Tales from the Crypt (1996)

Season 3 Episode 5

Top Billing

Aired Unknown Jun 26, 1991 on HBO
out of 10
User Rating
106 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

A desperate out of work actor accused of not "having the look", auditions for an unusual off-off-Broadway production of Hamlet and resorts to anything to get the part.

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  • Wow!!!

    A monsterpiece for sure! It was truly horrifying finding out the place was n insane asylum! One of my top faves for sure!
  • Born with great acting talent but a face only his mother could love, Barry is finally driven mad after losing another audition to another pretty face. Mad? He certainly came to the right theater!moreless

    "Top Billing" is my favorite episode of the series, and has all the elements: creepy, a great storyline, and a great ensemble cast that deliver excellent performances. Jon Lovitz is perfect as the idealistic, unlovable loser actor with a face better suited for radio. Bruce Boxleitner is great as the arrogant "face" actor with a disdain for the artier side of the craft. Paul Benedict (Mr. Bentley from the 'Jeffersons') cranks up the creep factor as the director's assistant, but the best performance comes from zany John Astin. His over-the-top portrayal of director Nelson Halliwell is absolutely brilliant.

    The pacing is great, the shocks have impact despite a minimum of violence, and the plot twist is a great one. Each cast member, no matter how brief the part is, turns in an inspired performance, adding to the quality of the episode. The bad day Lovitz suffers through is a great setup for his final audition. The rivalry between Barry and Winton creates great tension, and the whacked-out theater troupe is the icing on the cake.moreless
  • An out-of-luck actor who doesn't have "the look" kills a rival to take his place in a theater production of Hamlet. Before people told him they couldn't use his face, but these producers can but not in the way he had hoped!moreless

    Jon Lovitz plays Barry Blye who is an out-of-luck actor who can't get a part in a movie because he doesn't have "the look." His old-time rival tells him to change the way he dresses and his appereance, but Berry doesn't want to disgrace his honor by doing something so desperate. When he and his old rival answer an add to a weird theater's production of Hamlet, things start getting crazy. The eccentric man casting the play (John Astin) choses Berry's rival instead of him. Tired of losing, Berry murders his rival, hides his body, lies to the man saying he got stage fright and informs him he can take his place. Berry is soon cast, but he won't be playing the role of Hamlet. He soon discovers the theater is a mental hospital, and he is playing the role of Yorick who in the play is suppose to be dead. The cut his head off and use his skull for the famous Yorick scene. And it turns out he has the look afterall!moreless
  • Good Evening Kiddies to another exciting episode of Tales from the Crypt

    This is another great installment to an awesome show. It was cleverly plotted and every time you thought something scary was going to happen they teased you and then at the end boom. Shocking fun. he he he he . Jon Lovitz definetly made this episode and it was a real pleasure to endeor.
Jon Lovitz

Jon Lovitz

Barry Blye

Guest Star

Bruce Boxleitner

Bruce Boxleitner

Winton Robbins

Guest Star

John Astin

John Astin

Nelson Halliwell

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Spoiler Warning

      Halliwell: [after Barry is killed and his skull is being used as a prop] Perhaps I was wrong about the young man. He does have the look, after all.

    • [Opening wraparound segment with the Crypt Keeper hosting Mashed-to-pieces Theater.] The Crypt Keeper: Good evening, culture vultures, and welcome to another installment of Mashed-to-pieces Theater. [laughs]. Tonight we ask the question, 'To be or not to be?' Or in this case, an actor stuck with an average face, whose so sick and tired of auditioning, he's willing to do almost anything. Did I say almost? I call this sickening saga, "Top Billing". [Closing wraparound segment with the Crypt Keeper hosting Mashed-to-pieces Theater.] The Crypt Keeper: Bravo! Encore! Well, Barry axed for the part and he got it. But typical Barry. They still couldn't have used his face. It's just as well. The critics would have cut him to pieces. [laughs] I'm calling my agent. I've waited all my death to play the part of Yorick, so until next time, kiddies. Hello? I'd like to speak with my agent. What do you mean he's in a beating?

  • NOTES (1)

    • EC Comic Connection: Story adapted from The Vault Of Horror #39, Oct-Nov 1954. Story by Carl Wessler with art by Reed Crandall.


    • Masterpiece Theater

      Masterpiece Theater is a drama-themed anthology show on PBS that premiered in 1971.

      In the opening and closing wraparound segments, The Cryptkeeper is shown hosting a macabre parody of Masterpiece Theater, which he calls Mashed-to-pieces Theater.

    • Mel Gibson

      American-born Australian actor turned director who first received notice starring in Mad Max (1979). He is perhaps best known for the four Lethal Weapon films, which were directed by Tales From The Crypt producer and director Richard Donner. In 1995, he starred in, produced, and directed Braveheart, for which he won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Offscreen he is a very controversial figure, having made offensive remarks against Jews, homosexuals, and politicians. He also has had alcohol problems, with his most recent drunk driving charge being in 2006.

      In this episode, Barry's agent tells him that Mel can do Shakespeare because "He has the look." She is referring to his starring role in Hamlet (1990).

    • Talking Crypt Keeper doll

      A doll of the Crypt Keeper released in 1993 as part of the animated Tales From The Crypt Keeper animated series but look was modeled after the HBO version. This doll came in a few different outfits, straw hat beach wear and tuxedo. A button was located on his chest which said phrases when pressed. The doll can be found in original Tales From The Crypt Keeper packaging as well as later releases in Tales From The Crypt packaging.

      In this episode, the tuxedo that is worn by the Crypt Keeper is possibly the inspiration for the tuxedo version of the Talking Crypt Keeper doll as it is near identical.

      The Crypt Keeper also wears the tuxedo in the episode, "Mournin' Mess", among others.