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TV Wasteland: Bring Out the Gimp
American Horror Story looks to turn traditional television on its ear.
By Rob Vaux
October 02, 2011
Way back in the early 90s, ABC changed television history by giving David Lynch a budget and telling him to go nuts. He did, and the results (a little number called Twin Peaks) have yet to be duplicated. It allowed other alternative shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives to flourish. Now, with television creativity fleeing en masse to cable, FX has announced its intentions to truly emulate Lynch’s out-there sensibilities.
That, in turn, produced American Horror Story, a ripe slice of Gothic soap whose billboards have been giving people a serious case of the creeps over the last few weeks. It entails a family who move to LA from the East Coast into a gorgeous home they bought for a song. Turns out, the place is haunted, with an ugly past that comes bleeding (presumably quite literally) into the lives of the new owners.
Horror has always been a tricky equation on television; even Twin Peaks could only manage a couple of seasons. But with the success of The Walking Dead and alternative ideas finding fertile ground on stations like FX, the concept could really pay off this time. The question is whether American Horror Story really has a compelling narrative, or if it’s just parlaying its weird-for-weird’s-sake credentials for some quick promotional qualities. We’ll find out this Wednesday when the show premieres on FX at 10:00 PM EDT.
Terra Nova (Fox, 8:00 PM EDT)
The colony comes under attack from a flock (?) of pterosaurs. Given that this show officially blows dead pterosaurs, it’s a convenient fit.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The two-hour season finale finds H.G. Wells teaching high school in Wyoming, while possibly stealing a vital Warehouse file in her free time.
Death Valley (MTV, 10:30 PM EDT)
Those wacky vampires turn to underaged girls to fill their ranks. Clearly they haven’t read Interview with the Vampire or they’d know what a stunningly bad idea that is.
The Saint (Cinemax, 8:00 PM EDT)
If you ever wanted to watch a would-be franchise starter explode on the tarmac, Cinemax has got you covered. Val Kilmer and Elizabeth Shue star.
The Descent (IFC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Neil Marshall’s harrowing tale of female spelunkers who encounter monsters in a remote underground cave system stands as one of the best horror movies of the last decade.
Night at the Movies (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
TCM’s hour-long series sits down with author Stephen King and discusses the films that have frightened him over the years. It’s followed by a stunning array of classic horror films: The James Whale Frankenstein with Boris Karloff at 9:00 PM EDT; Tod Browning’s Freaks at 10:15 PM EDT; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – featuring an Oscar-winning performance from Fredric March – at 12:30 AM EDT; Mark of the Vampire with Bela Lugosi at 2:15 AM EDT; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at 3:30 AM EDT; F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu at 4:45 AM EDT; and Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera at 6:15 AM EDT. If there’s any of these you haven’t seen before, set your DVRs posthaste! (TCM always breaks out great horror films for October, so keep your eyes peeled. We’ll try to mention as many of them as we can here.)
The Others (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Nicole Kidman’s far-from-sterling record in the genre film department hits a surprising high note with this tale of a young family living in a haunted house.
I, Robot (FX, 7:30 PM EDT)
I loves me the Will Smith, but the real scene-stealer here is Alan Tudyk, playing a possibly sentient robot accused of murder.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (HBO, 6:15 PM EDT)
Steven Spielberg doesn’t deliver a sequel so much as a victory lap in his follow-up to the dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park. It’s passable entertainment if that’s all you need, but the whole trilogy will be out of Blu-ray in a couple of weeks anyway.
TRON: Legacy (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
This is one of the few films that actually benefited from 3D, but it’s plenty awesome even in 2D.
Starship Troopers (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
Repeat after me: “thou shalt not edit a Paul Verhoeven movie for television.”
You know Fox, I’d be a lot more inclined to watch New Girl if your banner ads didn’t make the otherwise delightful Zooey Deschanel look like she’s been gassed by the Joker.
American Horror Story (FX, 10:00 PM EDT)
FX treads delicately into David Lynch territory with a new series about a family moving into a haunted house. See the top of the article for more.
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Syfy is being stingy with the details again. It’s called “Well of Horror,” which presumably means there’s a well. Of horror.
The Thing from Another World (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
In all fairness, this 1951 classic has been trumped by the superior John Carpenter remake. But it’s still a terrific bit of alien-on-the-rampage fun, as Antarctic scientists thaw out a sentient carrot and watch it go berserk.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (TCM, 9:45 PM EDT)
A rocket returning to Earth picks up an unwelcome passenger as TCM’s Night of Cheesy 50s Monsterfests continues.
The Curse of Frankenstein (TCM, 11:00 PM EDT)
TCM’s evening winds up with the great-granddaddy of Hammer horror films, starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the monster he brings to life.
Dance of the Dead (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
Zombies crash the senior prom and it’s up to the school outcasts to save the day. No, really.
Ginger Snaps (IFC, 8:45 PM EDT)
This horror story from north of the border, about a pair of teenage girls who run into the wrong wild animal, is easily the best lycanthrope movie since An American Werewolf in London.
The Green Hornet (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Because when I think superhero, Seth Rogen is the first name that comes to mind.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Sorry guys; another movie already did the exorcism thing, and we really don’t need any more.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 7:00 PM EDT)
Please don’t pretend that this is any worse than any of the other Transformers. Yes, even with the racist Autobots.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EDT)
Raj finally meets a girl he can talk to without getting drunk.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
An ancient witch shows up to give Klaus a hand, while Damon apparently uses his angry voice in a way that may come back to bite him.
The Secret Circle (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Cassie hunts down one of her mother’s old friends and learns that she’s been in a coma for 16 years. Could magic somehow make everything okay?
Inception (Cinemax, 7:30 PM EDT)
Watch out for those zero-gravity hallways guys. They suck.
The Dark Half (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
George A. Romero gives it his all, but scuffles a bit in his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.
Diary of the Dead (IFC, 9:30 PM EDT)
Romero struggles again for traction while trying to bring found-footage sensibilities to his venerable zombie franchise.
House of Bones (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Charisma Carpenter stars in a thoroughly derivative story about a reality TV show investigating a haunted house in New Orleans.
Thirteen Ghosts (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
This underrated remake gets overwhelmed by the production values, but still delivers a guilty-pleasure good time.
Fringe (Fox, 9:00 PM EDT)
A pair of young bullies get theirs when they drop dead after torturing another kid. Supernatural foul play or plain old karma? Olivia and the boys endeavor to find out.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
A terrorist whom Nikita captured years ago is now working for Division and that really pisses her off. Weapons-based mayhem may ensue.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 EDT)
Continuing tonight’s “assholes who get what’s coming to them” theme, Sam deals with a demon from his past who’s currently devouring the brains of local ne’er-do-wells.
Sanctuary (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The Syfy series returns as the team heads back in time to prevent the future from being changed for the worse.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon, 8:00 PM EDT)
R2 and 3PO apparently get into the act when they launch a mission to save a vulnerable planet.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Cartoon, 6:00 PM EDT)
The Holy Trinity of DC Comics – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – team up to fight their three greatest nemeses. To quote another character from the series, awesome sauce!
Young Justice (Cartoon, 6:30 PM EDT)
Armed animals begin attacking humans, just as an unfortunate revelation about Aqualad comes to life (presumably it’s his secret addiction to fish sticks…)
The Exorcist (BBC America, 9:00 PM EDT)
Remember earlier when I said they’d already done an exorcism movie? This is it.
Clash of the Titans (Cinemax, 8:10 PM EDT)
If you have to be told how badly this film blows, you haven’t been paying attention.
Unearthed (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
IFC clearly mistakes “shitty” for “gutsy and alternative” in this dreadful horror film about a monster that goes on a rampage after archaeologists dig it up.
Hostel (IFC, 9:00 PM EDT)
I don’t care how many genres this movie spawned; a sleazy piece of crap is still a sleazy piece of crap.
Scream 2 (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
Wes Craven returns for a double-dip in this satire of slasher franchises that ironically spawned its own satire-vulnerable franchise.
Alien 3 (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
David Fincher’s career got off to an inauspicious start when he and Fox set the Alien franchise into irreversible decline. I’m glad he recovered; the series never did.
Alien: Resurrection (AMC, 10:30 PM EDT)
They gave it the old college try here; it just didn’t work out.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
The grand finale to the Harry Potter saga begins in fine form. Pity we don’t have Part 2 readily available to finish it all up.
Highlander (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
There can be only one… unless you count the four crappy sequels, three decent-to-crappy TV series, and interminable Internet slash fiction in which Connor and Duncan MacLeod hook up. Eep.
Big Trouble in Little China (FMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
The hero acts like a sidekick and the sidekick acts like a hero. That’s the only trick… and dear God is it beautiful.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:00 PM EDT)
One surprisingly decent remake and one incredibly crappy sequel dominate IFC tonight.
RED (Showtime, 8:00 PM EDT)
Considering the premise (retired spooks get back into the game after being targeted for death) and the cast (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman among others), this really should have been better than it was.
End of Days (Syfy, 6:30 PM EDT)
It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. The Devil. The loser is anyone who wastes time tuning in.
Terror Beneath (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
I’m not kidding: evil giant plant roots threaten to destroy the planet, and it’s up to that one guy from Heroes to stop them. Who greenlights these things?!
The Dark Knight (TBS, 9:00 PM EDT)
Thankfully, Christopher Nolan is here to make everything better.
Dexter (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
Dexter meets Brother Sam, a supposedly benevolent man of God who may be hiding a monstrous soul beneath his benign façade.
Batman Begins (AMC, 7:00 PM EDT)
Let’s not forget Nolan’s other brilliant Batman movie, too easily swept aside in the stampede for The Dark Knight.
The Shining (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Anyone who caught Stephen King on TCM Monday can check out Stanley Kubrick’s controversial take on his terrific novel.
Hostel, Part II (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Nothing like watering down a piece of torture porn for basic cable. Do you people honestly think we watch these things for the plot?
Chain Letter (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
This shockingly crude knock-off of Ringu and its remakes arrives a good six years after the party ended.