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WRITTEN REVIEW: The Elvira Show: An Unaired Pilot

It’s a strange phenomenon, the horror host is. Grown men and women dressing up for Halloween all year round, entombed in macabre slapstick themes as a way to market films that fall short of even a “B” rating.

What is even stranger is how successful some have become outside their regional cable access fan base. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a great example. What started as a low budget labor of love in a Hopkins, Minnesota grew to be one of the most viewed and beloved, nationally syndicated shows of it’s kind (the satirizing of stinky b movie variety). Another personality to have escaped the doldrums of regional cable television is Elvira, Mistress of the Dark herself.

Elvira got her television break back in 1981 when Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the breasts, was chosen to replace Sinister Seymour [Larry Vincent], as the host of the Los Angeles based weekend horror show, Fright Night. Before long the show was retooled and re-titled, Movie Macabre.

It didn’t take long for Elvira’s special brand of lowbrow and vaguely valley-girl humor, combined with vampire like sex appeal to catch on. After just a few years the celebrity of Elvira had grown to the point that Hollywood was willing to take a chance on an Elvira feature film, Mistress of the Dark, and America opened it’s arms and gave her a warm welcome. . . Mostly so we could feel her boobs pushed against our chest, but we did it just the same.

In my opinion, there were two main elements that helped rocket Elvira to national/international fame.
1. I’m sure getting her start in L.A. didn’t hurt. After all, showbiz is all who you know and there are PLENTY of influential people that were exposed to Elvira‘s show. Ya know, the type of people who had the money and connections to take a sassy cable horror host and help make her a silver screen star. How many horror hosts from the Cleveland area have ever had a major movie adaptation?

2. Having a ready-made character that was, and is, tailored to fit the 18-25 male demographic made Elvira a viable personality to star in commercials, hocking things like Mug Rootbeer, Orange Slice, and Coors Lite. Sure she was working to sell the products of some company, but what she was also doing was broadening her own horizon, and drawing attention to her own “talents”. Heh he, a boob joke, get it? I’m sure there were plenty of red blooded, beer drinking Americans who hadn’t heard much of Elvira before they caught a glimpse of her curves on some Coors Lite cardboard cutout at their local beer distributor. That’s something you don’t forget, lemme tell ya.
Wasn’t I supposed to be talking about a show or something? . . Oh yeah! All of this, the horror hosting, the advertising, the promotional tie-ins, the movies, all of it came together in 1993 when Elvira had a crack at getting her own situational comedy. Obviously nothing came of it or this review would be reading a little different, but there was a pilot episode.

The pilot episode of The Elvira Show introduces it’s audience to a fast talking, witch, Elvira, who spends her days playing psychic as she reads palms and sells potions to love stricken office workers who are on the hunt for mister right. Elvira lives with Aunt Minerva, played by Katherine Helmond, who is Elvira’s aunt and who is also a witch. The two live in a creepy old two story colonial in the happen suburb of Manhattan Kansas with their talking cat Renfield, reminiscent of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who is always good for a “catty” remark.

They and their family come from a long line of witches. This is a truth that Elvira is trying to keep secret, as to not attract negative attention. “I‘m tired of pulling stakes up to avoid being burned at one” says Elvira as she reprimands Paige for using her magic in public.

Boob Jokes!

Soon the witchy women have a male caller. Chip Taylor, who has come looking for a love potion. Secretly, Chip is a police officer working undercover, sent to investigate Elvira’s business practices. Elvira finds Chip to be quite the stud and practically throws herself at him. The two have a seat at Elvira’s fortune table. “Oh Chip, I see big things in your future.” says Elvira as the camera pans down to her crystal ball revealing the reflection of her heaving breasts. Yeah, like Elvira’s cable show and movies, the sitcom is full of dick and boob gags that left me with a smile.

Things take a turn for the complicated when Elvira’s long lost niece Paige, played by Phoebe Augustine, shows up on their door step. Her parents past away when she was just a baby and she has raised by nuns on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paige is now eighteen and has come to live with her spell casting kin.

Paige comes to visit.

Naturally, the two witches try to conceal their powers, but by the end of the episode Paige proves to be just as magical as her family.

Elvira made for a fun, lighthearted and sexy comedy. One part Bewitched and one part Married With Children. I found it pretty entertaining and would love for there to be more episodes. It gave me a taste, and I wanted more.

There is a nit-pick that I have to get off of my chest right before I go any further. What the hell is Elvira anyway? In the sitcom she is a witch, but elsewhere she has been alluded to being a vampire. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think she was anything other that a creepy/sexy horror host originally. What’s the deal?!

With it’s not so subtle use of innuendo and characters who take turns slamming each other verbally, I can see why this show never took off, and if it had, wouldn‘t have made it past one season. For starters, it’s too racy for early 90’s CBS. Jokes about sex were more of a Fox Network kinda thing. Secondly, the supernatural elements of the show were too goofy to be taken seriously by an audience who would be tuning in to watch Elvira and her macabre sex appeal. In a nutshell, some parts were too adult while others weren’t adult enough. After all, there is a reason Bewitched and I Dream of Genie were canceled.

I’m know there is an audience out there for a show like this. You know the type. We all have that friend that can’t wait to brag to you that they scored a totally sweet Munsters DVD box set. Sure they had to stay up until four in the morning defending their eBay bid from getting sniped, and they missed work the next day to do it, but hey, he/she did it! They are just the ghoulish type who would love The Elvira Show. . . I don’t know if what I just said helped sell the idea of an Elvira sitcom, sooo. . . yeah.

While the pilot episode of Elvira isn’t much, I won’t hesitate to recommend it to horror fans or those who have that quick witted, snaky sense of humor. Long live Elvira and god bless Cassandra Peterson.


★ ★ ★