Halloween is near, the days are getting shorter, and it’s hotter than hell outside. Must be October in San Francisco! This time of year, I’m always looking for entertainment that creeps me out, and it seems network television has several offerings in the horror genre this year. So, let’s talk horrible TV! And no, I don’t mean the nightmares that are “Whitney” (OHGODMAKEITSTOP!) or “The Playboy Club” (R.I.P)!
Last night, ABC premiered “Once Upon a Time,” the first of two new series this season about fairytale characters in modern-day America. “Once Upon a Time” is more fantasy than horror, so probably doesn’t warrant discussion here, but the fact that it and “Grimm”–which definitely takes on the more horrific aspects of fairytales–both exist is worth noting.
(I’m not sure “Once Upon a Time” will be able to sustain its premise past a single season, but it comes from writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who both worked on “Lost,” a show that managed to keep people trapped on an island interesting for six seasons, so there’s potential.)
“Grimm,” which premieres this Friday at 9 P.M. on NBC, takes the fairytale premise and turns it into something we certainly need more of on TV: A crime procedural!
The inspiration for “Grimm” is pretty obvious from the damp and woody Oregon setting of its pilot episode; I kept expecting glittery teenage vampires playing baseball to emerge from those woods. The basic set-up is this: Fairytales were real, and those storybook villains have modern-day counterparts. That serial killer who preys on little girls? He’s really a big-bad wolf, but only descendants of the Brothers Grimm can actually see the bad guy’s true form. To everyone else, they look like normal people, but to a Grimm, they look like monsters. And luckily, there’s a Grimm on the local police force!
The pilot has its creepy moments, but throughout the whole thing I was just annoyed that I was watching another damn crime show, albeit one disguised as something much spookier.
Of course the mother of horror shows–at least those on basic cable–has to be “The Walking Dead.” It’s certainly the bloodiest and most likely to make you lose your dinner whilst watching. Last week, the season premiere ended with a bang, literally, as young Carl was hypnotized by a deer, and shortly thereafter shot in the chest. (Those deer are deadlier than zombies!)
Personally, I found the whole moment more hilarious than heartbreaking, mainly because that Carl kid is kind of creepy. And also, he’s a kid named Carl.
Anyone who has read the comics knows that characters have a tendency to get killed off out of the blue, no matter how beloved they may be. I don’t think the show will necessarily follow that format, but hiring kids on a show is always a tricky thing, since they tend to grow faster than the plot. This season the crew will be expanding past our merry band of Winnebago wanderers, which is a good thing, since they could use some new blood, so to speak.
The CW seems to be the go-to network for shows about people who are beautiful, tortured, and supernatural. (Tangentially, wouldn’t it be great if they did a switcheroo with “Gossip Girl” and went the route of the recently-released revamp of the first book and just turned the leads into serial killers?)
One of these days, I’ll catch up with “Supernatural,” (I’m about five seasons behind), but for those who do watch, how was the mini-“Buffy” reunion this past week?
“The Vampire Diaries” remains a guilty pleasure, although, really, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. It’s so much better than the “Twilight” series, it should be mandatory viewing for any tween obsessed with Bella and Edward, in an attempt to illustrate that it is possible to be in love with a vamp and not be a doormat. (REAL LIFE PROBLEMS, Y’ALL!)
As for “The Secret Circle,” I watched the pilot, and thought it was fine, really, but I just didn’t have room on my supernatural plate for the addition of any teen witches…
Which brings us to the one horrific TV show I can’t stop watching, and can’t stop feeling bad about watching. I am talking, of course, about “American Horror Story,” in which creator Ryan Murphy continues to demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of women that borders on misogyny. All the women on the show are either batshit crazy, or getting beaten up, raped, or murdered. Although, I suppose that’s not completely fair; the men in the show aren’t princes either, so maybe I should just change that from “misogyny” to just plain nihilism.
Even more maddening: the show doesn’t stick to any kind of internal logic. People who were murdered in the house are both trapped souls and vengeful spirits? Apparently? Dylan McDermott’s character doesn’t seem to realize it’s probably not a good idea to maintain a psychiatry practice within his house after one of his patients ends up trying to kill his family. Maybe at least get a separate entrance for the crazies? A bully at the daughter’s high school is attacked by a demon in their basement and doesn’t think to mention that to anyone? The wife might be having a ghost baby?
And yet, and yet…I just can’t stop watching! I’m enjoying the “Six Feat Under”-esque beginnings of every episode, in which a past event in the “murder house” is revealed; I find myself genuinely creeped out at times; and I love the use of music from horror movies. (I’ve placed themes from “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” and Coppola’s “Dracula” thus far.)
And I can’t get enough of Jessica Lange as the crazy Blanche DuBois-on-crack neighbor, Constance. She’s chewing up the scenery every time she appears on screen, and it’s absolutely the best thing about the show. (And let me add, I’m happy to see she’s laid of the Botox of late; that kind of scariness is unnecessary, Jessica! Stay away!)
Zombies and vampires and big-bad wolves may bring obvious chills, but a smiling Constance offering an ipecac-and-spit-laced cupcake to her new neighbor is by far the weirdest thing I’ve seen on TV this season. Yes, “American Horror Story” is horrible. But sometimes it’s horrible in the best possible way.