Mon 14 Jan 2013
THE FIFTH CORNER. NBC, 1992. Tri-Star Television / John Herzfeld Production / Adelson and Baumgarter Production. Cast: Alex McArthur as Fifth Corner, James Coburn as Dr. Grandwell, Kim Delaney as Erica Fontaine, J.E. Freeman as Boone, and Anthony Valentine as The Hat. Creator and Executive Producer: John Herzfeld, Executive Producers: Gary Adelson and Craig Baumgarter, Supervising Producer: Bruce Zabel. Producer: Paul Pompian, Co-Producer: Robert Florio. Music by David Michael Frank.
Over at YouTube I found a clip for the forgotten TV series THE FIFTH CORNER:
As a fan of spy and noir fiction, I was hooked. The series itself was short lived with six hours filmed (two hour TV Movie and four hour long episodes). NBC cancelled it and took it off the air after its second week leaving three of the hour-long episodes unaired.
I have found a copy of all six hours in the Collector’s market at sell.com.
John Herzfeld (DR. VEGAS) created a flawed but delightful mystery, full of clues, red herrings, twists, macguffins, betrayals, sex and violence. His most serious mistake was taking the cynical hardboiled spy noir story and telling it with the emotional, express-your-feelings style of the early 90s.
The man with amnesia had many names. His evil co-workers called him George, but to simplify things we will call him by the nickname they had given him, Fifth Corner. He was called the Fifth Corner because when there was no way out he would find one.
Star Alex McArthur (RAMPAGE) played Fifth Corner like the typical early 90s male hero, the sensitive man, intense, emotional, not afraid to cry. Fifth Corner had been a top spy and ruthless killer but when he loses his memory McArthur’s version becomes an emotional wreck. This unlikely change for the character cost the character much of its appeal and believability. In his favor, McArthur seemed to find the character’s stronger side as the series progressed.
Fans of Kim Delany (NYPD BLUE) will enjoy her wardrobe or lack of, as she does what she can with the stereotypical character of the beautiful, headstrong, independent woman who becomes the hero’s love interest. To add to her challenge her character, saxophone playing, NY Times reporter Erica Fontaine had some of the most out of place dialog in the series such as, “I never let down my guard, but with you I dropped it like a whore’s nightgown.”
J.E. Reeder (MILLER’S CROSSING) was convincing as Fifth Corner’s sidekick. But the character was weakened by too many quirks, the lover of take-out food, comic book reader, AA member with a fear of bad breath who lives in the front seat of the limo. Attempts to comment of Fifth Corner’s problems by mirroring them with Boone’s problems from his past did not work. The bit with Boone being a former op of The Corporation who fell in love with the wife of the last man he killed was a gratuitous side-trip from the all ready complicated story.
I am a fan of James Coburn (DAIN’S CURSE) especially when he is using his cool laid-back persona as he does here as evil billionaire Dr Grandwell, a man who never lets a life or country get in his way of making money. I do wish the story had spent more time with Grandwell and his mysterious beautiful, blind, female companion (Julia Nickson-Soul, BABYLON 5).
Grandwell’s second in command “The Hat” (Anthony Valentine, CALLAH) might have worked as a noir character but the bit with the hat was too silly visually. His minions all had the proper noir background, the blonde femme fatale (Madchen Amick, TWIN PEAKS), the femme fatale’s killer boy toy (Mark Joy, DOGMA) the psychopath Cristoph Ohrt, (EDEL & STARCK), and the good solider (Voyo, RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2).
David Michael Frank’s (ABOVE THE LAW) soundtrack was delightfully appropriate for film noir. The one exception was his original song, “Hold Onto That Feeling” (co-written with Robert Jason who performed it) for the episode “Home” that as a bad sentimental 90s pop song may have fit the melodrama of the episode, had no place in a spy-noir TV series.
“Trio.” (April 17, 1992) Friday, 9pm-11pm (Eastern). Written and directed by John Herzfeld. Guest Cast: Sergio Calderon *** A man who lost his memory finds himself tied to the murder of a woman and a larger conspiracy. He discovers he has many names, one of which is the nickname Fifth Corner. A beautiful redhead named Erica is on his trail. Everyone wants his mysterious diary (a laptop with details of all his assignments). His evil boss Grandwell wants him back working for The Corporation, which disappoints Fifth Corner’s rival The Hat who wants him dead.
Each episode featured a self-contained mystery involving another persona of Fifth Corner. We began with the name Richard Braun, but then switched to George Thompson. The mystery was who killed the woman “Richard” woke up with in bed, and why she was killed. “George” switched our attention to Grandwell and the mystery of who the Fifth Corner was.
The TV movie was fun, if flawed. As with most spy-noir fiction, the story was not overburdened with reality. The murder mystery was solved and Fifth Corner, Erica and Boone joined together to take on Dr. Grandwell and his evil corporation.
Ratings: 16 share. Opposite: ABC aired repeat DINOSAURS (20), repeat BABY TALK (20) and new 20/20 (27). CBS had a repeat of JANEK “Murder Times Seven (1990) (15). FOX had a new SIGHTINGS (13), repeat TOTALLY HIDDEN VIDEO (9) and turned 10-11pm over to local stations.
“Eva.” (April 24, 1992) Friday, 10-11pm Written by John Herzfeld. Directed by Albert Pyun. Guest Cast: Peter Kwong and Tim Thomerson. *** Fifth Corner (aka “George”) search for his wife Eva is interrupted when he is arrested as Jack Previn for the murder of a Japanese electronic genius. He is about to be extradited to Japan when the blonde who works for The Hat arrives and post bail.
The new name is Jack Previn and the mystery is the death of a Japanese inventor and his missing amazing electronic gadget. The arc story of Fifth Corner’s search for his identity and Erica’s obsession about bringing down Grandwell continue as the series primary focus.
Ratings: 13 share. Opposite: ABC aired new 20/20 (26), CBS had repeat BURT REYNOLDS SPECIAL (15), and FOX turned the time over to local stations.
“Home.” (never aired). Written by John Herzfeld and Bryce Zabel. Directed by Sam Pillsbury. Guest Cast: Barbara Barrie and Chris Allport *** While Fifth Corner continues to search for his identity Grandwell has erased all evidence of Erica’s existence. Fifth Corner may have found his family and his name, John Avlean. The mob is moving in on John’s big brother’s restaurant. When the Fifth Corner and Boone take on the mob, things go wrong.
This week’s name is John Avlean and the mystery deals with the mob’s attempt to take over John’s big brother’s restaurant.
This episode suffers from too much emotional melodrama but the scene where Fifth Corner and Boone take on the mob was full of style and shocking surprises that made the scene one of the best moments of the series.
“Woman at Her Toilette.” (unaired). Written by Leslie Bohem and John Herzfeld. Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont. Guest Cast: Marina Sirtis, and Frank Stallone *** Grandwell wants the painting he had Anthony Parachini (Fifth Corner) steal for him. Fifth Corner can’t remember where the painting is, but finds yet another identity, Jean Michel, that leads him to it. To complicate things, a hit squad arrives to kill Grandwell, and Anthony and get the painting. To save Erica and get her life back, Fifth Corner makes a deal with Grandwell.
Two new names are featured, Anthony who worked for Grandwell and Jean who lead a secret life from Grandwell. The mystery is where is the painting.
Perhaps the weirdest episode of the series, highlighted by Marina Sirtis (STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION) doing an erotic performance art piece for Fifth Corner, Erica, and Boone that had nothing to do with the story or arc.
“Sword of Damocles.” (never aired). Written and directed by John Herzfeld. Guest Cast: Paul Cain and Tianna Thorpe *** Fifth Corner had agreed never see Erica again if Grandwell restores her identity. When Erica learns of the deal, she rejects it, even if it means she will be killed. Grandwell remains in his forgiving mood in regard to Fifth Corner, but The Hat finally convinces Grandwell to let him kill Fifth Corner. Grandwell expects and hopes The Hat will fail.
The last episode spares us a new name or mystery as we rush towards the resolution of Grandwell and Fifth Corner arc story. The final gunfight is the perfect example of where this series went wrong, as everyone was busy self-analyzing each other that the actual shooting was almost an afterthought. The series ends with many of the questions unanswered including the real name of Fifth Corner.
While I recommend this series, if there ever was a TV series that needs to be remade it is THE FIFTH CORNER. This spy noir series was a great idea that deserved better.