Archive for the Television Category

THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK AT 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Alien Worlds, Based on Classic Films, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Prequels, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Television, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by knifefighter

You find yourself on a barren and desolate world, light years from anything or anyone you know… Without much food or water, your oxygen running low, you strike out for the distant hills… After days of torturous climbing, you see an oasis below. An installation of quonset huts bedecked with hundreds of television antennae. Congratulations, Traveler, you’ve reachedTHE REMOTE OUTPOST.

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THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK
By Mark Onspaugh

Well, the holidays have come to an end at the old Remote Outpost. The freeze-dried Christmas tree has been vacu-packed, the electronic menorah has been powered down and reintegrated into the antenna array, and the powdered eggnog and dehydrated turkey are on order for next year.

Now that the snart herds have moved to the Seventh Crater and the triffids are dormant, it’s time to reflect on that most marvelous technological advancement, television. We’ll try to adopt a more positive air going into 2013, at least on this rainy afternoon. (Besides, a “Worst Of” list would take many times the word count I am allowed.)

5 SHOWS THAT MAKE ME DROOL WITH ANTICIPATION

New shows are on the horizon, and some of them sound just peachy. Here are the ones I am most excited about:

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BANSHEE (Premieres January 11, Cinemax). Alan Ball has become one of those names you look for. He wrote the screenplay for the movie AMERICAN BEAUTY back in 1999, and has since been the creative force behind the television series SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005) and TRUE BLOOD (2008 – Present). I am a big fan of TRUE BLOOD and recently came under the spell of SIX FEET UNDER (see below). So when I heard Ball was executive producing a new series, I got downright twitterpated. BANSHEE concerns an ex (or escaped) con who poses as the (murdered) sheriff in the Amish community of Banshee. As with other projects with Ball at the helm, the secrets our protagonist keeps are just the tip of the iceberg in Banshee. One of the characters is named Mr. Rabbit, who will be played by Ben Cross. Mr. Cross portrayed Sarek, Spock’s father, in the STAR TREK reboot of 2009. He also stars in the upcoming JACK THE GIANT KILLER (2013), which is NOT to be confused with JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (also 2013)—that stars Ewan McGregor. It looks like it’ll be Brits vs Scots in the land of the giants.

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BATES MOTEL (Premieres March 18, A&E). A psychological thriller that will give background on Robert Bloch’s beloved psycho. Hitchcock’s 1960 film is the initial inspiration, but beyond that, the producers will not be a slave to it or its sequels. The show is not, as one critic suggested, “How I Stuffed My Mother.” Besides Norman’s mother and her lover, the townspeople will also play a role in Norman’s descent into madness, and producers promise it won’t all be black and white, connect the dots. Norman Bates will be played by Freddie Highmore, the young actor so wonderful in FINDING NEVERLAND (2004), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and AUGUST RUSH (2007). Freddie has grown up, and actually looks like a young Tony Perkins. Norman’s mother will be portrayed by Vera Farmiga, who promises mother Norma Bates will be both sympathetic and layered. We all know Vera from such films as THE DEPARTED (2006), JOSHUA (2007), SOURCE CODE (2011) and the upcoming THE CONJURING (2013). BATES MOTEL is produced by Carlton Cuse of LOST (2004-2010) and Kerry Ehrin of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2006-2011).

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DEFIANCE (Premieres April 15, Syfy). A lush science fiction drama where Earth has been remade into an almost alien world by extraterrestrial visitors who were denied permission to settle. After a long and costly war with humanity, the two species now live in an uneasy peace and try to make the Earth habitable for both. Defiance is the name of the town in the ruins of St. Louis, and where our protagonist, Jeb Nolan becomes head sheriff. There he must contend with humans, aliens, military types and various dangerous characters. From the trailers I’ve seen, this will be no cheap-looking, terrible CGI suck-fest. It is tied in with a game, but what show isn’t multi-platforming these days? Hopefully the writing will give us another BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009) or SGU STARGATE UNIVERSE (2009-2011).

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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD AND CHROME (Premieres February 10, Syfy). I was around when Glen A. Larson first introduced us to Cylons and humans whose names were the same as some of our more ancient gods and goddesses. I didn’t much care for the show, but watched it because I was starved for SF on TV. When the (then Sci-Fi Channel’s) remake was announced for 2004, I just shook my head and chuckled. I ignored it, until a friend hit me over the head with the DVD’s. I quickly became an ardent fan, and was sad when the (regrettable) ending aired. Now we have a chance to visit that universe again, as we see young “Husker” Adama and his friends in the first war with the Cylons, before the skin jobs made the scene. Like the many incarnations of STAR TREK, I anxiously wait for the chance to geek out in a world that is interesting and well-formed. Here’s hoping it’s as good as its predecessor.

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VIKINGS (Premieres March 3 on History). Cable has often found fertile ground in examining (often in lurid detail) historical events, places or infamous families. DEADWOOD (2004-2006), THE TUDORS (2007-2010) and THE BORGIAS (2011 – Present) gave us all the scandal, gore and sex we were never taught in history class but always suspected (or hoped) was there. While perhaps not wholly accurate, all these shows had/have sumptuous production values, good writing and acting. Now comes the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, who, legend has it, was descended from Odin himself. VIKINGS will be produced for the History Channel, who brought us that bang-up version of the feud of the HATFIELDS AND McCOYS (2012). VIKINGS was created by Michael Hirst, who created the aforementioned TUDORS, and one of its stars will be Gabriel Byrne, who has been in such movies as STIGMATA (1998), END OF DAYS (1999) SPIDER (2002) and GHOST SHIP (2002). By Odin’s eye I will be there!

WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!

If I’m wrong, I am usually man enough to admit it. Two shows I came late to the party for are THE BIG BANG THEORY and SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005).

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BIG BANG is shown initially on CBS (on Thursdays at 8pm EST), and then rerun about a billion times a day on TBS and Fox. Even though I love science fiction, pop culture and DC comics (all of which BB has in buckets and bales), I thought the character of Sheldon Cooper (portrayed by Jim Parsons) was just too two-dimensional. A friend of mine is very devoted to the show, and kept tempting me with anecdotes about appearances by Wil Wheaton as an evil version of himself (Wil was the much-loved or despised character of Wesley Crusher on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, 1987-1994), and a Spock action figure voiced by Leonard Nimoy himself. I finally watched the show for more than one episode, and found that Parsons is quite brilliant. It’s not easy to portray such an unlikeable character and make him endearing. I have to admit, when he approached Penny (about her intending to break up with his roommate) and said, “Please don’t hurt my friend,” I actually teared up. The entire ensemble is terrific, and there are lots of references to physics, DC superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars and sex —and who doesn’t love one or all of those things?

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SIX FEET UNDER is no longer with us, but lives on in DVD form. Created by Alan Ball, it revolves around the Fishers, a family who owns a small but honest funeral home in L.A. Patriarch Nathaniel Fisher is killed in a bus crash while driving one of the family hearses. Though dead, Nathaniel often appears to council or annoy one of his family, and is played by the amazing Richard Jenkins (THE VISITOR 2001, CABIN IN THE WOODS 2011, JACK REACHER 2012). His family includes son Nate (Peter Krause of THE LOST ROOM, 2006 and currently on the NBC drama PARENTHOOD), son David (Michael C. Hall, now the star of DEXTER), daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose of the recent remake of COMA 2012) and wife Ruth (Frances Conroy of AMERICAN HORROR STORY). Each episode begins with a death (not always the one you expect) and that corpse’s impact on one or more of the family and/or staff. At times, the deceased will interact with a character. In addition, a huge funeral home conglomerate is trying to put the Fishers out of business, and each member of the family has secrets that are coming to light.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOOD NIGHT

Two of my favorite shows are saying “adieu” this year (inarticulate sobbing here)…

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One is FRINGE (Fox, Fridays 9pm EST), which began in 2008 as a sort of new take on THE X-FILES (1993-2002) but evolved more into a love story and a search for redemption. Though complex, I never felt lost in the mythology as I came to be with THE X-FILES. The central core of characters Agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, Walter Bishop and Astrid Farnsworth are all wonderfully played by Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and Jasika Nicole, and ably supported by Blair Brown as Nina Sharp, Lance Reddick as Philip Broyles and Leonard Nimoy as Dr. William Bell. Noble as Walter is one of the great characters of recent SF TV, a genius and mad scientist who had parts of his brain cut out so he would not become evil and callous, unlike his counterpart on a parallel Earth. The elective surgery has left a man with a taste for sweets, inappropriate sexual banter and a craving for LSD and music of the 60s and 70s. If you never gave this series a try, do so. I, for one, will sorely miss it.

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BREAKING BAD took one episode to hook all of us here at the Outpost. It concerns a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he has cancer. Looking to make money to pay for his treatment (and to take care of his family once he is gone), Walter White (the just awesome Bryan Cranston, once the father on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE 2000-2006) turns to making meth with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, portrayed by Aaron Paul. And he’s real good at it. His product is so good it’s soon drawing the attention of tweakers, dealers, cartel members and DEA agents. Complicating matters is the fact that his brother-in-law works for the DEA, and is not the lunkhead he seems to be. What is fascinating is how Cranston essays a good man who gets into a dirty business, and transforms over time from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde… This is not only someone who becomes evil, he enjoys it. BREAKING BAD airs on AMC (the last episodes of the final season will be airing soon), but you’ll want to watch it from the beginning.

I’ll close out this year-end wrap-up with a list of shows I think are well worth your time:

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BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO) —A bloody and dark series about Atlantic City in the 20s and the rise of organized crime, with Steve Buscemi at the center of it all.

GAME OF THRONES (HBO) —Warring kingdoms, sex, gore, dire wolves, dragons and things undead. What’s not to love?

THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) —A wonderful series where the living are just as important as the living dead, with brilliant makeup, effects and many WTF! moments.

JUSTIFIED (FX) —A Federal Marshall returns to rural Kentucky in this bitchin’ series from the mind of Elmore Leonard. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are lawman and outlaw who were boyhood pals. Brilliant.

SONS OF ANARCHY (FX) —Hamlet on Harleys. Also brilliant.

ARROW (CW) —Green Arrow without the Smallville soapiness.

THE NEIGHBORS (ABC) —A very human family moves to a cul-de-sac filled with aliens. The seemingly one-joke premise continues to be inventive, delightful and hilarious.

BOB’S BURGERS (FOX) —My favorite animated show. Unattractive characters (literally) and hilarious send-ups of family sitcom sweetness.

SHAMELESS (SHO) — The saga of the Gallaghers, who are grifters living by their wits in Chicago. Many of their efforts are often derailed by the worst of the lot, their patriarch, played by William H. Macy. A U.S. version of a Brit show, and hilarious.

LUTHER (BBC America) —Idris Elba is amazing as a British detective in this dark and inventive series.

FACE-OFF (Syfy) —The only reality show I watch—sure, some of the drama is manufactured through writing and editing, but the contestants come up with amazing effects makeup—without CGI!

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

Remote Outpost Looks at: THE FALL 2012 TV SEASON

Posted in 2012, Comedies, Horror, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Superheroes, Television, TV Pilots, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST Takes a Look at
THE FALL 2012 TV SEASON
Written by Mark Onspaugh

You find yourself on a barren and desolate world, light years from anything or anyone you know… Without much food or water, your oxygen running low, you strike out for the distant hills… After days of torturous climbing, you see an oasis below. An installation of Quonset huts bedecked with hundreds of television antennae. Congratulations, Traveler, you’ve reachedthe REMOTE OUTPOST.

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OUTPOST UPDATE: By now you’ve probably seen the President’s address, the various news specials and viewed the onsite footage.  Since it’s been declassified, I can tell you the Outpost had been infested with Tofugitives.  As you know, this is a plague of giant, sentient slugs that target populations of carnivorous, T-bone eating humans; consuming them and producing soy-based replicants nearly indistinguishable from the original.  Since many on my crew are often in a somnolent state or snorting Snart, it was impossible to determine there had been an outbreak until the Outpost was overrun.  But everything’s… everything’s fine,  now… send your research ships…  and tourists… yes, lots of tourists… the more, the better. And some blocks of tofu would be… most appreciated, humans… er, friends.

And now, on to today’s exciting column.

WHAT’S NEW IN GENRE TV, ANYWAY?

Well, it was just like Christmas at the Space-Orphanage: a few gifts around the tree, some disappointing, a couple surprisingly wonderful, and the rest a pile of used astro-diapers, steeped in a puddle of tears and hair torn out in frustration.

****

REVOLUTION (NBC, Mondays at 10pm EST)

The network is touting this as a breakout hit, and probably think they’ve caught lightning in the LOST (2004-2010) bottle.  The show was created by Eric Kripke, who also created SUPERNATURAL.  The series concerns an inexplicable catastrophe that shuts down all electrical power.  Nothing works, and the pilot had planes falling from the skies as cities went dark.  We pick up some fifteen years later, when some have created small, rural communities and others are forming fascistic attempts at a new world order.  And, certain people have a strange medallion which sometimes lights up and powers any machinery or devices in the immediate area.  I have to admit I bailed on SUPERNATURAL in the first season, because I just never felt invested in the Brothers Winchester, much as I wanted to be.  I found the same problem with REVOLUTION. I love science fiction, and desperately hope for something as engaging as the best of the STAR TREK universe, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009) or STARGATE: UNIVERSE (2009-2011). I just found the villains on the show to be over-the-top mustache-twirlers, and the heroes tiresome and (frankly) boring.  But, I have been wrong before.  I gave up on STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (2001-2005) early on because of the characters, then a good friend told me how terrific the story arcs were in later seasons.  And you know what? He was right.  If such a person tells me I missed the boat on REVOLUTION, I’ll rent the DVD’s.

****

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM (FX Channel, Wednesdays at 10pm EST)

I loved the first season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY – it was fresh and inventive, had engaging characters and some genuinely scary and creepy moments.  I applauded the idea that each season would bring a different setting and story arc, though some of the actors would be the same.  ASYLUM bounces back and forth between a couple visiting an abandoned asylum and running afoul of a serial killer called “Bloody Face,” and the same asylum in its heyday in the 60’s.  Besides serial killers and a Nazi doctor a la Mengele (and H.G. Wells’s Moreau), the first two and a half episodes had an exorcism, alien abductions and a nun possessed by the devil.  The cast has some terrific actors, including Jessica Lange as Sister Jude, James Cromwell as Dr. Arden and Zachary Quinto as Dr. Thredson.  Maybe I am just tired of hospitals and asylums as a setting for horror stories… It could be the torture aspects, which I have never been crazy about (and were lacking in season one)… But… Watching the episodes I had TiVo’ed just felt like homework, which is a bad sign.  It may be that there are just too many elements – Nazis, aliens, demons and nuns?  I’d love to see creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk develop a series about alien abductions in the 60’s – that would probably be scary as hell… Or just nuns and demons… Or just Nazi experiments in creating animal-men…  Again, if I find later I have given up prematurely, I will re-check it out.

****

LAST RESORT (ABC, Thursdays at 8pm EST)

I had been looking forward to this series, because I am a big fan of Andre Braugher (HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET, 1993-1998, THIEF,2006 and MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE, 2009-2011) and the series was created by Shawn Ryan, the man behind the awesome series THE SHIELD (2002-2008).  If that ain’t enough cred, Robert Patrick is just terrific as Master Chief Prosser. Patrick was the living metal Terminator in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) and Agent John Doggett on THE X-FILES (1993-2002).  LAST RESORT concerns the USS Colorado, a nuclear sub commanded by Captain Marcus Chaplain (Braugher).  The sub picks up a contingent of Navy Seals with a prisoner.  Soon after, they are commanded to nuke Pakistan.  Since the orders come from a secondary relay, Chaplain refuses.  Then the U.S. fires on the Colorado, trying to destroy it.  Chaplain commandeers a remote island and declares a 200 mile barrier around it until they can sort things out.  To prove his point, he fires a nuke at Washington, its actual course taking it out to sea so no one is killed.  The show is filled with conflict, both on the sub and the island and back home.  Has there been a coup? Who can be trusted?  Loyalties and alliances constantly shift and dangers come from within and from without (including the islanders themselves).  I don’t know where the show is going, but it’s very, very engaging, and that’s what I want more than ever.  Homework? Not this one.

Scott Speedman, Robert Patrick and Andre Braugher in LAST RESORT.

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ARROW (The CW, Wednesdays at 8pm EST)

Another pleasant surprise, although the trailer had sold me.  Many think this is a SMALLVILLE (2001-2011) version of the Green Arrow, and it’s easy to understand why.  SMALLVILLE had its own version of the Green Arrow. He was also an incarnation of GA where Oliver Queen is shipwrecked and develops his archery skills to survive until he is rescued.  But that Oliver was embroiled in SMALLVILLE’s brand of soap opera teen angst, which often took precedence over the action.  This version of the Green Arrow is much grittier.  Here, Oliver is a shallow playboy who convinces his girlfriend’s sister to go with him on a pleasure cruise on his father’s yacht.  The yacht goes down, and only Oliver, his father and another man survive.  Knowing they only have limited rations and Oliver is no fighter, his father gives him a journal outlining the corruption in Starling City before killing the other man and taking his own life.  Oliver is helped on the island by a Chinese sort of Robinson Crusoe and undergoes a profound change.  Upon returning, he pretends to be the shallow billionaire playboy, but by night he dons the Lincoln green and goes after the people on the list… And this Green Arrow kills!  Finally, a superhero with lethal skills going the distance.  (I’m lookin’ at you, Wolverine!) Mind you, I wouldn’t want to see Superman or Batman killing people, but Queen as a murderous vigilante brings a whole new level to the story.  Stephen Amell is quite good as Oliver, and his girlfriend is an attorney named… Dinah Lance.  Black Canary, anyone?  Hmm, maybe – she already mentioned to Oliver that she regretted wearing fishnets to a Halloween party… Green Arrow and Black Canary? Yes, please!

****

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (The CW, Thursdays at 9pm EST)

I  know as a galactic pilot and critic I should take one for the team (that being you Earthers), but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch this.  I could barely make it through the promos, and this did seem like a SMALLVILLE-ified version of the series made famous in 1987-1990 with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton.  I guess partially because the “beauty” in this case is Kristin Kreuk, who played Lana Lang in SMALLVILLE. If you love the show, let me know. Otherwise, let’s pretend it’s not even on and move on…

****

MOCKINGBIRD LANE (Aired on NBC on October 26, 2012 – Unsold Pilot)

Another show I looked forward to because I loved THE MUNSTERS (1964-1966) as a kid and this was Bryan Fuller’s take… Fuller created DEAD LIKE ME (2003-2004), which is still one of my all-time favorite series.  I knew this would be a grittier take on Herman and his family, because I had read that Eddie “wolfs out” and kills several members of his Scout troop. (Hmm, another show made attractive by murder… Paging Dr. Freud!) Anyway, I didn’t want to read anything else, and that was both a blessing and a curse.  This is actually a version of the Munsters where they have been liberally mixed with THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1964-1966) – these Munsters look perfectly human, but also know they are special.  There is a nice sight gag when we first meet Herman – standing in the shadows, a hanging lamp behind him alters his silhouette into the block-headed and bolted Monster we all know and love.  Herman is played by Jerry O’Connell, who was a lot of fun in SLIDERS (1995-2000) and seemed more famous in later years for marrying Rebecca Romijn (“Mystique” in X-MEN 2000), but he is quite good here.  His Herman only has one piece of “original” equipment, his heart, which is giving out.  He is afraid a new heart will change him.  Lily is played by the wonderful Portia de Rossi, so damn funny in BETTER OFF TED (2009-2010), and her first appearance is right out of Ray Bradbury, as spiders spin a gown on her shapely form.  Grandpa? Eddie Izzard.  Man, I’d tune in just to watch Izzard alone.  His grandpa looks like Eddie, but can morph into a bat-winged demon (part gargoyle, part Nosferatu) to feed.  The pilot was sly and well written, and underneath was the running thread of love and family unity… and people… people who feed on people, being the luckiest people in the world.  I was ready to make MOCKINGBIRD LANE part of my week, but sadly, this is an unsold pilot, aired to recoup some network bucks…  Sad, because the writing, acting and production values were all top-notch, including the cameo by Spot at the end, which was just killer.  Oh, well…

****

The short-lived series ANIMAL PRACTICE

ANIMAL PRACTICE (NBC, Wednesdays at 8pm EST – Canceled)

A word about this show, which has already been cancelled while dreck like the NBC sitcom WHITNEY survives like some malignant virus.  ANIMAL PRACTICE concerned a vet who didn’t like people and his best friend, Dr. Rizzo, a small capuchin monkey in her own lab coat.  Tyler Labine was also in the show (if you haven’t seen him and Alan Tudyk in TUCKER AND DALE vs EVIL, 2010, you’re missing a true gem), and it was pretty off-the-wall.  Not a show that would be deemed a classic (not yet), but damn, that monkey made me laugh – every… stinking… episode.  TV needs more monkeyshines, less Whitney.

****

Final Note: My favorite shows currently are THE WALKING DEAD (AMC, Sunday nights at 10pm EST), SONS OF ANARCHY (FX Channel, Tuesdays at 10pm EST) and BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO, Sundays at 9pm EST ).  All are just terrific, and each is well written, acted and produced – well worth your time. I also have high hopes for the SyFy series DEFIANCE, coming in the near future.

OUTPOST… out.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

Remote Outpost Takes Us on a Journey Down THE RIVER!

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Bruce Campbell, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Supernatural, SyFy Channel Movies, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST
Up THE RIVER without a you-know-what…
By Mark Onspaugh

Rivers make swell metaphors. Whether one is journeying through the life of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in Life on the Mississippi (1883) or into hearts of darkness and minds of madness with Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), a river can provide all sorts of archetypes and enough nifty symbols for Carl Jung and John Campbell to go mano-a-mano, with Terrence Malick refereeing, and Freud and Fellini cheering them on.

THE RIVER is an ABC mid-season replacement series starring Bruce Greenwood (of NOWHERE MAN, 1995-96, BELOW, 2002, JOHN FROM CINCINNATI, 2007 and STAR TREK 2009). Greenwood is Dr. Emmet Cole, the much-beloved host and star of the nature series “The Undiscovered Country.” America and much of the world has grown up with the series, armchair crew members as Cole journeys across the globe with his wife Tess (Leslie Hope of 24, 2001-2002 and FAUX BABY 2008) and his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson of THE RUINS, 2008, THE CRAZIES, 2010 and THE GREY, 2012). The Coles are the perfect family, traveling to exotic places and teaching their audience about nature and ecology. The show seems very much modeled on the late Steve Irwin’s CROCODILE HUNTER (1997-2004), although silverbacks like me will recall the 60s travelogue series, THREE PASSPORTS TO ADVENTURE, with the Linker family (Hal, Halla and son David). Dr. Cole’s signature line is “There’s magic out there!”

Now son Lincoln Cole is all grown up and in med school, both worshipping his father and hating him for making their lives a televised fishbowl. His father disappeared some six months ago in the Amazon and is presumed dead, but suddenly a signal is received from a rescue beacon. An expedition to find Cole and his ship, The Magus, is put together by Tess and Emmet’s producer and friend Clark Quietly (Paul Blackthorne from one of my past favorites: THE DRESDEN FILES, 2007-2008, and THE GATES, 2010). Also aboard are son Lincoln; lovely Lena Landry, daughter of a missing cameraman (Eloise Mumford from CRASH, 2008 and LONE STAR, 2010); mechanic Emilio Valenzuela (Daniel Zacapa of SE7EN, 1995, FALLEN ANGELS , 2006 and FLASHFORWARD, 2009); his daughter Jahel (Paulina Gaitan), cameraman AJ Poulain (Shaun Parkes of the 2006 season of DR. WHO and the short-lived show, NO ORDINARY FAMILY, 2011) and Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann, who was previously in RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, 2004, KING KONG, 2005, GRIMM LOVE, 2006 and FLASHFORWARD, 2009), whose job it is to protect everyone.

The Magus is found, seemingly empty… But a locked room is found, and inside are bloodstains and a curious carved wood artifact, which is a sort of soul catcher. After accidentally freeing and contending with a malevolent poltergeist, Lincoln recreates the ceremony his father used to trap the entity… But who or what have they caught? Is it Emmet Cole? Lena’s father? Something wholly inhuman?

In the control room are dozens of tapes with hours and hours of footage to review. For the series the Magus has been outfitted with cameras in every room and a diligent cameraman documented everything else—things on shore, in the water, in the sky, etc. Many of the tapes are unlabeled, but Lena recalls Emmet contacting her about a nasty bug bite on his hand—they use the progress of the infection to put the latest tapes in chronological order. It’s a nifty bit of detective work, but also makes us wonder why Emmet was contacting Lena instead of his wife or his son who is in medical school.

As you have surmised, THE RIVER is very much a “found footage” sort of program, the sub-genre (usually of horror) first popularized by THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). Sometimes we see film footage as the crew reviews tapes or the cameraman is at work, other times we are privy to what the camera is filming while everyone is asleep or occupied elsewhere. If this seems familiar, one of the creators of THE RIVER is Oren Peli, director and creator of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise (2007, 2010, 2011, 2012) and Michael R. Perry, a writer of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (also a producer on MILLENNIUM, 1996-1999 and a writer on the DEAD ZONE TV series from 2002 to 2007). Some familiar gags from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are seen in THE RIVER: shadowy presences, things amiss that are barely glimpsed (though a DVR offers some chance for review a movie does not) and a signature effect where the video counter moves forward very quickly, and we see something transpiring over long period in just seconds. (This was especially eerie in the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, where the sleepwalking wife stood over her husband for something like an hour as he slept.)

Oren Peli, director of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is one of the creators of the new ABC show THE RIVER.

In the second episode, Jahel swallowed a dragonfly which was either Emmet Cole’s soul or astral body… He warned his family to turn back, but Tess took this as proof he is alive and in need of their help. We also learned that Emmet was/is searching for the “source of real magic” somewhere far upriver, and Captain Brynildson is working for some person or group back on land who does not want that source found.

(This “source” keeps reminding me of the “golden light in a cave” from LOST, that was apparently where baby Smoke Monsters come from.)

The third episode was especially eerie. The crew is going through the jungle and discovers an ancient cemetery of European settlers/missionaries from the 1700’s. A local legend has it that a child was lost from this group, and now her ghost plagues the natives in the area. To appease her, they hang dozens of dolls in a tree… Seeing lots of creepy dolls in the jungle is bad enough, but one is the teddy bear Lincoln threw into the Indian Ocean when he felt he had outgrown it… Years ago… In an ocean which is something like 10,000 miles away at the little ghost flies. Lincoln, perhaps feeling insecure, takes the bear, which ticks the ghost girl off… So said ghost (never seen) kidnaps Tess to be her new mommy. When returning the bear doesn’t work, Lincoln finds the grave of the child’s mother and reunites the two and his mother is returned unharmed. (Why a ghost who can make dolls fall out of a tree could not find her own mother’s grave is something for Peter Venkman to discuss in a panel with Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore.)

Jonas "The Hanging Man" from THE RIVER.

Each episode takes us further upriver, and presumably the laws of physics and normal, everyday life will begin to break down more and more. Each episode also presents the crew dealing with a local legend or curse. I especially liked “A Better Man”, where the cameraman from Emmet’s crew is found hanged in a tree – but still alive and delirious from malaria… Turns out this fellow, named Jonas, courted some bad juju by photographing a native funeral. He did this despite Emmet telling him such things were not to be filmed, and thus ended up stealing the soul of an elder… Branded a thief by The Powers That Be, he was then doomed to become The Hanged Man, ever suffering but never dying. The legend tied in nicely with a tarot deck Jahel carries, as well as a scary folk tale Captain Brynildson’s granny used to tell him. (It also riffs on the story of Jonah and the Whale, especially when the elements threaten to tear the ship apart if Jonas isn’t given up.) The final resolution is organic and makes sense… It also presents the possibility of a romantic triangle between Lena, Lincoln and Jonas.

Show creators Peli and Perry were initially going to make THE RIVER another low-budget horror film in the vein of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, but felt they had enough ideas for a series. Steven Spielberg agreed and is exec producing. The initial order was for eight episodes, and we will be halfway through this first string with the airing of “Peaches” this week.

This certainly is the year for the supernatural on television, and more shows are on the way. But two water-based shows in the past did not fare very well, SURFACE (2005-2006) and INVASION (2005-2006). True, those shows were both science fiction, but their respective storylines were fantastic enough to reach that gray and sparkly area where SF and fantasy collide (as they did so alarmingly in KRULL, 1983). Whether THE RIVER continues beyond its initial order depends a great deal on the cast of characters. So far, the most likeable character for my money is Dr. Emmet Cole, who is only seen in flashbacks and found footage (or as a dragonfly). All of the cast are good actors, and there is good writing and direction, but I haven’t felt compelled to watch—I am more curious than caring. I know I keep touting LOST, but I would add THE X-FILES and FRINGE, as TV shows where the characters and their chemistry are a real joy to witness. People who are fully fleshed out that you care about. Part of the joy of watching a series is having a favorite character, and we who love genre TV often have a list of standouts from shows going back to childhood. It isn’t enough to be mildly curious—I can wait and read a summary on Wikipedia or ask a diehard friend. These have to be people that have an integrity, a life beyond the dimensions of the screen. For me, THE RIVER is intriguing but not yet must-viewing. I’ll definitely stay for the full eight, but beyond that… there’d better be some real magic in there.

##

UPDATE: ALCATRAZ has almost lost me. Again I am curious, but even the awesome Jorge Garcia is not enough to make me want to tune in… I will probably give them one more episode (maybe two) and then I may make my escape.

Two new shows I very much enjoy are GRIMM (Silas Weir Mitchell as a reformed “blut bador Big Bad Wolf is hilarious—he was also the crazy inmate who escaped with the rest in the first season of PRISON BREAK, 2005-2009), and LOST GIRL, which is sort of “Succubus in the City” without being annoying… Well, it can be a little annoying, but it’s also clever and sexy. Both shows have inventive new riffs on fairy tales and legends. Grimm goes into BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER territory but makes it its own, and LOST GIRL is sassy and erotic – definitely a show that many women I know like… It may be a show you can share with your significant other.

##

This week’s GUILTY PLEASURE: we all have them, songs, stories and television we are embarrassed to share, often disavowing them or hiding those incriminating CD’s, books and DVD’s when friends or family come to call… Then again, such fare is great if it’s just you and some friends who love cinematic cheese to go with beer, pizza and other forms of contraband.

I recently watched ALIEN APOCALYPSE (2005), an original SyFy movie made when the cable network was still Sci-Fi. Besides the title, the film stars Bruce Campbell, who is known to all genre geeks as Ash in THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and its sequels. Bruce Campbell fighting aliens? I’m in.

This is a movie Campbell pitched to Sci-Fi with buddy Josh Becker, who wrote and directed this… um, film. Campbell and his fellow astronauts have been away for forty years, and return to find the Earth overrun with insect overlords who use remaining humans as slaves and (sometimes) gourmet treats—they are especially fond of biting off a live human’s head.

So, it’s basically PLANET OF THE APES (1968) with bugs, yes? Well… not quite. Our first sign of trouble (and a low budget) is that we never see the probe Campbell and pals return to Earth in… We see something like a meteor that crashes behind a mountain and explodes. Later, Bruce, his captain and two women astronauts are making their way toward the city. (By the way, Campbell’s character is named Ivan Hood, but I will just call him Bruce – he’s freakin’ Bruce Campbell, after all.) Bruce would seem to be the ship’s doctor, but he is actually an osteopath. Why an osteopath is sent on a forty-year mission gives us a clue that this movie will be tongue-in-cheek.

If that weren’t a tip-off, then the aliens’ mission is. The aliens – bipedal insects who are as big as people – are rendered with pretty good CGI, and have green, goopy blood. Why are they here? They want Earth’s wood, which they eat (along with humans). (Need a moment to stop giggling? Okay…) They traveled here in vast ships and command energy weapons and high-tech tanks, but they have humans harvesting their tasty lumber with equipment from the turn of the century. Humans spend a lot of time loading planks onto horse-drawn wagons, all the while gagged. I thought at first the aliens were sensitive to our voices, but no explanation for the gags is given… They are not high-tech gags, just cloth affairs that would not seem out of place in the Middle Ages. Also on the cheap is the alien headquarters, which is a (bad) CGI hive made of highly flammable wood and (one supposes) bug saliva… maybe some human lymph, what do I know?

Bruce learns the President and the entire Congress is hiding in the hills, and manages to escape from the work camp. He gathers a small army and finds the President, who is too disillusioned to fight. Bruce shames him verbally and then heads back to the camp where his fellow astronaut (and love interest) Kelly awaits.

Though the aliens command a vastly superior technology, they seem perpetually surprised when attacked, standing patiently as primitive bow and arrows pierce their exoskeletons and they fall like mandibled bowling pins. In case you were worried, the President and his aged cronies show up like the Calvary at the last minute, but later all agree that Bruce is the real hero—this is confirmed by the THE ROAD WARRIOR-esque narrator who lets us know that even a lantern-jawed osteopath can sometimes fill Charlton Heston’s shoes.

It’s beyond low budget and silly, but it’s still a hoot. Some say Bruce is channeling Ash here, but he seems to me more like Sam Axe, his great character from the current series  BURN NOTICE. There’s a weariness to his character that was missing from Ash, and Ash would never have become an osteopath. Plus, he never says “boomstick” or “screw-heads” – not even once.

ALIEN APOCALYPSE is touted as the highest-rated premier of a Sci-Fi movie – I am not sure if the Debbie Gibson/Tiffany P.O.S. MEGA PYTHON VS GATOROID (2011) beat that, but I’d like to think that the record of “The Chin that Saved Hollywood” is secure. It’s available on DVD and is your duty to rent, in case those cursed xylophagic xenomorphs show up!

That’s all from the Outpost this week… Next time we may finally attend SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, perhaps comparing and contrasting the hellish campuses from 1978 with those of 2000…

Outpost… out.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

REMOTE OUTPOST – 12 FOR 2012

Posted in 2011, Best Of Lists, Ghosts!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST… 12 FOR 2012
By Mark Onspaugh

Those who haven’t given up on me in disgust will remember I did a Fall preview back in September.  Of the nine genre shows I previewed, I am only continuing to watch three… I guess 33.33% isn’t bad, but I am jonesing for some good science fiction on the order of STAR TREK, STARGATE: UNIVERSE or CAPRICA… I may get my wish on that one in January.

So here is a dozen faves that we all support here in the Remote Outpost:

TOP 3 GENRE SHOWS THAT PREMIERED THIS PAST FALL

PERSON OF INTEREST—the closest you will get to a live-action Batman series.  The cast is amazing, especially the stars Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson. You’ll never find them, but if your number comes up, they will find you.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY—who gave up on GLEE? We did, just couldn’t take it any more (it’s become like the parody on COMMUNITY).  I didn’t think a horror show by the creators of that singing infestation would work, but it is compelling, scary and thought-provoking.  The season ender was really amazing, and I hope we spend a lot more time in “The Murder House” with the Harmons and their not-so-friendly ghosts.

GRIMM—I lost interest in ONCE UPON A TIME, but GRIMM is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was—fun.  It may not be as smartly written (not everyone is Joss Whedon), but it is inventive and has its own compelling mythology. And Silas Weir Mitchell as a reformed “blut bad” (“Big Bad Wolf”) is hilarious.

TOP 1 NON-GENRE SHOW THAT PREMIERED THIS FALL

PRIME SUSPECT—I read someone didn’t find Maria Bello convincing as a tough, Irish New York cop—she is.  The men in her department think she slept her way up to detectives.  They’ve learned to respect her toughness and her instincts, but there is still plenty of resentment and conflict.  Good stuff

TOP SITCOM THAT PREMIERED THIS FALL

NEW GIRL—we just couldn’t stomach WHITNEY, but NEW GIRL often makes me laugh out loud. I know a lot of you will find Zooey Deschanel annoying, but the writing for her roommates and her boyfriend (Justin Long) is funny… Not MODERN FAMILY or COMMUNITY funny, but worth a half hour of our time.

TOP PILOT THAT PREVIEWED BEFORE THE SERIES PREMIERE

LUCK—the new series from David Milch, who created and wrote the awesome DEADWOOD and JOHN FROM CINCINNATI. This one is centered around horse racing and stars Dustin Hoffman (you heard me) and Nick Nolte (you heard me).  The show looks to be another Milch masterwork of Shakespearean drama with complex characters in a complicated world.  Yes.

MOST EAGERLY AWAITED PREMIERE

ALCATRAZ—less than a month away for the new JJ Abrams show that is produced by LOST alumni.  Sam Neill is our guide to the prison where, forty years ago, all the inmates disappeared… Now they are returning and wreaking havoc.  I would be tempted to dismiss this as another THE 4400, but Abrams always turns things on their ear.  I want another LOST-type show, don’t you? Yeah, even if you didn’t like the way it ended, you enjoyed the ride.

SHOW WITH THE BIGGEST JAW-DROPPING FINALE

BOARDWALK EMPIRE—this show continues to amaze.  The attention to period detail, the drama of Prohibition leading to organized crime and the heroin trade… It’s superb.  Steve Buscemi and company can’t return fast enough… If you watched the season ender you are, like us, saying “Damn! Now what?”

MOST EAGERLY AWAITED WINTER RETURN

JUSTIFIED—if you aren’t watching this show with Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshall in Kentucky dealing with various outlaws and criminal types, you should be.  I have a feeling the new season is going to deal with the “Dixie Mafia,” and methinks they are not stupid, inbred trailer trash.  Justified presents an honest portrayal of mountain folk, good and bad.  Plus, an amazing cast including Walton Goggins as best frenemy Boyd Crowder. Watch it, ya hear?

TOP SHOWS WE WANT TO RETURN

TRUE BLOOD—Alan Ball’s twisted and amazing version of Charlaine Harris’s “Sookie Stackhouse” novels.  Great characters and tremendous mythology… And no twinkly vampires!

FRINGE—not many of you are watching this, but it fills that void left when THE X-FILES went south.  Compelling and weird, and a hell of a lot of fun.  If you haven’t ever watched, try the first season on DVD.

SONS OF ANARCHYHamlet on motorcycles.  Kurt Sutter is another man who brings compelling drama to a world we may not be familiar with, but surely exists.

BONUS BAKER’S DOZEN ENTRY

BREAKING BAD—amazing. One season left to go in the disastrous decline of a chemisty teacher turned meth cook turned criminal mastermind…  Lots of tension in this one, folks.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh

A REMOTE OUTPOST CHRISTMAS

Posted in 2011, 60s Movies, Animated Films, HOLIDAY CHEER, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Television with tags , , , , , on December 25, 2011 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST: OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE THREE CHRISTMAS “KINGS”
By Mark Onspaugh

It’s Christmas here at the Outpost, just like it is on your home world.  Rather than review a bygone Christmas special or movie from the Vast Wasteland, I thought I would interview the stars of the three best Christmas specials ever made: RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965) and HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1966).

Rudolph, Charlie Brown and the Grinch joined me in the main lounge overlooking the Plains of Slow Death—the area is hostile and toxic, but the sunsets are amazing.  I was disappointed that Charlie Brown had not brought Snoopy, nor had the Grinch brought Max, but the journey to the Outpost seems particularly traumatic to dogs and toddlers.

The three had met previously at various gatherings (notably Icons & Immortals), so we got right into it.

OUTPOST:  You each star in a special that was made over 40 years ago, yet most would agree they are still superior to many made since.  How does it feel to be part of something that people have passed down to children and even grandchildren.

RUDOLPH: It’s wonderful.  After having so much trouble as a fawn, it’s nice to know so many people think I’m cute.  (Nose glows and squeaks.)

RUDOLPH - friend to children everywhere and Santa's spare flashlight

CHARLIE BROWN: I don’t know… My life is pretty much the same.  I still haven’t talked to that Little Red-haired Girl and our team never wins.

THE GRINCH: My life is very satisfying.  I have a piece of the merchandising and invested in various resorts and condos and shopping mall developments in Whoville.

OUTPOST: Is that really in keeping with your reformed Grinchiness? Heart three sizes bigger and all?

THE GRINCH: I’m kinder, but I’m not an idiot.

(A communique arrives from L.L. Soares of Earth)

OUTPOST: One of our readers wants to know why FROSTY THE SNOWMAN (1969) isn’t being interviewed.

(All three make sour faces.)

RUDOLPH: I hate that guy!

CHARLIE BROWN: What a blockhead…  No, what a (expletive deleted)-head!

THE GRINCH: Do you know what I sent him last Christmas? A hair dryer.

(Rudolph and Charlie Brown laugh.)

OUTPOST: Why no love for Frosty?

RUDOLPH: He’s just so annoying—every winter he comes back and acts like he’s risen from the freaking grave or something.

CHARLIE BROWN: And he’s mean—he gave Schroeder frost bite… kid couldn’t play Beethoven for two months.

CHARLIE BROWN - Christmas sad sack.

THE GRINCH: His heart is ice… which is fitting, I suppose.

OUTPOST: Wow, I’m glad we didn’t invite him. I have to admit, although I liked Jackie Vernon, I always found Frosty annoying.

Do you three still see your co-stars?

RUDOLPH: Sure—Clarisse and I got married some time ago, and we have some fawns of our own.  Blinky, Winky, Twinkly, Strobe, Low-Watt, Burnout, Halogen —

OUTPOST: Great, great… But I guess people are really curious about Hermey and Yukon Cornelius.

RUDOLPH: Hermey is really famous, now.  He got the Easter Bunny account and married the Tooth Fairy.  There were a lot of jokes when they announced their engagement, but they’re very happy.  Yukon was filming a reality show, “In Search of Silver and Gold” and was lost somewhere in the Siberian wastes… The Bumble and some of the Misfit Toys went looking for him… Soon as I finish up here, I’m going to join the search with my kids Blinky, Winky, Twinkly —

OUTPOST: Great, great… Charlie Brown?

CHARLIE BROWN: I’m under contract with Dolly Madison. I work with the same people and we all stay eight years old.  The pay is good, but we all stay eight years old… And our parents are the horn section of the L.A. Philharmonic.

OUTPOST: That sounds more like a Twilight Zone episode…

CHARLIE BROWN: Tell me about it.

THE GRINCH: I still see all the Whos… And every year I go to the Christmas Villains convention—usually ride with the Bumble—it’s the only time I can get together with Heat Miser, Snow Miser and the Burgermeister Meisterburger. Those are good times.

THE GRINCH - no longer a "mean one?"

OUTPOST: Grinch, you’re in a unique position in this panel—you are both the villain and the hero of your Christmas special.  Aside from yourself, who do you think is the greatest Christmas villain of all time?

THE GRINCH: Ebenezer Scrooge, no question… Part of my lineage is tied to Boris Karloff, you know, so I appreciate the classics.

OUTPOST: Ah, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, based on the work of Charles Dickens. There have been so many versions of that classic tale—do you, like most, prefer the 1951 version with Alastair Sim? The 1938 version with Reginald Owen?

THE GRINCH: As wonderful as those both are, I must admit I am particularly fond of SCROOGED (1988) with Bill Murray.

RUDOLPH: That’s a great one!

CHARLIE BROWN: It’s really funny—it almost makes me forget my dog has a richer life than I do.

OUTPOST: Okay, time for some tough questions.  Rudolph, you were in a couple of sequels to your eponymous special.  You were the sweet reindeer with a “difference” that made you an object of ridicule…

RUDOLPH: Oh boy, you don’t need a “neon nose” to see where this is going…

OUTPOST: Yet, in RUDOLPH’S SHINY NEW YEAR (1976), the baby New Year is self-conscious about his huge ears… and you laugh at him!

RUDOLPH: (sighs) Yeah, I was under contract to do some sequels—I wasn’t happy with that particular aspect, which they tried to explain away as people laughing with Baby New Year, not at him. Since it humiliated him, I thought that was all so much Bumble-s**t – however, I was made a fawn again in that one (even though I was grown by the end of the first special), and lacked the confidence to fight for changes.

OUTPOST: I guess that explains the horrible animation of RUDOLPH AND THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS (2001).

RUDOLPH: That piece of crap! I usually tell people that’s my slow-witted cousin Adolph.

OUTPOST: Charlie Brown—the world wants to know—why in the hell do you try and kick that football that Lucy holds?  She needs a good rap in the chops.

CHARLIE BROWN: I honestly don’t know, I really don’t.  I’ve been to a ton of therapists—apparently I have “Dennis the Menace Syndrome” which is a permanent state of child-regression and arrested development— it’s like a Peter Pan complex, but for comic strip characters. Rats.

OUTPOST: Uh huh, uh huh… well, next time tell her Snoopy will go for her throat if she pulls that s**t again.

CHARLIE BROWN: Wouldn’t that be something? Good grief!

OUTPOST: And Grinch…

THE GRINCH: Is this about the 2000 Jim Carrey movie?

OUTPOST: Yes! They took a beautiful, succinct and elegant twenty-two minute short and—

THE GRINCH: I am in litigation over this very issue and have been advised by counsel not to discuss the matter.  Although my profits from the venture were extensive, and led not only to the building of Whoville University and the Grinch Cancer Ward at the Whoville Medical Center, I felt the movie and its portrayal of … Let’s just table that until after the lawsuit, shall we?

OUTPOST: Fair enough.  It is unfortunate that each of you starred in such a masterwork, and later callous and money-grubbing fat cats used your name and nostalgia to put out inferior trash.

RUDOLPH: That’s the nature of the beast, man.

THE GRINCH: Amen to that, brother!

CHARLIE BROWN: Rats.

OUTPOST: I’d like to open up the lines now for more questi –

(At this point, the wall began to melt and freeze simultaneously… The plasteel structure buckled and then collapsed, and a large vehicle bristling with weapons broke through.  The thing careened across the now-icy floor and nearly took out both Rudolph and the shield generator.  Thankfully, the generator was not hit and was able to seal the breach… Rudolph, being able to fly, was able to lift off… However, in his panicked state he did soil our Security Chief, who rushed in at the first alarm. I know this seems like a bid for a cheap laugh, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

The turret popped open, and George Bailey leaped out onto the faring…)

GEORGE BAILEY: Hello, you old Outpost! Merry Christmas, Rudolph! Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! Merry Christmas, you old Grinch!

(George was followed by a lot of people in true clown car fashion: Ebenezer Scrooge, Santa Claus, Buddy the Elf, Patch the Elf, King Moonracer, Pitch the Demon, Lupita, Zuzu, Mary, Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB gun, the Bumble, the Winter Warlock, Sam the Snowman, Snow Miser, Heat Miser, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Hermey, the Tooth Fairy, the conductor from The Polar Express,  all the Misfit Toys, Tiny Tim, Frank Cross, Claire, Eliot Loudermilk, various avatars of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Mr. Magoo, Art Carney, Good King Wenceslas, various waifs, waitresses and ne’er-do-wells from a thousand Hallmark specials, Fred Claus, Bad Santa, all the denizens of the North Pole, Hannukah Harry, Sandy Claws, Jack Skellington, the Griswolds, all those Martians Santa Claus conquered and everyone who ever had a Christmas special or a very special Christmas episode…

…all except for Frosty the Snowman, who everyone agrees is a real ass.)

*****

As for me, I broke out the Egg Nogger 5000, refilled the rum tanks and dug out the all the old Christmas albums…

It was the best party ever.

The Remote Outpost can be a lonely place, until your friends arrive.

To you and yours, from all of us at the REMOTE OUTPOST, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and a joyful time, whatever you celebrate.

REMOTE OUTPOST… out.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh

A&E Channel Mini-Series: BAG OF BONES (2011)

Posted in 2011, Ghosts!, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by knifefighter

“Me and Lil’ Stevie” Paw Through A
BAG OF BONES

EXTERIOR/NIGHT:

(ESTABLISHING SHOT of a lakeside cottage, deep in the woods of Maine. Camera begins to move away from the cottage, turning left and slowly panning towards the huge lake next to it. The moon is reflecting off the choppy waters of the lake, giving the mist coming off the lake’s surface an ethereal glow. The water begins to roil and bubble with turbulence until a figure comes gushing through. It is a man carrying a ventriloquist dummy in the shape of the Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Peter: (Panting and gasping) Holy Crap! Are you trying to drown me?

Lil’ Stevie: (Chuckling) Hey Peter, what’s the only kind of wood that doesn’t float?

Peter: How should I know?

Lil’ Stevie: Natalie Wood! Get it? Hyuk hyuk hyuk…

Peter (frowns): Greetings, Constant Viewers, and welcome to another addition of “Me and Lil’ Stevie”. Today we’ll be discussing the Mick Garris television mini-series BAG OF BONES, which was JUST AIRED this past week on the A&E cable channel!

Lil’ Stevie: I know! Isn’t that great? We finally get to review something brand new!

Peter: Well, it’s funny that you say that. The novel was actually released in 1998, and shortly after, Bruce Willis optioned the film rights. This, to me, was fabulous because I absolutely love this book and couldn’t wait for it to be released as a motion picture. Willis never did anything with it. He sat on it until the rights expired, well over a decade later. So I spent a decade watching and waiting, pondering which actors and actresses would portray the roles and how closely the screenplay would follow the novel. That’s a huge amount of build-up, which made it tough for me to be objective when it came time to watch the movie and write this review.

Lil’ Stevie: It’s okay, Peter…you can say it. This movie ROCKED!

Peter: Not so fast, Lil’ Stevie. Let’s give this a fair review. The book centers around author Mike Noonan (played by Pierce Brosnan, television’s REMINGTON STEELE 1982-87), who…You know something? A hell of a lot of King’s books center around authors.

Lil’ Stevie: No, they don’t.

Peter: Um, yes they do.

Lil’ Stevie: Name five!

Peter: Jack Torrence, Ben Mears, Mike Enslin, Bill Denbrough, and John Marinville.

Lil’ Stevie: Name two more!

Peter: Scott Landon and Thad Beaumont.

Lil’ Stevie: You stink!

Peter: Anyway…Mike is an author who loses his wife Jo (Annabeth Gish, MYSTIC PIZZA, 1988), when she is accidentally hit by a bus while crossing the street…

Lil’ Stevie: In my novel she has a brain aneurysm…

Peter: …while Mike is doing a book signing for his latest release. Mike runs out of the bookstore and holds his dying wife in his arms, and as he does so he notices the early-pregnancy test in the bag she just purchased at the drug store. This sets into motion the first part of the mystery behind the story; the Noonans were suffering infertility due to Mike’s low sperm count. So had Jo, perhaps, been cheating on him?

Lil’ Stevie: (Whipping out the book copy of BAG OF BONES), it says right here in my book that…

(Peter reaches out and snatches the book away from Lil’ Stevie.)

Lil’ Stevie: Give me that…it’s my dust-catcher!

Peter: We’re reviewing the movie, not the book! (Throws the book into the lake and watches it as it sinks). Mike is devastated, and can feel his world slowly coming apart. Jo was the inspiration behind all his novels, and now that she’s gone, he’s seized up into a terrible bout of writer’s block. He’s also hitting the bottle too hard, and is beginning to have some pretty vivid dreams about their summer home; the cottage by Dark Score Lake that he and Jo inherited from his grandfather up in TR90.

Lil’ Stevie: “Sara Laughs.” That’s what their cottage is called in my book.

Peter: Yes, but in the movie, they never utter the name Sara Laughs even ONCE. Crazy!

Lil’ Stevie: (Sighing) I’m used to it.

Peter: At Jo’s funeral, Mike is approached by his agent, Marty (Jason Priestly, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, 1990-2000), who, in a smarmy, tactless way, reminds Mike that Jo would want him to go on with his writing. Lost in his misery, Mike goes drinking with his brother Sid (Matt Frewer, who played the “Trashcan Man” in Garris’s miniseries of THE STAND, 1994), who tries to be supportive and echo Marty the Agent’s sentiments about what Jo would want.

Lil’ Stevie: In my book, it’s actually Jo’s brother, Frank! And that’s not even mentioning Mike’s agent’s real name was Harold.

Peter: Did you want to go for a swim?

Lil’ Stevie: I’ll behave.

Peter: There are too many differences between the book and the screenplay. Only note the important ones. Mike is haunted by dreams of his late wife, and of their cottage. And since he’s got writer’s block and is stewing about Jo’s unexplained pregnancy, he decides to go up and pay the cottage a visit. But not before a phone call from Marty, who drops a bomb about the summer publishing schedule and insisting that he complete a new manuscript in three months. Mike knows he can’t, so he dusts off a trunk-novel (an old unsold manuscript he’d squirreled away) to keep his agent happy, then hot-foots it up to TR90 to get his mind clear.

(Note: Clarification of TR90. Because the township is too small to have a name of its own, it’s referred to as the map grid square the location falls under.  So basically, on the map of Maine, the location would fall in grid square 90. )

Lil’ Stevie: Enter the second part of the mystery!

Peter: Mike arrives at the cottage and begins to experience some paranormal activity in the shape of the bell-ringing, fridge magnet-moving ghost of his late wife. He can ask rudimentary questions that require the response of once for yes-twice for no. He also encounters and saves a little girl who was walking down the middle of the road. The little girl is Kyra Devore (Caitlin Carmichael, TRUE BLOOD, 2011), the daughter of Mattie Devore (Melissa George, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, 2007) and granddaughter of local billionaire and deranged madman Max Devore (William Schallert, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, 1967). It turns out that Max is trying to legally obtain custody of the child because Mattie shot and killed her husband, Lance (Max’s son), when she caught him trying to drown their child. More than that, Max Devore has the entire town pretty much in his pocket, and when the townies see Mike save Kyra, they can’t wait to pass the news on to the twisted old man. When Mike saves her, he is unwittingly dragged into Mattie and Kyra’s dilemma, and is urged by the ghost of Jo to help them.

Lil’ Stevie: So far, so good. Pretty frightening stuff, huh?

Peter: Actually, not so much. This is all taking place in Part One of the series. It’s all about set-up and character development. And at the same time, Mike begins having dreams about Sara Tidwell…

Lil’ Stevie: Sara Laughs!

Peter: Sara (Anika Noni Rose, DREAM GIRLS, 2006) is an African-American jazz singer who had performed at the Dark Score Fair at the height of her singing career and disappeared immediately after. In some exposition through more poltergeist activity, we learn that she, too, haunts the Noonans’ cottage, and she is not too thrilled that Mike is staying there. By the end of Part One, we’re directed toward an understanding that the mystery of Jo’s pregnancy, her subsequent solo return to Dark Score earlier that year for a fact-finding mission, and the strange disappearance of Sara Tidwell are somehow all connected. Is this fair to say?

Lil’ Stevie: More or less. And let me just add that it burns me up just how much stuff got cut out of my book. Sara’s back story was lovingly detailed and fascinating. Her husband, ‘Son’ Tidwell, was also in the band, and I had even suggested that ‘Son’ was actually her brother, and that the two were in an incestuous relationship. Sara’s character in the novel is far more colorful and interesting that what we are presented here.

Peter: Fair enough. On to Part 2! By now, Mike has found a way to somehow start writing again. In a quick montage, we see him at his computer, whipping out page after page of fresh, new material, and we see that he’s actually managing to find happiness again. But the cogs are turning in perfect clockwork concerning the evil Max Devore and his pursuit of bullying his grandchild away from his daughter-in-law, Mattie.

Lil’ Stevie: Do you like the name Max Devore? It almost sounds like Max Devour…something that might eat up enormous amounts. Say, like an entire town…

Peter: Schallert’s turn as Devore is wonderfully upsetting. For a character in his nineties and bound to a Hoveround scooter, he comes across as mercilessly omnipotent. And his sidekick, Rogette Whitmore (Deborah Grover, THE GATE, 1987), is equally lethal and upsetting. One of the scenes in the book that really stood out for me was when the two attack Mike out by the lake, and Rogette hurls rocks at him after knocking him off a cliff and into the water. It was one that I knew was coming in the movie, and it’s wonderfully effective…just as scary as any of the ghostly activity back at the cottage. She even laughs at Mike as she pelts him with stones.

Lil’ Stevie: Watching it made you cry like a little girl!

Peter: I DID NOT!

Lil’ Stevie: Did too! I think you don’t even like old people!

Peter: Whatever. The whole bullying tactic is important…it shows that Max Devore is pretty much insane with power. And how can one NOT be, with pretty much unlimited finances and resources? But not being able to get his way is part of the fury that is driving him. He has no interest in raising Kyra Devore. He wants to punish Mattie for killing his son, and he wants to end the Dark Score Curse, which we will come to discover was the result of the missing piece of the puzzle that is driving this mystery. Yet, the tables are turning in typical King fashion. Mattie’s lawyer has discovered a paper-trail of shady finances linked between Devore and Kyra’s court-appointed guardian ad-litem, which means that Mattie will legally get to keep her daughter. But as the evil Rogette points out, Max Devore NEVER loses…

Lil’ Stevie: Brace yourselves, Constant Viewers! Oh yeah, and from here on, we should probably sound a SPOILER ALERT.

Peter: In one of the very few moments in the movie where exposition is given WITHOUT Mike Noonan in the picture, we get to see the gruesome bathtub suicide of Max Devore…a twist in the story we never see coming. Rogette administers a lethal dose of morphine, kisses him goodbye, and then places a plastic bag over his head. And then Max Devore becomes ANOTHER malevolent spirit for Mike to deal with. With Devore now dead, Mattie believes that all her troubles are over, but even from the grave, the old man is STILL calling the shots!

Lil’ Stevie: Who’s a brilliant author? Let me hear it!

Peter: Through a few more dream sequences and ghostly scenes in the cabin, Mike starts to finally unravel the mystery. And through a trip to the senior citizens’ home to visit one of the mourners at Devore’s funeral, Mike finally learns what really happened to Sara Tidwell and how the Dark Score Curse came about. The rest of the puzzle finally falls into place, and just as Mike and Mattie finally get to celebrate the closure they are coming into, Mattie is fatally shot in the face by none other than the town officer. The whole town is trying to end the curse, and is hunting Kyra down with the intention of killing her. And Mike, to his horror, realizes that he is a part of the curse through the bloodline of his grandfather, who was there the day that Sara Tidwell was raped and she and her daughter were murdered out by the lake. The rest of the movie is Mike’s attempt to end the curse and save Kyra’s life, and finally exorcise the ghosts that are haunting him.

Lil’ Stevie: Amen, brother! There sure is a lot of story behind this story.

Peter: I’ll say! And I have to admit that releasing this as a two-part miniseries was definitely the way to go. A lot of stuff did get dropped from the novel, but it works in order to keep the pacing. The novel is told entirely through first-person narrative, and that can be tricky to translate from book to screenplay. I have to give Matt Venne a lot of credit for a job well done.

Lil’ Stevie: And credit to Mick Garris as well. He’s come a long way since he sank his fangs into filming my works.

Peter: That’s fair enough. Props to Garris as well. This movie is beautifully filmed and offers some truly terrifying moments. I particularly liked the cottage, and how Jo’s artwork is displayed throughout. Most of her works are portraits of faces, giving the feeling that the house is constantly watching you (as if the ghosts weren’t enough). I had my doubts that Garris could deliver, especially since he had a minimal budget to work with, but this addition to the King legacy is rock-solid. But I had two bugaboos I did want to bring up…

Lil’ Stevie: You just can’t stop yourself from complaining, can you?

Peter: Foremost is the casting of Brosnan as Mike Noonan. First of all, he’s around two decades too old to portray the character that King created for the book, and second (and more important), HE’S SPEAKING WITH A BRITISH ACCENT! He’s from Maine, and his brother speaks with an American accent, but Brosnan can’t seem to drop it to make the movie feel more realistic.

Lil’ Stevie: It’s just like Madonna.

Peter: What the hell are you talking about?

Lil’ Stevie: It just means he’s educated. After Madonna became a parent and decided to scrap all her slutty ways, she suddenly started speaking with a British accent. It just signifies that she’s educated and proper now.

Peter: You’re an imbecile! My second problem is with Garris’s love of CGI effects. Mattie’s post-mortem return at the end as a ghost made of water droplets, and the Green Lady (the tree that marks the burial site of Sara and her daughter’s remains) both look so fake that it almost made me feel embarrassed for King. It looked silly, and detracted from the horror and the emotion that the story was building up to.

Lil’ Stevie: Well, what do you want for nothing? A rubber biscuit? It’s not like we had to pay to see this. And this really was a great adaption of my book.

Peter: You mean it was a great adaption of King’s book. And it was. I’ll definitely add a copy of this to my DVD collection once it gets released. The good news is that you, too, can watch this movie for free right now by going directly to http://www.AETV.com and clicking on the BAG OF BONES video link.

Lil’ Stevie: They can?

(In the background, a tiny bell rings once.)

Peter: Once for yes, twice for no!

(A tiny silver bell comes flying out of the darkness and hits Peter right between the eyes.)

Lil’ Stevie: (laughing) Did that hurt?

(Peter pokes Lil’ Stevie in his left eye)

Peter: Once for yes…

(Then pokes Lil’ Stevie’s other eye)

Peter: Twice for no! Thanks for joining us, folks!

CAMERA FADES OUT.

© Copyright 2011 by Peter N. Dudar

THE FALL 2011 TV SEASON BEGINS

Posted in 2011, Fantasy, Horror, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Special Columns, Television with tags , , , , on September 14, 2011 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST:
THE FALL PREVIEW 2011
By Mark Onspaugh

Back when I was just a wide-eyed kid snooping around the Outpost and getting into trouble, The Television Wasteland was a very different place. Only three major networks dominated the landscape (the local stations relegated to old movies, game shows and bizarre local programming), and summers were filled with reruns. In those pre-VCR/DVR days, the only way to catch up on a show that conflicted with another was to watch two sets or wait until summer.

In those halcyon days of witch wives and hot genies, tunnels through time and families lost in space, I would wait eagerly for TV Guide’s Fall Preview issue – a giant-sized version of the videophile’s weekly bible that featured full page color photographs of new shows… Giving us (in those pre-internet, spoiler-free days) our first look at TV’s BATMAN (1966 – 1968), or the Ewings of DALLAS (1978 – 1991).

Fall ain’t just for new shows any more, the schedule is all over the place… It’s less convenient, but there is less overlap, and any of that is easily handled by your friendly DVR.

Still, there are a lot of cable channels that now offer tasty programming, and some of you may have given up on the old majors altogether. Is that a mistake? To help you choose wisely, here is a listing of shows that will debut over the next few weeks. Please note, I am only listing (with a couple of exceptions) shows that are science fiction, horror or fantasy— you’ll need to go elsewhere for your dancing survivalists who hoard better than a fifth grader. I’m putting them in chronological order so you won’t miss out (times are PST)…

DEATH VALLEY debuted on August 29th and airs Mondays at 10:30pm on MTV. This is a COPS-style show where the San Fernando Valley is overrun with vampires, werewolves and zombies. The LAPD forms the UTF (Undead Task Force) to deal with the threat. The humor of the show lost me pretty quickly – humor and horror are an uneasy mix, and rarely do well unless they are as exceptional as TRUE BLOOD (2008-), SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), RE-ANIMATOR (1985) or TREMORS (1990). However, I have since heard the kills are very graphic and the writing is sharp, so I may give it a second look.

THE SECRET CIRCLE debuts September 15th and will air on Thursday at 9pm on The CW. I gave up on THE VAMPIRE DIARIES after about five episodes… For me, it was just too teen-angsty like newcomer TEEN WOLF (the new series, not the movie), and cool monsters and some interesting moments don’t make up for constant whining and always-wearying “will they or won’t they?” That said, Kevin Williamson is a sharp and inventive writer, so I am always willing to give any series he creates a chance. In SECRET CIRCLE, orphaned Cassie discovers she is a teenaged witch who must bind with five other witches to uncover the mystery of their witch parents’ death. Conspiracies and illicit love abound… Hopefully, not much whining.

UNFORGETTABLE premieres on September 20th and will air Tuesdays at 9pm on CBS. This is a cop procedural with a slightly sci-fi twist: detective Carrie Wells has hyperthymesia, a condition in which the victim (or super-detective) can vividly recall any moment in her life. Carrie’s super-memory is her toolbox for solving crimes… Hopefully all her memories will be seen from her POV (point of view)—am I the only one who is bugged when we see the person in their own memories?

PERSON OF INTEREST will sneak into your home or mobile screen on September 22nd and continue on Thursdays at 9pm on CBS. This one is from J.J. Abrams who brought us LOST (2004-2010) and the (for me) eagerly awaited series ALCATRAZ. LOST, by the way, is the “lightning in a bottle” everyone wants to recapture – that “watercooler” show that lights up the ‘net and is the subject of billions of tweets, talkbacks, flame wars and fist fights. Everyone wants a show that is weird, compelling and features mysterious characters with teasing flashbacks. PERSON OF INTEREST concerns a billionaire genius (Michael Emerson — Ben from LOST) who devises a program to utilize security cameras, cell phones and other tech to predict what person will be involved in a violent crime. It’s MINORITY REPORT (2002) meets EAGLE EYE (2008), without bald clairvoyants or Shia LeBeouf (but what about a bald, clairvoyant LeBeouf? Get me Spielberg!) Emerson teams with ex-CIA agent Jim Caviezel (FREQUENCY (2000) and THE PRISONER mini-series in 2009), who is being pursued by homicide detective Taraji P. Henson (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)). Emerson is a fussy, twitchy brainiac, Caviezel shoots with Jedi accuracy and Henson has some bizarre secret past… Worth checking out.

A GIFTED MAN is haunted on September 23rd and will continue (one assumes) on Fridays at 8 on CBS. Patrick Wilson (WATCHMEN (2009), INSIDIOUS (2010)) stars as a neurosurgeon who is a rich and arrogant jerk. His dead ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle, CONTAGION 2011) begins visiting (haunting) him—she wants him to help the struggling free clinic she left behind. With Julie Benz (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1996-2000), ANGEL (2000-2004), DEXTER (2006-)) as the neurosurgeon’s “New Agey” sister, the show’s exec producer Neal Baer says, “I thought this was an interesting way to pursue questions about healing, faith, and why things happen to people.” This sets off my Cynic-Meter®, but may be just what many are looking for in these dark days.

TERRA NOVA opens a temporal rift on September 26th and continues sending dino-chow… er, people, back to the Cretaceous on Mondays at 8pm on FOX. This, of course, is the big dog in the room – hell, this dog takes up a whole city block, and his name is Spielberg. Already an exec producer on the compelling FALLING SKIES (see my review here) Spielberg gets down to Earth and way back in time. While I might have preferred something in the Age of Mammals (Cenozoic Era), the creators figured we wanted more dinosaur/human squabbles… And who am I to argue with a chance to see velociraptors hunting in packs again? The premise of this $4 million per episode riff on JURASSIC PARK (1993) and THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960) (see also LOST IN SPACE, 1965-1968) is that the Earth is a lousy place to be in the year 2149. The world is dying under the effects of pollution and global warming. However, a temporal rift (fracture) is discovered, and people are given the chance to emigrate to the Cretaceous Period, which I assume is the only door open… Those of you who read Robert Heinlein’s TUNNEL IN THE SKY or Julian May’s SAGA OF THE PLIOCENE EXILEmay have a bit of deja-vu, although the idea of people banished, exiled or traveling to the past is hardly new. Of course, I am wondering about that bugaboo of time travel stories, the paradox… We all know what happens if you kill a butterfly in the past, thanks to Ray Bradbury’s brilliant short story “A Sound of Thunder” (which became a perfectly awful movie in 2005). Here people are leaving a huge technological footprint in the distant past and killing critters willy-nilly. So, how does that affect our future? What if it “erases” the person who discovered the time fracture, or the one who figured how to travel through it? Hell, what if it wipes out the earliest hominids? Of course, some STAR TREK-ish technobabble is always a handy script device, and perhaps we are dealing with a “pocket in time”, something that won’t affect the time stream… Then again, the whole point seems to be using the Cretaceous as humanity’s “do-over”, and presumably other creatures and plants will benefit from this self-serving jaunt to dino-land. The truly awesome backstory belongs to the character of Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang, AVATAR 2009), whose name may be a nod to George Taylor (Charlton Heston) of PLANET OF THE APES (1968), and who did recon and survived in the hostile, reptile-ridden past with just a knife and a scowl… Our main story centers around a family headed by Jason O’Mara (LIFE ON MARS (2008-2009) and SPACE TRUCKERS (1996)), his wife and three kids. Having a third child is a crime that landed him in prison. Terra Nova allows him a chance to be reunited with his family and live life as Fred Flintstone, but with guns and nasty, toothy creatures. Some filming was done in Australia, so this show won’t be solely CGI, and that is part of the large budget… Since it is Spielberg, we will get some familiar tropes: a family struggling to stay together, a father-son rift, cute attempts at romance by a younger kid, and some way-cool effects and topnotch production values. Original exec David Fury (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, LOST) has departed and was replaced by Rene Echevarria (STAR TREK: DS9 (1993-1999), DARK ANGEL (2000-2002), five episodes of THE 4400 (2004-2007) and one episode of the aforementioned crybaby lycanthrope drama TEEN WOLF). Fox and Amblin are betting a lot on TERRA NOVA, let’s hope it pays off.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY will start pissing people off on October 5th and continue on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX. What if you took THE SHINING (1980), made the Overlook Hotel a house, added a strange neighbor and heaped on lots of sex? Well, that’s just part of the appeal of this odd show created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, who worked on NIP/TUCK (2003-2010), but are best known for… GLEE (2009 -). Whatever you may think of GLEE, it certainly insinuated itself into the American consciousness, much like Heinlein’s (him again!) THE PUPPET MASTERS. AMERICAN HORROR STORY stars Dylan McDermott (THE PRACTICE (1997-2004), THE MESSENGERS (2007)) as Ron Harmon, who moves into a Los Angeles home with his wife and daughter. The house has an eerie basement and a creepy neighbor, played by Jessica Lange (KING KONG (1976) and BIG FISH (2003))… Remember the “Dog Man” in THE SHINING? Remember how you were relieved that Kubrick kept most of that scene off-screen? I don’t think this show will be so discrete… Look for lots of scares and bizarre sex, including a guy in rubber and a badly burned man who is a voyeur… The producers of AMERICAN HORROR STORY take pride in the fact that their show will defy convention… always a dangerous (but interesting) choice in The Wasteland.

ABC's Once Upon a Time

ONCE UPON A TIME enters our world on October 13th and will continue its attempt to bewitch us every Sunday at 8pm on ABC. Looks like this is the year fairy tales outstrip Philip K. Dick for genre source material. Using a story structure similar to LOST (indeed, the execs worked on that series), ONCE UPON A TIME concerns the exploits of the people of Storybrooke, who seem ordinary but are actually characters from fairy tales, cursed by the Evil Queen to forget their true identities. The series will present origins for many familiar characters as part of its flashback structure (ala LOST), and has some interesting mash-ups as a result of being made by a Disney-owned studio. My favorite quote from exec producer Edward Kitsis: “There’s a ‘war council’ scene that includes Grumpy, Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy, Snow White and Prince Charming.”

GRIMM comes out of the woods on October 21st and lurks in the shadows every Friday at 9pm on NBC. A police procedural with a fairy tale slant, GRIMM centers around a detective who discovers he is a “Grimm”, a hunter/slayer of monsters who can see through the disguises and glamors of supernatural creatures and beasties. A serial killer whose victim of choice is a girl in a red hoodie? The Grimm is on the trail before you can say “Big Bad Wolf” through your crushed windpipe. GRIMM has some fantasy/horror cred, coming to us from writer-producers David Greenwalt (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and Jim Kouf (ANGEL).

****

RETURNING FAVES:

VAMPIRE DIARIES joins the children of the night on September 15th and continues necking on Thursdays at 8pm on The CW. Not a fan, but creator Kevin Williamson is promising hot” werewolf-on-vampire” action… Insert necrophilia/beastiality joke here. By the way, today’s fun fact, “beastiality” is also known as “zoosexuality”, which is an automatic win in Scrabble.

FRINGE returns on September 23rd and will defy the laws of physics every Friday at 9pm on FOX. If you are not watching this show, you should be – in some ways better than THE X-FILES (1993-2002), and John Noble is one of the most awesome mad scientists since Victor Frankenstein took up sewing. I won’t spoil anything here, just rent or buy the DVD’s and catch up. If you’re a fan, like me you are wondering how they can possibly go on from last season’s cliffhanger and are praying they don’t pull a latter season X-FILES on us.

SUPERNATURAL is also resurrected on September 23rd and stakes its claim to Fridays at 9pm on The CW. We at the Outpost tried very hard to like this show, but just couldn’t buy into the conceits of two young guys in a muscle car passing themselves off as everything from DEA agents to members of the DAR. However, Sam and Dean have been fighting the good fight for six seasons before this, so there is an audience out there… It is possible the Outpost will revisit them on video.

WALKING DEAD rises up on October 16 and searches for living flesh every Sunday at 9pm on AMC. How great is it that we have a zombie series with great writing, acting, directing, effects and gore? Sadly, Season 2 will be without the participation of Frank Darabont, but the writing is still in the hands of creator Robert Kirkman and other talented individuals. The premiere will take us to within seconds of last season’s cliffhanger, and propel the survivors into a whole new direction.

****

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

RINGER will see the return of genre fave Sarah Michelle Gellar (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) on September 13th, and she’ll be doing double duty as twins every Tuesday at 9pm on The CW. Lovely Siobhan is mega-rich and presumed dead by her sister, the identically lovely ex-stripper Bridget. Bridget, on the run from the FBI, assumes her sister’s identity, trying to fool everyone including Siobhan’s husband, played by Ioan Gruffudd (THE FANTASTIC FOUR (2005)). Unbeknownst to everyone, Siobhan is lying low (in more than one way) in Paris. Bridget must also fool her sister’s lover and avoid being assassinated by whoever is after Siobahn. According to SMG, “Bridget is driven by redemption, Siobhan is driven by revenge.” Oh, and the FBI agent? He’s played by Nestor Carbonell, who was Richard Alpert on LOST, the mayor in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) and was hilarious as Batmanuel in the live action version of THE TICK (2001-2002).

HELL ON WHEELS steams into town on November 6th and hits the rails every Sunday at 10pm on AMC. This is a post-Civil War Western with a vengeful gunslinger played by Anson Mount (ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006), HOOD OF HORROR (2006)). Rather than a frontier town or out in the badlands, HELL ON WHEELS takes place in a railroad work camp in Nebraska, and will feature guest stars and cameos from all over. We love Westerns at the Outpost, and tip our hat to the creators and wish them well.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh