Terrifying Television: This Year’s Halloween Episodes

October 26, 2009

buffy hallAs I mentioned in a previous entry on my favourite Thanksgiving episodes, I like to celebrate the holidays in true TV enthusiast style… by watching a marathon of themed episodes. Predictably my marathon includes episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me, but each fall, new Halloween episodes air, some of which will become instant classics and be added to my annual marathon in years to come. This year, with supernaturally-themed new shows like The Vampire Diaries and Eastwick, the amount of Halloween content seems to have increased. Here’s a look at the Halloween-themed episodes airing this week.

Monday

Teen hit Gossip Girl has Lily and Rufus celebrating Halloween in “How to Succeed in Bassness” tonight on The CW, while ABC drama Castle has a nice surprise for any Browncoats out there in the new episode “Vampire Weekend”. The episode features Castle and Beckett investigating the murder of a vampire fetishist, whose body is found with fake fangs and a stake through his heart.

Wednesday

With a show about witches and the devil, it would have been crazy not to have a Halloween episode of Eastwick. In “Bonfire and Betrayal”, Roxie envisions an ill fate for her loved-ones and tries to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile Kat attempts to reunite Will and Joanna, who continues to encounter misfortunes after having trouble with her career and love life. The ABC drama hasn’t received a full season pick-up and it’s ratings have not been promising, but maybe a little Halloween magic can turn that around.

Thursday

NBC has a full night of Halloween comedy lined up beginning with a Day of the Dead party on Community, a Halloween party on Parks and Recreation, and finally a themed episode of The Office, in which the office plans a haunted house for kids in the community. Meanwhile, the pairing of the CW’s best performing show The Vampire Diaries and genre hit Supernatural is a no-brainer for Halloween. Although the later doesn’t specifically have a Halloween episode this season, it’s demon-fighting theme and tendency to tackle urban legends make most episodes holiday appropriate. Lead-in The Vampire Diaries will air the new episode “Haunted”, which includes a visit to a haunted house. Freshman drama FlashForward is also getting into the spirit with an episode titled “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”, and CBS has a new episode of The Mentalist titled “Red Scare”. On The Mentalist, witnesses claim that a wealthy man was killed by a ghost haunting his mansion.

Friday

With CBS’ double feature of Ghost Whisperer and Medium, Friday is already a night for the supernatural, so it’s fitting that both shows will air Halloween episodes this year. Melinda encounters the headless horseman in a themed Ghost Whisperer episode called “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and Alison dreams she has been cast in the zombie film Night of the Living Dead in a Medium episode titled “Bite Me”. The night wraps upon Numb3ers, where the body of a dead woman  turns up at a decommissioned air base where paranormal activity has been happening.

There’s plenty of spooky new television to be had, but if you’re ready for more Halloween content there’s always the numerous specials and horror movies airing all this week. A more complete list can be found here.


The Heavy Hitters Return, FlashForward premieres

September 24, 2009
Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Monday may be my personal night of television, but Thursday is the night when the most competitive shows go head to head in a battle for ratings. Hoping to reel viewers in before the juggernauts of television return, new Thursday addition Fringe premiered last week, while CW shows The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural began two weeks ago. The Thursday night ratings thus far have generally been good. Although The Vampire Diaries slipped in its second week, the numbers are still encouraging and the CW has ordered an additional nine scripts for the series, “which is the closest step executives can take without committing to a full pickup.”  With both CBS procedural CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy returning tonight at nine though, the question is how much will these popular shows cut into the ratings of the other Thursday night competitors?

Eight o’clock is a slightly less competitive, but still significant, timeslot with the aforementioned Vampire Diaries up against Fox’s popular procedural Bones, Survivor: Samoa, NBC sitcoms SNL Weekend Update and Amy Poehler’s Parks and Rec, and the series premiere of FlashForward.

Easily the most talked about new drama, Flashforward has been compared to Lost, and with the sci-fi drama entering its final season in January, FlashForward might be just the replacement ABC is looking for. ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said, ”The intention was not to imitate Lost, but we’ve certainly been looking for that next hit, and I don’t think we’ve had as special an idea as this since then.” It doesn’t hurt that the cast even includes a couple of Lost alums in the form of Dominic Monaghan, who played fan favourite Charlie Pace, and Sonya Walger, who had a recurring role as Desmond’s love interest Penny. Monaghan’s character Simon will not appear until episode 5 or 6, but in an interview with SFX magazine, he said, “There’s certainly a [Lost] influence on FlashForward in terms of the model of the show, in the same way that Lost has a large international cast”.  The large cast of FlashForward includes a number of familiar faces, such as Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), John Cho (the Star Trek reboot), and Jack Davenport (Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).

Based on a science fiction novel by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward focuses on the aftermath of a mysterious global event in which everyone on the planet loses consciousness for two minutes, seventeen seconds. During that time, everyone in the world experiences their life six months into the future. FBI agent Mark Benford (Fiennes) creates a database of people’s flash forwards from around the world called the Mosaic Collective in order to determine what exactly happened and why. Naturally, there is already a tie-in website that features accounts of people’s flash forwards which you can find here. Perhaps the best news for potential viewers is that although based on a science-fiction novel, those involved are shying away from the label, with executive producer David S. Goyer promising that ”the only leap you have to make is the existence of the flash-forward”. Additionally, story arcs have already been worked out for five full seasons, which shows an awareness of the difficulties shows with intricate mythologies often face (including Heroes and Lost). This TV enthusiast will certainly be tuning in.

The real competition begins at nine though, with the tenth season of CSI and the two-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Both shows are extremely popular but have something to prove this year. The departure of William Petersen’s Gil Grissom impacted the procedural’s ratings and although I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne’s replacement, Dr. Raymond Langston, in the few episodes I caught, Grissom is a hard man to replace. CSI cast members and producers admitted that the show stumbled during its ninth season but that this year the show has ‘found its rhythm’ again. Tonight’s premiere, titled “Family Affair”  begins with the team investigating the death of an actress killed in a suspicious car accident and features the return of Jorja Fox’s Sara Sidle.

izzieSimilarly, Grey’s Anatomy had a rough year with the universally despised “ghost sex” plotline that dragged on for far too long and actually managed to make me wish the amicable Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who played Denny on the series) would just go away already. The “cliffhanger” last season left the lives of George (T.R. Knight) and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) hanging in the balance, but even non-spoiler addicts know who survives, so tonight’s episodes are not likely to have anyone on the edge of their seat. The two-hour premiere sees the staff of Sacred Heart dealing with George’s death and Cristina and Owen finding it difficult to abstain from sex, as instructed by Dr. Wyatt.

New to Thursdays is Fox’s supernatural drama Fringe, starring John Noble and Joshua Jackson. The show was heavily promoted by Fox during its first season and was picked up for a second year, but moving the show to the most competitive slot in primetime is a risky move.  After a game changing season finale, in which viewers learned that Peter (Jackson) was from a parallel universe, Fringe premiered last week to almost 8 million viewers and a 2.9 in the 18-49 demographic. The numbers were only a slight drop from its season finale, but there’s no indication of how Fringe will do against Grey’s and CSI. Even the most fanatic of TV enthusiasts only have so much room on our DVRs.  Creator J.J. Abrams is not pleased with the move either saying,“There are many places I’d rather be than there, but I’d rather be picked up for a second season than not.” Tonight’s episode sees Walter trying to recreate travel between realities using frogs while the Fringe division investigates the disappearance of a  highway construction worker in Pennsylvania.

The cast of Community.

The cast of Community.

Also in competition are NBC comedies The Office and Community. Last week The Office had its lowest rated premiere in four years, yet was also the highest-rated show of the night, while the series premiere of Community held onto most of its lead-in for impressive numbers. Community, about a group of misfits who attend Greendale Community College, was well reviewed by critics.

Finally there’s a new episode of Supernatural on the CW (or Sun TV in Canada) titled “Free to be You and Me”. After the Winchester brothers parted ways at the end of last week’s episode, Dean teams up with Castiel to find the Archangel Raphael, who may know where God is, and decides to make Castiel’s last night on Earth memorable. Meanwhile, Sam tries to give up hunting but receives an unexpected visit from an old flame.

Once again being Canadian means more choices in your television schedule. CTV is showing The Vampire Diaries at 7:00PM in order to accommodate both CSI and the 2-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy so you don’t have to choose between the procedural and the medical drama.

Happy television watching!


Vampires and Demons and Lucifer! Oh my!

September 10, 2009

sam and deanKeep a wooden stake on your coffee table because Thursday is genre night in TV land.  Tonight the CW has the series premiere of The Vampire Diaries and the fifth season opener of Supernatural, while Fox and ABC have the season and series premieres of their genre shows Fringe and FlashForward on September 17th and 24th, respectively. For the TV enthusiast who isn’t a fan of science-fiction, there’s always the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, or CBS procedurals The Mentalist, and C.S.I., all shows I’ve also watched and liked to varying degrees, but as a fan of genre shows, my night is pretty full.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one my favourite shows of all-time, so it may come as a surprise that I’m not a big fan of vampires.  I don’t have any desire to read the Twilight books, haven’t watched Moonlight or Blood Ties, and never tried Anne Rice. In fact the only vampire themed show, aside from Buffy and Angel, that I’ve watched is True Blood, and although I enjoyed the first season I don’t particularly care for Bill or Eric.  So I won’t be watching tonight’s premiere of new CW show The Vampire Diaries.

Although the show hopes to capitalize on the popularity of True Blood and Twilight, the story actually predates both of them.  L.J. Smith’s series of young adult horror novels were originally published in 1991 & 92, but in 2008 she announced plans for a new spin-off trilogy, the first of which was published in February of this year.   Like the books, the show revolves around Elena Gilbert, a Virginia high school student who is torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon.  The lead actors are familiar, but not too familiar, faces, having played teen roles before.  Nina Dobrev (Elena) has been seen on Degrassi: The Next Generation as single mother Mia, while Ian Somerhalder (Damon) is best known for his role as Boone on Lost but has also been seen in Smallville and Young Americans.  Paul Wesley guest starred on teen-targeted shows Everwood and Smallville before getting the role of the good vampire brother Stefan.

vampireAlthough The Vampire Diaries may not be my cup of tea, it has been receiving generally favourable reviews from critics.  EW’s Ken Tucker gave the pilot episode a B+, writing that the show “promises us a season of sharp-tongued amusement”, and IGN called it “exactly what you’d expect from a marriage of Dawson’s Creek and Twilight, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your tastes,” rating the episode a respectable 7.0 out of 10.  Only time will tell if viewers have had their fill of vampire tales or are ready to sink their teeth (yup, I went there) into a new show.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve become a Supernatural convert over the summer and I’m looking forward to tonight’s season premiere.  When we last saw the Winchester boys Sam had killed the demon Lilith, only to find out seconds later that she was the sixty-sixth seal to be broken and that her death would release Lucifer.  Dean had been told that God wasn’t giving the orders anymore and that the Angels wanted Lucifer to rise, and Castiel had chosen to disobey, turning his back on The Host to help Dean.  The episode ended with Cas facing off against an archangel, Heaven’s most fearsome warrior, and Sam and Dean watching helplessly as the last seal broke.

Although the stakes have increased with each season and this year, with Lucifer (played by Dexter and Lost actor Mark Pellegrino) at the core, promises to have its darker moments, Supernatural clearly hasn’t lost its sense of humour.  Heiress Paris Hilton will guest star in an October episode as a demonic creature taking the form of… Paris Hilton.  For those who shudder at this announcement, just remember that she also had a guest role in an early episode of Veronica Mars and that didn’t turn out so badly!

It may or may not be the final season for the CW drama.  Creator Eric Kripke set out with a five season plan for the show and has “every intention of ending the story with a bang and not drawing it out or watering it down,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for the Winchester brothers.  Kripke says, “I’m looking at this season as the last chapter in this particular story. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a new story. Buffy did it. The X-Files did it. You close a chapter on a big mythology storyline and then you begin a new one.”  It’s also helpful to note that stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have deals in place that cover a possible sixth season, although Kripke himself does not have a deal beyond the fifth season.  As a latecomer to the show I’m hoping for a sixth season, but whether this is the end for Supernatural or not, I’m going to enjoy the ride.


San Diego Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast (Friday)

July 12, 2009

I have to admit that when it comes to Batman, Sheldon Cooper, of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, and I are in agreement.  Most superheroes have powers or abilities that make them unique.  Not just anyone can become Spiderman or one of the X-Men, but Batman is heroic only because of the technology he uses to fight evil.  I’m not sure Sheldon or I could become Batman, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that other people could.  I mention this at the start of my article covering the Friday and Saturday scheduling at Comic-Con to confess that I am not a Batman fan.

Despite this, there is an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold that I would like to see, and its screening and a follow-up Q&A composes the first of Friday’s Comic-Con panels.  The panel will air the world premiere of the “Mayham of the Music Meister” episode, featuring the voice talent of Neil Patrick Harris (Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) as the villainous Music Meister (10:00-11:00, Room 6DE).  The rest of us will just have to catch it the old-fashioned way when it airs on the Cartoon network.

If you prefer Harris’ Doctor Horrible co-star Felicia Day, check out the Meet The Guild panel with Day and the other creators and performers in her online video series.  They’ll be a sneak peek at the upcoming third season as well as a bonus Comic-Con video (10:30-11:30, Room 5AB).  For those more interested in science-fiction, there’s the 10th anniversary of Farscape panel, with a reunion to celebrate the beginning of the series (10:15-11:15, Room CBCF), or the Stargate Universe panel featuring the cast of the new Syfy show, including Robert Carlyle (24: Redemption) and Ming-Na (ER). The series’ co-creators will also be on hand (10:30-11:30, Ballroom 20).

One of the most eagerly awaited new shows is ABC’s Flashforward, about what changes when the entire population ‘flashes forward’ and gets a glimpse of where they will be in six months time.  ABC is grooming the show, starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) and John Cho (Star Trek) to be a replacement for Lost, which will air its final season this year.  The panel includes never seen before footage and scenes from upcoming episodes (11:45-12:45, Room 6A).

Other first looks include panels on AMC’s six-part mini-series The Prisoner, staring Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), a remake of the 1960’s classic (11:30-12:30, Room 6BCF), Caprica/Battlestar Galactica with executive producers Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, and Jane Espenson along with stars Edward James and Esai Morales, to discuss the Battlestar mythlology (11:45-12:45, Ballroom 20), and the pilot screening of ABC’s new sitcom The Middle, with Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond).  Given that it sounds like every other sitcom, I can’t imagine it being a particularly exciting panel, but I haven’t seen the show so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt (12:00-1:00, Indigo Ballroom).

A more interesting, and appropriate, show panel is The Big Bang Theory.  After its successful debut at last year’s Comic-Con the sitcom, staring Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, returns for a special screening and Q&A with its creators and stars.  The entire cast will be present, as well as executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady (1:00-2:00, Ballroom 20).

If you’re ready to spend the rest of your day with cartoon characters, Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Odd Parents should do the trick.  The animated show, which revolves around a boy named Timmy and his fairy godparents, will present highlights from upcoming episodes (12:30-1:30, Room 5AB).  Later that afternoon, celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand with its co-creator Kevin Eastman and other panelists, as they discuss the evolution of the turtles (4:15-5:15, Room 6DE).  Finish the evening with a Comic-Con classic, as animation historian Jerry Beck presents some of the worst cartoons ever made (9:00-10:00, Room 6BCF).

If you’d prefer to go behind the scenes, grab a place in the Design Process for Film and Television panel discussing the importance of illustration and the role of conceptual departments in television and movies (2:00-3:00, Room 32AB).   Continue on to the Production Designers panel in room 30AB to hear designers from Dollhouse and The Dark Knight discuss their art and answer audience questions (4:30-5:30).  Alternately, attend the panel titled Adapting Comics to and from Film, Television, and Video Games with Hollywood screenwriting panelists including Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone) (5:00-6:00, Room 8).

However, if you’re like me and your first interest is exclusive clips and the inside scoop from the stars, you have your choice of Fox shows, including the pilot screening of Past Life, a procedural about a detective and a psychologist who specializes in past lives working together to solve mysteries (2:15-3:15, Room 6A) or the first look at the eighth season of 24 with stars Kiefer Sutherland and Mary-Lynn Rajskub, as well as new cast member Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) (2:15-3:00, Ballroom 20).

The afternoon continues with Bones, where showrunner Hart Hanson, and stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, discuss what’s next for Booth and Bones (3:00-3:45, Ballroom 20) or Eureka in room 6BCF, with stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Erica Cerra, and Neil Grayston(3:15-4:15).

But after its miraculous renewal, the Dollhouse panel promises to be the most interesting, boasting the presence of mastermind Joss Whedon along with star Eliza Dushku (Echo).  The panel will include the screening of the unaired episode thirteen, titled “Epitaph One”, and a discussion of what’s in store for Echo in season two.  After the panel, Whedon will be spending forty-five minutes answering questions about his projects with Dark Horse Comics (4:00-6:00, Ballroom 20).

Still pleased about the triumphant Jericho fan campaign?  Celebrate with executive producers and writers from the show and learn all about the new comic continuation of the series, Jericho-Season Three: Civil War due out this fall (5:00-6:00, Room 7AB).

Or wait in line for what’s sure to be a popular panel on the most buzzed about new and returning TV shows in TV Guide Magazine: Sci Fi Hot List.  Participants include Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory, Zachary Levi (Chuck), Rebecca Romijn (Eastwick), Scott Wolf (V), John Cho (Flash Forward), and the executive producers of V, Flash Forward and The Vampire Diaries (6:15-7:15, Ballroom 20).

Finally, enjoy Syfy shows Eureka and Warehouse 13 on the big screen with the exclusive next new episodes between 8:30 and 10:30 in room 6DE.

Coming up: Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast schedules for Saturday and Sunday.

Comic-Con International takes place at the San Diego Convention Center July 23rd-26th.