Television series from supernatural to sci-fi

Waaay back in October 2010, I brought up the old TV series “Friday the 13th” as an enjoyable little trip down to memory lane: I used to watch the show back when it first aired in the late ’80s late night on CBS.

Something of a small guilty pleasure tinged with nostalgia when all the bad guys were supposedly from South of the border (Noriega, Escobar et al.). We’re now down to the last couple discs of the series, so it’s time for some more reviewing and suggesting.

The third and last season of the show saw Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay) replaced by another character named Johnny Ventura (Steven Monarque) and due to some weak writing, Ventura has about as much appeal as an old Mercury Grand Marquis. I know ‘cuz I drive one. The energy of the three original characters (Micki, Jack and Ryan) never really amounted to “magic” but it did keep you engaged in the happenings. Not so in the 3rd season which of course turned out to the last. Conclusion: watch the first two, maybe until the episode explaining Ryan’s “disappearance”, don’t bother with the rest.

More modern fare, interestingly set during the Dust Bowl, “Carnivale” ran for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. “Carnivale” follows young Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who possesses healing powers, on his collision course with Brother Justin (Clancy Brown).

Brother Justin has strange gifts of his own and is Darkness incarnate. Through dreams and visions, the two begin hunting each other from Oklahoma to California, Ben aided in his reluctant quest by a traveling carnival run by Samson (Michael J. Anderson) for the mysterious Management (Linda Hunt).

Carnivale” has an original idea, a large and talented cast and rather uncommon attention to historical details, from the dialogue to costumes and settings. At 24 episodes, however, I think it’s too long as it drags in places and the narrative meanders through odd but unnecessary turns. Given the size of the cast it’s understood that characters would take a while to establish, but it might have worked better as a mini-series.

Sadly, the way the show ended felt rushed by budget constraints. That said, the acting, writing, production design and original material make it worth watching, although I would space discs fairly close to one another to keep the show fresh in your mind.

Currently being watched is “American Gothic“, another fairly short run series at 22 episodes created by Shaun Cassidy and exec. produced by Sam Raimi among others. “American Gothic” follows the deeds of ‘evil’ sheriff Lucas Buck (Gary Cole), a man (I think) with a soul as nasty as a day old turkey avocado sandwich.

It is television, after all. Several comers attempt to check him or at the very least prevent him from making Young Caleb (Lucas Black) fold into his father’s shadow. Well, ‘father’ is a technicality since Caleb was born from the rape of his mother by sheriff Buck.

Personally, I didn’t care for the show when it first aired back in 1995. Even then it felt a bit dated, with big hair and strange wardrobe choices. But it’s fun to see Lucas Black as a 13 year old, just before “Sling Blade” and the more recent “get low“, opposite Gary Cole, a versatile actor playing here a professional grade creep so well you almost cheer him on.

There’s some justified criticism of the fact that the discs do not show the episodes in the order they were filmed, but I don’t find it all that bothersome. Not as much as it would have been for other shows such as “Carnivale“.

Now, as fans of sci-fi, we also brought in the 1975-1977 series “Space 1999“. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who produced “Thunderbirds“, “UFO” and many more science-fiction TV classics. Would we have “Team America” if it weren’t for them? Doubtful.

This series begins in 1999, on the moon which has by then been used as a nuclear dump. Unfortunately for the crew of base Alpha, the nuclear waste is reaching critical temperature levels, eventually detonating with such violence the moon is propelled loose from Earth’s orbit, into deep space. The look of the show is mostly bright white sets and costumes against the blackness of space, and almost makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket.

While the costumes (pants in particular) make you expect the characters to start disco dancing, and the introduction of Maya (Catherine Schell) coincided with a more ‘soapy’ trend with characters getting involved romantically and all the following boring nonsense… What made the show for me originally was base commander Koenig (Martin Landau), a somewhat paranoid, somber version of James T. Kirk, with a militaristic bent. The kind of guy Douglas Adams (‘the hitch hiker’s guide to the galaxy’) described as coming back to the spaceship after a recon mission, claiming to have destroyed potential military installations. But he’s talking about trees.

Watching Landau in romantic scenes with real life wife Barbara Bain is a bit like watching Bruce the shark in ‘Finding Nemo‘. Some faces aren’t meant to smile. Hence, I recommend the series up to the introduction of Maya with the episode titled “the metamorph”…

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2 Replies to “Television series from supernatural to sci-fi”

  1. Loved those old Gerry & Sylvia Anderson series! Was too young for them when they played in the 70’s… at least I don’t remember seeing them then… I caught them in re-runs in the mid 80’s.

    “UFO” had to be my favorite… always thought it was shame it never went longer than a single season.

    I’m watching a Korean one right now… “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho!” a cute romantic comedy drama…. with English subtitles!! I found it on Amazon of all places… Region 1 for the US too. Maybe it’s something you might like. (I’m just a sucker for romantic supernatural stuff…. ;))


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