TV Horror


TV IN 2019: PART TWO –
BROADCAST AND CABLE NETWORKS
by Michael Shonk


   Comparing the broadcast and cable networks to the streaming services is like comparing cassette tapes to CD. Both have entertaining content, it is just the formats are different.

   The broadcast networks are fading dinosaurs, no longer a place where mass audiences gather on a daily basis. Cable networks are doomed to be devoured by the streaming world that features original programming as well as the programs of the cable networks.

   TV has changed in so many ways. Because of devices such as Apple TV, Roku TV, and Amazon’s Firestick you can watch nearly all of cable TV without cable and even without a TV set. TV has left the living room and is following you, waiting to fetch for you whatever and whenever you want to watch. Part One of this two part survey looked at the streaming services, so now it is the broadcasting and cable networks turn.

   With the exception of some time as the top rated network in the 1970s-80s, ABC has never gotten much respect. Having been born during the radio days as a rib off NBC, ABC tends to get treated like third in line. Things have not improved since Disney bought them.

   ABC’s announced goal for the 2019-20 season is to finish first among women. One reason is they have to share most of the sports with their Disney family brother ESPN. ABC has also found success in the past with the women market and in today’s diversity culture women are in increasing demand.

   ABC shows have a real problem writing male characters that men want to watch. ABC’s best dramas tend to feature a gorgeous independent likeable female lead. The problem is few of their series characters are likable or deep enough for the audience to care. The writing focuses on emotion over plots and romance over action. Shows such as TAKE TWO and WHISKEY CAVALIER are good examples of this.

   I do have hopes for two of ABC announced new series. REEF BREAK airs this month. It stars Poppy Montgomery (UNFORGETTABLE) as an ex-thief turned trouble-shooter for a tropical island government.

   The broadcast networks new fall series I most look forward to is ABC ‘s STUMPTOWN. Based on a comic book, the story is about a gorgeous wise cracking kick ass female PI. How could I resist after watching this trailer?

   Not so long ago CBS’s future looked bright. It had defeated the evil conglomerate Viacom and had won its freedom. But there were problems. CBS’ powerful successful ruthless womanizing media mogul Les Moonves had faced down Viacom but would be crushed by a bunch of women and the rising power of the me-too movement. Only CBS stockholders were sorry to see Moonves leave, and they had to watch in horror as Viacom began to rise and turn its eyes back on them.

   CBS may continue to attract the most viewers on linear TV, but such numbers mean less and less. Those at CBS remain clueless about diversity. Diversity is not taking your ancient series format and change the white guy to a woman or minority.

   CBS made a big deal out of Alan Cummings playing a gay man in INSTINCT but didn’t bother to update its tired format. The formula has one strange unconventional male paired with an over serious all business female cop and they solve crimes together. This summer INSTINCT returns and if you like old-fashioned procedurals, it is worth a peek, if you are bored with TV from the 20th century, CBS is not for you.

   The best thing CBS has going for it is the showrunnners Michelle and Robert King who have blessed the unworthy network with THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT. Ok, they also created the hideous failure BRAIN DEAD. CBS is hoping EVIL, a show about a Catholic Assessor and a non-believing profiler joining forces to fight psychopaths, is one of the King’s good shows.

   Among the cable networks owned by CBS are SHOWTIME and POP TV. POP TV is best known for SCHITT’S CREEK. The Canadian sitcom and cult TV favorite has been renewed for its sixth season. Also on the network are FLORIDA GIRLS (comedy about four girls in a Florida small town) and FLACK (comedy about public relations).

   CW has its own measurement for success rather than Nielsen’s live ratings. They are not alone. Because there is no accepted metric for digital viewing, every network and many of the media buyers (advertisers) have their own set of numbers beyond Nielsen’s. When the totals are as small as TV has gotten, how many mean less than who, what, where and devotion to content/product.

   CW was a merger of UPN (Paramount) and WB (Warner Brothers). CBS and Warner co-own CW and supply nearly all its programs. Perhaps my biggest question about CW this fall is are they going to weird out Nancy Drew like they did to Archie in RIVERDALE? The trailer is inconclusive.

   Today’s FOX is a pale version of itself when it was the number one rated TV network. Disney swallowed up most of FOX, leaving just the broadcast TV network, Fox News cable networks, and Fox sports. Fox is saving most of its original scripted series for the midseason. Meanwhile, it is mainly games shows this summer and sports this fall. Perhaps its most successful original scripted series this fall will be WWE pro wrestling. For drama fans this fall offers PRODIGAL SON (serial killer Dad wants son to join the family business), and 9-1-1 has Jennifer Love Hewitt joining the cast.

   The technology of today is able to create extremely detailed analytics and it has changed television as much as sabermetrics has changed baseball.

   Hollywood REPORTER (May 20, 2019) discussed commercial television with some media buyers, “Buyers also expressed a collective eye roll at the emphasis on total viewers…But even the so called sweet-spot of viewers 18-49 has become an antiquated benchmark.”

   So NBC winning the 18-49 means little and all the media coverage of Nielsen’s live ratings mean even less.

   Bob Greenblat who had taken NBC from a laughing stock to respected network left NBC to run part of the WarnerMedia streaming service.

   Today NBC has the best fiction among the broadcast networks. An NBC show is more interested in the heart, more interested in examining the characters than who done it.

   Supernatural cop series THE INBETWEEN currently airing is a good example. Every character has a sob story for depth. I have seen two episodes and what is the “inbetween” is still a mystery. Not that it matters, as long as you accept the concept the drama is watching the other side help Cassie stop the villain and save the victim. If you like supernatural mysteries try it out.

   AMC NETWORKS is made up of cable networks: AMC (WALKING DEAD), IFC (PORTLANDIA), WE (BRAXTON FAMILY VALUES), and Sundance (RECTIFY). AMC NETWORK co-owns BBC America (DOCTOR WHO) with BBC studios.

   It has been a busy year for AMC. Final seasons aired of martial arts action series INTO THE BADLANDS, historical drama THE SON, and (starting in August) supernatural PREACHER. Also airing in 2019 are FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD, NOS4A2, and THE TERROR.

   BBC America and AMC both air KILLING EVE. The critically acclaimed thriller has just ended season 2 and has been renewed for a third season, coming most likely in 2020.

   BBC America is best known for DOCTOR WHO. My favorite Doctors remain Tom Baker and Matt Smith, but Jodie Whittaker as Momma Who is terrific, it was the writing and the supporting cast that made last season unwatchable for me.

   Fans of ORPHAN BLACK will be happy to learn the series is coming back in a 10 part audio series, starring Tatiana Maslany. There is a possible new TV series in development.

   Sundance Channel has a new eight-part adaption of the book NAME OF THE ROSE.

   A&E is a group owned in part by Disney and Hearst. It has A+E, History, and Lifetime. A+E is into reality programming. Lifetime is best known for its original scripted movies for women. In the past Lifetime has tried original scripted TV series such as VERONICA CLARE, ANGELA’S EYES and MARY KILLS PEOPLE, but today its schedule features reality shows such as DANCE MOMS. History Channel has a mix of reality programming (AX MEN and FORGED IN FIRE), and historical dramas (PROJECT BLUE BOOK and THE VIKINGS). THE VIKINGS are due to air its sixth and final season during the 2019-20 season. There are plans for a spin-off but not enough details to expect it soon.

   Among the better parts of FOX that Disney devoured is Fox entertainment cable networks FX and FXX. Both feature critically approved programs with unlikable characters and a premise that scream edginess.

   FX is beloved by TV critics everywhere. Some of the series to air this year are BASKETS (life of an clown), FOSSE/VERDON (Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship), LEGION (superheroes), POSE (life in gay culture in New York during the 80s), SNOWFALL (drug dealer), and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (vampire comedy).

   FXX is a comedy offshoot of FX and a place of endless THE SIMPSON reruns. ARCHER began as an animated spoof on spies and over time has turned its attention to genres such as action, PI noir, adventure, and this year space opera. This is ARCHER tenth season and may be its last.

   Disney still has its multiple cable networks for kids and families. It also owns Freeform that has found an audience for gossipy mysteries (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) and supernatural series. I can hardly wait to see just how fun bad is MOTHERLOAD: FORT SALEM – a series about gorgeous young witches who serve in the American army.

   Now that AT&T has bought Time Warner and dubbed it WarnerMedia there will be changes. At this time, Warner’s focus is less on cable and more on its future streaming service. HBO has been told to produce more series, quality be damn.

   There may be changes in the formats of TNT and TBS. TNT currently is for drama and TBS is for comedy. TNT has dramas such as CLAWS, and ANIMAL KINGDOM. TBS has comedy such as AMERICAN DAD, FULL FRONTAL and SEARCH PARTY.

   CHASING THE CURE is a live series to simulcast on both TNT and TBS. The series features a real person with a mystery disease and the audience from all over the world offers up possible cures.

   Will Warnermedia bring changes to cable’s best channel TCM, one of the few places left to enjoy film’s classics? Cartoon fans wonder what the future has in store for Cartoon Network (modern cartoons), Boomerang (cartoons featuring new versions of older characters such as Bugs and Scooby Doo), and popular Adult Swim (for adult fans of cartoons). This August Adult Swim favorite and one of the greatest TV cartoons ever made, the VENTURE BROTHERS return for a seventh season.

   Comcast owns NBC Universal studio and a variety of cable networks including E (Kardashians), SYFY, USA, and Bravo.

   Bravo is more a reality and lifestyle network, which is why DIRTY JOHN will air its second season on USA in 2020. DIRTY JOHN is based on a true crime podcast.

   One of the most popular cable networks, USA will say good-bye to MR ROBOT as I await BRIARPATCH, a series based on Ross Thomas book (I expect it in 2020). This summer SUITS ends and spin-off series PEARSON begins.

   SYFY has had problems only cable networks can have. THE EXPANSE is one of the TV’s greatest science fiction series, but it cost too much so SYFY cancelled it. Fortunately Amazon Prime saved it and will be showing the fourth season soon.

   WYNONNA EARP may have a small audience but it is a passionate audience advertisers love. It has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season. However IDW that produces the series ran out of money and had to stop production. EARP fans refused to let it die, even at one point buying ad space on the giant billboard in Times Square begging fans to help save the show. SYFY (and Canadian channel Space) still want the series.

   THE MAGICIANS (based on Lew Grossman’s trilogy) just finished its season 4 and has been renewed. Airing this summer will be the last season of KILLJOYS and the second of KRYPTON (Superman’s home planet).

   SYFY has an affection for bizarre creepy series that generally don’t last long. Some examples have been DEADLY CLASS, high school for assassins, and BLOOD DRIVE, a Death Race 2000 like car race but this time the cars run on blood. This year saw the second season and maybe the last of HAPPY. Christopher Meloni stars as Nick, an ex-cop with endless number of vices including the fondness of killing people, and his imaginary friend Happy. Ann-Margret joined the cast this year and…well…

   Viacom has long enjoyed collecting a variety of cable networks. A recent reorganization has made the cable networks more team players than independent networks.

   BET will continue to specialize in programs for the black audience such as AMERICAN SOUL and IN CONTEMPT. Comedy Central focus is on comedy, from live shows (DAILY SHOW) to scripted comedy (THE OTHER TWO). MTV will likely drop any future attempts at scripted TV (anyone remember scripted thriller EYE CANDY, based on R.L. Stine book) and do docu-reality shows with young adults (THE HILLS…NEW BEGINNING). Nickelodean should continue its mix of cartoons (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) and live action (HENRY DANGER) for kids.

   Spike network has been renamed Paramount network and is Viacom’s flagship. Its scripted original YELLOWSTONE has been renewed for a third season. Kevin Costner stars in the epic family drama and DALLAS wanna-be.

   HALLMARK MYSTERY MOVIES has its fans. If you like overly formulaic romantic mysteries this is for you. There are a seemingly endless number of different but interchangeable series. Current lineup include GOURMET DETECTIVE MYSTERY, MYSTERY 101, PICTURE PERFECT MYSTERIES, HAILEY DEAN MYSTERIES, and CROSSWORD MYSTERY.

   August will be AURORA TEAGARDEN MYSTERY month. Based on the books written by Charlaine Harris, Aurora (Candace Cameron-Bure) is a librarian who runs the Real Mystery Club. Of interest to old TV fans, Marilu Henner (TAXI) co-stars.

   Another way to watch TV is Digital TV. All it requires is a digital antenna and a TV or some are also available on cable. Among the best known of digital stations are ME-TV, ESCAPE, COZI, GRIT and ANTENNA -TV. These stations remind me of the old TV Independent stations such as the great KDOC -Los Angeles that aired little beyond old TV series reruns.

   When TV has more demand than supply, syndication has always stepped in, from the early wild uncharted days of the 1950s TV to the early days of today’s cable. Today we find original scripted series everywhere we find cable channels.

   WGN AMERICA returns to once cancelled, now revived Canadian original PURE, based on the true story of the Mennonite mob. ION carries mainly your standard syndicated reruns but also offers new original scripted series from Canada, PRIVATE EYES:

   There are small independently owned cable networks that serve a small audience and are not available on streaming. My favorite is El Rey, created by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (EL MARIACHI) for Latino males, young filmmakers, and fans of dubbed martial arts films. It reruns hard to find series such as STARHUNTER REDUX and RELIC HUNTER. It offers exposure to aspiring filmmakers. Among its original programs are MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR (Danny Trejo examines weapons), comedy CRUNCH TIME, a talk show, various animation series, and LUCHA UNDERGROUND.

   The goal of this two part look at TV in 2019 was to help you in this world of nearly 500 original scripted TV series each season, to actually find some of those series, and maybe even find some you like.

SUPERNATURAL “Roadkill.” The CW Television Network; 15 March 2007 (Season 2, episode 16. Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester), Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester). Guest star: Tricia Helfer. Series creator: Eric Kripke. Teleplay: Raelle Tucker.

   This series seems to have sneaked up on a lot of people, having just finished its 14th season in April of this year. That’ a lot of monsters, ghosts and other supernatural beings for Sam and Dean Winchester to have chased down and eliminated from the Earth.

   Although there have been several overall story arcs, none of which I’m really familiar with, “Roadkill” is a standalone episode, which was fine with me, this being the first one I’ve watched since perhaps the first one or two of the series.

   It begins with Molly McNamara and her husband driving all but lost on an isolated highway and bickering at each other abut it when unable to avoid a figure in the road, they crash down a ditch and into a tree. When Molly wakes up, her husband is no longer in the car, and worse, he seems to have completely disappeared.

   Luckily Sam and Dean are driving on the same road and come to her rescue. They are looking into stories that stretch of the road is haunted, and that the “man” Molly saw on the road may be looking for revenge for his death several years earlier.

   Supernatural apparitions on the highway at night — a spooky premise for a ghost story if ever there was one, and this one’s no exception. There’s also a nice twist or two before Sam and Dean’s job is finally done, after pondering the question for which the two brothers have no answer: where do their adversaries go after they’ve been released from their terrestrial bonds?

   Of the two brothers, Dean is the more hardnosed one, while Sam shows an occasional more sentimental side. There’s a good rapport between the two actors, as there’d have to have been from the beginning for the series to have lasted as long as it has. I kind of think of them as Frank and Joe Hardy some ten years later, after discovering where and what their father Fenton Hardy was doing on all those trips out of Bayport when they were younger.


TV IN 2019: PART ONE – STREAMING SERVICES
by Michael Shonk


   The entertainment called television has escaped the boundaries of the TV set and now can be found almost anywhere. So where are all those shows hiding?

   During the last few years the total of original scripted TV series has approached nearly five hundred every year. With the upcoming explosion of new major media players joining the streaming wars the number of scripted original shows should increase like bunny rabbits.

   The business of television is in chaos as even the major broadcast networks are now minor players left playing a role for their business masters or they are struggling to find a way to stay relevant. But more about that in Part Two, in which broadcast networks and cable will be covered.

   Many of you have probably sampled or subscribed to at least one streaming service. The main ones have been NETFLIX, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Soon some of the world’s largest media conglomerates – Disney, AT&T (WarnerMedia), Comcast, and Apple will debut their streaming services, all with their own original programs.

   CBS has fought off media conglomerate Viacom and started its own streaming service with original programs. However due to the fall of CBS mogul Les Moonves, and Viacom slow but steady recovery, few would be surprised if Viacom and CBS rejoin together. Viacom recently bought streaming service Pluto to use to streaming all of its cable networks once it’s ready.

   Many other networks – broadcast and cable – have an online site where you can catch up on their programs you might have missed.

   A streaming service – usually for a fee – allows you to watch TV shows and movies on your computer or other devices via the Internet. There are smart TVs such as Roku, over the top box such as Apple TV and devices such as Amazon’s Fire stick that connects your TV to the streaming world.

   Netflix remains one of the most successful and powerful studios in the World. As it continues to develop original programming faster than any viewer could possible watch, Netflix has also created a film studio and plans to become a major player in movies as well as television.

   One update from the clip, BLACK MIRROR is playing on Netflix now. I would add to the list of shows worth checking out – THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, SANTA CLARITA DIET, and DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (coming in August).

   Netflix has also rescued two network series from recent cancellation – LUCIFER (FOX) and DESIGNATED SURVIVIOR (ABC). It has been announced LUCIFER has been renewed for another season after its current – it will be the fifth and last.

   DISNEY is now the top media giant in the business. It owns the rights to Mickey Mouse, Marvel, The Simpsons and Star Wars. It currently runs two streaming services –ESPN+ and Hulu.

   Hulu has been around for some time and was owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and WB. Disney now has full control over Hulu and plans to continue its focus on TV series, especially network and cable TV series. Hulu is not best known for its originals but THE HANDMAID’S TALE, CHANCE and CATCH 22 are worth checking out.

   Disney+ will be the company’s third streaming service and the one that will get most of the attention. This is the one Netflix needs to fear. It will be available this year and one of its first original series will be STAR WARS MANDALORIAN

   This year will also see AT&T join in the TV streaming fun. Its recent purchase of Time Warner gave the phone company a strong presence in the cable world. Reportedly the new service will be called WarnerMedia. They are still working on what kind of service will they offer. Will it be one service uniting HBO, Cinemax and all of WarnerMedia to cost $16-$17 a month or will it be a three tier – basic, HBO and premium? WarnerMedia has announced its first original program. TOYKO VICE will star Ansel Elgort and is based on the non-fiction book by Jake Adelstein.

   Warners have not had much success in the streaming business. Warner Archive with its over priced small library of old movies and TV series was a failure. DC UNIVERSE has had two minor success with DOOM PATROL and TITANS, but the service just cancelled SWAMP THING after one episode. Boomerang is an offshoot of the cable Cartoon Network spin-off network Boomerang. It focuses on post 50s to today era of classic cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and 90s favorite KIDS NEXT DOOR.

   Premium channels have their own streaming service that can also be found at Apple TV and Amazon Prime (for the price of subscription). These channels also offer apps that allow you to subscribe to the streaming service and watch it without needing cable.

   WarnerMedia has the most successful of the pay networks HBO. There is a question about what HBO will replace the epic hit GAMES OF THRONES with. At the moment only one series, THE LONG NIGHT will come from the world of GAMES. However THE LONG NIGHT will take place in Westero a thousand years before the GAMES timeline. Of course HBO does have some other shows to watch.

   Cinemax has grown up from its days as a soft porn cable network. Today it does some wonderful action series such as C.B. STRIKE, RELLIK, WARRIOR and JETT.

   CBS owns premium channel SHOWTIME and streaming CBS ALL ACCESS.

   SHOWTIME has always stood in the pay TV shadow of HBO and now it has even more competition. Perhaps its highlight of 2019 will be CITY ON A HILL.

   CBS ALL ACCESS is best known for the CBS classic TV series and originals STAR TREK DISCOVERY, THE TWILIGHT ZONE (with host Jordan Peele) and THE GOOD FIGHT (sequel to THE GOOD WIFE). Currently in season three, the critic favorite GOOD FIGHT will air season one this summer on CBS.

   STARZ has increased its original programming over the last few years featuring high production values in such series as BLACK SAILS, WHITE PRINCESS and my favorite COUNTERPART (that ended recently after two seasons),

   I recently reduced my cable to just basic and had to live without my favorite network EPIX. I discovered EPIX app and for $5.99 I am again watching series such as BERLIN STATION, GET SHORTY, DEEP STATE, and PERPETUAL GRACE LTD on my Roku TV and without cable.

   COMCAST owns NBC Universal and all the cable stations that go with it. It has plans for a free ad supported streaming service this year but has fallen behind its fellow growing media giants.

   Apple TV is a box that connects your TV to streaming services. Apple TV+ debuts sometime this year as a streaming service specializing in Apple’s original programs

   Did you notice AMAZING STORIES is coming back with new stories and produced by Stephen Spielberg? Below is a promo for FOR ALL MANKIND, a TV series set in an alternative history where the Russians were first to the Moon.

   Of course I have not forgotten Amazon Prime. Prime exists to promote free shipping at a retail online store. There are many services offered to Prime members and the video streaming is just one of them and because of that it can get lost and forgotten.

   Prime, like Netflix and Hulu, has save broadcast and cable TV from cancellation. After three seasons of THE EXPANSE SyFy could no longer afford to make the series. Fortunately, Prime will air the original fourth season of TV’s best science fiction series THE EXPANSE. I recommend you watch the first three seasons now on Prime.

   There are a nice variety of original programs hiding on Prime worth watching such as BOSCH, PATROIT, GOLIATH, FLEABAG, SNEAKY PETE, and MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

   There seems to be a streaming service for every taste, genre and need. A good place to find the small service for you is to search through Amazon Prime Channels.

   Fans of British TV should start at BRITBOX, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV. Most of the best of British TV can be found there including every classic DOCTOR WHO episode in existence. My one complaint is there is not enough 60s series, especially not enough from ITV.

   Acorn is a service that airs series from Britain, but also Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand’s BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES remains high on my favorites list. Currently Acorn has five seasons and a six is on its way.

   Small streaming services such as Acorn can offer you first glimpse of quality TV before mainstream television finds it. In Acorn’s case it was the first to show MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES in America. Since MISS FISHER ended with season 3, Acorn has the Australian sequel called MS FISHER’S MODERN MYSTERIES – Miss Fisher’s niece joins the Adventuress Club to solve mysteries in the groovy 1960s.

   If you don’t mind subtitles there is the online only streaming service MHz Choice that has some of Europe’s best TV series. There is the French version of Maigret, the Italian version of Nero Wolfe, Detective Montalbano, Irene Huss, Donna Leon’s Bronetti Mysteries, Baantjer Mysteries, and so many more.

   Anime can be found at each of the major streaming services. Netflix tends to focus on original anime. Hulu and Amazon Prime have older shows. Free service Crackle offers some great dubbed choices including TRIGUN and DEATH PARADE.

   There are also streaming services just for the animated genre such as Crunchyroll or Funimation. I have been watching a lot of anime this year and appreciate the genre’s ability to world build completely different times, places and its own realities. My favorites include ACCA: 13-TERRITORY INSPECTION DEPARTMENT, BUNGO STRAY DOGS, 18IF, BLACK LAGOON and STEINS;GATE.

   PBS MASTERPIECE has added FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES. Now here is a series that illustrates how hard it is to find some of these shows. FRANKIE began at CBC (Canada) and done by the people behind MURDOCH MYSTERIES. Frankie and her fellow female PI have adventures and solve mysteries in the 1920s. It has been on Ovation under the title THE ARTFUL DETECTIVE and also on Alibi, but now on PBS streaming it finally gets a chance at a decent size audience.

   SHOUT FACTORY is more into cult TV and movies.

   There are many free streaming services most with ads. Here is a list suggesting some free sites you might sample.

   Sony’s CRACKLE is by far the best of the free streaming services with better than average network TV series, movies and anime. It also has a growing selection of original TV series include ART OF MORE, THE OATH, and START-UP.

   There are hundreds of streaming channels available from DOGTV a channel for your dogs to watch while you are away to POKERGO that offers live access to over 100 poker tournaments a year.

   More and more live TV is available through streaming. MLB.com offers you the ability to watch every major league baseball game played (subject to local blackouts) as does NHL and hockey. Amazon Prime, Hulu, Yahoo, YouTube, Playstation Vue and others let you watch live events and sports on your devices beyond your TV screen.

   Streaming offers the TV Viewer several advantages over broadcast and cable television. You can watch TV from around the world not just the US and a few imports. No longer is the TV viewer chained to the TV set, instead TV is available to watch wherever the viewer is. Streaming has no time periods or schedules, the days of scheduling your life around your favorite TV show are over, now your favorites wait for you.

   In my next post I will examine the broadcast and cable networks, their future, their search for an identity that will set them apart from the crowd and survive the current chaos that is the business of television.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


WEREWOLF. Fox. Pilot for subsequent series, two hours, 11 July 1987. John J. York, Lance LeGault, Chuck Connors. Guest cast: Raphael Sbarge, Michelle Johnson. Writers: Allan Cole, Frank Lupo. Director: David Hemmings.

   Revisiting TV shows from your childhood is always a precarious endeavor. Once you press play, you simply don’t know if your positive memories of a particular show, character or plot is going to hold up. I’ve watched some movies that I absolutely loved as a teenager that now make me cringe. Alternatively, I’ve recently had the chance to revisit some features from that era that, while largely forgotten, still hold up extraordinarily well.

   Case in point: the pilot for Fox’s TV series Werewolf. Aired originally on July 11, 1987, this one I specifically remember watching, commercial breaks and all. Conceived as a hybrid of a supernatural thriller and a fugitive-on-the-run crime drama, Werewolf was absolutely terrifying (in a good way) to me as a child. And it remains scary and suspenseful even today. The soundtrack is eerie. The special effects are top notch. And the writing by Frank Lupo is superb.

   The plot. Eric Cord (John J. York) is an all-American kid living what appears to be the Southern California dream. He’s handsome, rooms with his best friend, and has a beautiful girlfriend who just so happens to be his best friend’s sister. All is well in Eric’s world. Until one fateful night when his best friend/roommate makes a confession to him. That he’s a werewolf and responsible for a local series of grisly murders.

   Eric thinks his best friend is nuts and in need of psychiatric intervention. It doesn’t help matters that his friend asks him to kill him with a gun loaded with silver bullets. Eric, decent man that he is, refuses to partake in this perceived insanity. Until it’s too late. Until his friend turns into a werewolf and attacks him. The end result being that his friend is now dead, but not before he bites Eric and transforms him into a werewolf.

   The rest of the pilot follows Eric as he battles the legal system that holds him responsible for his friend’s death, as he navigates his relationship with his girlfriend, and as he begins his quest to find and to kill the head of the werewolf bloodline. Who is it? Well, it’s none other than a sneering, scenery chewing Chuck Connors who is playing this way over the top. He portrays Janos Skorzeny, the man who transformed Eric’s friend into a werewolf down in Baja California.

   The name Skorzeny will ring a bell for fans of supernatural television. It is the same name as the vampire in The Night Stalker (1972). This time, Skorzeny is cruder and hairier, but he’s still a monster. And what a monster! Look for the scene where he rips off his face and transforms into a gigantic werewolf. Hair raising stuff indeed.

    A discussion of Werewolf would not be complete without an analysis of the show’s third main character. A part Native American bounty hunter by the name of “Alamo,” Joe Rogan (Lance LeGault) who has been assigned to track down Eric once he skips his court date. He’s part Steve McQueen, part Charles Bronson. Equipped with a small arsenal, he’s on an obsessive quest to track down and to kill Eric with a silver bullet. Little does he know that Eric is a “good” werewolf and that the really “bad” werewolf is the one he should be after.

   Now I realize that this show might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone is into supernatural themes. But if you watch it as if it were a crime show, you will find a lot to like. The characters are well developed and there’s the occasional dose of light humor to break the rather bleak and downright tragic feeling that permeates the show.

   Fox had a great thing on its hands back in 1987. Too bad it only lasted one season. If any show deserves a reboot based on the concept alone, it’s this one. But I dare suspect that no one will ever quite be able to recreate the foreboding atmosphere that drenches this show like a Southern California fog.


DARK INTRUDER. Made-for-TV movie, NBC/Universal, 1965. Pilot for a failed television series to have been called The Black Cloak. Released theatrically when deemed too violent for TV. Leslie Nielsen (Brett Kingsford), Mark Richman, Judi Meredith, Gilbert Green, Charles Bolender, Werner Klemperer, Vaughn Taylor, Peter Brocco. Screenplay by Barré Lyndon. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Director: Harvey Hart.

   Brett Kingsford (played admirably by Leslie Neilsen) is an expert on the supernatural in this failed TV pilot, and while nobody asked me at the time, I think the series that would have ensued if things had worked out differently could have been a good one.

   The story takes place in San Francisco in 1890, and Kingsford is called in by the police when a baffling series of Jack the Ripper style killings begins to take place. The victims have all been clawed to death, and left at the scene of each killing is an ivory ancient Sumerian figurine.

   When a friend of his, Robert Vandenburg (Mark Richman), begins to think he may be the one responsible, Kingsford has an additional reason to be involved in the case, along with his dwarf assistant Nikola (Charles Boldender).

   The copy of this short 59 minute film I watched was a very dark print, but even so it matched the mood of the proceeding perfectly, and the movie does have a few quite scary moments. Too scary for TV in 1965? I’d have to agree.

   But it was very well done, with well above average production values and a large supporting cast. To my untrained eye, the director knew what he was doing too, with the camera moving fluidly with lots of well constructed overhead shots.

   And, in case you were wondering, while Leslie Neilsen’s sideburns looked as false as they probably were, he had the presence to carry off the rest of his role very well. I also liked the wink and nod between him and his assistant at the end when they talk about all of the strange things they’ve seen together, with a hint of more to come. Alas, it was not to be.

         BRETT: Ah, Nicola, if only the rest of the world knew what we know.

         NICOLA: If they did, sir, nobody would get a decent night’s sleep.


HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, PART Three:
HORROR TELEVISION
by Michael Shonk


   In the final part of my three part look at horror entertainment, I look at television.

         Part One: Horror Cartoons

         Part Two: Horror Radio.

   Television is a visual medium, something that can limit the horror story. Too much visual horror can offend the viewer and not enough can disappoint the viewer. In the early days of television the amount of graphic violence and gore was limited for TV’s large mass audience. But as times and culture has changed the horror genre has reflected those changes.

   In the ROUTE 66 episode “Lizard’s Leg & Owlet’s Wings” Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. wonder if there is a future for the old style monsters.

ROUTE 66 (CBS, 1960-64): Created by Stirling Silliphant and Herbert B. Leonard. CAST: George Maharis as Buz and Martin Milner as Tod.

   The series followed the adventures of two men in a Chevrolet as they traveled across country.

   “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” (October 26, 1962) Written by Stirling Silliphant. Directed by Robert Gist. GUEST CAST: Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney. Buz and Tod get jobs at the Chicago O’Hare Inn where they help groups set up their conventions or meetings. Buz’s first assignment is to take care of fifty young beautiful secretaries while Tod gets stuck with Karloff, Lorre and Chaney who are planning to start a film production company. The three famous horror actors argue over whether to produced movies with new monsters or stay with the classics.

   Silliphant’s script examined the power of fear and love, but suffers from dated characters. Silliphant does have one of the women in charge complaining about men getting better pay than women, but he also had the women faint at the sight of Lon Chaney in a werewolf costume.


   A popular form of horror on television has always been the supernatural story, not only in America but in England as well. Englishman M. R. James (August 1, 1862 – June 12, 1936) is considered one of the greatest writers of ghost stories.

OMNIBUS (BBC, 1967-2003) was a popular documentary series that included occasional fiction.

   “Whistle And I’ll Come To You” (May 7,1968). Produced and directed by Jonathan Miller; story by M.R. James (“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”). CAST: Michael Hordern as Professor, Ambrose Coghill as Colonel, and George Woodbridge as Hotel Proprietor. *** A Professor on holiday finds an ancient whistle next to a grave. The inscription reads whistle and I’ll come to you. The Professor blows the whistle and his life is changed forever.

   I am not a fan of ghost stories so I have not read any of M. R. James’ work. This adaption by Jonathan Miller is regarded as the best of James’ work.

   This ghost story was not what I expected. There was no action or conflict or screams. Instead the drama relies on the characters. Michael Hordern captures the Professor, a man used to living alone with his books. The pace is slow and the background soundtrack has natural sounds rather than music. It all gives the story a feeling of reality.


DARK SHADOWS (ABC, 1966-1971): Created and Executive Produced by Dan Curtis. CAST: Joan Bennett as Elizabeth Collins Soddard, Alexandra Moltke as Victoria Winters, Louis Edmonds as Roger Collins and Mitchell Ryan as Burke Devlin.

   DARK SHADOWS is one of my favorite TV series from my childhood that happily holds up today. It is a gothic horror soap opera where every character has a mystery. The low production values and black and white video adds to the uneasy mood. This is a perfect example of why restoring every television series into high definition blu-ray quality is a mistake.

   “Season One Episode One” (June 27,1966): Story Created and Written by Art Wallace. Directed by Lela Swift. CAST: Elizabeth Wilson, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Conrad Bain.

   Young Victoria leaves the only home she has ever known – a founding hospital – to take a governess job for the wealthy eccentric Collins family. Meanwhile the Collins family has their own secrets.


   How can anyone do a list of any genre of TV shows without including a TV detective series? The horror genre has offered many to chose from, I picked SPECIAL UNIT 2.

SPECIAL UNIT 2 (SYFY, 2001-2002) Created and Executive Produced by Evan Katz. CAST: Michael Landes as Detective Nicholas O’Malley, Alexondra Lee as Detective Kate Benson, Richard Gant as Captain Page and Danny Woodburn as Carl the Gnome.

   The Special Unit 2 is a little mentioned part of Chicago police department. The Unit’s duty is to enforce the law among the supernatural community known as links.

“The Eve” (October 31, 2001) Written by Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle, Directed by Oscar Costo. CAST: John de Lancie, Stefan Arngrim and Christine Caux. *** It is Halloween, the least favorite day for Special Unit 2. Humans are dressing up as links (monsters and demons) making it impossible to tell the good guys from the bad. A powerful link is willing to kill for a key that Special Unit 2 had taken from him years ago.


   Comedies in the horror genre are not uncommon. There is ADDAMS FAMILY, REAPER, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and TOPPER. One of the better examples is EERIE, INDIANA.

EERIE, INDIANA (NBC 1991-92, 18 episodes; Disney Channel, 1993, 1 original episode and the original 18) Created by Karl Schaefer & Jose Rivera CAST: Omri Katz as Marshall and Justin Shenkarow as Simon – Creative Consultant: Joe Dante (GREMLINS)

   This cult favorite features two boys exploring their hometown of Eerie Indiana. By all appearances Eerie is your typical small American town but it is really the center of all the weirdness in the Universe.

“The Hole In The Head Gang”(March 1. 1992) Written by Karl Schaefer. Directed by Joe Dante. CAST: John Astin, Justin Whalin and Claude Akins. *** Marshall and Simon meet the ghost of Grungy Bill, the worst bank robber in all history. Grungy had failed to rob the bank of Eerie thirteen times – the last attempt he forgot his gun. Now despite being dead he wants to make another attempt to rob the bank.


   Horror shows are getting better and more graphic. Networks such as FX (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), AMC (WALKING DEAD), SHOWTIME (PENNY DREADFUL), USA (FALLING WATER) and SYFY (CHANNEL ZERO) are producing great horror series.

WYNONNA EARP (SYFY, 2016) Created and Executive Produced by Emily Andras. Based on a graphic novel series created and written by Beau Smith. CAST: Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna, Shamier Anderson as Dolls, Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday and Dominique Provost- Chalkley as Waverly Earp.

   WYNONNA EARP is a western horror series about a demon-fighting descendant of the great Wyatt Earp. This kick-ass series was one of my favorites last season and will return for a second season sometime in 2017.

“Purgatory” (April 1, 2016) Written by Emily Andras Directed by Paolo Barzman. CAST: Michael Eklund, Katherine Barrell and Greg Lawson*** Wynonna reluctantly returns to her hometown and resumes her family responsibly to keep the demons Wyatt Earp had killed from escaping Hell.


   It is unlikely this episode will remain on YouTube for long so here is the SYFY official video explaining the series premise.

   Note the comment from Beau Smith that he created the comic book premise due to his love of Westerns and the old Universal Movie monsters. This brings us full circle from ROUTE 66’s belief the Universal Monsters would live forever.

   The supernatural horror genre may be more graphic today but it maintains the same goals it has had from the beginning – to explore the emotion of fear.


BONUS VIDEO: Temporarily available to watch is the first episode of the new entertaining SYFY horror series VAN HELSING. It is a Van Helsing you have never seen before.

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, PART ONE:
HORROR CARTOONS
by Michael Shonk


   Welcome to this three-part look at horror, beginning with cartoons. Of course as always I try to avoid the obvious examples. Feel free to mention your favorites in the comments.

   Let’s start with one TV series on the silly rather than scary side. COUNT DUCKULA is a small green vegetarian vampire duck. The series was a spin-off of popular British cartoon DANGER MOUSE. With the fun spy spoof DANGER MOUSE a success on American cable network Nickelodeon, those at the network asked for a spin-off and COUNT DUCKULA was created. He appeared in a few episodes of DANGER MOUSE before getting his own series.

COUNT DUCKULA (Nickelodeon, 1988-93, Thames Television, Cosgrove Hall Films)

No Sax Please, We’re Egyptians.” (September 6, 1988)

   The Count had been killed many times but his immoral butler Igor had the power to bring the vampire duck back to life. But during the most recent resurrection a mistake made by the Count’s idiot Nanny resulted in a self-centered cowardly Count Duckula with a fondness for vegetables rather than blood.

   In this the first episode of the series Duckula, Igor, Nanny and unknown to them some thieving crows travel to Egypt in search of the Mystic Saxophone. The story is a good example of the series style – silly absurd humor that can resemble vaudeville and an art style that is pleasing but limited.

   Recommended for all ages.


   Next is AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD. Screw-On Head is a supernatural hero in a steampunk alternative reality.

AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD (Sci-Fi, Kickstart Production, Livingdeadguy Production, Harmony Gold, Liongate, 2006)

“Pilot.” Based on comic book by Mike Mignola. Written, Developed and Executive Produced by Bryan Fuller. Directed by Chris Prynoski. Voice Cast: Paul Giamatti as Screw-On Head, David Hyde Pierce as Emperor Zombie, Patton Oswalt as Mr. Groin and Molly Shannon as Patience.

   It is 1862, and two old ladies (one a werewolf) and a monkey kidnap the foremost expert on ancient evil text. President Lincoln calls Screw-On Head as the President believes this is the work of Screw-On Head’s arch-nemesis Emperor Zombie.

   The animation, Bryan Fuller’s (HANNIBAL, PUSHING DAISIES) script and a talented voice cast all add to a delightfully entertaining horror adventure story. Sadly the Sci-Fi (now Syfy) cable network turned it down.


   Mike Mignola has found more success with another of his comic book creation, Hellboy. Hellboy has been in endless comic books, paperbacks, featured in two theatrical films starring Ron Pearlman and two animated direct to DVD films. BLOOD AND IRON is the second animated film.

HELLBOY: BLOOD AND IRON Cartoon Network, 2007; Starz Media in association with Revolution Studio / Film Roman. Based on the Dark Horse Comic Book “HELLBOY” created by Mike Mignola. Creative Producers Guillermo Del Toro and Mike Mignola. Written by Kevin Hopps. Story by Tad Stones and Mike Mignola. Directed by Victor Cook – Supervising Producer and Director Tad Stones. Voice Cast: Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, Selma Blair as Liz Sherman, and John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm.

   A monster from Professor Bruttenholm’s past may be trying to return. The Professor leads a group from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to investigate a haunted house. It does not take long for Hellboy and his friends to encounter the supernatural. The house proves to be home for hundreds of ghosts and a variety of monsters including the vampire from the Professor’s past and Queen of Witches who wants Hellboy to leave his human friends and return to Hell.

   The movie does have its scary parts and is well directed, but the script offers no surprises. Still BLOOD AND IRON offers something to get you in the mood for Halloween.


   Horror is one of the more popular genres in Japanese anime. But a word of warning: most of Japanese anime should be considered for mature audiences. The two shows I picked have more violence and blood than the American audience is used to seeing in a cartoon. Both feature the first episode from a longer series, yet can be enjoyed without seeing the rest of the series. Those wanting more of CLAYMORE and HELLSING can find both series dubbed and subtitled on Hulu.

CLAYMORE. Nippon Television2007 / VAP / Avex Entertainment / Madhouse / FUNimation . Screenplay by Yasuko Kobayaski. Directed by Hiroyuki Tanuka. Voice Cast: Stephanie Young as Clare, Todd Haberkorn as Raki.

“Scene One: Great Sword”

   A demon known as a Yoma is killing human villagers. A Yoma has the power to assume the shape of any human so the villagers are forced to ask for the help of a Claymore. Claymores are half-Yoma and half female human. Humans fear and hate the Claymores, but only a Claymore can identify a disguised Yoma, and only a Claymore is powerful enough to defeat a Yoma.


HELLSING. Fuji Television, 2001-02. Geneon / FUNimation- Pioneer L.D.C / Gonzo. Based on the comic by Kouta Hirano. Screenwriter: Chiaki J. Konaka. Directed by Yasunori Urata. Voice Cast: Crispin Freeman as Arucard, Victoria Harwood as Integra Hellsing, and K.T. Gray as Seras.

“Order:01 The Undead”

   The British government is helpless against a growing threat of vampires. To keep the secret from the public, they hire the Hellsing Organization to take care of the blood sucking monsters. We are introduced to Arucard a powerful vampire forced to kill his own kind at the orders from his master Integra Hellsing.

   Unfortunately the YouTube video cannot be embedded here because it has been rated TV-MA and “may contain content intended for mature audiences.” You will have to follow the link and log in to confirm you are old enough to watch it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TxnL5VYgoY


NEXT: PART TWO – HORROR RADIO.

COMING SOON – THE TV EDITION
by Michael Shonk


   Most TV junkies claim Fall premiere week as their favorite time of the year, but mine has always been the May upfronts. Upfronts are parties the networks throw for major advertisers, ad agencies and the media in attempt to get them drunk enough to believe next Fall’s TV series will be the best ever and hope they forget the lies the networks told about the quality of last season’s shows.

   In the past, May was the most dramatic month for the TV fanatic. TV viewers embraced hope of the new, relief when their favorites survived, and the devastation when they didn’t. But it is just not the same anymore.

   The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CW) have joined cable networks in the effort to supply original programming all year round. New television series never stop coming. The Big Four and-a-Half networks just announced their fall lineup with huge fan fare ignoring that September is no longer the best month of TV.

   Pushing the limits of space here, let’s check out the highlights of what is coming this week, this Summer, this Fall, and in 2017.

   Just because the main season is over, it doesn’t mean the broadcast networks abandon original programming. WAYWARD PINES is back on FOX. CW has the final season of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. CBS has the return of ZOO and two new series starting in June that sound better than any of CBS new fall shows. AMERICAN GOTHIC tells the story of a family that has discovered one of them is a serial killer. From the creators of THE GOOD WIFE, BRAINDEAD is a comedy thriller about a young woman who discovers aliens are eating the brains of politicians and government workers. NBC has the Olympics this summer but also airs AQUARIUS.

      NBC medical drama NIGHT SHIFT returns for its third season:

   Cable networks offer original scripted programs in May and June including AMC’s new crime drama set in a restaurant, FEED THE BEAST, and the last season of HELL ON WHEELS, HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, TNT’s LAST SHIP, MAJOR CRIMES, MURDER IN THE FIRST, and RIZZOLI & ISLES (final season), TBS’s ANGIE TRIBECA, Cinemax’s OUTCAST, Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, ADULT SWIM’s DECKER: UNCLASSIFIED, and SYFY’s 12 MONKEYS.

   The heck with Marvel and DC, give me an IDW comic book like the fun horror/western WYNONNA EARP.

   Cable original scripted programs continue through the summer with returning series such as SYFY’s KILLJOYS and DARK MATTER, FX’s TYRANT and THE STRAIN, STARZ’s POWER, USA’s SUITS and last year’s hit MR. ROBOT.

   New series include Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS set in the 1980s, a supernatural series centered on a missing boy, SYFY’s post-apocalyptic drama AFTERMATH, and TNT’s GOOD BEHAVIOR based on the Letty Dobesh books by Blake Crouch.

      Based on Stephen Hunter’s book POINT OF IMPACT, USA network new series SHOOTER premieres in July.

   This fall live television, especially sports such as the NFL and World Series, will distract the viewing public. Cable lead by one of the most watched TV series in all television, AMC’s WALKING DEAD will hold its own. TNT reboots TALES FROM THE CRYPT, this time from M. Night Shyamalan.

         Netflix starts another series featuring a Marvel comic character – LUKE CAGE.

   Midseason 2017 promises to offer some entertaining new series on cable networks. USA’s FALLING WATER is a supernatural thriller about three strangers who find they can share dreams. SYFY’s horror anthology CHANNEL ZERO,

      Syfy’s THE EXPANSE, the best TV series I watched in 2015-16, will return for its second season in January 2017.

   Top network CBS will add three new dramas this Fall. BULL starring NCIS Michael Weatherly as Dr Phil back when he was a consultant specializing in manipulating… uh, I mean analyzing juries. Medicine meets technology in the new drama PURE GENUIS.

      The pilot of MACGYVER had many behind the scenes problems. Let’s hope Macgyver can find the right knick knack to save the show.

   Two new CBS series wait for their turn and midseason. DOUBT a lawyer show starring Katherine Heigl, and TRAINING DAY, based on the film. But more important are two series that CBS hopes to premiere in 2017 on CBS ALL ACCESS, its streaming service. First original new series will be the sequel to THE GOOD WIFE. The second is perhaps TV most famous franchise in history. It began on NBC, cancelled and resurfaces as a successful film series. It was used to establish Paramount in the syndicated market. It began UPN (now CW) and tried to save the network before the merger with WB. As Paramount continues to pump out theatrical films, CBS will use STAR TREK to jumpstart its streaming service.

         Without a title or any idea what it is about, the new STAR TREK series is the most anticiated television series of next season.

   Among the CBS series returning in the fall are BLUE BLOODS, CODE BLACK, CRIMINAL MINDS, ELEMENTARY, HAWAII FIVE-O, MADAM SECRETARY, NCIS, NCIS: LOS ANGELES, NCIS: NEW ORLEANS, and SCORPION. While CRIMINAL MINDS – BEYOND BORDERS will be back in 2017.

   SUPERGIRL reminded CBS what its TV audience likes, so the new shows look like the old shows and SUPERGIRL flew off to CBS little sister CW. The comic book superhero will feel comfortable with the rest of DC comic superheroes, ARROW, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and CW’s top show FLASH. CW continues to specialize in comic books, horror and the weird.

      New this fall to the mini-me of broadcast networks is FREQUENCY based on the film.

   Returning during midseason will be THE 100, iZOMBIE, THE ORIGINALS, SUPERNATURAL, and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.

   Midseason, CW will add FOX reject RIVERDALE, based on the characters from Archie comics focused on a murder mystery. But this is not Scooby Doo or your old Archie (even the comic books are not your old Archie), this Archie deals with “adult issues” such as him sleeping with his teacher.

   While CBS remains the top network, NBC is close behind. Its two biggest hits are SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and THE VOICE, each hogging up much of NBC’s fall schedule. This fall NBC adds five games of Thursday night football (CBS shows the first five, NBC has the last five). Without any major holes in its fall schedule, NBC saved its most promising new series for midseason, adding only three to the fall lineup.

      NBC’s only new drama this fall is TIMELESS, the most promising series of the many this season featuring time travel.

   Some of the series returning this fall are BLACKLIST, BLINDSPOT, CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, CHICAGO PD, GRIMM, LAW AND ORDER SVU. SHADES OF BLUE will have to wait for SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL to end.

   Other new shows waiting for their turn include comedies POWERLESS (insurance office comedy set in the world of superheroes), TRAIL & ERROR (court comedy). New dramas are BLACKLIST – REDEMPTION (spinoff), EMERALD CITY (based on Baum’s Land of Oz books), MIDNIGHT, TEXAS (based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris (TRUE BLOOD)), TAKEN (prequel to film series) and what would any NBC list be without another Dick Wolf CHICAGO series, in this case CHICAGO JUSTICE.

   There is hope at FOX. This year they have the Super Bowl guaranteeing better numbers at the end of the season. Ratings are changing, and FOX is pushing the hardest to find a way to count those of us who no longer watch TV live or on a TV set.

   TV is about to enter an era of MONEYBALL. For those not familiar with baseball or the movie or the book, sabermetrics uses an endless amount of numbers to measure performance. Networks like FOX are all ready there, someday the media will catch up.

   Speaking of baseball, FOX will have the World Series this fall as well as new series PITCH (story of first woman to play in Major League Baseball). Other new series of interest coming this fall are THE EXORIST (based on William Blatty’s novel), and LETHAL WEAPON (based on the film).

      My pick for first fall show cancelled is FOX’s SON OF ZORN, an animated barbarian tries to cope in live action modern world.

   Shows returning in fall include BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, insane GOTHAM, LUCIFER, ROSEWOOD, SCREAM QUEENS, and QUINTCO. Series returning in midseason include SLEEPY HOLLOW and the final season of BONES.

   Among the new series waiting for 2017 are APB (rich man buys a police precinct), MAKING HISTORY (time travel comedy), SHOTS FIRED (racially charged shooting involving a cop), and PRISON BREAK (sequel to 2005 TV series).

      FOX is hoping 24 – LEGACY will be as successful as the original 24.

   ABC did not have a good year. Its president of programming was sacrificed to the Nielsen Ratings Gods in prayers for better numbers in the demo.There was not enough time to change the fall offerings, but it is expected ABC will copy CBS and NBC with less soap operas and more procedurals.

   ABC’s new fall dramas of interest to us begins with DESIGNATED SURVIVOR starring Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ends up President after a terrorist attack takes out most of the leaders of the American government. CONVICTION with Hayley Atwell (AGENT CARTER) as a spoiled former first daughter who is forced under threat of jail to lead a small group investigating cases where the convicted might be innocent.

      NOTORIOUS is about the seduction between law and the media.

   Returning this fall are HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and ONCE UPON A TIME. While these returning series have to wait until midseason their turn – AMERICAN CRIME, THE CATCH, SCANDAL and SECRETS & LIES.

      Among the new ABC shows waiting for midseason is TIME AFTER TIME, based on the movie and stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells.

   Over one hundred TV series in the 2015-16 season were cancelled or ended. RIP.

GHOST STORY “The New House.” NBC. Pilot episode, 60m, 17 March 1972. Sebastian Cabot (host), David Birney, Barbara Parkins, Sam Jaffe, Jeanette Nolan, Caitlin Wyles. Written by Richard Matheson. Producer: William Castle. Director: John Llewellyn Moxey.

   As the pilot film for a proposed series, Ghost Story: The New House was aired in the spring of 1972, paired up, I am told, with the pilot for another series, the name of which I do not know, nor of course do I know whether the other would-be series was successful or not. [LATER: But see the first comment!] Ghost Story was picked up, however, with the first episode of its first and only season airing on 15 September 1972.

   There were in total 23 episodes in this anthology series with a supernatural slant, including the pilot, but it ran into difficulty 13 shows into the run. The series went off the air briefly on 22 December 1972, and when it came back on 5 January 1973 under the title Circle of Fear. Sebastian Cabot as the host was dropped, and the emphasis was no longer on ghost stories.

   Ghost Story came along a year before Thriller, a somewhat similar series created by Brian Clemens appeared in the UK, and even though the shows I’ve seen so far from the latter have been uneven in quality, unfortunately I think the worst has been better than “The New House.”

   What it is is the story of a young couple, the wife pregnant, who move into a new house, only to find that it was built on the land where a young girl in the 18th century was hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. Soon the wife begins to hear strange noises at night, with no apparent cause, even though she wakes her husband up to go check. He is very exasperated by this, since he hears nothing.

   There was one short scene that made me jump, close to the end with the power off (in the story) and a thunderstorm crashing all around the house, the wife alone with the newly born baby.

   Other than that, I was not convinced. Neither star seemed to really get into the spirit of things, nor — even though I am sure this was done deliberately — do I believe that newly built homes in the US with dishwashers and modern two-car garages are conducive to ghostly hauntings. They seem to do this kind of story a whole lot better in England.

   I also think that once you accept the premise that ghosts can exist, and that they are not necessarily friendly, that they ought to act logically, not bang around and make nuisances of themselves when they really have evil intent in mind.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          


INTRUDERS. BBC2 / BBC-America, 2014. John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain, Millie Bobby Brown, Tory Kittles, Robert Forster, Alex Diakun. Series developed by Glen Morgan and written by Morgan, Kristin Cloke, and Darin Morgan, based on the novel by Michael Marshall Smith. Episodes directed by Daniel Stamm and Eduardo Sanchez.

         “In the beginning there was death.”

   Intruders is an eight episode television series from BBCA based on the works of novelist Michael Marshall Smith who also writes as Michael Marshall (The Straw Man). Smith pens horror as well as crime fiction, and his “Straw Man” series is perhaps the most innovative and best serial killer trilogy penned, far exceeding Thomas Harris post-Silence of the Lambs output in the genre.

   Intruders is horror, but it is also a puzzling mystery, fantasy, and an atmospheric and often disconcerting series mindful of something that might have run in John Campbell Jr.s classic pulp Unknown. This one owes as much to Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think or Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife as Stephen King.

   Jack Whelan (John Simm) is a former cop turned writer married to beautiful Amy (Mira Sorvino), an angel of sorts who saved him from the bottle. When an old friend from high school, Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles) shows up asking for help to solve the disappearance of a man called Bill Anderson whose family was murdered, Jack has little incentive to help, but his life begins to spin out of control shortly after when Amy disappears after curious behavior.

   Meanwhile nine year old Madison O’Donnell (Millie Bobby Brown) is a strange child living on the Washington coast with her mother in a summer home and is behaving strangely herself, especially after Richard Shepherd (James Frain) turns up and shows Madison a sand dollar, giving her his black business card bearing the number 9, then threatening to kill her. Like Amy, Madison runs away, and, like Amy, she shows surprising skill at doing it.

   Jack’s world spirals out of control as he begins to unravel his wife’s lies, leading him back to Gary Fischer and Bill Anderson who are tied to Amy in ways he could not suspect, and draws him into conflict with Richard Shepherd and his mentor Frank Shepherd (Robert Forster) and the people they work for, the mysterious Rose Gilchrist, and something called Qui Reverte, a mysterious group who hands people strange business cards with a 9 on them, and an even stranger manual to surviving death.

   I won’t be giving too much away to reveal the Qui Reverte claim that no one in their group dies They believe they have lived multiple lives over the centuries. Richard Shepherd is a just that, a shepherd, a figure who helps members cross over for their various rebirths — even killing them when they resist — or rather when the other soul in the body they are reborn in does.

   Amy is somehow tied to all this, as is Madison, who is apparently possessed by Marcus Fox (wonderfully creepy Alex Diakun: “What goes around comes around.”), a long lived monster the Qui Reverte condemned but who was saved by Richard whom he bribed to shepherd him back. Under his power Madison is a deadly killer in unsuspected form, and some to the most disturbing scenes in the series involve this nine year old killer (usually shown off camera, but still disturbing) under his influence.

   Jack is a reasonable and rational man who believes his wife has been taken over by a cult following her miscarriage, but it becomes increasingly hard to remain skeptical as he delves deeper into the Qui Reverte, and finds himself sometimes allied with the murderous Richard Shepherd who for some reason twice refuses to kill him.

   I watched this first when it was serialized on BBCA, but recently binge watched all eight episodes in two days where I appreciated even more the novelistic approach of the series and how well it adapts Smith’s novel (not without some changes).

   There is little gore here, it is much more about mystery and atmosphere and the almost Woolrichian fate of Jack Whelan as his world falls apart and everything he believed proves a lie or a half truth at best. At times you may be as confused as he is, but stick to the end and all, or at least most, will be revealed.

   The plot is resolved, but left open for more, as new doors open for Jack even as old ones shut, and his journey into Qui Reverte and its secrets just begins. Intruders will draw you in deeper as the mysteries are solved and deeper ones revealed. You may never look at anyone you know the same again after watching it, though.

   Like the best of this kind of horror fiction, it is the frisson and not the gore or the monster leaping out at you that you will recall. If you wonder where intelligent horror went, after all the big screen splatter fests, gimmicky hand-held cameras, and gore, this is one place to find it.

   In its own quiet way this tough smart little horror outing is ultimately more frightening than all the Jason’s, Freddie’s and vampires creeping about and it is presented as a genuine mystery, though, like Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, the solution may be more frightening than the mystery. This hits all too close to home for anyone who has ever wondered about the stranger they share their life with, or how well you know anyone, even yourself.