You don’t have to be Peter Venkman to know that paranormal is popular. Some of the most-watched shows on cable television revolve around elements of fear and the unknown – be it ghosts, creepy psychic teens, or a fire in the sky. Over the years, TV execs have tapped into this fascination with gripping, sensationalized, paranormal programming. I’ve found the following shows to be a disembodied head and shoulders above the rest:
Image Source: Syfy.com
If you know ghost shows, then you know Jason and Grant. Since 2004, the crew of the Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) has explored the darkened corners and dusty confines of some of America’s most haunted establishments. Sure, these dads aren’t proving the existence of an afterlife or even proving anything really but, gosh darnit, every hour I spend with those guys is an hour well-spent. Perhaps that’s why Ghost Hunters, now in its 8th season, is the longest-running reality show on Syfy.
Image Source: aetv.com
Ryan Buell takes ghost-hunting very seriously. At times, the stoic, seldom-smiling host of Paranormal State seems more haunted than the houses he investigates. It’s that seriousness which is both terrifying and intriguing. Mostly because it underscores the fact that Ryan and the rag-tag crew of Penn State’s Paranormal Research Society (PRS) might actually believe in ghosts they are hunting. Unlike other shows in the genre, Paranormal State gives more focus to the human and research elements of their cases, making episodes more like mini-documentaries than thrillers.
Image Source: Syfy.com
Syfy warns viewers against watching Paranormal Witness alone and, no lie, this show almost scared the bejesus out of me. Maybe it was the reenactments or perhaps it was the fact that I was watching in the dark – what ever the reason, this show was terrifying. Paranormal Witness is cinematic to the core, combining drama and lore with documentary-style narratives.
Image Source: zap2it.com
Sure, the producers of Ghostly Encounters probably need to hire a new graphics guy. And, while they’re at it, they probably need to get a new host, too. Everything else though, from the first-hand ghost stories to the reenactments and set design (or lack thereof) is totally engaging. Oh, and every one speaks in a Canadian accent – which is, of course, just the icing on the cake.
The Dead Files
Image Source: travelchannel.com
The Dead Files turn the classic psychic investigative show on its head with a tormented medium (Amy) and a retired New York City homicide detective (Steve). This team is like the Turner and Hooch of ghost shows! The best part of The Dead Files, however, is in the different “investigation” tactics. Whereas Steve resorts to his professional training, Amy relies on what appears to be a mild form of spirit possession. It’s kind of awkward – and utterly amazing.
Horror movies of the found-footage variety have risen and fallen in popularity in the dozen years since The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm. In the wake of recent buzzy movies in this genre (including The Devil Inside and Chronicle) it should be no surprise that the trend is finally making the jump to television.
ABC’s The River (co-created by Oren Pelli, creator of the found-footage juggernaut Paranormal Activity franchise) follows a family as they search for their missing husband and father. He happens to be a famed Steve Irwin-esque explorer who traveled the world looking for amazing creatures. This enables the show’s conceit; they are funding the search through a documentary with an accompanying crew filming their search. Think The Office, but with missing people, and ghosts.
Our new blog series Don’t Miss This Episode takes you in to the standout episodes of your favorite shows.
Musical episodes of otherwise non-musical shows can be a tricky thing. Too easily they can fall into gimmickry, or the music itself can be lacking, or the actors look intensely out of their depth for the full length of the episode. But when they work, boy do they work. Continue reading →
Paul sees dead people. And yes, he’s aware of the fact that he sounds like The Sixth Sense. The Fades premiered this month and is the latest in the onslaught of BBC sci-fi/fantasy shows. BBC America seems to have been capitalizing on the supernatural-friendly audience drawn in by Doctor Who with shows likeBeing Human. The Fades is the latest addition to the Supernatural Saturday line-up and follows Paul, a socially awkward teen who has the ability to see the dead. Continue reading →
[WARNING: This article may contain spoilers] When Frank Darabont was let go from The Walking Dead, it was rumored that a cast member who was loyal to the director had asked to be let go from his or her contract. A recent casting report by Variety magazine may have spilled the beans on which actor that had been.
Frank Darabont is beginning casting for a pilot called L.A. Noir for TNT, based on the book by John Buntin. Darabont has tapped Jon Bernthal as the lead actor. You know Bernthal on The Walking Dead as Shane, the disgruntled deputy and Rick’s number two. Although nothing is concrete, it’s safe to assume that Bernthal was the actor asked out of his contract, and judging by the way Shane has been conflicting with the rest of the survivors in season two, it’s almost a sure bet.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to fans of the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman. Shane was killed early on in the comics, although the television series has made a number of changes from its comic counterpart. The question that still remains is how Shane will bite it in the television series. Pretty much everybody is leery of Shane at this point—but who will be the one to actually pull the trigger?
Rick and Shane have been battling it out as co-leaders for too long. Perhaps Shane’s stunt with the barn will be the final straw for Rick, or maybe it’ll be an act of self defense on Rick’s behalf. Either way, it’d be poetic justice for Shane, who always said Rick couldn’t make the hard decisions.
Dale and Shane have already had some nasty words with one another and Dale seemed ready to do what needed to be done—if it ever came to that. Dale might not be much in a one-on-one fight with Shane, but he’d have a good chance of sniping him off at a distance on top of his RV.
Hershel already hates the fact that Rick and company have decided to crash on his lawn, but when Shane slaughtered his zombie friends and family that might have just crossed the line. If Hershel does take him down, we’re betting Shane takes him down with him.
Now that Lori is pregnant, who knows what she’ll do to protect her family. If Shane gets too possessive or wants to be a part of the baby’s life, she might just kill him off to keep him away for good.
Carl might look young, but he’s not so innocent anymore. Fans of the comic know that Carl was the one who originally killed Shane—it might just play out the same way on screen.
If Patricia ever found out that Shane killed her husband Otis in order to save Carl’s life, who knows what she might be capable of.
Villains are the driving force behind TV. Without a good villain, there wouldn’t be anything for the good guys to do for 22 minutes. But a bad guy needs to be more than just evil – you can’t have a dude running around with horns and a pitchfork and expect the audience to shiver in terror.
In a time when television audiences have seen just about anything, you really have to create a villain who can be unique in his own special little way, creating a sort of brand of creepiness that viewers can latch onto. Whether you make the bad guy charming and seductive or psychotically insane, you’ve got to give him a certain essence of character that makes him stand out.
Here are 5 villains that succeed at that task.
5. Sylar – Heroes
Sylar is a selfish, ambitious super-powered maniac with the power to absorb the powers of others by getting into their brains. Blech. That whole ick factor helped to make Sylar a particularly memorable villain, but what made Sylar tip the creepometer into dangerously high levels is everything he did while he wasn’t performing amateur lobotomies.
That Special Brand of Creepy: Sylar is a nerd. He spends all of his time alone working on clocks. He’s tall, pale, a bit awkward, and has a somewhat unhealthy focus on his mother. Even his name is weird.
What makes Sylar so creepy is that we all know Sylar. Maybe not Sylar, exactly, but we all remember that one guy from school who was awkward, quiet, and just couldn’t quite fit in. What did that nerdy kid do after the bullies picked on him? He probably entertained revenge fantasies wherein he gained super powers and punched the spinal columns out of the football team. Sylar is a portrayal of what that guy would do if the wrong person really did get super powers. And you know what? He probably has a reason to come to your house and punch out your spinal column because of one mean thing you said to him in 4th grade.
4. Hexadecimal – Reboot
Image: Reboot Revival
I know I’m getting pretty obscure with this one, but Hexadecimal deserves a spot on the list. I watched a ton of cartoons when I was young, and each one had a big bad evil guy trying to out plot and out Mwa-ha-ha the last. Hexademical stood out as the creepiest villain in all of cartoon land.
Reboot was a computer animated series that took place inside of a computer. Megabyte and Hexademical were the 2 baddies of the series. Megabyte was big, physically imposing, and constantly scheming. Hexademical, however, was some kind of chaotic force, like insanity incarnate.
What made this personified virus so creepy was that she wore a mask, which changed as quickly as her emotions. Her lips never moved, giving her a sort of inhuman quality.
That Special Brand of Creepy: There’s this concept known as the uncanny valley, which states that nonhuman things become extremely disturbing as they slowly become more and more lifelike. It’s why the soulless gaze of a porcelain doll is disturbing, and why Big Dog’s video has millions of views. The uncanny valley awakens that primal part of our brain and warns us that whatever that is, it’s definitely not human.
That’s what hexadecimal provokes, a subtle chills-down-your-spine sensation. She won’t terrify any adult audiences, granted, but I remember being utterly captivated by her when I was a kid, both fascinated by her bizarre appearance and weirded out by her face.
3. T-Bag – Prison Break
That is precisely what goes through your head every second that T-Bag is on the screen. Just seeing this guy makes you want to grab for your rape whistle and change the channel to Law & Order: SVU.
That Special Brand of Creepy: T-Bag isn’t difficult to imagine. He’s real. There are thousands of people just like T-Bag out there in the world right now. And the worst part? A lot of them aren’t in prison.
2. The Ice Truck Killer – Dexter
Image: Billward Writer
We spent all season following Dexter, a serial killer who does wrong things and knows he shouldn’t. His murderous foil is the Ice Truck Killer, a serial killer who does wrong things and delights in it. The Ice Truck Killer is particularly scary because we’ve seen what Dexter is like. We know how good he is at what he does, and how monstrous he would be if he slipped and embraced his calling.
That Special Brand of Creepy: At times, it can be hard to watch Deb gleefully go on dates with a man who plans to murder her as a coup de grace for his fraternal reunion with Dexter. It makes you look at your significant other and wonder if he isn’t hiding an ice pick with your name on it under his mattress.
1. The Daleks – Doctor Who
The creator of Doctor Who, Sydney Newman, had a problem with traditional alien villains, which were usually just people with some dumb mask. He wanted the show’s villains to be so completely inhuman that it was impossible to relate with them.
And so, the Daleks were born, a race of aliens with a major case of narcissism that could feel no emotions other than hatred and anger.
At first glance, the Daleks look a bit absurd with their odd voices and their R2-D2-inspired appearance, but the Daleks gradually get under your skin as you watch more and more episodes.
That Special Brand of Creepy: What makes the Daleks so memorable is that their designers remove as many human elements as possible to create an entity that is capable of reason but chooses not to. Because Daleks are covered in a metal shell, the automatic assumption is that Daleks forsake all physical contact. With their catchy tag line, “Exterminate!” it’s pretty clear that they aren’t interested in connecting on any social level, either.
They’re less like living entities and more like a force of nature. Daleks are disturbing in the same way that a forest fire that could talk would be disturbing, or an earthquake that could think. Sure, you could try to reason with them, to beg these natural disasters not to wipe you off the face of the earth, but the knowledge that your attempt will utterly fail leaves you with a rather unsettling feeling in your gut.
The doctors of Grey’s Anatomy have been through a lot: surgeries, break-ups, bomb scares and more. On the February 2nd episode of the show, viewers will get a chance to see an alternate reality for their favorite doctors had Ellis Grey never had Alzheimer’s, leading to very different life outcomes for her daughter Meredith. Let’s take a look at other shows that have ventured into “alt-reality” territory.
When it comes to True Blood anything is possible. Many characters on the show have been “killed” in one way or another but their story continues on the show. Along the way, we have lost some incredible characters that we sorely miss. Continue reading →
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict where TV is heading in the year to come. Based on what was trending in 2011, and looking ahead to the television events already on the horizon, we can make some educated guesses as to what the TV landscape will be like in 2012.
Music TV Will Be Everywhere Other Than MTV
Sure MTV might not stand for “Music Television” anymore, but who needs one channel dedicated to music when every channel is breaking out into song and dance. In 2012, expect singing competitions like “The Voice” and musical dramas like “Smash” to keep the musical trend going. After all, as they say, the beat goes on.
Vampires Are Out, Magic is In
Image: Hollywood Reporter
The vampire craze may have finally peaked, however it may be replaced by magic and fairy tales in the years to come. Shows like “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” proved that TV viewers could handle magical fairy tale themes in prime time. Even HBO’s “True Blood” has shifted focus from vampires to witches and fairies in the recent seasons.
New Faces Hosting Your Favorite TV Shows
Image: US Magazine
Everywhere you look in 2012, there will be new faces on daytime TV. Kelly Ripa still hasn’t found a suitable host to replace Regis, but we’re expecting for her to finally settle on a co-star sometime in early 2012. Meanwhile, NBC has been openly considering “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest to takeover hosting “The Today Show.”
What’s Old is New
Image: Boston Herald
The recent success of “90210” and “Hawaii Five-O” has proven that TV remakes are a viable option for networks to rely on. In 2012, producer Bryan Fuller of “Pushing Daisies” fame will be remaking “The Munsters”—which goes to show that in 2012 any remake is possible.
The Olympics Provide a Reason to Stay In This Summer
Image: New York Times
You might want to cancel your vacation to Legoland this year because the London 2012 Olympics may just occupy your summer. All eyes will be watching to see how London tries to top the mind-blowing opening ceremonies from the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Horror is in the House
Although horror is usually considered a niche genre, the popularity of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and FX’s recent hit “American Horror Story” have proven that there’s an audience for macabre programming. Expect things to get much darker on TV from now on, especially around Halloween 2012.
Say So Long to Soaps
The last few soap operas will likely call it quits in 2012, making it the end of a long era of serialized television stories. Nowadays fans are too busy to keep up with their soaps, while prime time televisions dramas are swooping in to fill the void.
Since 2012 is an election year, we can expect plenty of political humor in the coming months. This is when shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show” are at their best as the 24-hour news cycle allows for every second of the election to become satirical fodder.
It’s time for your second round of presents from your favorite TV personalities. You got plenty of great gifts in part 1, so let’s see what else is waiting for you under the tree. Unwrap your presents to find out!
1. Dr. House – House
When you want a cure for a rare and bizarre disease, come to Dr. House. When you want to feel good about yourself and hang out with a buddy, keep on walking. House isn’t exactly the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet, but he can still give a decent Christmas gift when the time comes.
Image: Web Timesharejuice
2. SVU Group – Law and Order: SVU
Working the hard crimes of the Special Victims Unit is bound to leave people a little cynical. Luckily, the holidays are all about letting go of some of that negativity to celebrate life and happiness. The crew might get a bit stressed with all of the evil they experience on a daily basis, that hasn’t stopped them from pitching in and buying you a really thoughtful – and useful – stocking stuffer.
3. Elena – Vampire Diaries
Living around a bunch of vampires is a rather exhilarating experience for a sexy young woman. On the one side of the coin, you get to be surrounded by a bunch of smoky, sexy vampire guys. On the flip side is the whole blood sucking thing. That’s kind of a buzz kill. So, how does Elena cope with all of the love triangle drama and remain sane? This year, Elena is sharing with you her personal, secret outlet for all of her pent-up sexual frustration.
4. Jayne – Firefly
Jayne can be a rough and tumble guy, but his heart’s in the right place when it matters (by that, I mean that it’s in the right place if you’ve recently paid him). Any diehard Browncoat knows that Jayne can really pull out all of the stops and give a very thoughtful gift. Just don’t expect to get Vera, his very favorite gun; he doesn’t give away things like that to just anyone.
5. The Soup Nazi – Seinfeld
When you want the best soup in all of New York, get your money ready and go over to the Soup Nazi’s place. Just don’t mess around at the cashier. But don’t worry too much, you’re on his good side! And this year he got you something special.