The Elvira Show (CBS, 1993)
I wanted to do something a little different for a piece on Halloween, and I discovered something on YouTube that definitely fits the bill. In America in 1981, Movie Macabre launched. This was a show that was hosted by Elvira, the self-styled “Mistress Of The Dark”, a spooky alter-ego who was created and played by actress Cassandra Peterson.
Now Elvira had a rather striking look, with big black hair, and a dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. In Movie Macabre, Elvira introduced and commented on rather bad horror and science-fiction B-movies, some of them having since become unintentionally amusing. The show originally ran for five years and gained a cult following despite being shown rather late at night, as proven by the smudgy clips taken from now rather mouldy VHS tapes that are available online.
By the mid-80s, Elvira had become a famous character, and was appearing on various TV shows, along with adverts and music videos, and in 1988 there was a successful comedy film. Elvira also became known in the UK, hosting the 1989 BBC2 series Heavy Metal Heaven. There was also a huge amount of merchandise, including comics, computer games, and even pinball machines.
By the 90s, someone thought that it would be a good idea to put the Elvira character into a sitcom, so in 1993 a pilot episode was made for CBS, which is on YouTube. Elvira couldn’t do it all on her own though, so the idea was expanded, with additional characters added, including some shock long-lost relatives. Would this character work in this different format?
The Elvira Show was set in Kansas, and along with Elvira, who works as a fortune teller doing psychic readings, the other main cast members are her long-lost aunt Minerva who is a witch, her long-lost niece Paige who is a girl scout, and Renfield the talking cat, who made “catty” remarks, ha-ha. The guest cast included Chip, who Elvira is very pleased to make the acquaintance of. He could fall under her spell, but does he have a secret? The squealing studio audience couldn’t wait to find out.
Although this was enjoyable, there clearly weren’t 200 episodes in the idea as the show didn’t go any further than an unaired pilot. Looking back, many people think that the show was a cross between Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Married… With Children, with an unusual mix of witchcraft and boobie jokes. Maybe the idea was too spooky for a cheesy domestic sitcom with too much hugging. After this, Elvira made many more guest appearances in TV shows, along with more series of Movie Macabre.