My World Of Flops is Nathan Rabin’s survey of books, television shows, musical releases, or other forms of entertainment that were financial flops, critical failures, or lack a substantial cult following.
When he kicked off his GoFundMe campaign for his album Angelic 2 The Core—the double album that took a decade to realize before falling a good $90,000 short of its $105,000 goal—Corey Feldman starts off by addressing the elephant in the room: Why on Earth would a mega-star like him be asking for money? Feldman explains, “I know the questions most of U must be thinking right now…questions like…Why have I brought U here? What is this all about? And most importantly Y would a Movie Star like U be asking us 4 $? Dont U have your own $? And Y R U asking us 2 help when U R already successful. Let me do my best 2 answer those questions.”
Feldman responds that of course he’s been incredibly successful as an actor, but that has, in a poisonous irony, kept him from being accepted in the field he’s really passionate about: music. The License To Drive actor continues:
However unfortunate as it was, once I was established as an actor, I found it increasingly harder 4 anybody 2 give my music a chance. Although I started songwriting at 13, & began doing Live concerts at 15, I was not able 2 release my 1st album until I was 22 yrs old via a small indy label. No major record company would take me seriously. I was never told “The music stinks” or “I just don’t hear it,” as typical turn downs from major labels go. No! Instead I got lots of weird excuses like “The songs are catchy, but do U have 2 sing them”? or “Not bad 4 an actor, but we don’t feel U will have the time 2 dedicate 2 a music career”, I was blown off, laughed at, & the doors were continuously slammed in my face. Never because of a lack of talent, but rather because of a prejudice, how could I succeed when so many others had tried before me and failed?
Feldman never seems to consider the possibility that “Not bad 4 an actor, but we don’t feel U will have the time 2 dedicate 2 a music career” and “The songs are catchy, but do U have 2 sing them?” might be polite ways of saying, “The music stinks” or “I just don’t hear it.”
When contemplating the mess of myopic delusions and bad judgment that is the “The ‘Elev8or 2 Ascension’ Fund Raiser Page,” it’s worth noting that Feldman, remarkably, was the grounded, down-to-earth, sensible one in The Two Coreys partnership that yielded a series of popular movies and one achingly sad reality show. If you were dealing with the two Coreys, Feldman was the one you wanted to show up at business meetings, in part because he would probably show up at the meeting, in sharp contrast to Haim. So when A&E decided to capitalize on the public’s enduring fascination with these two sad survivors from the 1980s, Feldman was depicted as a sober, uptight control freak whose orderly existence is turned upside down when his best friend and fellow former child star Corey Haim comes to live with him and his disapproving model wife Susie.
The cheeky idea behind The Two Coreys was to reimagine the lives of these pop-culture punchlines as a light comedy, The Odd Couple or You, Me & Dupree but with a reality-show twist. The Osbornes turned Ozzy Osborne into television’s favorite doddering dad. Why couldn’t The Two Coreys similarly turn Haim into television’s favorite wacky houseguest? Shows like The Osbornes, The Girls Next Door, and The Two Coreys played to our enduring fascination with celebrity while reassuring us that these debauched icons had grown soothingly banal and relatable with age.
The tongue-in-cheek, Odd Couple-style narration at the beginning of The Two Coreys’ first season informs us that its leads were once big movie stars in movies like The Lost Boys, but because of “bad headlines” and “bad habits” fame proved fleeting. The show implicitly assures us that those “bad headlines” and “bad habits” are over. The profoundly troubled Haim has lost a hundred pounds and gotten sober so that he can live with best buddy Corey Feldman and turn his career around by capitalizing on both his new reality show and the 20th anniversary of The Lost Boys.
At this point, it seems ridiculous to criticize a reality show for not being real, since an intense level of artificiality is endemic to the genre. But the first season of The Two Coreys feels screamingly inauthentic. The show seems distractingly fake and unrealistic by the considerably more lenient standards of the formulaic sitcom it resembles.
Haim can be charming and charismatic, but he flounders in the role of the free-spirited goofball lovably screwing up his own life and wreaking havoc in the lives of those around him. Although he is clearly writhing in almost unbearable psychological pain, the show initially has him play a caricature of himself that’s supposed to be irritating yet strangely likable, yet just registers as shrill and annoying.
Feldman and Susie have even less to work with. Feldman is reduced to playing the emotionally brittle foil to his pal’s wackiness and his wife’s sexiness while Susie is given exactly two notes to play: sexy and apoplectic over Haim’s misbehavior. The storylines for the first season dip deep into the big book of sitcom clichés, like an episode where Feldman must choose between doing a radio interview with Haim to promote a 20th-anniversary screening of The Lost Boys or accompany his wife to her Stuff magazine shoot. Other storylines seem designed to nakedly showcase Feldman’s pet causes, like when Haim tries to lure Susie’s sexy PETA activist friend into a jacuzzi before learning that the animal-loving object of his desire already has a boyfriend.
There’s a fair amount of tension to go along with the cutesy sitcom shenanigans in the show’s first season. Painful real emotions keep bubbling to the surface. A season that begins as a goofy lark, tickled pink that people as ridiculous as the Two Coreys even exist in real life, ends with a huge fight between Haim, Feldman, and Susie that threatens both the star’s partnership and the show’s future.
Something fascinating seems to have happened between The Two Coreys between its first and second season. To put it in the words of The Real World, the mother of all reality shows, we found out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. The hokey sitcom trappings disappear and we are left to ponder the raw, flaming wreckage of Corey Haim’s life and career for nine episodes of sometimes unnerving intensity.
In its second season, The Two Coreys essentially goes from being a goofy, quirky, tongue-in-cheek sitcom to a grim psychodrama. It transforms from Malcolm In The Middle to Breaking Bad. And it makes that massive leap rather abruptly. One season The Two Coreys is the television equivalent of a 1980s nostalgia cruise. The next season it’s more like a John Cassavetes drama.
The first episode of The Two Coreys’ second season features an exchange between the two leads so dark, fascinating, and revealing that it’s never really followed up on, because to do so would push this show into murky depths it would be unable to handle. In a fit of rage, Haim lashes out at Feldman for remaining friends with the man who raped Haim when he was 14 years old. Feldman doesn’t refute Haim’s accusation, but goes on to say that he himself was raped and molested when he was the same age as Haim and that he remained friends with the person who raped and molested him.
It’s an astonishing revelation. Why would anyone remain friends with someone who molested them? How could you stay friends with someone who raped your best friend? How could any relationship survive something like that? Yet as Feldman’s surprisingly heart-wrenching, if regrettably titled, memoir, Coreyography (which I plan to cover for an upcoming entry in Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club), makes clear, the emotions related to child molestation are complicated and tricky. There’s rage and anger and betrayal, of course, but also sometimes confusion and guilt and shame and dependency and affection and obligation. This is particularly true when drugs enter the mix, as was clearly the case with Feldman and Haim.
In the second season, we learn exactly what the first season’s opening narration glibly calls “bad headlines” and “bad habits.” Haim and Feldman developed terrible cocaine addictions to help numb the pain from having been raped and molested throughout their years of peak popularity, not just by sketchy parasites at the fringes of show-business but also by at least one major Hollywood power-broker Feldman holds responsible for many of Haim’s problems, but that he refuses to name for legal reasons.
From that moment on, everything is different. Once child rape, molestation, childhood trauma, suicidal depression (Haim was a cutter, among his other issues), and cocaine enter the frame, it becomes impossible to ignore them and to go back to the kinds of silly plotlines the first season favored. When the second season of The Two Coreys returns to prefabricated plotlines like hopeless romantic Feldman planning an elaborate Valentine’s Day surprise for his wife, it feels like a cop-out and a violation of the queasy voyeurism that makes the season so morbidly compelling.
As befits the show’s dramatic shift from light comedy to heavy psychodrama, a lot of the second season of The Two Coreys takes place in a shrink’s office, as Haim tries to acquire the psychological tools to save himself from his demons and a ferocious appetite for self-destruction.
That capacity for self-sabotage reaches its apex when Haim’s fuzzy dreams are realized and a sequel to The Lost Boys, his signature hit, is announced. True, it’s a direct-to-video sequel with a much smaller budget, but it’s a major studio direct-to-video sequel. Haim is so desperate to work that he takes an ad in Variety apologizing, more or less, to the entertainment industry, if not the entire world, for decades of bad behavior and unprofessionalism, so you can imagine what a huge break it is for him to appear in a movie people might actually see.
Yet when Haim’s dreams come true and he scores a very small part in an actual movie, he blows it by getting so fucked up on prescription pills that he’s slurring, angry, and incoherent, making the footage more or less unusable. It’s just one very bad day on the set of a low-budget genre film, but it feels unmistakably like we’re watching Haim waste his final personal and professional opportunity.
All Haim had to do was remain sober and lucid enough to deliver a performance worthy of being in a poorly received direct-to-video vampire movie. That’s setting the bar awfully low, but Haim is still incapable of clearing it. There is tenderness and sweetness and good in him. There’s a lovely sequence in the second season when Haim takes a brief break from his steep downward spiral to talk to a class full of child actors. We see an alternate future for Haim where he got his shit together and was able to make a genuine contribution to both society and show business. This is Haim at his best, a good man with a painful world of brutal life experience to learn from.
We don’t see a lot of the good Haim in the second season of The Two Coreys. He is replaced by a raw nerve of a human being who is angry and defensive, dishonest and manipulative. He stops being a celebrity who is also a drug addict and becomes a drug addict who just so happens to be a celebrity, of sorts.
In a doomed attempt to keep his friend and collaborator from killing himself with prescription pills, Feldman organizes an intervention involving Pauly Shore and fellow former child star Todd Bridges. When Bridges—a man who once ran a series of extremely lucrative crackhouses, as documented in his unforgettably titled book Killing Willis—is acting as a moral authority trying to keep you on the straight and narrow, you know your life has spun wildly out of control.
Interventions are tricky. If they succeed, they save lives. If they fail, they can fill subjects with an intense sense of shame and guilt that can make it hard to get, or remain, sober. The intervention in The Two Coreys fails spectacularly. Haim remains deep in denial about his drug addiction to the bitter end.
It’s rare to see a television series conclude with as powerful a sense of failure as The Two Coreys does. The series ends with the partnership of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman broken beyond repair. It ends with Haim stubbornly resisting all attempts to help him and contemplating a scary and solo future. There really seems to be no way forward for Haim and Feldman, just a history with a lot of joy and accomplishment but even more pain and trauma.
In a perfect world, The Two Coreys would have resurrected Haim’s career, and taken Feldman’s to new levels. Instead, the show ended up playing a role in killing Haim’s career by portraying him, accurately, as someone incapable of meeting the bare requirements of being an actor. The Two Coreys depicts Haim as an addict above all else, who uses his acting skills primarily to convince doctors to prescribe him the prescription pills that would help to kill him just a few years after The Two Coreys ended.
The Two Coreys ends on a grim note for Haim, but his life would only become sadder and sadder until it ended, prematurely but predictably, with the troubled former child star dying of pneumonia at 38 under circumstances too depressing to go into. The final years of Haim’s life were heartbreakingly sad, but Feldman hasn’t exactly had an easy go of it in the years since The Two Coreys went off the air. The marriage that figures prominently in The Two Coreys would end as well.
Even by the standards of former child stars, the two Coreys had it rough. The Two Coreys began as a goof, but it ended as a tragedy. It was a reality show that got a little too real, for its audience and for its stars. It turns out that there are far worse things a former celebrity can experience than a hilariously embarrassing crowd-funding campaign. After sorting through the sad detritus of Feldman’s past for this piece, I felt so sorry for him that I contemplated contributing to his Indiegogo campaign, but that opportunity seems to have ended permanently as well. Like his fellow Corey, Feldman ran out of time, but at least he’s still alive, which at this point qualifies as something of a triumph.
Failure, Fiasco, or Secret Success: Fiasco