You know, not very long ago the only television I watched was The X-Files and Millenium. Then both those fine programs went the way of the Skater-Cut and I was left perusing HGTV and TLC with my wife for various home improvement programming. Several Christmases ago, at my request, my wife bought me the complete first season of 24. I had heard good things about it, so I mentioned it in passing and to my surprise, she got it for me. Well, that thing sat there still in the shrink wrap for 3 years, until finally this January, for lack of anything else to do, we plopped ourselves onto the sofa and put Disc 1. We were instantly hooked. We burned through that season, sometimes watching as many as 4 episodes a night. After that we were like junkies, calling all the local video chains to see if anyone rented season 2 and 3 and so forth. Well, I ended up buying season 2, watching it all in record time, renting season 3, again, watching it in record time. The good and the bad of DVD TV is that you cannot delay gratification. So, this left us, particularly me, with a void in our viewing lives. Season 4 was not gonna’ be out for quite some time, so now what? My son convinced me to start watching Alias on DVD and I was not excited about it. Afterall, how could anything compete with the total soul absorption created by 24? It started slow, to be sure, I was fighting it, but slowly it hooked me. Now here I was again, needing a fix of Alias every night and burning through three years worth of programming in a matter of weeks. And, just like before here I was, out of discs, fourth season not out on DVD yet, and season 5 already underway on TV. Oh, the heartache…………..So, from one point in time of watching little or no TV, I have mutated into an avid TV viewer. Go figure. This led me to check out the multitude of “supernatural” based TV shows that premiered this season, evidently in an attempt to fill the enormous void left by the departure of the much loved X-Files. The following is my wrap up on many of those shows, which ones made my viewing list and which ones burnt out fast.
Aliens and Monsters and Things that go Bump in the night……………
I guess we should begin by categorizing this onslaught of scary programming: there are the alien shows; Threshold, Surface, and Invasion. There are the monster shows; Supernatural and The Night Stalker; and there are the spooky, ghosty, weird contact the dead type shows; Medium and Ghost Whisperer. In fairness, Medium actually started earlier this year so it got a good head start on other similar shows. And well it should as it is clearly one of the best of this new group of creep-you-out creations. In order to minimize my propensity for editorializing without a comma, I’ll cut to the shows that I actually am still watching since the premiere.
Of the alien school, only Invasion is still on my weekly radar but it is a tenuous hold at best. It has a conspicuous “mini-series” feel and premise to it. In other words I can’t really tell yet how in the hell the writers intend to keep this storyline going for more than one or two seasons. Basic idea? During a major hurricane in the southeast, aliens descend upon the swampland and apparently “take over” certain residents of the town. Only a handful of folks seem to suspect what has really occurred, even though all manner of military types are swarming all over the landscape, acting typically sneaky and secretive. Then there is another group of folks whose awareness is on a much more personal level, they are “hosting” the alien entity. Got it so far? Well, I’m hangin’ in there with it but in the last few episodes huge amounts of nothing have happened and my initial interest is seriously on the wane. Threshold only held my attention for 3 episodes. Again, aliens in the water. The hook here appeared to be that encounters with these aliens manifested itself in some weird tattoo looking pattern being burned into your psyche. The cast was ridiculously eccentric, including an actor, who is also a dwarf, playing a language specialist I suppose called into to see if the aliens had any speech problems. Other members of the top secret team of alien hunters included the usual prerequisite of cliché brainy types called together for, blah, blah, blah………….my prediction? One season at best. Lastly, Surface is yet another aliens within the oceans storyline that I didn’t even see one episode of. But I was just burnt out with the whole alien-water paradigm. So sue me.
Monsters? Yep, Supernatural’s got ‘em, and if you can get past the super young, super good looking, super hip, and so typically WB casting, this show actually has some freaky moments. Like so many of the other new shows, this one has a “thread”, a story arc that continues in and behind each stand alone episode. Here’s the deal; Dad’s a ghost hunter. Early in the lives of his two boys, Mom was mysteriously incinerated on the ceiling of the master bedroom, causing Dad to dedicate his life to tracking down the cause and along the way, dealing a degree of hurt to whatever other form of weirdness crossed his path. That’s just the prologue. Next we fast forward to the two boys, now all growed up and gone their separate ways. The older boy, Dean, works with Dad in the family business. Younger bro is trying to make a go of it in college but his plans are shattered when older brother appears on the scene to inform him that Dad is “missing” after going on one of his “hunts”. Well, lil’ bro is reluctant but then HIS girlfriend is, you guessed it, mysteriously incinerated on the ceiling of HIS bedroom! Now, I’m not sure what all this spontaneous combustion and bedroom ceilings have to do with the overall story, but each episode of Supernatural introduces all manner of shapeshifters, creeps and critters. Sure, it’s derivative and liberally borrows from loads of past and current sources, some more obvious than others, but on the whole it’s a pretty entertaining show. The Night Stalker on the other hand started out by making the mistake of trying to “hip” up a cult TV show from the 70’s that had and has a huge following. I am keeping up with it, but it’s losing me with each episode. Again, this show has a thread, a back story relating to the death of the new Kolchak’s wife under mysterious, and supernatural, circumstances. The new Kolchak is younger, hipper, arguably better looking, but is totally devoid of all the great quirks, and sense of humor that Darren McGavin’s Kolchak endeared to a generation of fans. The new Kolchak is also saddled with partners, the hip, savvy black female reporter, clearly playing Scully to his Mulder; and the goofy, photographer sidekick who serves as the arbiter between these two hotheads. The storylines are somewhat original, but are missing the clever and entertaining moments that the original Stalker employed through the use of continuous voice over narration by McGavin. All in all, it’s a disappointment at best and I wouldn’t hold your breath for season two.
So what about folks who see dead people? Well, I haven’t seen one episode of Ghost Whisperer yet, I’ve heard some good buzz, but I just can’t cheat on my girl Patricia Arquette. I started watching Medium earlier in the year and I’m still TiVoing it. It’s a top notch show that seamlessly weaves the supernatural element into its themes of work and family and the stresses of managing both on little income all the while being counseled or cajoled by dead people. The show has many genuine creep outs and scary moments and for my money is the one show that most closely captures the X-Files feel, charm and chills. I recommend it, if your not watching it now, start………or wait a few seasons and get yourself hooked on the DVD’s and then strung out waiting for the new season to start. What’s the worst that could happen? You may stumble on to some other half decent programming or find yourself wading through a deluge of wet aliens! If theres one thing I learned in all this, it's that shows like Medium are rare when they're well done. Happy Watching!
HEY YOU! Got an opinion? Shoot me an email and let me know what you think.