5 May 1999 | TVholic
I first saw Nightmare Cafe when NBC had a special Wednesday "sneak preview" some weeks before it premiered in its fatal timeslot in the graveyard of shows, Friday nights. The pilot seemed stylish and imaginative, although the effects were less than state-of-the-art even for that time. Taking place all in the span of a single night, it had a very closed-in feeling. The two leads were convincing and capable, but Robert Englund seemed just a bit too smarmy, trying too hard to distance himself from his infamous Freddy Krueger role. Still, it was a fine beginning for a fantasy show, or as one reviewer termed it, the flipside of Fantasy Island.
The remaining five episodes were uneven in quality, but it's unfair to expect a new show to find its voice in only weeks. "The Heart of the Mystery" was one of the better ones. But by the end, the show had abandoned the night setting and the mysterious waterfront the cafe was on. It just didn't feel right to have a "nightmare" show taking place in broad daylight.
Overall, it was a set of intriguing possibilities mostly left unexplored. I have the pilot on tape, and it's a good reminder of what could have been.