"Matt Houston" Deadly Fashion (TV Episode 1982) Poster

(TV Series)


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The Difference Between In Style and Classic
JasonDanielBaker16 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Fashion house owner Valentine Sinclair (Mr.Blackwell) is not merely a source for irritation for those within his reach, he is a treacherous and cruel man with a long history of making life miserable for everyone he knows. At the debut of his fall line he gets shot with an arrow fired by a cupid statue powered by a remote control device.

Houston sets out to prove the innocence of the prime suspect Christina Berenson (Cristina Ferrare) - an ex-girlfriend of his, by catching the real killer who could be anyone of the other guest-stars each of which have excellent motives and/or shady pasts. Houston himself becomes a source for irritation for the suspects after asking too many pointed questions and very nearly becomes the next victim.

Mr.Blackwell (Real name Dick Selzer - can you guess why he changed it?) was hated more by celebrities than audiences who, while less than effusive at the overall idea of the man and what he did, had not really seen him enough on TV for him to have worn out his welcome. As a result the old Broadway actor was called upon to be suitably loathsome as a morally corrupt character people would desperately want to kill up until he got bumped off. In a rare scripted performance he was exceptionally convincing.

The subversive formula at the beginning of season 1 was to take a celebrity a lot of people in the TV audience didn't like and whack them in a funny way in a mystery even Whitney Houston could solve. The murders of the most irritating and talentless celebrities who appeared as guest stars on this show were calculated to please crowds like in a Roman arena as was the sometimes brutal capture by Houston of whichever other irritating guest star was the murderer.

If it sounds like Burke's Law (Aaron Spelling produced both thus could be reasonably assured he wouldn't sue himself for copyright infringement) it should but like I said it is subversive. The ironic tone and staged executions of stars from old TV was in itself a humorously critical statement on the medium.

Consistent with that the victim in this episode is killed by a remote that looks a lot like the kind you use for a television, apropos for reasons which should be readily apparent. It was not merely a wink at the audience the way some spoofs are. It was more of a mischievous stare morphing its way into a prankish leer.

While fun as a concept it was merely one aspect of a show the ABC network figured was going to get killed in the time-slot and paid little attention to up until people started watching. They didn't start watching because the show was that good (It wasn't, at first, and this episode is one of several indicators). They started watching because the shows on at the same time (Archie Bunker's Place on CBS, CHiPS on NBC) were falling to pieces and they simply channel surfed their way over.

Paul Brinegar and Dennis Fimple who played Houston's comic relief ranch-hands Lamar and Bo are actually in this episode. In several episodes after the beginning of season 1 they would be credited with appearing but were only seen in the opening montage. It would soon become clear their presence on the show was counterproductive.

But here they are along with the requisite scene at the Houston ranch. You can check off aspects peculiar to the first season like a shopping list. The cast which could have been from a Loveboat episode. C.J.'s insipid narration presented with no framing device. Houston flying that stupid helicopter (Albeit without the Hollywood sign in the background this time). The cop Novelli and his eccentric mother's restaurant. The secretaries and accountant Murray (George Wyner) chasing Houston in vain to get his attention for business matters. Houston nearly getting run down by a car etc.

Of course C.J. is wearing so much make-up it looks like it was spread on with a putty knife. With the big hair contrasting her conservative businesswoman's attire she looks like an investment banker that moonlights as a call-girl. There were the other things I never got past and one of them was this couch that doubles as steps. Rich people don't usually have to sit where they have stepped and the rest of us wouldn't either.

What you see here that was not generally in season 1 episodes are shots of Houston's 100 Century Plaza South penthouse office at night and from different angles, particularly lower ones. They had shot excellent stock footage they could have blended more efficiently with other season 1 episodes but didn't.
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