Main cast: Vic Tayback (Alan Coombs), Chris Hebert (Jerry), Kelly Jean Peters (Sharon Coombs), Paul Jenkins (Brad Johnson), and Billy Jacoby (Petey Coombs)
Director: Frank De Palma
After a dreadful pilot episode a year prior, Tales from the Darkside kicks off officially with the first season opener, The New Man, which is also one of the most discussed episodes to date.
Alan Coombs’s life is back on track. He had kicked off his drinking problem and has stayed sober for about a year now. However, things go awry one fine day when a boy, Jerry, shows up at the office claiming to be his son. Alan is like, uh, I don’t have a son named Jerry, but the thing is, his wife and his other son all behave as if Jerry had been part of the family all along. Alan’s continuous denial of Jerry as his son leads to his life completely falling apart, as his family, with Jerry’s encouragement, thinks that he’s been hitting the bottle again.
This episode works very well because of two things. One is Vic Tayback’s solid performance as a man who is screwed totally due to circumstances beyond his control. It is hard not to feel so sorry for this poor man as his efforts to stay dry and sober become completely derailed due to events that he can’t understand or control. The second reason is the origin or nature of Jerry. Who and what is he?
Towards the end, he is seen approaching the man who replaces Alan in the office, another now-sober ex-alcoholic, claiming to be that man’s son, so I suppose he can be an allegory or a manifestation of the ease in which ex-addicts can slip up and fall back into the downward spiral. There are many theories floating out there as to what Jerry is, and with no concrete answers from the people behind this episode, I guess people will always wonder and debate the matter.
At any rate, The New Man is a simple yet thought-provoking episode on how chillingly easy it is to give in to addiction again. The monster here is a boy who may be a stand-in for the demons that drive Alan back to the bottle. If you were put off by the previous episode, give this one a chance to change your mind about the series.