HBO’s The Hitchhiker (You might want to think twice before giving him a ride…)

Sometimes TV viewing can be like riding that monster coaster at the amusement park. No matter how excited you are to meet the “You Must Be This Tall” bear paw at the entrance, you cannot help but feel that reluctant ache in the pit of your stomach as you cross the turnstile to wait in line. Such is the case with my grade school self’s introduction to HBO. Favorites that I never missed multiple airings of, such “Nine To Five,” “Rhinestone,” “Hambone and Hillie,” and “Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas” never lose their appeal. However, other features retain an enigma of transgressive danger that piqued my interest while simultaneously producing anticipatory butterflies of anxiety.

the-hitchhiker

Our monthly HBO Guide Book as well as the bumpers preceding all questionable programming warned of the following material that was suitable for “mature audiences” only. I learned from these warnings that I should not watch Tom Hanks’ “Bachelor Party” or Tanya Roberts in “Sheena” – for what reasons I wasn’t exactly sure. However there was no doubt in my mind that one show was definitely for the grown-ups – “The Hitchhiker.” And perhaps it is for this very reason that the previews for that notorious serial fascinated me so much. Like wanting to join a secret club, I wondered what went on in those episodes after the mysterious red logo and creepy theme song faded and the story began. My stomach still flip-flops when I hear the voiceover at the beginning of each episode warning of its content. Did I think the ratings police would jump out and arrest me at any moment?!lol

A recent phone discussion re-sparked my interest in The Hitchhiker. My friend brought up a film called “Night Shift” that immediately triggered that flip-floppety stomach response. After much debate of her assuring me that Night Shift was not scary in the least bit, I pieced together the slow realization that I was not in fact remembering the Henry Winkler/Shelley Long comedy that she was referring to, but rather an inherently creepy episode of “The Hitchhiker” starring Margot Kidder. And once again, thanks to You Tube, a few clicks of the mouse brought me to this particular installment of the serial, along with links to several other episodes.

Now that I guess I’m finally “legal” to watch “The Hitchhiker,” I think I might give some of those YouTube episodes a try. As creepy as they are, his adventures lend a certain fascination to watch with some popcorn late at night. However, like Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote,” trouble seems to follow the hitchhiker wherever he goes. If I ever saw him in my town, I think I’d hightail it out of there for a while…

Subscribe to the Retroist Newsletter

* indicates required

9 thoughts on “HBO’s The Hitchhiker (You might want to think twice before giving him a ride…)

  1. I used to watch hitchhiker on HBO a lot when I was about 15~17 (later, edited versions of the episodes were shown on basic cable, the usa network to be specific).
    Is split decision the one where danny divito gets cut in half? That was a good one.

  2. I wonder if the one I’m thinking of is a different episode, or perhaps an episode of tales from the crypt. I’m 90% sure it’s devito who plays the guy/s in the one I’m thinking of. He meets a pair of twins who can’t share, convinces them that he’s twins too, gets caught in the lie & then they cut him in half.

  3. Almost the same story, but I know the HH episode was called Split Decision. We tried to do it on Saturday Night Frights but couldn’t find it on YouTube. It was on another site, though.

  4. I had similar experience with this show. Was never allowed to watch it at my grandparents’ house (aunt & cousins lived there too). They had cable, but my folks didn’t. So after a while of being curious, I moved on to other things. This is the first episode I have ever seen and after watching it, I now know why I was not allowed. Not because of the gore or killing or scary stuff, but because of the nudity and sexual situations.

    Oh a different note, I wonder if Rod Serling would like to punch this hitchhiker in the nose and say, “THAT’S MY BIT PAL!”

  5. CA Darlaw says:

    You know, I was also really surprised at how risque it was!!! I can see now why it had all those “mature audience” warnings!lol
    And the reference to Rod Serling is great too – he sort of started that whole bit didn’t he? Having been hooked on MeTV reruns of Night Gallery lately, I can see where they might have gotten some inspiration from!

  6. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Discovering this series was a highpoint in our Canadian pay-TV channel, First Choice.

    I recorded what I could whenever possible (on my precious few, re-used VHS tapes) to check out new stuff.

    When I finally caught this, I started to watch it live (to save on tape usage) and it became one of those late-night staples.

    I barely remember any of it, though. Been so long.
    Looking forward to rediscovering it.

    The intro music really appealed to me, with its ‘Westworld’ vibe.
    Never forgot that part.

Leave a Reply