TV OT: The spooky TV that made a generation of horror fans. Plus, Halloween programming, “Maid” and “Billions”

TV OT: The spooky TV that made a generation of horror fans. Plus, Halloween programming, “Maid” and “Billions”

As I sit down to write my annual defense of Candy Corn, enjoy this week’s TV OT.

A scary good month for TV

At the threat of sounding like your average basic witch: I love October. I know Halloween isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if it’s not yours…your tea sucks. (Just kidding.) But for those of you who celebrate know there’s no greater time for TV than this.

Those people who still know the value of the under-appreciated art of TV programming are the real MVPs of this season. The screams served up to us in the form of fright-filled films is a nice reminder that can still watch and enjoy things together without using a third-party app to stream something at the same time.

Give me ghosts, demons, zombies, creepy clowns, psycho killers with clearly defined purposes and vampires but not the glittering ones. (You can keep your torture/gore, werewolves because they’re mostly boring and any kind of sexually violent material disguised as horror. People who write and produce the latter really should be placed on a watchlist of some sort.)

Weirdly, movies help us return to TV’s roots.

But perhaps the best part of October TV (besides October baseball) is there’s an opportunity to invite a new generation of horror fans to the frightful-but-fun festivities.

Born in the late ’80s, I had the supreme pleasure of growing up during a real heyday of young adult horror television, with shows like “Are You Afraid of the Dark” (1990-96, 1999-2000), “Goosebumps” (1995-98) and, for those with a cable subscription and cool parents, “Tales from the Crypt” (1989-96) and the animated “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” (1993-1994; 1999). (I was a little young for the mystery horror anthology “The Hitchhiker,” which aired for six seasons starting in 1983, but my older sister told me I should give it a shout-out. Shout-out complete.)

I don’t count “Ahhh! Real Monsters” (1994-97) or “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1996-2002) as horror, but I do think they spoke to the moment. Spooky things were meant to be enjoyed and appreciated. I’d add “The Simpsons” to this pile, which did a lot for building a generation’s love of horror with its annual Treehouse of Horror installments, the first of which aired in 1990. I have a younger sister whom I am close to, so I held onto cartoons a little longer than some and didn’t quite graduate to “X-Files” in time to count that among my early personal horror influences, but I know many who do.

You could even say all of these were all the overture for all the made-for-teens horror-adjacent TV shows that came next, like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed.”

All of this is to say if we’re looking to foster the Hallo-queens and kings of the future, now is the time to shine a light on the things that go bump in the night. As you can see a calendar below, there’s plenty of opportunities. Happy screams.

Month-long celebrations:


October 1

  • “Under Wraps” (Disney Channel)
  • “Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales” (Disney+)

October 2

  • “The Haunted Museum” series premiere (Discovery+)

October 7

  • “Ghosts” series premiere (CBS)

October 8

  • “Muppets Haunted Mansion” (Disney+)

October 10

  • “Killer Camp” season 2 (The CW)

October 12

  • “Chucky” series premiere (USA Network/Syfy)

October 13

  • “Just Beyond” series premiere (Disney+)

October 15

  • “I Know What You Did Last Summer” series premiere (Amazon)
  • “Halloween Kills” (theaters/Peacock)
  • “Day of the Dead” series premiere (Syfy)
  • “You” season 3 (Netflix)

October 17

  • “Fear the Walking Dead” season 7 (AMC)

‘Maid’ to order for Netflix

Moving on, CNN’s Brian Lowry watched “Maid” and with his review, helps me clean up my queue.

“Inspired by Stephane Land’s memoir, ‘Maid’ is about the drudgery and obstacles that its central character, Alex, endures after fleeing an abusive relationship and struggling to maintain custody of her young daughter. As well made as this Netflix limited series is — with a sterling central performance from Margaret Qualley — it’s also a bit of a slog to watch, for understandable reasons, charting Alex’s heroic struggles in bleak, understated fashion.

Qualley — whose credits include ‘Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood’ — is the revelation here, and as a footnote her real-life mom, Andie MacDowell, co-stars as her free-spirited mother. The show also features strong production auspices, coming from ‘ER’ producer John Wells and showrunner Mollie Smith Metzler, with Qualley’s ‘Hollywood’ co-star Margot Robbie among the roster of executive producers.”

‘Godfather: The Miniseries’ > ‘Sopranos: The Movie’

Meanwhile, has a movie marathon ever felt like a great miniseries? Lowry thinks so.

“How upside down are things right now, content-wise? ‘The Sopranos’ is becoming a movie — OK, a prequel to the original series, set in the late 1960s and early ’70s — while ‘The Godfather’ is one of the best miniseries on TV. At least, it feels that way if you’re one of those people who occasionally turns to AMC and gets sucked into its frequent ‘Godfather’ marathons, which involve showing the first two movies (and occasionally the third) back to back.

Of course, Paramount was way ahead of everyone on that score. In 1977, the same year the landmark miniseries ‘Roots’ premiered, the studio edited the first two films together chronologically into ‘The Godfather Saga’ for NBC. Plus, another limited series about the making of the movie, ‘The Offer,’ is in the works for Paramount+.

In other words, movie snobs, even with what’s widely considered one of the greatest movies ever, all roads lead to TV.”

A possibly unpopular opinion

I ate up last year’s parade of beach ghosts on “Grey’s Anatomy.” McDreamy, McSteamy, George, Lexi — all their returns filled my heart with joy. I love a good blast from the past, but Thursday’s season premiere and the secret-until-it-aired return of Scott Speedman kind of flatlined for me.

The first issue was that even though I’ve watched the series multiple times all the way through, I barely remembered the character. The second issue was, last year was so full of great returns, the bar has been raised. The upcoming return of Kate Walsh, for example, that’s exciting. Bar exceeded. Dude I don’t really remember? Bar not met. But perhaps the storyline will win me over.

For future reference, “Grey’s,” the next bar? It’s Cristina Yang. Only Cristina will do.

One more thing…

Lowry gets closing word this week, with a thought on ‘Billions’ and its diminishing returns.

“‘Billions’ wraps up its fifth season on Sunday, and for some reason I’m just not feeling it the way I did in the past, and can’t quite decide why. Perhaps it’s too many wrinkles on the who’s-betraying-who scale, or the bifurcated season, or the simple fact that ‘Succession’ eclipsed it in terms of rich, horrible people playing Monopoly with real buildings. The penultimate episode set up a pretty juicy cliffhanger, so the finish still might pay off. But at this point, give what was once a strong ‘buy’ a ‘hold’ rating, with the possibility of ‘sell’ in its very near future.”

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