Theme Song: Uplifting horns that try to make you forget you are about to waste time and energy that could be better spent doing something pointless yet more fulfilling, such as staring at the ground.
Interesting Dated References: Playing racquetball with your son; Playing racquetball alone; Enjoying racquetball.
Best Line: Said by jive-talking teammate — “And I know you’re no drinker, or toker, or spoon-fed coker.”
Social Context: Because people are delusional, they like to think they have guardian angels helping them with their miserable and disappointing lives. These sad people also like to watch movies about angels. In 1977 a very popular movie about angels came out called Heaven Can Wait, in which Buck Henry played a guardian angel who meddled with the life of Warren Beatty. As with any popular film, it inspired a few knock-offs.
Established TV-writer William Blinn (co-writer of Purple Rain) liked the premise so much, he thought it would be a good idea if he got Ray Bolger (the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz) to star in a television pilot about an elderly guardian angel who meddles with the lives of humans. The pilot did not get picked up, but because America loves all things Wizard of Oz-related, it was released on home video in the early 80s.
Summary: So Ray Bolger is out raking his yard when some little girl runs by, calling for her dog whose name is Holy Moses. Bolger lets her know the dog’s name is inappropriate, and instead renames the dog Malcolm. The dog gets really happy and starts barking. The little girl says, “You’re an angel, mister!,” and Bolger looks to the sky and hears electronic blips and bloops.
Bolger is playing an angel named Simon. He gets orders from some central circuit board in Heaven, except the orders sounds like he’s listening to the type of shitty, electronic music that only people with terrible taste would enjoy, thinking it is both artistic and incredibly hard to make.
So Simon gets orders to go to a Harlem Wizards basketball game. For those not familiar, the Wizards are basically like the Harlem Globetrotters. At the game, an alien-angel hot dog vendor named Malcolm tells Simon he needs to save one of the players named Mitch who is on the fake team that the Wizards constantly beat. Apparently right before bed every night, Mitch has an existential crisis and considers ending his life.
If the premise of this show is that angels are concerned about people contemplating suicide, they could make like two million episodes and still not have gotten to everyone. This is a terrible premise.
After “blowing” the staged game, Mitch goes to the disco with his teammates. This tape has been dubbed at least twice. Seriously, how can a company have the gall to commercially release a tape in this condition? I can’t tell if I’m watching a Betamax or looking at some boring art student’s Instagram page.
So our angel Simon sits at home and watches all this action through a television. He can then travel through the television and possess people, making them say whatever he wants. He makes the bartender pay Mitch compliments about his ball-handling. Then we get the quick, boring backstory: Mitch’s wife left him and took their son. She has shacked up with some old, rich dude. In a few days his son is going to come see him play. Since Mitch is always on the losing team, he knows his son will be let down. Apparently no one knows that the games are staged.
A few days later, Mitch’s ex-wife’s new fiancee picks him up at the airport. Once back at their house, the new fiancee tries to strongarm Mitch into agreeing to not see the son as much. Meanwhile, the estranged wife still seems sort of into Mitch, possibly because of his taupe sweater, which as we all know lets the ladies know you mean fucking business.
So then Mitch gets it into his head that he’s going to break the choreographed skits and win the game on his own, thereby impressing his son. This is treated 100% serious, despite being totally ridiculous. Mitch apparently doesn’t even realize that the two teams are pretend teams.
At the big game, Mitch scores shot after shot and the coach gets furious. The coach tries to do some pre-planned, pie-in-the-face gag, which results in Mitch getting furious and being ejected from the game.
I’m serious in saying that even the pie-in-the-face gag is treated seriously, as if it’s some type of play they must do for the game. So after the game, Simon (our angel you probably forgot about) possesses some guy whose job it is to watch the showers. He makes this guy tell Mitch to meet his wife on the court.
Then Simon sits back and drinks beer as he watches Mitch make promises he probably can’t keep to his wife about how they can be happy together. She accepts. After that, Malcolm shows up on Simon’s television and says he needs his help with another mission. The fucking guy didn’t even intervene that much!
Doesn’t this all sound terrible? Well it was. Aren’t you glad this synopsis is over? This pilot was originally shot as Heaven Only Knows, but the show wasn’t picked up, and then in the mid 80s someone thought it would be a good idea to release it on cut-rate, home videotape as For Heaven’s Sake.
Poster and Box Art: The box for For Heaven’s Sake is not worth commenting on. There’s a big floating basketball and Ray Bolger making some type of shouting/pooping face. My Betamax box was cut and I couldn’t even find a full image online.
Availability: You can get used VHS on eBay.