Tonn Slingdog and the Horror Television

I know this is a movie site, or whatever, but my cousin Todd gave me his password and I am going to write about television now because I don’t care and shut up. The other day, while I was rifling around in Stephen Falk’s trash, I started thinking about the television shows I watch. Most of them are horror shows. I watch other things sometimes, but that’s because I like to complain about predictability and bland supporting casts. Hate-watching, I think it’s called. But I at least tried to love-watch a bunch of these new horror and sci-fi shows that are rearing their ugly heads these days. I like horror movies. And I thought it would be kind of cool to look at these sorts of film concepts being hijacked by weekly television series. At first it was. But I’m starting to get aggravated. And while I was picking around in those trash cans, it just came to me why that might be.

You see, while you can hijack a concept, you can’t hijack an entire medium. And maybe horror concepts can’t sustain themselves when you are dealing with an open-ended series. If you are talking the BBC, then it can work because those series are finite. Even if you have to stretch your story a little thin in the middle to fill up time, you can get more forgiveness from me, Tonn. Because the storytellers know where they are going. Now, a lot of people Stateside wear rose-colored glasses when something is exciting when it first starts, and they never take them off. But I don’t wear rose-colored glasses because they give me a headache. So I see where the shit is already going off the rails. And it’s pretty simple.

Take The Walking Dead, for example. It was fun at first because there has never, ever been a zombie-themed horror series. But this season, and I’m sorry if you are one of these people who loves it no matter what, there is a serious lack of zombies on the show. And if a show is about a zombie apocolypse, then the only threat that matters is zombies. This was the case in the first half of the first season, but now halfway through the second season the show is about young romance, the difficulty of raising children, and hassling with unhinged human beings. I often forget from act to act that there are even zombies…somewhere. And nothing will get me turning to the Twitter feed on my iPhone in the middle of a show faster than fifteen to twenty minutes or more without a single zombie sighting. Remember Night of the Living Dead? That’s the movie that launched the modern concept of a “zombie” which aren’t really zombies at all but ghouls if you understand the origins of the zombie myth. (It’s a Haitian thing, you see, and zombies were just drugged and enslaved people without thought, they had no interest in eating flesh…or brains. The brains thing, by the way, was an invention of the eighties, introduced in Return of the Living Dead, a horror comedy.) Night of the Living Dead was about people trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by an infinite amount of ghouls, or “zombies” as they are now called, that wanted to eat them alive. Very scary, indeed. The second season of The Walking Dead has been about a small number of zombies locked in a barn, surrounded by a bunch of people bickering with each other outside. Not so scary? Why? Because the zombies are not constantly growing in numbers, and are fairly well contained. Maybe they will turn it around, make the zombies a bigger threat as the series progresses, and I will of course keep watching it because THERE ARE NO ZOMBIE SHOW ALTERNATIVES. (Well, that’s not true. MTV’s Death Valley features zombies as well as vampires and werewolves, and it is a way more entertaining show than The Walking Dead. But it is meant to be a very silly comedy, and while I personally think it is hilarious, I have always preferred the serious zombie tale to the comic ones, however slightly.)

Then there is Terra Nova, a Spielberg produced show about people living in dinosaur times (which is scientifically ridiculous given the changes in our atmosphere that have occured since dino times, but whatever. There’s dinosaurs. Or at least there’s supposed to be.) In addition to having a similar problem to The Walking Dead, namely that there aren’t very many dinosaurs, it tends toward schmaltz, but that is what you get in Spielberg land. I don’t mind the schmaltz, really (I didn’t mind it so much on the Spielberg produced “Falling Skies” either, but that show had more encounters with the evil aliens.) My big problem is the severe lack of dinosaurs. I know the show is called “Terra Nova” and not “The Walking Dinos” so I guess you could give it a pass, but really the main selling point of the series is people trying to survive in a dinosaur infested land. On the rare occasions that the show has featured dinosaurs, which are CGI creations only a couple steps above those on the SyFy Channel’s saturday night junk features, it has been fun. I can forgive the effects, as long as people are fighting them. However, most of the show is about spies from a neighboring camp and families struggling with their little relationship nonsense as opposed to struggling with the only thing that matters in a dinosaur infested land: dinosaurs. And I’m sure that’s because despite the giant budget of the show, they can’t afford a lot of dinosaurs. (Well, they could have spent less on the cheesy sets and the talent, if you ask me, leaving more room for monster fights.) But if you can’t afford dinosaurs and you want to make a dinosaur show…should you be making a dinosaur show at all? With a contained story like Jurassic Park, you can make the whole damn thing about dinosaurs, you see. And that’s why it works. Of course, I’ll keep watching Terra Nova. BECAUSE THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVE DINOSAUR SHOWS. (And no, the crap on the SyFy Channel does not count. It does not, it does not, it does not.)

Finally, I’d like to talk about American Horror Story. This is the most entertaining of the three horror shows I’m currently watching, mostly because it is completely bananas, entirely inappropriate, and Connie Britton often rubs lotion on her gorgeous legs. (Stephen Skelton, whose trash I enjoy picking through as well, is a particular fan of this last element.) But I have to say, after having suffered through the last seasons of Lost just to find out that it was all in purgatory which is what I assumed from the beginning, and suffering through the last season of Battlestar Galactica only to find out “it was because of god,” I can’t imagine a series like this will reach any kind of satisfying conclusion. Any of these examples would have been better served by a more finite and cinematic running time. Because if you know you can wrap something up soon, then you can decide from the get-go where the story is going. If you want to keep the damn thing going for seven years and make as much money as possible, you can’t help but leave your audience wanting. And that is why, even in its first season, the last couple episodes of American Horror Story have really dragged, because they are already recycling the elements of the story that made it interesting in the beginning. The last episode in particular was (SPOILER ALERT, which is a stupid thing to have to write because if you are reading about a show you haven’t watched and you don’t want spoiled you are most likely a complete idiot) basically a rather obvious reveal at the beginning followed by an hour of cannibalizing its own story lines, and ending with Connie Britton going to a loony bin which doesn’t bode well for the moisurizing of the legs. There are of course a lot of ghost show alternatives, but I don’t care about a doctor having to treat people for free because his dead wife is giving him shit or anything like that, so this will be the only one I watch. But THERE IS NO OTHER SHOW with Connie Britton having sex with a guy in a rubber suit, so I can’t stop looking at it.

Anyway. I’m Tonn.


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