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TV Wasteland: Zombies!!!
Undead moans are music to our ears as The Walking Dead returns
By Rob Vaux
October 09, 2011
All too quickly, the TV season has faded into ashen disappointment. Terra Nova blows, American Horror Story is… not right, and while the Friday night smorgasboard has some tasty tidbits, they’re not exactly blowing anyone out of the water in the ratings war. (And on a broader level, when young adults would rather watch The Jersey Shore than see the Yankees choke away another postseason, the apocalypse is truly nigh.) Despair and nihilism reigns, with no hope on the horizon and the TV stations dominated by shuffling, desiccated crap. It’s like zombie hordes are running amuck, and no good TV can come out of that equation.
Frank Darabont’s departure notwithstanding, the premiere of The Walking Dead is the best news we’ve heard since… well since the season finale last year. The brilliant notion of placing a zombie apocalypse in a prime-time show paid off handsomely for AMC last year, and the second season gives every indication of a brilliant follow-up. The comic series on which it is based displays a novel way of shaking things up while keeping the basic equation intact. Appealing characters, thoughtful plot development, and first-rate zombie horror add up to a sure thing week in and week out.
Having said that, a few concerns cloud the otherwise sunny skies, most of them centered around Darabont. The man understands intelligent horror in a way that few others do, and firing the head of such a successful show suggests ego clashes of the sort that could slay any golden goose. Rumors swirl about AMC browbeating the cast into silence, of a front office unable to handle such a huge success, of suits meddling with the first-season formula (like shooting more indoor scenes) in an effort to save money. All of that could translate into a colossal betrayal of a terrific show: a sophomore slump of the sort that claimed other potentially great series like Twin Peaks and Heroes. But frankly, we’re too desperate to turn away now. And with the prospect of a lengthy run – and the first truly great horror series since the original Twilight Zone falling straight into our laps – we’ll take those odds.
The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, October 16 at 10:00 PM EDT on AMC.
Terra Nova (Fox, 8:00 PM EDT)
Speaking of profound disappointments… the folks at Terra Nova have to deal with a virus that causes paranoia, memory loss and contrived plot complications that can be easily resolved in an hour’s running time.
The Wolf Man (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
Not the Benicio Del Toro remake, but the 1941 original, with Lon Chaney Jr. stumbling into the wrong side of an ancient gypsy curse. No to be missed.
The Uninvited (TCM, 9:15 PM EDT)
This less well-known but still solid horror outing details a brother and sister pair who inherit a haunted house.
The Green Mile (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Really? You fire Darabont from your marquee show, and then air one of his movies as a run-up to the second season premiere? Stay classy, AMC.
Death Race (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
At least Paul W.S. Anderson can take away our pain with some good old-fashioned sleaze mongering. Mmmmmmm…
In other news, NBC has dropped The Playboy Club like a hot rock. If they let drek like this on the air, how bad was that Wonder Woman pilot anyway?
Let the Right One In (Showtime, 8:00 PM EDT)
As solid as the American remake was, this Swedish original – about a lonely little boy who makes friends with a vampire who moves in next door – is a true classic.
Seconds Apart (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Syfy’s Saturday night crap fest comes to Tuesday, starting with a tale of twin psychics who kill people with their minds.
Fertile Ground (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The not-at-all suggestive title refers to a pregnant woman who moves into a haunted house in New Hampshire and watches her husband start acting like Nicholson in The Shining.
Harry Potter and the Death Hallows, Part 1 (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
The earnest beginning to the final Harry Potter book gets all the pesky exposition out of the way so that Part 2 can let us have it with both barrels.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 7:00 PM EDT)
Commercials have been added to make the experience even crappier! Yay!
Strange Days (FMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
It bears repeating: the chick who directed this won an Oscar.
American Horror Story (FX, 10:00 PM EDT)
Ben heads back to Boston, leaving his family in that creepy house all alone. Coincidentally, he’s also ordered to surrender his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug to the nearest authorities.
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The title is “Roasts and Ghosts.” Your guess is as good as mine.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Sundance, 10:00 PM EDT)
Find the biggest screen you can and soak up the Kubrick-y goodness with one of the genre’s true masterpieces.
Crazy Eights (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
Traci Lords and Dina Meyer pay the bills in a horror story about the grown-up survivors of medical experiments now tormented by ghosts. Yes, really.
Borderland (IFC, 8:45 PM EDT)
Apparently, IFC can play Syfy’s game too. The second half of their double feature concerns young tourists in Mexico who run into a local cult in need of human sacrifice victims. Don’t drink the water, kids.
The Little Vampire (Disney, 8:30 PM EDT)
A lonely little boy makes friends with a vampire who moves in next door, but because it’s Disney, there’s not nearly as much disemboweling as there is in Let the Right One In.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (FX, 7:30 PM EDT)
Hate the film if you must, but Jackman still rocks the hell out of the role.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EDT)
Brent Spiner guest stars when Sheldon’s nemesis Wil Wheaton throws a party that Sheldon inexplicably attends.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Teenagers throw a prank night that somehow goes disastrously wrong. Who would have guessed?
The Secret Circle (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Melissa has to hunt down The Book of Shadows and needs to persuade Nick to help her. Anyone who knows who the hell these people are should write in and tell us why we should care.
Christine (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
John Carpenter helms a hit-and-miss adaptation of one of Stephen King’s best novels, about a possessed Plymouth Fury on the rampage.
Carrie (AMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Now this is a prom!
The Thaw (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
Anyone interested in seeing how far Val Kilmer has fallen can check him out in this would-be thriller about a deadly parasite unleashed by a group of ecology students.
Bug (IFC, 9:15 PM EDT)
There’s not a lot of supernatural elements here, but the tale of a Gulf War vet who goes crazy and takes the local waitress with him will definitely get under your skin.
The Cave (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Caves are bad… even those without Cole Hauser getting chased by giant eels.
Dawn of the Dead (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
They’ve unpacked the Zack Snyder remake for another go ‘round.
Gods and Monsters (Sundance, 10:00 PM EDT)
Ian McKellan and Brendan Fraser deliver career-best performances in this speculative story about the last days of Frankenstein director James Whale.
Fringe (Fox, 9:00 PM EDT)
Walter actually has to leave the lab when trouble arises at Massive Dynamic. Luckily, Olivia is tagging along to hold his hand for him.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Nikita’s old Division partner escapes from a Turkish prison and has her Peter Graves impersonation all polished up in time for their reunion.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
The Winchesters have to track down an ancient Egyptian god who’s back in the “judging people for their sins” business without a proper license.
Sanctuary (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
It’s a new episode, but details are scarce. Apparently, it involves an uprising of some kind.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon, 8:00 PM EDT)
We’re still hanging out with R2 and 3PO as they run afoul of a gang of pirates.
Young Justice (Cartoon, 6:30 PM EDT)
Plants go berserk and the team needs to hunt down those responsible. Dear God, please let Swamp Thing make a cameo here.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Cartoon, 7:00 PM EDT)
Aquaman, Plastic Man and Green Arrow talk about the best times each of them had with Batman.
I Am Number Four (Showtime, 7:00 PM EDT)
This teen angst/sci-fi hybrid ultimately fails the quality test, despite some lively moments and good supporting performances from Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Durand.
Dreamcatcher (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
This adaptation of the Stephen King story went so wildly wrong that director Lawrence Kasdan hasn’t done anything since. Frankly speaking, it’s not great, but the sentence is a little harsh for a guy who delivered so many classic films.
Independence Day (Cinemax, 7:30 PM EDT)
See, they have a virus in the laptop that they can upload onto the mother ship and… oh never mind.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Believe it or not, there are worse Part Threes out there than this one. A lot worse.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The problematic-but-powerful 30 Days of Night receives a direct-to-video sequel that I’m guessing is a whole lot more problematic than its predecessor.
Cujo (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Rabid St. Bernards are usually bad news, especially for sweaty mothers trapped in cars with their dying sons.
The Shining (AMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Stephen King still struggles to warm up to this adaptation of his best-selling novel: a cold, fascinating and sometimes frustrating horror movie that most people regard as a classic.
Predators (Cinemax, 7:00 PM EDT)
Adrien Brody blows large holes in rampaging space iguanas (or at least makes a valiant effort) in this terrific sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger original.
Frankenstein Unbound (FMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Roger Corman returns to the director’s chair with a baffling update of the classic Frankenstein story. I wouldn’t call it good, but it’s most definitely different.
Sweeney Todd (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Eminently practical and yet appropriate as always.
Zombieland (Starz 7:30 PM EDT)
This tongue-in-cheek take on zombie apocalypse tales has earned a lot of fans. Sadly, I’m not one of them.
True Lies (Spike, 8:00 PM EDT)
There’s a lot to like in James Cameron’s spy romp about a married man leading a double life as a spy. Sadly, the treatment of its female characters leaves a lot to be desired.
War of the Worlds (TNT, 8:00 PM EDT)
Steven Spielberg scores a near miss with his powerful-yet-fatally flawed version of the HG Wells classic.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9:00 PM EDT)
The second season premieres with the survivors fleeing Atlanta only to find a new threat on the highway. Between this and Boardwalk Empire, Sunday nights are looking fine. See the top of the article for more.
Dexter (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
One of Dexter’s former victims returns for another round of fun.
The Task (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Contestants in a reality show find themselves locked in a haunted prison in an act that I’m sure none of them will ever regret.
Prowl (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Does anyone accept rides from truckers anymore? It always goes so wrong…
The Unborn (Spike, 8:00 PM EDT)
David S. Goyer takes a big step down from the Batman movies with this silly thriller about a young woman tormented by a ghost.
The Last House on the Left (Spike, 10:00 PM EDT)
This is the not-bad remake, which is actually quite a bit better than the seriously bad original.
The Dark Half (IFC, 8:30 PM EDT)
George A. Romero delivers a mixed bag in helming this adaptation of his buddy Stephen King’s novel. Not bad, but everyone involved can do better.