Tuesday, September 6, 2022

"Wild Palms," the deranged cyberpunk soap opera that ran on ABC in 1993, and the comic it's based on, are free online

I sought this out after hearing it mentioned in this round table discussion with some of the creators of cyberpunk:

The tv series was based on the comic of the same name that ran in Details magazine. Written by Bruce Wagner and illustrated by Julian Allen, it has a few panels like this:

Otherwise the comic was mostly about a mid-level Hollywood player hobnobbing with celebrities like Carrie Fisher instead of spending time with his family, doing tons of drugs, and experiencing a lot of paranoid fantasies. It's very specific to life in Hollywood for a wealthy white guy in the early 90's. Archive.org has the entire strip, which is also available at ebay.

The tv series was produced by Wagner and Oliver Stone, and featured an all-star cast. It took many of the characters and bizarre moments from the strip and used them to populate a story about a struggle to stop an evil senator, who is also the leader of a cult, from acquiring cutting edge Japanese augmented reality to take over the world. 

Angie Dickinson and Ben Savage play two of the hyperviolent villains:

Moments in virtual reality include a galloping computer virus and Jim Belushi arming himself for a day of work (silly and ugly, but sadly optimistic in light of Facebook trying to promote VR with green-eyed Zuckerberg avatars 30 years later):

Youtube has the entire series, which is also available at Amazon:

Major outlets like Variety, Entertainment Weekly, and the Washington Post described it as a cross between Blade Runner and Twin Peaks, only with a narrative far superior to the one in Twin Peaks. But every choice in the show, including line delivery and music, is absolutely bizarre. I watched every moment.

There was also an accompanying Wild Palms Reader, a sort of faux-scrapbook from the Wild Palms universe, featuring loud graphics and short writings from an eclectic group including Bruce Sterling, Lemmy Kilmister, and William Gibson (who also had a brief and awkward cameo in the show as himself).

He wrote a bit about in 2006:
While the mini-series fell drastically short of the serial, it did produce one admirably peculiar literary artifact, The Wild Palms Reader, edited by Roger Trilling and Stuart Sweezey . . . .

This Reader managed to pre-figure some of the most eldritch vibes of Bush-era neoconservatism, and indeed the series can be imagined as making a very different kind of sense, at the time, if only Clinton hadn't been elected.
Only for Wild Palms superfans. Available at Amazon.