Nov 14, 2013

NBC Experiment in Television: The Cube

February 23, 1969.  NBC Experiment in Television: The Cube

A Man (Richard Schaal, a regular guest star on tv sitcoms) awakens in a square white room covered in a four-by-four grid.  He doesn't remember how he got there, or much about his life before.












People keep popping in to threaten or insult him or dredge up painful memories of his past: his friend Arnie, a Monk, a Black Militant, a Guitarist (Ralph Endersby, above and left). Sometimes they transform into different people before his eyes.

A Priest gives him an orb that is supposed to tell the Man the meaning of the Cube, but it doesn't work; it contains strawberry jelly.  A Professor tells him that he's acting in a play.



His visitors can all get out through hidden panels in the walls, but the Man is stuck.  A child on a tricycle pops in, singing "You're never going to get out of here, out of here, out of here."  A rock band comes in and reprises the song.  Many people come in at once, filling up the cube with witty cocktail-party conversations about the Man's shortcomings and how he'll never get out.

Finally the Man has had enough.  He yells at his captors: whatever else they do to him, he knows that the's real.

A panel opens, and a psychiatrist invites the Man out.  He's won!  He walks down the hall to the psychiatrist's office to sign some papers.  "I'm here!" he exclaims.  "I'm real!  If I cut myself, I bleed."  The Man actually does cut himself on a letter opener, and puts his finger to his mouth, and tastes strawberry jelly, not blood.  And he's back in the Cube again.

The IMDB classifies The Cube as a comedy, but I found it terrifying, as an 8-year old, on a cold Sunday night in the spring of 3rd grade.  The gay symbolism was obvious: we're trapped in a cage of heterosexist lies, told again and again that we don't exist, or we're insane.

The Cube was written and directed by Jim Henson of Muppet fame.  It has never been rerun, or released on video, but you can see clips on youtube.