Friday, June 26, 2009

show: the devil's envoy

One of the shows I remember the most, and the one I definitely made an effort to catch, was The Devil's Envoy, which I think originally aired between 1972-1974 -- it definitely has that look to it. The show was hypothetically about a detective named Michael Archangel (subtle, huh?) who was assigned what I guess you'd call Major Case status for a hippie cult killer named The Final Wisdom who was supposedly preparing the earth for the return of Lucifer, but there was an ongoing PKD-style theme that Michael *was* the hippie cult killer, and this was never confirmed or denied as far as I know (in general TODF style, the episodes were shown out of order, and if there was a final episode I never saw it). My personal theory was The Final Wisdom never actually existed, and the whole thing was a self-fufiling paranoid death trip, which was really the engine of The Devil's Envoy, and what I liked about the show was this speedball quality was in every character -- the cops had their own voodoo-style religion and would find clues by throwing the I Ching, while politicans practiced animal sacrifices and erased the memories of jurors, so the basic bummerism precept that everything is fundamentally corrupt was always front and center. The look was kinda like the later episodes of Hawaii 5-0, with lots of snap zooms and fish-eye pans and strobe fades, and with endless scenes of go-go clubs and underground torture dungeons there was plenty of eye candy. What sticks with me now, however, is the weird quasi-philosophical detours to nowhere the show would constantly take: Michael and his partner Gabriel Mirrorman are more likely to talk about the quincunx (which is an ongoing theme in the show: victims often come in fives, and the Final Wisdom is said to be the center of four operatives), and both are true believers in the hidden variable theory, which is the clinamen of the entire show (one of the reasons why it wouldn't fly today, when everything needs an endless series of explanations).

The theme song always stuck with me, and I only recently figured out what it was: it's a track by an obscure '60s band called White Trash covering Carole King's "Road To Nowhere": White Trash - Road To Nowhere (mp3). I found this after hearing a different cover on a Firesign Theatre show and remembering it from somewhere, and while the single was pretty high profile (it was on Apple Records) the band never released a proper album and pretty much sank into collector scumbag oblivion. I've got an (incomplete) list of episodes somewhere; I'll try to get 'em up this weekend.

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