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I have a feeling that if this show was given a full season instead of a scant 6 episodes it may've come into its own and found an audience. I've found that with some shows (especially ones with more abstract premises) require a few episodes to feel itself out and find a formula that works. Kind of an extended version of "don't judge a show by its pilot." Unfortunately, Nightmare Cafe was cancelled just when it began to find itself.

A sort of Twilight Zone meets Quantum Leap meets Cheers(sort of), Nightmare Cafe is basically about two people (Frank and Fay) who get a second chance at life working in an otherworldly cafe that moves from place to place - seemingly anywhere where there are lost souls in need of help in life. Frank (Jack Coleman) and Fay's(Lindsay Frost) job is, aside from doing normal waitressing and cooking duties, to help these people in some aspect of their lives, not too dissimilar from Sam's job in Quantum Leap although without the time-travel and life-hopping. The cafe is run by the mysterious Blackie (Robert Englund), who claims to have been there "since the beginning" and is otherwise suggested to be something otherworldly himself.

It's an interesting premise and for the most part it executes it well. The first couples episodes are shaky at best, it seemed to me that the writers weren't entirely sure how much supernatural element they wanted in the show or how the cafe itself would act. As the show went on, the concept got progressively more solid and began to regulate the supernatural, horror, and humor elements to better support the stories. I particularly liked the last two episodes, "Sanctuary for a Child" and "Aliens Ate My Lunch", which were entirely different in tone but told their respective stories very well.

The acting is good, as the series progressed you could really see the actors getting a feel for their characters. This also includes the "character" of the cafe, which began to develop a sort of personality towards the end.
The stories had great potential, too. Since the cafe could move itself anywhere it desired, it could be anywhere the writers thought would make a good backdrop. Unfortunately, only a few episodes actually made noticeable changes in setting.
I have read that the creators envisioned the show as being a horror/supernatural anthology like the Twilight Zone, except with a steady cast connecting the stories. It did seem to be headed in that direction and if it was allowed to continue could've made for fantastic stories.

It's a real shame the show didn't go on longer because it was quite good and had the potential to be great. I may be bias, however, since its similar in concept to Quantum Leap, which is one of my all-time favorite TV shows ever. Unfortunately, Nightmare Cafe was squashed early and as such didn't have time to grow nor get much of an audience. I still hope for a DVD release at some point. If you wish to see Nightmare Cafe, I recommend watching the schedule for the cable channel Chiller, as it occasionally airs the show in marathon form (in fact, this is how I found the show). I highly recommend giving it a look.

8/10
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Added by Artemis Panthar
7 years ago on 20 May 2010 21:19




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