The All-Time Craziest "Thing of the Week" Formulas from Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows

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The freak of the week. The monster of the week. The planet of the week. Many of science fiction's most memorable TV shows have relied on this time-tested formula that allows them to be episodic, yet thematic. Right now, Alcatraz is giving us the convict of the week, while Grimm is giving us the fairy-tale monster of the week.


But what happens when the "_______ of the week" is something really... odd? Some television shows have tried to give us a truly outlandish format, in which a variation of something truly demented gets rolled out each week. Here are some of the most bizarre "thing of the week" formats that science fiction and fantasy TV shows have tried to use.

Early Edition
Gary is a stockbroker whose wife kicks him out of the house — and then, every day, a cat starts delivering tomorrow's newspaper to him. So in every episode, there's a "future newspaper of the week," in which Gary has one day to change the future. Actually, there are a number of shows where time travel or clairvoyance enables someone to change the disaster of the week — and now we're supposedly getting a show based on the movie Source Code, in which every week a guy leaps back into the body of someone who's about to die in a disaster. See also: Timecop: The Series, and Time Trax.

Seven Days
And then there's this UPN show, where the U.S. government creates a time machine based on alien technology from Roswell — but they can only send one person back in time seven days, and only for reasons of National Security. So in other words, Lt. Frank Parker goes back in time to stop the disaster of the week, including terrorist attacks on the White House and hackers nuking the Pentagon. Basically, in this show's world, huge Earth-shattering terrorist attacks and major preventable disasters happen every week. (Although in later seasons, it's more like "terrorists are going to kidnap a genetically enhanced baby," or "someone is trying to prevent Parker getting married by time-looping.")

Tru Calling
And here's the third show where every week you have to travel back in time to stop a disaster — except that this time, every week the corpse of a murdered person wakes up and talks to Eliza Dushku, who frowns in that way that Eliza Dushku does. And then time rewinds a day, so Eliza has a day to stop this person being murdered.

Kamen Rider Kiva
In this 2008 incarnation of the Kamen Rider franchise, that latest rider (who lives in a haunted house) must battle "Fangires", living stained-glass windows based on animal-vampires hybrids. Every week, there's a new "fangire of the week."

Choujin Barom-1
In this show, two grade school children, (a meek, bookish one and tough sporty one — like Firestorm) would fuse together to create the superhero, Barom-1. On a weekly basis, they fought the evil alien Doruge, (who'd pose as a wheelchair-bound millionaire), and his endless army of rude-looking monsters cloned from his own body parts — including a cyclopean hair follicle, a vampiric soft palette, and a bloody neck stump who threw severed heads from the end of its wrists. So every week, there was another "reanimated body part of the week."

Kamen Rider X
In Kamen Rider X, X battles the nefarious terrorist organization known as G.O.D. (Government of Darkness) –- in the first half of the series, he takes on a different G.O.D. agent every episode, each based on a different mythological figure. After destroying those, he begins to fight fusions of animals and historical figures every week — such as Spider Napoleon, Scorpion Geronimo, Ant Capone, Rhinocerus Beetle Lupin, Genghis Condor, and the infamous Starfish Hitler (see video).

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Iron Armor Mikazuki
In this short-lived series, a boy who commands a giant robot spends each week fighting a new "Idom", enormous, city-destroying "idea monsters" created from the emotional trauma of Japan's residents. In the pilot episode, a giant slice of watermelon appears over Tokyo — created from a father's memories of his son – which eventually evolves into a Biollante-like monster with thousands of one-eyed seed minions. (See left.) In the second episode, a serial killer remembers the door of the orphanage in which he was abused, creating a door/dragon:

Illustration for article titled The All-Time Craziest Thing of the Week Formulas from Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows

Episode three involves a wind chime:

Illustration for article titled The All-Time Craziest Thing of the Week Formulas from Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows

And in episode four, a Kaiju fan's unrequited love causes a Godzilla-like monster to wreak havoc.

O' Grady
This animated series from the producers of Home Movies and Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist involves a fictional town plagued by an unexplained force referred to as "The Weirdness". Every week, the Weirdness would manifest itself in some unusual manner, in one instance causing the characters to create duplicates of themselves each time they became angry, or age people thirty years whenever they sneezed.

Tremors: The Series
A chemical agent known as "Mixmaster" creates strange mutations in the town of Perfection Valley, combing the DNA of all living things except humans. Thus, the show features a "mutation of the week" One notable episode involved the formula devolving a shrimp into its gigantic prehistoric form.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo
We sort of take it for granted now, but Scooby-Doo, one of the most redundant series of all time, has a very strange premise and outlook. And the seventh series, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, involved the gang, minus Fred and Velma, teaming up with Vincent Price and a Tibetan con-artist to capture real ghosts in a magic chest. Despite the series running exactly thirteen episodes, only twelve ghosts were captured. Oops.

Phineas Bogg and some random kid have to travel back in time every week to set history right — and there's basically a "historical figure of the week." What makes it especially zany is that their little pocket watch/medallion thingy glows the right color when history is set right. And here's a typical episode synopsis, via Wikipedia:

In England, 1887 the Voyagers must prevent a wedding between England's Princess Victoria and Duke Michael of Russia. Queen Victoria has invited Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley to perform a Wild West show. A shooting competition was set between the Duke and Annie, but the Duke's men kidnap Oakley to avoid the possibility of the Duke losing. Bogg and Jeff are outnumbered and time jump into Africa, 1913. There, they help Dr. Albert Schweitzer treat a dying chief but a witch doctor, thinks the Voyagers are slave traders. Schweitzer's aid arrives with the medicine in time to save the chief's life and back in England, they free Oakley from the Russians in time for her to beat the Duke at the shooting match, and expose the kidnapping to the queen who breaks off the marriage alliance with the Russians.


Thanks to everybody who helped me remember the name of this show!

Illustration for article titled The All-Time Craziest Thing of the Week Formulas from Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows

Quantum Leap.
This one is actually really quite weird, if you think about it — not just satisfied with having Sam Beckett jump through time, the show also has him jump into different people's bodies. And then, while looking like women or African Americans or whoever, he has to set their lives right. It's like Doctor Who meets Deadman. Why is Sam Beckett becoming a different person every week? Because physics. And as Topless Robot demonstrates here, some of his leaps are really kind of nuts, including having to compete in a beauty contest. He leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald and almost shoots JFK. He leaps into a vampire. He leaps into a space-faring chimpanzee. But even if these off-the-wall episodes hadn't happened, the basic format of Quantum Leap is just downright strange.

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Everybody always forgets about Strange Luck, which has the single most brilliant "thing of the week" premise ever; the main character, Chance Harper, just has incredibly strange luck.

If he goes into a restaurant, somebody chokes. If he walks into a bank, it gets robbed. If he takes the elevator, he'll get stuck inside with a pregnant lady and has to deliver her baby. And, as you can see from the clip above, if he goes out into the middle of nowhere, with no other living soul for miles around, a guy will fall out of a plane without a parachute clutching a massive bag of money.

Why this power doesn't show up more in superhero comics/tv shows I'll never know, since it's the perfect "get out of plothole free" card, and allows the clever writer to just get on with telling a fun story without having to think up a crazy reason why our main character always seems to find himself wandering right into the middle of yet another wildly improbable predicament.