What the Hell is Fantasy Bedtime Hour?

00:00 Sun 18 Aug 2002. Updated: 23:42 07 Jan 2007
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Fantasy Bedtime Hour is a public-access cable TV show made by my friends Juliana and Heatherly. It revolves around the two of them reading selections from the Stephen R. Donaldson fantasy novel Lord Foul’s Bane, four pages at a time, and then discussing the section they read. They invite ‘experts’ on the book to discuss it with them on the show, and they also direct Fantasy Action Sequences, in which the selected portion of the book (or rather, their interpretation of that section) is acted out.

Everything in the show, except the Fantasy Action Sequence, takes place in bed.

Here’s my understanding of how this show came to be: Juliana was working for a startup a couple of years back, and had very little free time. A friend of hers recommended Lord Foul’s Bane, and she started reading it at night, which was the only time she to read. Working ten- and twelve-hour days didn’t leave much concentration for reading, and she would read about four pages a night before falling asleep. Lord Foul’s Bane is a somewhat portentous, involved novel, heavy in both style and subject matter, not really suited to being dipped into and digested in small chunks. So each night Juliana would read four pages, and the next night remember just enough of what was going on to continue.

After about eight or ten months of this, another friend of Juliana’s asked her what she was reading. Juliana said “Lord Foul’s Bane”, and the friend asked what it was about—a question to which Juliana, thinking about it, realized she had no answer…

And from that, somehow, Juliana and Heatherly came up with the idea for a TV show based on the two of them playing ditzy girls who trying to figure out the novel, in bed. They went through with this plan, resulting in the very weird public-access spectacle that startles the unwary every first and third Thursday of the month (and at other unscheduled times) at midnight on SF (AT&T Cable) Channel 29. (To be precise, that’s really midnight every first and third Friday, but everybody thinks of it as part of Thursday night, and that’s how they schedule it. So it airs a few minutes after 23:59, PST, every first and third Thursday of the month.)

It’s difficult to describe how bizarre the whole thing really is… if you’ve read Lord Foul’s Bane, you might understand how it’s really odd to see that book dealt with this way. And you’ll find it truly bizarre how completely off-base their understanding of the book is (as one viewer sent via email: “what are you doing to this great work?”) . On the other hand, if you’ve read the book, you’ll also appreciate how some of their (mis)interpretations border on comic genius. Really. Yes, it’s no-budget, digital-video, friends-as-actors, edited-at-home stuff, but it just rocks.

My involvement began relatively early, as Juliana found out in early 2001 that I’d read the novel a number of times, and insisted that I be an expert on it. When they filmed in August/September they wanted me as the first expert, and so I appear in that role on in the opening show. The brown jacket was something they insisted upon, I must point out.

I had a lot of fun doing it, but it was also tough because I had no idea whatsoever what kind of thing they’d ask me. I didn’t know, at that point, what the atmosphere of the show would be like, or that the two of them would be going for the ditzy approach. I really expected questions more concerned with the plot points of the book…

They brought me back for the fifth, compilation (or prevent-the-victory-of-Skynet), episode. That was a lot easier, because I knew what to expect (although you never really know what to expect from them), and was even more fun to do.

They plan to bring me back again, I hope that works out, I certainly had a good time playing the role of expert.

The official website is www.fantasybedtimehour.com. There are stills from the show there that should help get across some inkling of what it’s like. I hope to have downloadable clips of it (probably just the episodes I’m in) available on this site, but it could be a while before that’s ready to go.

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