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.
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…