Top Billing (1991)

Posted by Mrs Giggles on October 12, 2017 in 4 Oogies, Idiot Box Reviews, Series: Tales from the Crypt

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Top Billing (1991)
Top Billing (1991)

Main cast: Jon Lovitz (Barry Blye), Bruce Boxleitner (Winton Robbins), John Astin (Nelson Halliwell), Paul Benedict (Beaks), Kimmy Robertson (Lisa), Gregory Cooke (“Hamlet”), Kimmy Robertson (Barry’s Agent), Sandra Bernhard (Sheila Winters), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Todd Holland

God bless Todd Holland. He has helmed an episode that would be a hoot regardless of any season it shows up in. This is another episode where the monsters are all humans, and the comedy level is off the charts. Are we officially a comedy show now? No matter, this one is just too much wicked fun. Plus, kudos to a still gorgeous Bruce Boxleitner for wearing some tight breeches and showing the world that he is not ashamed at all about his husband-sized package.

Barry Blye likes to think of himself as a serious actor, relying on his talent which he believes is considerable. Of course, the truth is more unfortunate: he is a guy who looks and sounds like Jon Lovitz. As you can guess, he is not getting any callbacks despite auditioning for all kinds of things. When Top Billing opens, he is rejected by the casting person Sheila Winters for playing the most abysmal killer ever, he meets his old roommate Winton Robbins who is making a nice sum of money starring in advertisements and all (something that Barry sneers at), and then is given the walking papers by his own agent. He goes home only to find that his girlfriend Lisa is leaving him for another actor, and he is evicted by their landlord for being behind on rent.

Still, he finds an advertisement looking for actors to be in Hamlet. Hamlet is good, Hamlet is artistic – and surely, the production will welcome a talented actor like him! Unfortunately, Winton also shows up to audition, just to spite Barry by proving that he will still be picked over Barry due to his good looks and charisma. On top of that, the hilariously theatrical and megalomaniacal director Nelson Halliwell is intent on making everyone’s life hell, and Beaks, his assistant, just sneers at everyone. And with this being a Tales from the Crypt episode, nothing is what it seems and something terrible will soon happen…

Our man Barry is a hilariously awful piece of work. He is dreadful, but he refuses any effort to improve either his looks or career by scoffing at these opportunities, with him seeing them as “prostitution”. He’s arrogant to a frustrating degree, and it is fun to see him get his just desserts. Winton Robbins is also a piece of work, but Barry is delusional enough to actually make him look good in comparison. Meanwhile, John Astin – may he rest in peace – is just so, so funny and Paul Benedict is great as his more deadpan but still sarcastic foil.

My only complaint is that the episode goes on for a few more minutes after the denouement, which I feel is not just unnecessary but also self-sabotaging, as it includes a very fake-looking prop that ruins my mood somewhat. All things considered, though, this is a near-perfect, hilarious, side-splitting episode that captures the whole high camp and macabre humor vibe perfectly.

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