Series: Wild Palms

Your reality is their business.

What is that climbing up the stair?
It's not a boar, it's not a bear
And on its head it has a horn
As odd as any unicorn....

Wild Palms is a six hour science fiction TV mini-series from 1993, produced by Oliver Stone and written by Bruce Wagner (who also wrote the comic book the series was based on). It starred James Belushi, Dana Delany, Bebe Neuwirth, Angie Dickinson, Kim Cattrall, Ernie Hudson, Ben Savage and Robert Loggia.

Set in 2007, Harry Wyckoff (Belushi) has got it all: A successful career as a patent attourney, a beautiful wife, a teenage son starting a TV career, and a little daughter who is still too shy to speak. But at night, he is haunted by nightmares of palm trees and rhinoceroses. Accepting a call for help from his former girlfriend to find her kidnapped son, Harry is pulled into a web of intrigue surrounding the charismatic Senator Kreutzer, TV Channel 3, a strange religion called Synthiotics and old rival secret societies called The Friends and The Fathers.

Wild Palms demonstrated an astoundingly sensible projection of future trends, including the rise of retro music as well as believable fashion. Notably, one episode was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who would go on to direct The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adult Fear: Your kid is actually a Changeling.
  • Affably Evil: Senator Tony Kreutzer.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Harry's therapy sessions. Notably, the therapist is a Father, so it's doubtful that he had any interest in Harry's mental health.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Kreutzer, Wyckoff, Levitt And Schenkel.
  • Arc Words: "Everything Must Go."
  • As Himself: William Gibson at a party, Oliver Stone in a TV interview about JFK (where he shows himself as vindicated with his theory in the future).
    Paige: This is William Gibson, Harry.
    Harry: Oh, yeah...Neuromancer, right?
    Paige: He invented the word "cyberspace."
    Gibson: And they'll never let me forget it.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Kreutzers. Tony is secretly Harry's father. Bring on the Squick, as his sister Josie is Grace's mother. And also fathered Coty on Paige, then switched him for Harry's son - the Maps to the Stars kid.
  • Brain Uploading: Senator Kreutzer's ultimate goal.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Heavily implied between Tully and his sister. Even more heavily implied between Tony and Josie Kreutzer. Especially as he arranged for his son to marry Josie's daughter.
  • Chemical Messiah: The drug Mimezine(discovered by Harry's father, Dexter, by experimenting on fugu toxin), which permitted one to hallucinate interactions with holograms, had religious overtones(overdoses resulted in "image sickness", beginning with hallucinations of churches, progressing into losing oneself in memories, and ultimately death), considering that the Scientology-like antagonist cult (Synthiotics/The New Realism) in the miniseries controlled the pharmaceutical labs where it was manufactured as well as the media outlets which benefited from its use by consumers. Senator Kreutzer, the Big Bad, certainly thought that opening the doors of perception using Mimezine was one of the first steps to enlightenment in the New Realist/Synthiotics paradigm.
  • Church of Happyology: Synthiotics is a thinly veiled expy of Scientology. Its founder is said to be a former science fiction writer, and its Elite Mooks dress as sailors like members of the Sea Org. Notably, Wild Palms was released quite a few years before Scientology became widely known as an Acceptable Target and displays considerably more subtle knowledge of said religion than most modern digs at it.
  • Creepy Child: Coty Wyckoff, and how.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Most conversations in this series are cryptic.
  • Cute Mute: Deirdre "Little Buddha" Wyckoff.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Averted with palms and lots of sunshine. Includes some elements of Post-Cyberpunk.
  • Cyberspace: Chickie Levitt spends most of his time there.
  • Dark Messiah: Coty is being set up as one by the Fathers.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Harry and Grace.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Chickie Levitt, Tommy.
  • The Dragon: Josie Ito to Senator Kreutzer.
  • Dream Sequence: Harry's nightmares.
  • Driven to Suicide: Grace Wyckoff, though she survives the attempt... only to be killed off by her mother. Tully also kills himself after killing Josie.
  • Eye Scream: When Josie gouges out Tully's eyes with her thumbs.
  • Evil Chancellor: Senator Tony Kreutzer.
  • Evil Matriarch: Josie Ito.
  • Fan Disservice: During a nightmare, Harry reaches over to touch his wife in bed — and she turns into Robert Loggia, snorting like a warthog. May well be the most unsettling moment in the entire series.
  • Femme Fatale: Paige. Paige. And Paige.
  • Genius Cripple: Chickie Levitt.
  • G.I.R.L.: Terra, Chickie's cyberspace love-interest is actually Ushio Kawabatake, a Japanese member of the Friends.
  • Hard Light: Mimecom TV + the Mimezine drug.
  • Hide Your Gays: Totally averted.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Tully uses virtual reality glasses to compensate for his blindness after Josie gouges out his eyes.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Hinted at. For example, when Josie is attacked, she starts screaming Japanese threats when retreating.
  • La Résistance: The Friends.
  • Large Ham: Senator Tony Kreutzer just loves to Chew the Scenery. To be expected from a character played by Robert Loggia.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Subverted when Chickie kills Chap Starfall.
  • The Masquerade: The Fathers' scheme; their war with the Friends.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Subverted. Edwardian suits and groovy sixties dresses are both back in style. There's also a sixties music revival going on, including several lounge-style covers of famous pop songs.
  • Offing the Offspring: Josie kills Grace, her daughter.
  • Shout-Out: Animal Crackers included a song titled "Hello, I Must Be Going". It was the title of the final episode of the miniseries, and the song itself was sung by villain Senator Kreutzer (Robert Loggia) as he died.
    • T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" and Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain" serve as the anthems of the Fathers and the Friends.
    • "Beat me up, Scotty!"
  • Pop-Star Composer: The score was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The series is fairly trippy in and of itself, but the comic it was adapted from is Philip K Dick-level bizarre, and unfilmable. Wagner did the best he could, but any fans should definitely read both.
  • Show Within a Show: The Church Windows sitcom Coty is playing in, which oscillates between Stylistic Suck and the Uncanny Valley.
  • Soaperizing: The series was essentially a cyberpunk soap opera.
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: The last episode ups the tension this way by showing society breaking apart at the seams as a result of the power struggle between the crypto-fascist Fathers and the more libertarian and humanistic Friends, secret societies that have been warring over America for decades.
  • Stealth Pun: "Everything Must Go", as noted in-universe.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Produced in 1993, set in 2007.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Friends may be the "good guys," but they can be damned manipulative and cold at times.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses
  • We Are Everywhere: Everyone Harry knows seems to turn out to be either a Friend or a Father.
  • Yaoi Guys: Tommy Laszlo and Tully Woiwode.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: With the assistance of Mimezine.