Nightmare Cafe

Nightmare Cafe is an American science-fiction television series which aired on NBC for an abridged first season from January to April 1992. While the overall tone of the program was that of a mystical fantasy, it frequently incorporated elements of dark humor, horror, and even outright comedy. A total of six episodes were produced before low ratings led to its cancellation.

The series has subsequently been shown on the Sci Fi Channel as part of their Series Collection. The series began showing on NBC Universal's horror and suspense-themed cable channel, Chiller in March 2009.

Nightmare Cafe
Created by
Country of originUSA
No. of episodes6
Running time1 hour, with commercials
Production company(s)
DistributorMGM Television
Original networkNBC
Original releaseJanuary 29 –
April 3, 1992


Nightmare Cafe broadly concerns the inhabitants of the titular otherworldly café: mysterious proprietor Blackie, sarcastic but good-hearted cook Frank, and insecure yet gutsy waitress Fay. During the show's limited run, the origins of the café were never revealed, but it has the power to materialize in any location, and seems to be sentient on some level (in one episode, it refuses to allow Frank to enter until he apologizes to it). The café is usually situated by a waterfront; when it changes its location, its inhabitants realize that they are about to be given a mission.


Nightmare Cafe is a show about second chances. Characters who enter the café - presumably drawn there by the café itself, as an embodiment of fate - are given the opportunity to correct something in their lives that went wrong if they are morally good; or if they are morally bad, to atone for something they have done or will do, sometimes against their will, and often incorporating poetic justice.

The Café

The café serves as both a central location for the action and as a plot catalyst, primarily by exerting its influence upon each episode's protagonist(s), or antagonist(s), to bring them into contact with the regulars. Aside from transporting itself from place to place in its entirety, once settled, it can also create portals between itself and various locations, which are traversed (often unexpectedly, on the whim of the café) by crossing the threshold of one of the café's many doorways. These portals are not restricted to the Earth; the café can also travel to outer space and, apparently, even heaven, which hints at a supernatural origin. The café also has the ability to make both idle and heartfelt wishes come true, which of course are not always what the recipient actually wants or needs, and the café seems to take a perverse delight in "misinterpreting" such wishes. Frank and Fay often take advantage of this ability by wishing themselves from place to place; when this occurs, or when the café otherwise deems it important, those remaining in the dining room can watch the exploits of their companions on the (sometimes interactive) television set mounted in the far wall.



Creator Wes Craven's original concept for the series involved standalone episodes akin to The Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories, but with regular characters bookending the tales ("like Twilight Zone meets Cheers", as Craven often said in interviews). NBC gave Craven the green light, but when he prepared to write the pilot, he realized that he wanted the regular characters to also be the main characters. Despite the show being retooled before the pilot was even written, contemporary critics still often referred to Nightmare Cafe as a "supernatural/horror anthology" series.

The series itself was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the city waterfront doubling for the waterfront that served as the café's "home base". Although the production team originally toyed with the idea of filming in a real diner, that idea was eventually scrapped, and a set was built in Vancouver's North Shore Studios. The set was built to be mobile, as certain scripts called for parts of the cafe interior to appear in completely different locations; it was also built with a ceiling, unusual for television at the time, and each booth was given an authentic 1940s' era table jukebox, rented from a private collector.

The pilot episode of Nightmare Cafe was first "officially" aired on February 28, 1992 at 10 pm EST. However, NBC decided to lead off its new season of shows with a special "sneak preview" night, in which one of its new programs would be unveiled early, in order to generate advance buzz and get a jump on the season. That "secret" episode was the pilot of Nightmare Cafe, although in actuality it wasn't much of a surprise, since many TV writers had already disclosed which program was to be shown.


The pilot debuted to mixed — although overall positive — reviews, with comparisons drawn to the Nightmare on Elm Street series of movies (no doubt due to Craven and Englund's involvement), The Twilight Zone, Fantasy Island, Quantum Leap, Cheers, Moonlighting and Topper.


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Pilot"January 29, 1992
Frank Nolan and Fay Peronivic find themselves mysteriously drawn to an all-night café following a surreal brush with death.
2"Dying Well is the Best Revenge"March 6, 1992
When Frank gets involved with a married woman whose husband is very possessive, Fay worries for his safety.
3"Fay & Ivy"March 13, 1992
Fay's younger sister Ivy comes to the city to visit her, but trouble comes along in the form of her scummy boyfriend Jesse.
4"The Heart of the Mystery"March 20, 1992
The café slows down time in order to enable a detective to find the answer to an unsolved murder before his death by gunshot.
5"Sanctuary for a Child"March 27, 1992
The café brings Frank back to his hometown, where he befriends a boy whose comatose body lies in the town hospital.
6"Aliens Ate My Lunch"April 3, 1992
When a desperate tabloid writer concocts a story about a small-town alien invasion, his simple lie snowballs out of his control.

References in popular culture

  • In the fourth-season Seinfeld two-part episode "The Pitch" and "The Ticket" (both aired September 16, 1992), a Nightmare Cafe promotional poster - featuring the three leads in front of the café door - can be seen on one wall of the NBC lobby.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V" (aired October 30, 1994), the title of the third segment — "Nightmare Cafeteria" — is a reference to Nightmare Cafe.


Opening sequence

Following the pilot, the remaining five episodes began with an introduction narrated by Robert Englund as Blackie:

"Touch that remote and you die! Now that I've got your attention, here's the deal. See those two people? That's Frank, and that's Fay. Strangers when they met, turns out they've got a lot in common. Both died on the same night, both ended up in the same body of water, and both took refuge in the same all-night cafe. Me, I run the place. Name's Blackie. Been here from the beginning. Now, I know I said Frank and Fay were dead, but the cafe needed a new cook and waitress, so it gave them a second chance at life. They do their job, they get to stick around and help unsuspecting customers turn their lives around. 'Course, anything can happen to those who wander in - their worst nightmares, or their forbidden dreams. Yeah, it all happens this little place we call the Nightmare Cafe."

Another version of this introduction appears on the soundtrack album, also performed by Englund:

"Lost somewhere between Life and Death, Time and Eternity, there are places which, if entered into, will leave you forever changed. This is one such place. Its every door can lead some to that second chance that will turn their lives around... and to others to that reckoning that will end their sleep forever. Welcome to a little place called the Nightmare Cafe."

External links

1992 in American television

The year 1992 in television involved some significant events. Below is a list of television-related events during 1992.

Armand Mastroianni

Armand Mastroianni (born August 1, 1948 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American film director and producer.

Barry Pullman

Barry Pullman is an American television producer and television writer.

His credits include Against the Law, Twin Peaks, Nightmare Cafe, Reasonable Doubts, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cracker,Bloodline, Roswell, Saved and New Amsterdam, he was also a producer on the latter three series .

Beth Toussaint

Elizabeth "Beth" Toussaint (born September 25, 1962) is an American actress and model. She is best known for her television performances.

Brandon Adams (actor)

Brandon Quintin Adams (born August 22, 1979) is an American actor, known for having played Jesse Hall in the first two Mighty Ducks movies and Kenny DeNunez in The Sandlot. He also played in the 1989 film Polly as Jimmy Bean.Adams has also appeared in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker where he played Zeke in the "Smooth Criminal" segment and Young Michael in the "Badder" segment, a parody of Jackson's classic video for "Bad", and was the leading actor in Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs. He also provided the voice of Rai in Kingdom Hearts II. He also appeared in the sitcom Night Court on NBC which ran from 1984 to 1992.

Jack Coleman (actor)

John MacDonald Coleman (born February 21, 1958) is an American actor and screenwriter, known for playing the role of Steven Carrington in the 1980s prime time soap opera Dynasty (1982–1988), and for portraying Noah Bennet in the science-fiction drama series Heroes (2006–2010) as well as his recurring roles as State Senator Robert Lipton on The Office (2010–2013) and as United States Senator William Bracken on Castle (2012–2015).

Joan Chen

Joan Chen (born April 26, 1961) is a Chinese American actress, film director, screenwriter, and film producer. In China she performed in the 1979 film Little Flower ("小花") and came to the attention of western audiences for her performance in the 1987 film The Last Emperor. She is also known for her roles in Twin Peaks, Red Rose, White Rose, Saving Face, and The Home Song Stories, and for directing the feature film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.

John Leekley

John Leekley is an American writer, director and producer. He is one of the most prolific writer/producers in television. He received a Primetime Emmy Award for his work as executive producer/writer on the HBO Original Series Spawn.

Leekley was creator/writer/executive producer of the series Kindred: The Embraced for Fox Network, which is a cult favorite on the web. He started his television career as co-producer, writer, and creator of the landmark eight-hour CBS mini-series The Blue and The Gray (CBS), starring Gregory Peck as Abraham Lincoln, based on the novel of the same name, that he authored. He has also served as writer/producer for several highly regarded movies including In the Company of Darkness starring Helen Hunt (CBS), She Fought Alone (NBC) which was the first movie to confront the issue of date rape, Buried Secrets (NBC), the four-hour mini-series Night Sins (CBS) based on the best-selling novel of that name, and Mafia Doctor (CBS). He was the creator of the dark supernatural series Wolf Lake for CBS centering on teenagers in a small town in the Northwest who are changelings. He has also written and produced a number of other series for television.

Leekley wrote and directed the theatrical feature film The Prince of Central Park, starring Academy Award nominees Harvey Keitel, Kathleen Turner, Danny Aiello, and Cathy Moriarty. He later completed the futuristic feature film script City of Night. The story revolves around the survivors of a worldwide plague, who gather together in the Bowery of New York City, forming a new minority in America at the bottom of society, with their own mysterious night culture, the gangsters who rule it, and the cops who try to take it back.

Leekley is also the best-selling author of fiction and non-fiction books. He is an historical author, having co-written Moments: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs and edited Reflections on the Civil War, the last book by historian Bruce Catton. He completed the manuscript for a novel, Jazzmen, an epic story about the jazz era from 1900 to the 1920s, set in New Orleans, the river boats, and amidst the mobsters of Chicago. Recently, he wrote the screenplay The White Rose, a true story of medical students in Nazi Germany who formed the only national resistance movement against Hitler and the Gestapo.

He is represented by the Kaplan Stahler Agency and RAIN Management.

Jonathan Craven

Jonathan Craven (born March 20, 1965) is an American writer and director. He is the son of the late filmmaker Wes Craven and Bonnie Broecker. He co-wrote the horror sequel The Hills Have Eyes 2 and worked on the short-lived NBC horror series Nightmare Cafe. He manages the group the Chapin Sisters. He also co-produced the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left.

Lindsay Frost

Lindsay Elisabeth Frost (born June 4, 1962) is an American actress and fine artist.

List of horror television programs

The following is a list of horror television programs. Programs are listed in chronological order.

List of programs broadcast by Chiller

This is a list of shows that have been broadcast on Chiller.

List of science fiction television programs, N

This is an inclusive list of science fiction television programs whose names begin with the letter N.

Lochlyn Munro

Lochlyn Munro (born Richard Laughlin Munro, February 12, 1966) is a Canadian film and television actor. For films, Munro is mostly known for his roles in A Night at the Roxbury (1998), Scary Movie (2000), Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and White Chicks (2004). For television, he is perhaps best known for his roles in the Canadian series Northwood, supernatural drama Charmed, and teen drama Riverdale.

Patrick Lussier

Patrick Lussier (born 1964) is a Canadian-American filmmaker and editor, known for his numerous collaborations with director Wes Craven and fellow screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Todd Farmer, as well as his work in the horror genre.

Peter Outerbridge

Peter Outerbridge (born June 30, 1966) is a Canadian actor, best known for his role as Ari Tasarov in the CW action series Nikita, Dr. David Sandström in the TMN series ReGenesis, Henrik "Hank" Johanssen in Orphan Black, Bob Corbett in Bomb Girls, William Easton in Saw VI and George Brown in the television film John A.: Birth of a Country. He also played the lead role of Detective William Murdoch in a three-episode mini-series, The Murdoch Mysteries, in its initial run on Canadian television, with two episodes shown in 2004 and a third in 2005.

Peter Spears

Peter Spears (born November 29, 1965) is an American actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Overland Park, Kansas. Spears is best known for being a producer on the critically acclaimed 2017 gay coming-of-age romantic drama film, Call Me by Your Name, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Spears also directed the controversial parodic short film, Ernest and Bertram, which portrayed Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie as gay lovers; Spears received a cease-and-desist order from Sesame Workshop for copyright violations as a result. Spears helped to develop the television series Nightmare Café and John from Cincinnati.Before becoming a film director and producer, Spears was an actor, appearing in films such as Father of the Bride Part II, The Opposite of Sex and Something's Gotta Give, as well as several television series.

Robert Englund

Robert Barton Englund (born June 6, 1947) is an American actor, voice actor, singer, and director, best known for playing the infamous serial killer Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. He received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors in 1987 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master in 1988, and won a Fantafestival Award for The Mangler in 1995. Englund is a classically trained actor.

Vondie Curtis-Hall

Vondie Curtis-Hall (born September 30, 1950) is an American actor, screenwriter, film director and television director. As an actor, he is known for his role as Dr. Dennis Hancock on the CBS medical drama Chicago Hope created by David E. Kelley and as Ben Urich in the Netflix TV series Marvel's Daredevil. He wrote, directed and starred in the cult film Gridlock'd.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.