Stephen King is probably the second most prolific author in America today, right behind me. I kid, of course, but we both have produced a significant number of words. And, well, that’s pretty much where the similarity between Mr. King and myself ends. One place where we most definitely part ways is being referenced on TV. Stephen King pops up all over the place while watching TV.
The spelling of this episode could lead you to quickly conclude that it has something to do with Stephen King going out for a night of fun at Studio 54 and being inspired to write “The Tommyknockers.” Actually, that would make a pretty good what-if movie. Alas, while “The Boogieman” has down in history as allegedly being cursed, disco is safe from being the culprit of the accursing in this particular case. When it comes to Stephen King as a pop culture touchstone, nothing beats “Quantum Leap.” The episode is titled “The Boogieman” and it is infamous for being cursed. Or at least being the most unlucky of all episodes of the time-traveling show. In fact, hardcore “Quantum Leap” fans have taken to referring to “The Boogieman” as “The Halloween Episode” in much the same way that actors refer to “Macbeth” as “The Scottish Play” in order to avoid the curse. Much of that ridiculous devotion to superstition could derive from the fact that “The Boogieman” is set in 1950s Maine during Halloween. And much of the humor of this otherwise much darker than usual episode of “Quantum Leap” derives from the fact that Sam Beckett unwittingly gives a teenaged Stephen King ideas for stories about things ranging from a rabid dog to a possessed car. Only at the end of the episode does Sam realize that young Stevie is in fact the future Master of Horror.
Stephen King and “The Simpsons” seem to go together like rap stars and relentless conformity to fashion and style. There is a darkness to “The Simpsons” that would be at home in any King novel and there is a sly humor in most Stephen King novels that would be right at home in Springfield. Such is the meeting of minds when Stephen King voices himself in the episode “Insane Clown Poppy.” Stephen King’s early career battle with critics who felt he was not a serious writer is toyed with when Marge Simpson inquires what new tale of horror he is working on at the moment. To which King replies that he is actually writing a biography of Benjamin Franklin. Any why not? Franklin discovered electricity which he then used for the purpose of torturing small animals and children. Not only that, but we will also learn from King’s long-delayed biography that Benjamin Franklin could open the gates to hell with the very same key he used in that kite experiment.
Remember how on “Batman” there would always be some celebrity who popped open a window when the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder were tracking their vertical way up a building? The 1990s equivalent of that was calling into Frasier Crane’s radio show. Stephen King was one of many celebrities whose voice could be heard on the other line during the radio talk show segments of “Frasier.” He played Brian; a guy who wasn’t too thrilled about being given short shrift.
“Futurama” takes a satirical shot at that prodigious output of Stephen King. Most writers would be more than satisfied simply with writing as many books as King has written. But the Master of Horror goes one step beyond that. Not only has he written a truly ridiculous number of novels, but so many of those novels are hefty enough to qualify as four or five novels by guys like Salinger or Hemingway. We get a glimpse into the short-term future of Stephen King through the long term future of the planet in the “Futurama” episode titled “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid.” For some reason, uber-idiot Fry finds himself in a library. And within that library is an entire room that contains only Stephen King: A to Aardvark, indicating that by the next millennium, entire libraries will have to be constructed just to house the collected works of Mr. King.