By AD Greer
Dan McNamara’s Wish Weasel is an out of this world, over the top, love letter and spoof of Japanese TV imports from the 90s like Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Ultraman, and other Tokusatsu-stylized shows. It’s unapologetically bizarre and endearing at the same time. Wish Weasel is nostalgic without ever becoming saccharine. Tongue is firmly in cheek and viewers will instantly know if they are going to enjoy this cult triumph or not.
Here’s the plot: Richard is a Wishomite; a magical species of evil wish-granting weasels from outer space. Unlike his cruel brother General Zorgo, Richard is kind and friendly, and because of that, he is banished from his home, the Dark Universe. He crash lands in Astoria, Queens and quickly befriends Tabitha, a gloomy woman who can’t catch a break. That is until Richard the Wish Weasel grants her wish of a new affordable apartment.
Using a wish tracking computer, General Zorgo learns Richard is on Earth and still being friendly! He can’t have that. So General Zorgo travels to earth to torture humankind by granting spectacularly bad wishes. With the help of his new friend Tabitha, his cyberpunk ally the Space Detective, and a random guy walking his dog, Richard battles his brother in Astoria Park using magical trading cards that turn them into enormous Kaiju. Richard and his team of unlikely heroes power up as Wish Man, an enormous dancing Power Ranger and defeat General Zorgo’s champion, an evil squirrel monster that shoots flames out of its eyes. They kick his butt and send him back to the Dark Universe… for now.
The pilot episode ends with another space friend named Star Cat calling him for help. A duck-like alien creature named Pom Pom has been kidnapped! Richard and his friends will need to travel to Flushing Queens to save the day again.
Holy hell! I can’t believe that’s the plot of any story. But while watching the pilot episode, I could sense the love and care Dan McNamara and his crew put into Wish Weasel. Packing the script with as many childhood references as possible - there’s even fake commercials for Wish Weasel food - and a carefully crafted ensemble of wacky characters that draw inspiration from your favorite Saturday morning/after-school shows.
The star of Wish Weasel is of course the puppet, Richard who is performed by puppeteer Ricky Downes III. The weasel is dressed like a genie and has a freakishly high pitched voice. Downes steers clear of the realm of annoying as such a high pitched voice for twenty minutes could easily become. Instead, Downes III turns in a hilarious performance because of his earnest nature. Another cast stand out is Mary Houlihan the Space Detective. She dives into the role with an everlasting smile and frenetic energy that is infectious. The one actor who leaves more to be desired is Tabitha Vidaurri, who’s dour performance as Tabitha occasionally comes off as bored. Low energy, negative characters are very difficult to play successfully and even harder in a highly stylized piece that requires the audience to just go with whatever is thrown at them. Once an actor seems disinterested in the content, it takes me out of the world. The enduring success of movies like The Room and Sharknado is the cast’s unflinching commitment to the madness.
This indie TV pilot is no holds barred. Production company Rebel Lens Films, an Astoria, Queens based company, brings Dan McNamara’s vision to life with hilariously bad (and yet perfect) special effects. It’s inspiring to see a local producing team successfully accomplish an “unproducible” show with great results. Which leads me to speak to Dan McNamara’s fantastic vision. McNamara’s one-of-a-kind idea is so pitch perfect, I could see this show running in a late night Comedy Central slot like a new Robot Chicken. His child-like enthusiastic approach to Wish Weasel is what makes the bonkers concept work.
The pilot episode has been racking up awards at festivals and for good reason. If you grew up loving kaiju battles and collecting Pokemon cards, you’ll find yourself giggling as you watch. The puppets, visual effects, and plot points are so unbelievably zany you either give in to the madness or you’ll find yourself checking out a few minutes in.
You can catch a free screening of Wish Weasel at Q.E.D. Astoria on July 20th, 2019 5:30pm-7pn. Following the screening is a Q&A with the cast and you can meet Richard the Wish Weasel too!