Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel - Horror on TV
You often hear the phrase "The Golden Age of Television" referring to the early days of TV, the 1940's through the late '50's-early '60's. But for horror fans, it isn't hard to argue the fact that the golden age of television is occurring right now.
Sure, who doesn't love "The Honeymooners," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" or "I Love Lucy"? The Golden Age of Television was a great time. But due to an incredible amount of quality horror programming, fans of the dark side of TV know that they've never had more intense, boundary-pushing shows than they do right now. And it's for that reason that this month we give a Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel to Horror on TV!
There is a veritable cornucopia of scary, gory content on television these days, and we've all got our favorite shows. And regardless of whether you prefer "Dexter," "The Walking Dead" or "American Horror Story," the fact is, there's never been so much extreme horror on the tube. Hell, it wasn't but a couple of weeks ago that "American Horror Story" had Lana contemplating giving herself a coat hanger abortion. And that's on FX! We're not talking about some pay-per-view station buried way up your cable dial. We’re talking FX, as in an offshoot of FOX television. It doesn't get much more mainstream than that.
So let's take a look at some of the great shows that are making television such a treasure chest of horror. And there is no better program to begin with than the one that is the face of an entire sub-genre of horror. Yes, we need look no further than AMC for a program that has simply transcended your TV screen and become a cultural phenomenon. Of course I'm referring to "The Walking Dead."
Not only is "The Walking Dead" one of the greatest horror series of all time, it's actually making a claim to becoming one of the greatest television shows ever. Period. "The Walking Dead" has come a long way from an experimental six-episode first season to its eagerly anticipated 16-episode Season Three that has solidified the show as damn near legendary. It's managed to survive, and even excel, in spite of (and perhaps because of) killing off huge characters on a regular basis and being able to infuse new, dynamic setpieces into the story on a week-to-week basis. "The Walking Dead" is as unpredictable as it is magnetic and is indeed must-see TV.
And the word unpredictable gives us an easy segue into another outstanding series that is unfolding as we speak right on your tele. "American Horror Story" is nothing if not unpredictable. Many viewers feel that the remarkable Season 2 is a bit more disjointed than the original offering, but that is indeed what gives this show its charm. Sure, "The Walking Dead" has zombies, but after the zombies, there are rules. Rick isn't going to discover a pack of werewolves, vampires or a sack of magic beans. There are zombies, and the supernatural element ends there. However in "American Horror Story," especially in Chapter 2: Asylum, you never know what you're going to get. There are aliens and serial killers and crazy things living in the woods. You've got Nazis and Nazi hunters, and even Anne Frank showed up for a couple episodes! The content pushes the boundaries of what can be shown on television perhaps more forcefully than any other broadcast on the air today and does so in an incredibly effective fashion.
Indeed the reason the show is so effective is an outstanding cast. Carried over from Season 1, but in an entirely new tale, the cast of "American Horror Story" is outstanding. Led by the timeless Jessica Lange and containing standout performances by Lily Rabe, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson, it continues to impress on a weekly basis. Joseph Fiennes, Evan Peters, Lizzie Brocheré and Dylan McDermott flesh out the incredible cast. The show is a roller coaster ride of surprises and cannot be described as anything less than thoroughly entertaining.
Even as the newer shows like "The Walking Dead" and "American Horror Story" have arrived to bolster the roster of horror on television, we must remember some of our old standbys that have been with us for quite some time. "Dexter" continues to weave an intricate and enthralling story. Having mastered the cliffhanger episode, "Dexter" has become more than just another TV cop show; Dex and his dark passenger are a symbol of the anti-hero that we as a society so often fall in love with. Even through his quirks and faults (can mass murder be considered a character flaw?), Dexter is a beloved character that we get behind every week. Sure, he has his foibles, but down deep Dexter is a good guy. Damn near a superhero. He just wears his cape a bit differently than we're used to.
With excellent storytelling and the ability to choose the right antagonists for Dexter to hunt, the show continues to thrive even after seven seasons. We're yet to know if the upcoming Season 8 will be the final one for "Dexter," but whenever this outstanding series comes to a close, we certainly have to hope it contains Dexter riding his boat, Slice of Life, off into the sunset with Harrison by his side.
And yes, it has its warts, but you've still gotta love the sexy naughtiness that is "True Blood." The sangre, the nudity, the beasties…"True Blood" does bring us the colorful side of TV horror. Sookie and the rest of the crew may find themselves in some ridiculous situations from time to time, but the show brings enough quality additional elements to keep audiences coming back.
And guys, tell me Jessica and Pam aren't worth tuning in for on their own?! Va-va-va-voom!
Television has certainly delivered lately, and there is one additional show to highlight. Found on the elusive FEARnet channel, "Holliston" is proving to be brilliant. Adam Green's sitcom co-starring Joe Lynch, Corri English and Laura Ortiz with Dee Snider and Oderus Urungus seems to hit a home run with every episode. Fans of horror love the crazy practical F/X, the cameo appearances by horror legends like Bill Moseley, Tony Todd and Derek Mears and the references to films only genre fans will understand. And on the other side, casual watchers are sure to love the witty writing and Adam and Corri's "Moonlighting"-esque (how's that for a timely reference…back when Bruce Willis had hair) love story.
"Holliston" recently returned to the air with its Christmas episode, which was incredibly entertaining and proved the quality material from Season 1 was no fluke. This show is the real deal, and Season 2 should be more of the same outstanding writing, quirky performances and unique television we've come to expect from "Holliston". Oh, and another season of watching the lovely Corri and Laura will certainly be a treat.
Long barren of quality horror, television has certainly come around. We all have our favorite programs, and I've touched on just a few here. Plus, there's more to come with "Hannibal," "Bates Motel," "Cult" and "The Following."
Feel free to shout about your favorites in the comments section. But whether you're a "True Blood" fang-banger, under the command of "The Walking Dead's" Rick-tatorship or tend to lean more toward "Supernatural," "The Vampire Diaries" or "Grimm," we can all agree that it is truly a great time and why we give this Tip of the Scalpel to Horror on TV!
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Tell us who makes your cut in the comments section below.