Obscurity Knocks: Episode 6 – Peter Mackenzie

PeterMackenzie25Peter Mackenzie, as you may be aware, is currently a cast member on ABC’s black-ish, and once you listen to this episode, you’ll be so happy for him that he is, because our last few topics of conversation would have you believe that most of the man’s career has involved working on pilots that never got picked up. In fact, he’s been in a lot of great stuff over the years, including films like Trumbo, 42, One Hour Photo, and Lorenzo’s Oil, not to mention more TV series than you can shake a stick at. I also must give all due credit for Peter’s appearance on the show to Michael Price (The Simpsons, F Is for Family), who recommended that I invite him on. They worked together on Homeboys from Outer Space, you know. And, yes, of course we talked about that.

Below you’ll find details about the dozen of projects I asked Peter about during the course of our conversation, with the synopses in quotation marks taken from IMDb and the rest is either borrowed from some other source – with the appropriate citation, of course – or written by yours truly from whatever facts I could find.

1. Firehouse (1987): “Some sexy women get out of Fire Fighter School and go for the jobs they trained for, but first they must survive their male counterparts teasing them.”

2. Spencer: For Hire, “McAllister” (1988): Not really an obscurity, at least compared with the rest of the selections, but it was a last second replacement for a project which turned out to be a false item on Peter’s IMDb listing, and it was his pick, specifically because it was his first TV job. Here’s the episode synopsis: “When the daughter of a Navy captain is murdered, suspicion falls on the (black) lieutenant who had been having an affair with her. McAllister, an honorable attorney and an old friend of Hawk’s comes to defend him.” For the record, the parenthetical “black” is straight out of IMDb, and I’m not sure I want to know why it’s there or what the rationale was behind adding it.

3. Theodore Rex (1995): “In an alternate futuristic society, a tough female police detective is paired with a talking dinosaur to find the killer of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals leading them to a mad scientist bent on creating a new Armageddon.”

4. The Faculty (1996): “Flynn Sullivan is a divorced vice-principal balancing the demands of her career with single motherhood. Notable among school-based programs for its focus on activity in Hamilton Middle School’s faculty lounge, rather than in the classrooms. Co-creator Neil Thompson called it ‘an adult-based show,’ and said that the relationships among the school’s staff were the central element.”

5. Homeboys in Outer Space (1996): “Straight-laced Morris Clay and fun-loving Tyberius Walker are two Han Solo wannabes who fly around the galaxy in the Space Hoopty, a used starship that looks like a winged car and comes with a smart-mouthed computer called Loquatia, who has the hots for Morris. Ty and Morris go on wild adventures while taking abuse from Ty’s brother-in-law Vashti and get shown up by gorgeous bounty hunter Amma most of the time.”

6. Chill Factor (1999): “A new biological chemical weapon that explodes up to temperatures over fifty degrees Fahrenheit, falls into the hands of two men who try to make sure that it doesn’t get stolen by a terrorist.”

7. American Tragedy (2000): “Johnnie Cochran defends O.J. Simpson who is on trial for his wife’s murder.” That’s it. That’s the one-sentence description of this 170-minute TV movie on IMDb. So if you’re wondering if this is an across-the-board telling of the story like the recent American Crime Story take on Simpson’s story, it’s not. From that description, it might as well be called Here’s Johnnie!

8. In My Opinion (2002): Per Variety, this sitcom pilot was about “a young newspaper columnist who can help others with their problems, but when it comes to solving her own problems, things just fall apart at the seams.”

9. Good Times Max (2007): “Two genius brothers grow up and grow apart as one becomes a successful surgeon and the other pursues a drug-fueled high life.”

10. Untitled Cedric the Entertainer Project (2008): “Cedric the Entertainer portrays the man of the house who has to get used to his wife becoming the main breadwinner after her hobby turns into a multimillion-dollar venture.”

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11. Circling the Drain (2011): “A 25-year-old reporter at the style section of a newspaper loses her job and ends up on the obituary desk.”

12. Merkin Penal (2013): “Gary is falsely accused of beating his insane ex-girlfriend Charlotte, and he is sentenced to 30 days in Merkin Penal, a privately run prison. Once behind bars he runs into his old friend Smitty, who’s in the 2nd year of his 9 month stay, due to a run in with the TSA. Smitty is ‘insane Charlotte’s’ older brother. Smitty and Gary met while Gary and Charlotte were an item. They are forever bonded together by their shared celebration of hatred for Charlotte. After a First Class, welcoming tour of the prison via Smitty, and a run-in with Emmett O’Donald, from upper Prison Management, Gary realizes his original sentence of 30 days was all bullshit. He may never get out.

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