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Series / Amazing Stories

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Amazing Stories is a 1980s TV series produced by Steven Spielberg for NBC. This Genre Anthology series is similar to The Twilight Zone, although with a distinctly larger proportion of happy endings. The show had very impressive visual effects at the time. Of course, given Spielberg's involvement, that's not surprising. It also had episodes directed by people who hardly ever do television (Robert Zemeckis, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, etc).

Despite all this, the series didn't do that well in the ratings. It lasted from September 1985 to April 1987 for a total of 45 episodes in two seasons. Still, a revival was announced in 2015, and aired exclusively on Apple's streaming service Apple TV+ on March 2020.

For tropes in "Family Dog" and its spin-off series, please see the relevant page.

Amazing Tropes:

  • Afterlife Express: "Ghost Train" has an old steam engine arrive to take a boy's grandfather to the afterlife.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The main character of "Vanessa in the Garden" burns his priceless paintings in a drunken rage, jeopardizing his art career.
  • Anal Probing: In "The Main Attraction" the jock protagonist is about to tell the scientists examining his room that he's been magnetized before dissuading himself with an Imagine Spot of being examined in a sterile environment where they try to get "internal readings" with a rather phallic magnetic field reading tool through an off-screen "entrance".
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: "Guilt Trip", in which the personification of Guilt is forced to go on vacation for messing up on the job, and meets and falls in love with the personification of Love.
  • Artistic License History: "The Mission" takes some extreme liberties:
    • The interior of a Boeing B-17 Bomber is nowhere near as roomy as depicted.
    • A bomber crew (especially a veteran bomber crew) would be alert and not goofing off so as to have to scramble to battle stations when an enemy appears.
  • Based on a True Story: "One for the Road" was based on the actual murder of Michael Malloy, who proved quite hard to kill (although in reality, unlike in the episode, the conspirators did finally manage to kill him).
  • Beauty Contest: In "Miss Stardust", one is crashed by an alien ("Weird Al" Yankovic) who threatens to destroy Earth unless the contest lives up to its name Miss Galaxy and allows contestants from other planets to participate (and ideally win). To make matters trickier, the new entrants aren't Human Aliens...
  • Bittersweet Ending: The fate of Jonah Kelley and his former parents in What If...?. Jonah fades out of existence as his parents ignore him. His guardian angel takes him away and tells him he is to be reborn as a baby to a family wanting a child; he also adds that some day, Jonah's former parents may want to have a child and he'd return to make sure that happened.
  • Black Widow: Mentioned as the previous ring owner in "The Wedding Ring". Makes you wonder if she imprinted on the ring or was the victim of the ring too.
  • Book Ends: In "Go to the Head of the Class":
    Beanes: So, I finally have you where I want you, Mr. Brand! In detention!"
  • The Cameo: "Remote Control Man" is a huge conglomerate of television favorites. It has everyone from Face to KITT to Arnold, with almost all of them played by their original actors.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: The characters habit of saving his old junk in "Gather Ye Acorns" ends up benefiting him gracefully by the end.
  • Chemistry Can Do Anything: "Miscalculation" is about a college boy desperate for a date discovering that two beakers of vivid, viscous liquid in chemistry class can bring pictures to life when mixed on them. As indicated by the title, figuring about the particulars takes some trial and error; the first time he uses too much on a centerfold and makes a Giant Woman. The second time he uses too little and makes a woman that's normal sized, but borderline undead in appearance. In either case they're shown to be temporary and animations eventually melt into goo.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Jonathan survives "The Mission" this way. His cartooning and pure belief allow him to replace his plane's damaged landing gear with cartoon tires. So, long as he keeps concentrating, the tires exist, so once the plane lands, workers cut him out of the turret as peacefully as possible. When he's safe and snapped out of it, the tires disappear.
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe: In the original Amazing Stories episode of Family Dog, the middle segment is a home movie set at Christmas. Dad Skip opens his first present, and it's a necktie. He opens his second present... another tie. And then another and then another, and Skip is looking more displeased with each one. As for Bev, the mother, she is mortified to get a racy apron with handprints on the chest area.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: "Mummy Daddy". The actor protagonist is in a mummy costume, and there's also a real mummy lurching around.
  • Dead Man Walking: "The Mission". The gunner's bubble won't retract and the landing gear has been destroyed, meaning when the plane lands, it's going to be very messy.
  • Deep South: The movie the actor is making in "Mummy Daddy" is being shot in this reigon.
  • Deus ex Machina: Happens a number of times, but the most extreme example is possibly "The Mission".
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: A number of episodes, such as "Gather Ye Acorns." A rather literal example in "Secret Cinema."
  • Hollywood Voodoo: "The Sitter" uses this against her two trouble-making young charges.
  • Humiliation Conga: The Jerk Jock protagonist in "The Main Attraction" gets magnetized by a meteor strike and spends the day being "attacked" by every metal object in town, culminating in the belated announcement that there were two meteors, and a second victim..
  • I'm a Humanitarian: "Thanksgiving", assuming whatever down there is human.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: B.O. Beanes from "Go to the Head of the Class" may be a Sadist Teacher that delights in tormenting his students, but he's absolutely right about Peter Brand's motivation that propels the plot: sex. Or specifically his sexual attraction to fellow student Cynthia Stewart. Cynthia knows that he has a crush on her and exploits it to the hilt. He provides her with an essay that gives her a passing grade while he falsely confesses to plagiarism. Beanes himself knows what's going on. He also goes along with her plan to break into Beanes' family crypt and later his house to put a curse (and later a resurrection spell) on him. These are criminal acts that Brand otherwise would not perform if his sexual attraction to her wasn't clouding his judgement.
  • Large Ham / Sadist Teacher: B.O. Beanes in "Go to the Head of the Class," played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd.
  • Losing Your Head: "Go to the Head of the Class" has Sadist Teacher B.O. Beanes, after accidentally being killed, coming back to life with his head separate from his body because the picture used in the resurrection spell got torn in two.
  • Magical Nanny/Magical Negro: "The Sitter"; see above under Hollywood Voodoo.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: In "Go to the Head of the Class", Beanes' personality never changes no matter what has happened to him. If anything, he delights in exploiting it!
  • Mercy Kill: The crew in "The Mission" complete their task, but their plane's landing gear is damaged, and Jonathan is left trapped in the underside turret. He will be crushed to death when they land. As the fuel starts running out and all conventional options fail, one of the men prepares to shoot Jonathan to spare him an agonizing death. Luckily, the day is saved, thanks to Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
  • Mirror Monster: Horror writer Jordan Manmoth from "Mirror, Mirror" finds himself being stalked by such a creature. Every time he looks in a mirror, he sees some kind of phantom threatening him, but no one else does. It gets to the point where any reflective surface can allow this monster to get to him.
  • Mistaken for Undead: The plot of "Mummy Daddy" involves some angry and dumb rednecks believing some actor stuck in a mummy costume is an actual shambling mummy (ok, sure, there is an actual real undead mummy moving around but still) and they decide to lynch first and check if it was human later-to-maybe-never.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: Inverted/parodied in "Mummy Daddy", where an actor trapped in a highly constricting mummy costume frantically attempts to reach the hospital where his wife is giving birth. His task is further complicated by two things: a hostile band of backwoodsmen and a real mummy.
  • Mood Whiplash: As each episode is done very differently this happens often and can catch people off guard. One episode will be whimsical and comedic, then the next will be dark and serious.
  • Mummy: "Mummy Daddy" has a man dressed as a mummy and later features a real mummy who has been kept in a sarcophagus.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: "One for the Books" has a man unwillingly soak up all the knowledge in a university library, turning him into rambling distracted mess.
  • Not-So-Phony Psychic: "The Amazing Falsworth" is a play on this, where people believe he's an act but he really can read minds.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "The Amazing Falsworth" is one big episode of this. Falsworth does his mind-reading act and winds up picking up on the thoughts of a serial killer. Worse, he was blind-folded at the time, so he doesn't know who the killer is.
    • Even through his bandages, the poor actor in "Mummy Daddy" flashes an hilariously epic one after the Shaming the Mob moment listed below.
    • The magnetized protagonist of "The Main Attraction" pretty much suffers through a day-long string of these, but especially at the very end when he learns who got hit with the other meteor.
  • Opposites Attract: "Guilt Trip" has Guilt and Love personified falling in love with each other.
  • Pop Culture Symbology: The episode Go To The Head Of The Class features a necromantic spell hidden on lyrics of Michael Jackson's Thriller - in order to hear it, you need to play an LP of the song backwards.
  • Retirony: "The Mission" features the 24th (and final) mission for a WWII bomber crew. Jonathan narrowly escapes this fate.
  • Ret-Gone: The ultimate fate of 5-year-old Jonah Kelley in What If...?. Ignored by his self-absorbed parents, Jonah soon becomes literally invisible to them along with having his possessions slowly disappear. In the end, a man (implied to be his guardian angel) reveals he no longer exists but will be reborn as a baby to a loving family that actually wants him.
  • Sadist Teacher: B.O. Beanes in Go To The Head Of The Class has a truly psychotic obsession with student (and protagonist) Peter Brandt, seeking to give him extremely harsh punishments at the drop of a hat for any damn reason. The original idea of the voodoo spell was to brainwash Beanes into being nicer but since it went horribly wrong it only made him even more psychotic. And he's got the rest of the school year — if not the rest of his undead life — to make Brandt's life an everlasting living hell.
  • Saving Christmas: "Santa 85" has Santa end up in jail and a boy has to help break him out so he can deliver presents.
  • Scary Stitches: In "Go to the Head of the Class", Beanes reveals that he had to sew his head back on his body — and is eager to torment the protagonist even more.
  • Selective Magnetism: In "The Main Attraction", what metal objects are and aren't attracted to the luckless magnetized protagonist is pretty much decided by Rule of Funny.
  • Shaming the Mob: Subverted in "Mummy Daddy", with a young child saying to the lynch mob that the costumed actor looks like a good mummy, but.. "..he could be a bad one! I say we hang 'im just in case!"
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: "Go to the Head of the Class" manages to be a horror comedy, straddling both extremes.
  • Spin-Off: Family Dog, although it was picked up by CBS instead of NBC. The series was notably done without the input of Brad Bird, who intended the original episode to be a stand-alone outing and didn't feel the concept could support a series. (Given its Troubled Production and the fact that CBS sat on the finished episodes for years before burning them off over the course of five weeks during the summer of 1993, he was probably right.)
  • Sudden Intelligence/Suddenly Bilingual: "One for the Books" has a man unwillingly get all the knowledge in a library crammed into his head, with this as a result.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: The large lizards in The Sitter that Jennifer uses to scare the two unruly boys are a green iguana and a savanna monitor, both completely harmless and usually docile animals often sold in pet shops (perhaps justified in-universe since the two boys probably don't know this).
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: Summoned by the babysitter in "The Sitter".
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: "Life on Death Row". Thankfully, the inmate gets better with help from the friends he has healed.
  • Trapped in TV Land: A horror movie fan makes the mistake of wishing life were more like the movies in "Welcome to My Nightmare".
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: "Mummy Daddy" is inspired by an incident in which Boris Karloff, in full Frankenstein makeup, had to leave the set of a Frankenstein film when his wife went into labor.
  • Visual Pun: In "Thanksgiving", what's left of Calvin does indeed look like a turkey in silhouette.
  • Why Won't You Die?: The characters in "One for the Road" keep trying to kill the Disposable Vagrant with lots of alcohol, kerosene, and walks in the freezing cold, but he just won't keel over. He never does.