From the Nightshift: Horror primetime – that was then, this is now

You would think that Television would be the best medium for bring scares into your living room. TV series become like people we know, the characters can be come part of our lives and everything seems intimidate. But Television hasn’t been known for its horror series or at least its successful series. We have been the red headed step child, even lower down the list than science fiction or fantasy when it came for shows to be made about things that go bump in the night. In televisions earlier days there would be productions of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and “Dracula” done on a regular basis as part of live anthology series, but those days have long since passed. Shows came and went, more often canceled before they could find their audiences. Sometimes the writing was so bad that even people who enjoyed being scared would prefer a good book to what was on the small screen.

We were more likely to get our horror fix in an single episode of a series that just happened to have scary overtones. An example of this would be the “Devil in the Dark” episode of the original “Star Trek” that kept its monster out of sight for most of the show, revealing burned bodies and screams in the dark. I remember being spooked by this episode when I was young and what was worse is that I never saw the end so I was sure everyone died. Pure Horror was harder to find and didn’t seem to keep enough of it’s viewer audience to keep on the air. People who would turn in for movie of the week: “Satan’s School for Girls” “Scream of the Wolf” and “The Night Stalker” would not stay long enough for “Kolchack:the Night Stalker” to make a run longer than a single season. The audience disappeared waiting for another scary movie of the week.

Of course some of the reasons why television series were not attracting the horror audience could be spelled out in the case of the movie “The Night Stalker” a well written thrilling tv movie being switched into the series which went for comedy more than horror and had tv writers rather than horror writers. The quality of the show was very uneven from a classic episode about a vampire call girl to awful episode about a robot. Still the show due to its rare horror nature has a place in the heart for many fan (myself included). I always wanted to grow up and be Kolchack, which is fun as he was really an ass, but still had some charm to him.

One of television’s brightest moments came when a writer was talked into doing a series about a female character which had been somewhat destroyed on her way to the big screen, The show was called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the movie had been a big bomb but the idea of girl you normally see killed by the monster in the first few minutes becoming the heroine had legs. I know some of my colleagues would frown on my love of this show and call it a soap opera, but that would be missing the point. Few shows have the courage to go from comedy to drama to horror and back again all in a moments notice. For anyone who knew high school was hell, here it was, and see you were always right. For seven seasons you could get your fill of vampires, werewolves, demons and other monsters on a regular basis. Of course one of the secrets of the show lasting as long as it did, other than good writing was that it was on a smaller network that allowed it to grow. Had “Buffy” been on ABC it would have been gone after the first half season.

Today we have “Supernatural” on the CW, “True Blood” on HBO and some network runs of limited anthology series like (noe only a memory) “Fear itself“. Horror will never be looked at as the award wining have to have series, but while there is writers with dark thoughts, and while there are audiences who love being scared, there will be more shows. Some of them will limited web series which can open up a new world of stories, that can be as long or as short as needed.

And maybe it doesn’t make me as scary as my co-writers but I am popping in a DVD of “Buffy” in the player and watching the little blond girl kick the vampire’s butt again. She was killed in enough movies…

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