend.

*Ask Schlemmi if he’s ever had phone sex and he’s likely to take your question literally and tell you a story that ends with him being electrocuted.

*I will never again, from now until they shovel earth on me, be able to look at one of those hair-raising electric globes again.

*As a child I enjoyed playing with Lite-Brites…the beans have forever sullied a treasured memory from my youth…thank you oh so very much for that one, jackasses!

Mercifully, Aulk breaks up the party, and considering my contempt for him is on par with Dr. Kazaan, that’s saying something.  After disconnecting Schlemmi (in so many ways), he promptly guns down Stan and Xev’s dates (because interacting with one of the principal characters is a death sentence on this show), vaporizes a few random perverts (long overdue), and hustles everybody on board the Lexx where, after euthanizing the Luvliner with a massive, planet killing shot (overkill in every sense of the word, but it damn sure needed to be done), our heroes are taken hostage while the big bug lights out for some kind of mob planet—we’ll call it Goombahlan and be done with it—to personally stick it to Schlemmi’s overbearing employers.  This in itself might have been enough to endear old Schlemmi to the viewers.  However…

…as if he had any left after taking 790 to the mountaintop, Schlemmi quickly abandons whatever redeeming qualities he may have had by firing Kai’s pod into the sun, tying up/torturing Stan (who’s pretty good with pain himself), and standing idly by while Aulk attempts to rape Xev at knifepoint.  This was a particularly disconcerting sequence for reasons I can’t quite explain.  It might be because Xev was overpowered and essentially helpless, or it could just be because of how they shot this particular scene…very realistic, nothing stylized about it.  I for one was rooting for Xev to undergo her cluster lizard metamorphosis and sink her teeth into the back of Aulk’s skull like she did Kazaan, but for whatever reason she couldn’t do it, which contributed to the overall helpless/unsettling factor.

Thankfully, due to some quick thinking on Stan’s part Xev manages to gain the upper hand, and while she neglects to grab Aulk’s black pack (from the “Just shoot him for Chrissake” school of suspense clichés), it’s more than satisfying to watch her lay a beating on the bald bozo.  Unfortunately her overzealousness allows Aulk to get the upper hand again, but by this time Kai has escaped, winched himself back to the Lexx, and shows up just in time to save her and allow her to kick Aulk off the bridge.  Personally, I think a grislier death for Aulk would have been a bit more cathartic (something along the lines of the razor ride from Super Nova or the pie-maker body-chopper from IWHS), but at least he’s gone, and I can take some solace in the possibility that he landed on something sharp.

Where Lyekka was during all of this chaos is anybody’s guess.

So I guess all’s well that ends well.  The Luvliner has been put out of its misery, Schlemmi has been express mailed back to Goombahlan to face the music, and Kai goes right back to sleep after uttering all of two lines (they almost didn’t have to pay him for this episode).  All in all, not a bad ep.  Not the greatest, but better than some from season 2.  I don’t think it’s entirely deserving of the shady reputation it has garnered among some fans, but I understand where they’re coming from.  This isn’t an episode I would regularly revisit.  I was entertained, but it also left me feeling wrung out/weirded out, and it’s easy to understand why they followed it up with a silly little romp like Lafftrak. 


All right…that was exceedingly long, even by my standards, but I feel I’ve got my groove back…up next is Nook, which I’ll try to get to in a timely manner (i.e., before the folks at Google pull it from YouTube for copyright infringement).  Hot damn it’s good to be back!!!

Cheery bye.

 

*Unless anyone objects, I hereby decree that the second Saturday in June be recognized as Bob's comet day, to be celebrated in the traditional fashion (in other words, somebody creative get cracking on some traditions so we don’t have to wait until next year).

 



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 Posted: Mon May 7th, 2007 12:32 pm

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Awesome review, Bilbo! I love how you give it your own damned flavor! I think I was weirded out at first with the 790 vs. strange codpiece that Schlemmi wore, then after awhile just thought, that's the twisted humor of the beans. It showed us the sexual frustration of the crew and made you hope they'd get a little Nookie, but alas, something had to happen to stall that yet again.



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 Posted: Mon May 7th, 2007 12:40 pm

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That was fun, thanks! :D



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 Posted: Mon May 7th, 2007 10:07 pm

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hot damn boy am I glad you're back too! I haven't been this entertained since my sister's circumcision/tupperware party!! and lemme tell ya that was a hoot and a half..there were some lines that literally had me spitting out my rum and diet cola! you naughty boy! that'll cost ya!

I say we have a BilboCometBalls Day! what say you?

 

:bounce_pinka: 



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 Posted: Tue May 8th, 2007 07:02 am

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Who will bring the booze? :D



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Bilbo67
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 Posted: Thu May 10th, 2007 10:59 pm

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Ketana wrote: I say we have a BilboCometBalls Day! what say you? 

Don't you usually have to die before they name a holiday after you?



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 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2007 12:41 am

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Bilbo67 wrote: Ketana wrote: I say we have a BilboCometBalls Day! what say you? 

Don't you usually have to die before they name a holiday after you?

I'm sure she could make you come before you go. :d025a:



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 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2007 07:49 pm

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Wow, what a great review, Bilbo! I enjoyed every sentence you wrote and was really lost in it. Very well written indeed!

Bilbo67
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2007 03:31 am

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Glad you all liked it...glad to see I've still got it.

Sorry I've been dragging my feet getting the Nook review banged out, but I've been fall-down-and-revert-to-a-fetal-state busy of late.  Do please forgive me.  If you feel I need to be kicked, seek me out and I won't put up a fight...



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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2007 07:10 am

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Would that kicking involve a pair of high-heel black patent leather stilleto boots perhaps? *snort*  We shall be thrilled to oblige if it gets us more lovely reviews..:s010a:



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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2007 11:27 am

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Yep, here you go:



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