Scary, scary things
Whether you prefer your Halloween full of peek-a-boo-natured fun or mired in R-rated gothic gloom, there is something for everyone if, for some reason, you decide to stay home this Halloween season and watch TV. I could offer the usual list of Halloween fare. Instead, I offer a list of good scary and bad scary things on the small screen, now that the fall TV season is well under way. This list is not limited to the sci-fi/fantasy shows that appear on every network this season. No, there are some individual performances that are so close to the edge of evil they give you goose bumps.
First, the good scary:
Donald Sutherland on ABC's hit drama Commander in Chief. Oh, sure, he looks grand-fatherly with that silvery mane, but as Nathan Templeton, Sutherland redefines reptilian. Narcissistic, vengeful, and Machiavellian, Sutherland's Templeton is the most evil characterto hit the small screen since ... I'm not sure when.
Tichina Arnold as Rochelle Rock, the matriarch in Everybody Hates Chris. Rochelle isn't evil like Templeton. No, her skill is in going off, bringing all the volcanic sass, finger wagging, neck swaying, arched back that would send anyone who was sent out as a child to "fetch a switch" quivering. If a high-pitched "oooh" escapes your throat in anticipation of her going off, you know what I mean. That Arnold manages to be funny at the same time only makes her scarier. In a good way.
Ashley Jensen takes pitiful to profound new levels as Maggie Jacobs, Ricky Gervais' gal pal in Extras (HBO). Maggie's feckless social skills are like watching a car stuck in the mud. The harder Maggie tries to get out of the mess she's put herself in, the deeper she gets. Unlike Larry David, whose Curb Your Enthusiasm is built on similar foot-in-mouth predicaments, Maggie, with her doe-eyed, well-meaning sincerity, is so much more endearing, cringe-worthy, and hilarious.
Now, if you must watch TV instead of going out for a little goofy, ghoulish fun, here, in order of preference, are the best of the new sci-fi-fantasy series:
Invasion (ABC): A serialized version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the Everglades. Creepy and getting creepier.
Threshold (CBS): This take on aliens invading Earth dispenses with the little green men and smartly focuses on high tech intrigue. No, the aliens won't get you with their tentacles. They'll get you through your iPod!
Supernatural (WB): Old-fashioned, hair-raising campfire stories told through a buddy series, featuring the very likable Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as brothers whose scary backstory drives this reliable hour of spookiness.
Prison Break (Fox): Not scary in the traditional sense, but a dependable, edge-of-your-seat thriller. The inmates gone wild episodes that aired prior to the Major League Baseball postseason pretty much had me wetting myself.
Ghost Whisperer (CBS): "I constantly am looking around trying to see ghosts," Jennifer Love Hewitt squeals in the new TV Guide. "I am like, 'Can I really do it? Do I really have the gift?' And I so don't." No gifts, yet here she is, the star of a series that at least has a title as inane as its star. Where to begin? The ridiculously diaphanous gowns Hewitt's Melinda Gordon traipses about in? Melinda's doe-eyed determination to put ghosts to rest? The artless scripts devoid of any ... Man! I just hit my head on the keyboard, I'm so bored talking about this show.
Night Stalker (ABC): So mired in its brooding mysteriousness you want to ... Man! I just hit my head on the keyboard again!
Surface (NBC): Is that still on?
Bad scary and getting scarier: "Nancy Grace is mad," so goes the CNN promotional sound bites. I couldn't have said it better myself.
As always, stay tuned.
Professor Griffin (aka Joseph Fotinos,) from the locally produced Prof. Griffin's Midnight Shadow Show, appears on Spike TV Halloween weekend. He joins TV horror show hosts from across the nation to host Ghouls Gone Wild Weekend. Those wanting to meet Professor Griffin in the creepy-crawly flesh should head down to BookPeople on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 7pm, where he'll read from and sign copies of his new book, The Midnight Shadow Show: Prof. Griffin Journals. For more information, go to www.bookpeople.com/coe_example.html?EventID=3019. For those perturbed that The Midnight Shadow Show actually moved to midnight, not to worry. The series, along with new episodes, returns to its 11pm time slot, Fridays on cable Channel 16. Sneak peaks from Fangoria TV are in store.