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TV Wasteland: Hemlock Grove
Netflix's new supernatural series heralds big changes.
By Rob Vaux
April 22, 2013
Having fired its opening salvo in the regular series wars with Lilihammer and House of Cards, Netflix follows them up with Hemlock Grove, a supernatural soap opera based on the novel by Brian McGreevy. With Eli Roth directing the pilot, the show definitely ups the “not safe for work” content: bloody, brutal and filled with a kind of gallows humor that traditional networks long ago rejected as too offensive. Famke Janssen stars as the head of an oligarchical family who rules the titular town: former steel barons now jumping ship in favor of the brave new world of biotech. They carry secrets, to be sure, and the murder of a young girl in the show’s opener threats to blow them all wide open.
The vibe is much more Twin Peaks than Twilight: soapy, to be sure, but with grown-up desires and grim consequences that might prove too much for the teeny-bopper crowd. That makes it a welcome addition to the horror landscape, long overrun with sparkly inanity and in serious need of a good jolt from the big kids.
But more than the show itself, the form in which it arrives speaks volumes about the changing face of television. Netflix released the whole 13-episode arc this past Friday, allowing subscribers to download the whole thing at once and consume it all in a rush if they so choose. The producers described it as a 13-hour movie, and shot it accordingly: tossing out things like the four-act structure (since they don’t have to account for commercial breaks) and standard arc development. If it proves successful, it could be the beginning of the end of traditional television as we know it. The network model looks shakier and shakier with each passing week, unable to account for shifting trends in audience consumption and unwilling to adjust their formatting accordingly.
Fixing it means more than just scheduling “edgier” programming or snagging more of the coveted youth demographic. It’s understanding that television need no longer follow the formula that the networks helped establish; that normal running times and commercial interruptions mean nothing in a world where DVRs and downloads reign supreme; that more shows reaching smaller audiences are the wave of the future; and that even reality TV might not be able to save them. Netflix is certainly betting on it, with the long-awaited return of Arrested Development and the women-in-prison drama Orange is the New Black to follow in a few months. The blood on Hemlock Grove’s teeth might be more than the show’s innocent victims: it might be the start of a whole new era, signaled by the increasingly messy end of an old one.
Revolution (NBC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Neville disappears, prompting Monroe to go off the deep end, while Rachel plans to infiltrate the Tower.
The Following (Fox, 9:00 PM EDT)
Ryan and the gang get ready to storm the mansion. Joe, however, already has an exit route plotted out. I suspect that it’s not going to go down in any way that anyone anticipates.
Bates Motel (A&E, 10:00 PM EDT)
Have I said that this is an awesome show yet? Because it is. Anyhow, Dylan asks Norman to move out of the motel and bunk with him this week.
Defiance (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Nolan and Datak fight over an ancient ritual that I suspect will have some greater implication later on in the series.
Lost Girl (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The third season ends with Bo facing down a whole legion of baddies.
The Wizard of Oz (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
For the young ones in the audience, this is the sequel to Oz the Great and Powerful. It’s, um, pretty good.
The Transporter (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Jason Statham will always be awesome. I only wish the film could keep up with him.
The Da Vinci Code (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
I don’t know about you, but this was when my love affair with Tom Hanks began to end.
Spider-Man 2 (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
Tobey Maguire returns as everyone’s favorite wall-crawler in what’s still the best Spidey movie to date.
Snow White and the Huntsman (HBO, 9:00 PM EDT)
Chris Hemsworth can really rock a beard, can’t he?
The Prestige (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Man, this one just keeps getting better and better.
RED (Showtime, 7:30 PM EDT)
Bruce Willis and all his old friends kick the asses of younger people for two hours. Any questions?
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Spike, 7:00 PM EDT and 10:02 PM EDT)
Obviously, people are going to gravitate towards the awesome third film, but I really believe that the fourth one is better than people give it credit for.
Robot Combat League (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The first season ends with a champion being declared.
The Invisible Man (TCM, 10:00 PM EDT)
You won’t find a better option this week: James Whale’s weird and witty adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic, featuring effects that still hold up pretty well after 80 years.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Cinemax, 8:15 PM EDT)
We don’t talk about Steve Carell movies a whole lot on this column. The death meteor in this one gives us an out.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
The posters for the new one are apparently being snatched as quickly as they can go up. Let’s hope the movie is just as good.
The Last Legion (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
There is nothing here you want to waste time on. Trust me.
My Bloody Valentine (IFC, 10:15 PM EDT)
This remake isn’t too bad, but if the station were really independent, they’d have run the original.
The Darkest Hour (Showtime, 7:00 PM EDT)
This dippy horror film about an alien invasion will thankfully never last long enough to get a remake.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Showtime, 10:00 PM EDT)
I’d say something nasty, but I’m just too grateful that The Host tanked.
Kill Bill: Volume 2 (Starz, 6:40 PM EDT)
I wonder how well this would hold up for someone who hasn’t seen Part 1…
Resident Evil: Retribution (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Am I the only one who has a hard time keeping track of which Resident Evil sequel is which?
Blade II (Syfy, 7:30 PM EDT)
And this is why we love Guillermo del Toro.
Arrow (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Deadshot’s back in town, which can only mean all sorts of new headaches for Oliver.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Dean trains a new hunter, even though she’s a super-mega-nerd.
Haunted Collector (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
More supposedly haunted knick-knacks get examined, as usual.
Batman Begins (ABC Family, 8:00 PM EDT)
I wouldn’t exactly call it “family friendly,” but its influence is impossible to deny. Repeats on Thursday at 6:00 PM EDT
The Crow (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
Tom Hiddleston for the remake? Hmmmm…
Resident Evil (BBC America, 10:00 PM EDT)
Who could have imagined that this film would spawn an entire franchise? (Besides, you know, the people who spawned a video game franchise out it…)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (FMC, 7:00 PM EDT and 9:00 PM EDT)
I defy you to find one thing this film does to justify its existence.
Hostel (IFC, 10:45 PM EDT)
Eli Roth really hates douchy frat boys, doesn’t he?
Independence Day (Spike, 8:00 PM EDT)
I’ll admit that I’m still kind of moved by Bill Pullman’s kick-ass speech. I make no promises for the rest of the film.
Elf (Starz, 7:20 PM EDT)
Don’t eat the gum on the sidewalk: that’s sound advice.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EDT)
Sheldon freaks out when one of his favorite shows is cancelled without wrapping things up. Sheldon really needs to get a grip.
Elementary (CBS, 10:00 PM EDT)
A murder victim made a living blackmailing the families of rape victims. So, um, a lot of suspects. Holmes is on the case.
Hannibal (NBC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Hannibal subtly tries to wedge Jack and Will apart, even as they hunt for a new serial killer.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Oh God, they’re going to New Orleans. Let the Anne Rice clichés fly!
Beauty and the Beast (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
J.T. and Vincent look for a safe home, while Gabe spills the beans on Muirfield.
Beetlejuice (ABC Family, 9:00 PM EDT)
The surprise hit that launched Tim Burton into the big leagues is still one of his most enjoyable efforts to date.
Black Swan (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:00 PM EDT)
Natalie Portman goes crazy and wins an Oscar in the process. The rest of the film got robbed.
Real Steel (Showtime, 8:35 PM EDT)
The robots are pretty cool. They’re not the reason to tune in.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sundance, 10:00 PM EDT)
Bravo to Sundance for showing the original version, with subtitles and everything.
V for Vendetta (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
There are moments of brilliance here, thanks in no small part to Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. Still, it leaves one with the impression that the filmmakers didn’t quite get what Alan Moore was going for. More anger next time, fellas!
Grimm (NBC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Nick gets a line on that whole aliens-who-mutilate-cows thing. Surprise! They might be Wesen.
Touch (Fox, 9:00 PM EDT)
Martin talks to a policeman about his journey, prompting the man to launch an investigation.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
You might think that Alex is a changed woman. You’d be wrong.
Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
A nun’s convent apparently suffers from a rash of demonic possession, but Leonardo thinks he knows better.
The Professional (Sundance, 10:15 PM EDT)
Good week for Portman on the boob tube. Just sayin’.
The Exorcist (BBC America, 9:00 PM EDT)
Pretty good week for Satanic Possession Movies That Don’t Suck either. ‘Cause there’s, like, one of them. And it’s on.
Prometheus (HBO, 7:45 PM EDT)
It’s not-quite-a-prequel to Alien. I think the “not-quite” part really bugged some people.
Gnomeo and Juliet (ABC Family, 9:05 PM EDT)
Cute, a little tacky and largely harmless… much like garden gnomes themselves.
Dark Shadows (Cinemax, 6:50 PM EDT)
From the unexpected success of Beetlejuice, we go to the bloated, idea-free fallout of twenty years of unquestioned success.
X-Men : First Class (Cinemax, 8:45 PM EDT)
Far more prequel than reboot, but still delivering the fresh approach that the franchise so dearly needed.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Brad Pitt ages in reverse and the film really has no thoughts on the matter.
The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Identity (TNT, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
Parts 1 and 3? Whatever, they’re all good.
The A-Team (FX, 7:00 PM EDT)
I’m sorry; I just can’t stay mad at Liam Neeson.
Doctor Who (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
Clara vanishes into the TARDIS just as a gang of intergalactic scavengers try to dismantle it for parts. As always, Confessions of a Neowhovian
has the giddy fangirl coverage of every Doctor-loving moment.
Swamp Shark (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Syfy’s message this week: stay away from swamps.
Swamp Volcano (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The Lion King (ABC Family, 9:00 PM EDT)
This Disney “classic” has aged quite badly… and frankly wasn’t all that amazing to begin with. Repeats on Sunday at 6:30 PM EDT
Shrek (Cartoon, 7:00 PM EDT)
This one, on the other hand, still carries quite a bite, as well as signaling the moment when Dreamworks became a genuine competitor to the Mouse.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (Cinemax, 8:20 PM EDT)
Feel like killing some Commies? Stallone has you covered.
The Watch (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
Comedies don’t get any more wretched than this sad effort involving a group of dippy suburbanites trying to stop an alien invasion of their neighborhood. Repeats on Sunday at 8:15 PM EDT.
Monsters, Inc. (Disney, 8:00 PM EDT)
Did we really need a sequel to this undeniably good Pixar hit?
Iron Man (FX, 10:00 PM EDT)
Just to get you in the mood for the sequel.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (HBO, 7:00 PM EDT)
It doesn’t get any better for the fourth outing than it did in the third.
Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
Iron Man 3 director Shane Black made his name on the screenplays for these two 80s action classics. Also, Danny Glover doesn’t want to die on the toilet.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Spike, 8:00 PM EDT)
Believe it or not, this is not the furthest Nicolas Cage has sunk. Repeats Sunday at 6:00 PM EDT.
The Amazing Spider-Man (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Hot damn, but it’s good to see the Lizard on the big screen.
Game of Thrones (HBO, 9:00 PM EDT)
Robb is betrayed while Jon passes an all-important test. Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m kind of over Game of Thrones. Don’t beat me.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8:00 PM EDT)
No news, besides its newness.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
The focus is on my all-time favorite Doctor – Number Four, played by Tom Baker – as he battles the last of the Osirans.
Total Recall (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
It’s the remake, so you know… carry on.
Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (FX, 6:00 PM EDT and 9:00 PM EDT)
It’s like there’s a Part 3 waiting in the wings somewhere.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
I’m going to say… a pretty good one?
The Scorpion King (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The Rock has gone on to a fruitful, if not always brilliant career. Pity this one doesn’t give any sign of it.
Cinderella (ABC Family, 8:30 PM EDT)
Disney devotes the evening to animated classics that aren’t quite as good as some of its other animated classics.
Peter Pan (ABC Family, 10:15 PM EDT)
The Disney version looks good, but pales thematically before PJ Hogan’s superior version from a decade ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
Brangelia shoot a lot of guns and make goo-goo eyes at each other.
Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4 (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
Shane Black did not write the screenplays for these. They also suck. Perhaps there’s some connection.
Underworld (Spike, 9:00 PM EDT)
Let’s face it: it just belongs on Spike.
Bruce Almighty (TBS, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:00 PM EDT)
I’ll buy Morgan Freeman as God. Jim Carrey? Not so much.