Friday the 13th | Celebrating ‘Friday the 13th: The Series’

Today is the only Friday the 13th that will occur in 2016, so we had better make it count. As usual, avoid unlucky things; Stay away from black cats (unless you own one), throw salt over your left shoulder when spilled, handle mirrors cautiously, leave heads-down pennies right where you found them, and be sure to wake up at midnight and eat some grapes. That’s a superstition in Spain. Although it usually applies to New Year’s Eve. 

Also, most horror movie fanatics take this opportunity to enjoy every film in the long-running Friday the 13th series. This is kind of a no-brainer, of course. It’s like watching Halloween on Halloween, or April Fool’s Day on April Fool’s Day. And since Crave has previous watched every film in the Friday the 13th series, we’ll take this rare holiday as an opportunity to vaunt the uncommonly vaunted. We’ll look back at the cult TV show Friday the 13th: The Series instead. 

Check Out: Crave Reviews Every Single Film in Both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street Franchises

Friday the 13th: The Series is well-known to horror aficionados, and fondly remembered by those who managed to catch it during its initial run from 1987 to 1990. It’s one of those TV shows that people rarely mention in discussion with peers, but when someone does think to bring it up, the response around the circle is usually and suddenly one of enthusiasm. It’s like Peter Bogdonavich’s Noises Off!, Sicilian style pizza, or Jeff Goldblum as a sex symbol. It’s something we can all agree on. 

To offer a brief primer for those who are unfamiliar: Friday the 13th: The Series, while produced by Frank Mancuso, a producer of the film series, has nothing to do with Jason Voorhees, Camp Crystal Lake, or slashing. The show was a loosely-bound near-anthiology series about a string of “cursed objects” that would find their way into the hands of the episode’s protagonist. Each one of these cursed objects would have the magical ability to grant wishes or fulfill desires for their owners, but every single one of them also demanded a blood sacrifice. 

“Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the Devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki, and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store… and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back and the real terror begins.”

CBS

CBS

The recurring characters were Micki (Robey) and Ryan (John D. LeMay) as the plucky investigators, and their boss, as it were, was the elderly occultist Jack (Chris Wiggins). Some of the episodes would be very directly about these three and their intense attempts to track down the cursed objects, but most episodes would follow the cursed objects themselves, and whomsoever the objects enthralled.

The show was great. It offered the steady rotating variety of an anthology series, but still had enough interconnected mythology to hold it together as a drama. 

The central theme of Friday the 13th: The Series was, of course, power-lust and covetousness. It was about poor souls – ordinary people, really – who coveted so intensely, they were willing to commit murder. They wanted fame, they wanted to be great magicians, they wanted to be their favorite musical idols. And this is, disturbingly enough, something I think we can all relate to. Not that we’re all of the mind to commit murder, but we can all sympathize with the notion of wanting something so badly, we can taste it, and might even convince ourselves that we’d be willing to do some pretty extreme things to get it. The cursed objects in Friday the 13th: The Series are the Devil that is willing to push us that extra small, wicked step into dark iniquity.

Like most horror stories, Friday the 13th: The Series is a morality tale. This is, of course, not to say that it wasn’t fun to watch. It was wicked fun, clever, and well-written. 

Yes, I know you have an important question: Why was it called Friday the 13th when it had nothing to do with the Jason Voorhees film series? Indeed, the show even bore the same font and logo as the film series, and was clearly meant to be a tie-in. The only answer given, sadly, was a cynical one. Frank Mancuso, the producer, originally wanted to call the show The 13th Hour, but changed the title because he knew it would be easier to sell to networks. There was a plan to include Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask as a cursed object in what was intended to be a notable early episode, but that plan was abandoned to make the show stand apart from the movies. 

The series, fortunately, does stand on its own as a crackerjack horror show, and one that can be found here and there on various home video formats. It’s time for you to check it out again. Or to discover it. Either way, dig in. It’s pretty great. 

Top Image: CBS

Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.