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Atomic Shakespeare


"Atomic Shakespeare"
Narrated by: Sterling Holloway
Written by: Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno
From an idea by: William "Budd" Shakespeare
Directed by: Will Mackenzie
Co-Executive Producer: Jay Daniel
Executive Producer: Glenn Gordon Caron

The show's opening credits emanate from a young boy's TV screen. As the credits end, the boy's mother steps in front of the TV and turns it off. The boy objects: "But it's 'Moonlighting'!" The mother insultingly describes the show's motif: "A man and a woman? And they argue all the time and all they really want to do is sleep together? Sounds like trash to me!" She tells the boy he needs to study for his upcoming Shakespeare test. The boy stomps up to his bedroom and grabs a bound copy of William Shakespeare's play "The Taming of the Shrew" while muttering, "What a drag!" As the boy turns the book's opening pages, the pages provide the credits for the current episode, "Atomic Shakespeare."

The scene opens in "Padua, Italy, 1593, Or Just an Incredible Facsimile." Town newcomer Lucentio (Curtis Armstrong, in his finest acting of the entire series) tries to tell ever-disinterested townspeople why he is visiting, until finally he complains, "Is it my fault I get stuck with all the exposition?"

Lucentio sees "the fair Bianca" (Allyce Beasley) in an open window and is immediately smitten with her. Unfortunately, Bianca's father Baptista (Kenneth McMillan) enters to provide the sad news: Until he can provide a husband for Bianca's sister Katharina, he will not allow Bianca to get married.

At first, Lucentio regards this task as "simple," until he gets his first look at Katharina (Cybill Shepherd), who is angrily chasing off a trio of suitors. Katharina subdues the men and informs her father that she won't allow herself to be bought off just to make things easier for him and Bianca. She tells the entire town, "Goest thou to hell!" and stomps off, screeching like a cat.

Lucentio now realizes the enormity of the situation, declaring that a potential mate for the feisty Katharina "doth come along but once in a blue moon." On that cue arrives Petruchio (Bruce Willis), a newcomer so cool that both he and his horse wear shades. Petruchio keeps trying to start his opening speech but keeps cribbing from the wrong Shakespeare plays, until the entire town yells at him, "Wrong play!" He finally gets it right and makes it through a wordy introduction, looking above his shades in triumph and saying, "Didn't think I could pull it off, did ya?" With that, he steals a kiss from a buxom maiden, indulges in swordplay with two townspeople, and knocks out a quartet of ninja fighters (no, that's not a typo). Lucentio realizes that he's found a match for Katharina and offers to buy Petruchio a drink for the chance to tell his story.

The Courtship: Petruchio meets Baptista and offers to marry Katharina for the relatively small sum of 20,000 crowns; Baptista objects until he hears Katharina loudly threatening two of her servants, at which point he quickly accepts Petruchio's terms and wishes him "God speed -- you'll need it!" Petruchio heads up the stairs towards Katharina's room, declaring that as the man in the situation, he will force his will upon Katharina if necessary, because "If you're a man, you gotta love the sixteenth century!" Despite Katharina's assertive efforts, Petruchio eventually subdues Katharina and declares that they will be married before the townspeople on Sunday.

Come Sunday, the townspeople pour into the church to witness the miraculous wedding. Baptista declares, "She [Katharina] waits anxiously inside," and she does -- bound and gagged in front of the altar. Despite his being three hours late to his own wedding, Petruchio declares his...well, lust for Katharina ("How well she doth look in bondage"), and through a slight case of ventriloquism, Katharina "accepts" her vows, and she and Petruchio marry. Petruchio provides his own wedding-dance song (minus Katharina's participation); he sings the Rascals' 1966 hit "Good Lovin'."

The Marriage: Petruchio brings Katharina back to his former bachelor pad and does his best to coax Katharina into "the master bedroom," but Katharina declares, "I havest a headache" and says she'll sleep in another room. Petruchio asserts that he will be the ruler of his house "as of this day." Katharina opens a window and points out that it is now no longer day but night. Petruchio says that if the man of the house declares it to be day, his wife will acquiesce; Katharina begs to dramatically disagree. The two fight and head off to separate rooms (wherein Katharina gets the master bedroom after all, to herself). Petruchio fumes through the night, finally declares that he'll subdue Katharina, and stomps to the master bedroom, only to find Katharina sleeping peacefully. Petruchio is so entranced by Katharina's beauty that he withdraws rather than renewing the fight.

Eventually Petruchio's entreaties win over Katharina, at which time Petruchio immediately reverts to being a chauvinist pig. Katharina has a long conversation with Petruchio in which she promises that if he will regard her as his equal, she will consummate their marriage. Petruchio gives in without a fight.

The morning after, Petruchio and Katharina awaken and declare their love for each other. A messenger comes to Petruchio's door, and Petruchio declares he will get rid of the man as quickly as he can. Trying to keep their conversation to themselves, Petruchio listens as the messenger requests the couple's appearance at the wedding of Lucentio and Bianca the following week. The messenger also mentions that the townspeople of Padua will attend the wedding, mainly to see if Katharina has been "tamed" by Petruchio. Katharina overhears this and exits in disgust.

Da Big Finish: Petruchio and Katharina attend the wedding. At the reception, Baptista (somewhat skeptically) thinks that Katharina might indeed be tamed now, until a townsperson tells him of Katharina discussing with Bianca the terms of "equality" in her own marriage. Baptista questions Petruchio: "Who hath been tamed -- Katharina, or thee?"

Petruchio vows to prove his manhood and calls for Katharina to be brought to him. Katharina politely appears, and Petruchio angrily declares that it is the moon that brightly shines in the midday sky, not the sun. Does she agree, or not?? Katharina approaches him stealthily as though (as her father fears) "She's going to blow!" Instead, Katharina quietly looks at the sky and tells Petruchio he must be mistaken: "'Tis the sun, not the moon."

At that point, Petruchio asserts that he has "but one choice" -- to look into the sky again. He looks and says that Katharina was right -- he was mistaken, and it is the sun. In a charming monologue (beautifully delivered by Bruce Willis), Petruchio permanently renounces his chauvinist ways, as well as the monetary deal he had struck with Baptista -- "for Kate never needed to be tamed; she merely needed to be loved."

Then it is Katharina who asserts herself -- in this case happily, as she sweeps her man into her arms and tells him, "Kiss me, Petruchio." To the townspeople's delight, they kiss, and the narrator tells us that the couple lived happily after ever, with but one complaint -- at which point Katharina and Petruchio look directly into the camera and tell us, "We hate iambic pentameter!"

The studious boy closes his book and runs downstairs, but his mother informs him that he just missed that night's episode of "Moonlighting." He moans, but as his mother turns off the TV set, she assures him, "It wasn't very good tonight anyway." Just to convince us that the preceding hour wasn't a beautiful dream, the executive-producer credits appear on-screen in baroque lettering.

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