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Series / Wild Palms

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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 attorney, 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.

Provides Examples Of:

  • 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.
  • Animal Motifs: A rhinoceros is frequently featured in dream sequences and virtual reality.
  • Arc Words: "Go." It's the name of the drug, several episode titles, and Kreutzer's farewell, where he sings "Hello, I Must Be Going."
  • As Himself:
    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 mocked and displays considerably more subtle knowledge of said religion than most modern digs at it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.