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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Potential of the horror genre in a TV environment

  • Potential of the horror genre in a TV environment
  • What defines art..
  • Heroes and Villians (some even of the 'super' nature)
  • The New Media (Twitter, podcasts, etc...) and the future of how we get the news
  • Michael Vick
  • The constructs of family (continued)
  • The Dead Weather - Horehound
  • The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
  • The Fiery Furnaces in general...
  • Universal Health Care
As recently discussed, I was at least an intrigued follower of CBS's horror/suspense experiment "Harper's Island." Clearly influenced, at least on the TV side, by "Murder, She Wrote" and the other early murder mystery shows, but it took on a promising twist. It was also strongly influenced by Agathie Christie writing and horror movie visualizations. I've already discussed many of the shows strengths and weaknesses and I could probably go on and on about it, but I'd really like to take a step back and look at the bigger much should we reasonably expect from a television show attempting to emulate a horror movie, but also trying to tap into the mystery/thriller storyline?

There are a few very obvious limitations on the first part - namely, a horror movie is almost always rated R for extreme violence (or it probably sucks, let's be honest). On television, short of HBO or Showtime, you're very limited as to what you can get away with because of the FCC. I'm not saying we should get rid of the FCC and show whatever we want, but it greatly weakens any good murder scene. That being said, in the hands of a capable director, these murder scenes can actually be heightened by not showing anything...old school Hitchcock and the like. The key, however, is stronger characterization which...for some reason...Hollywood just seems unable to create as of late. None of the characters in Harper's Island, with the exception of Sully and Danny, truly became 'people' by the end. Harper's Island suffered terribly from falling ratings throughout the CBS did a decent job of creating buzz, but the show failed to keep people interested. I blame this mostly on the habit of killing someone in the final minutes of the episode - I get it, they want people to see that and want to watch next week so they can get answers, but you know you aren't going to get answers because they have to maintain the mystery for 13 episodes! I think I better format would be to follow what CSI did with the 'Miniature Killer' - in that we find a body and try to follow the leads from that, and then find another body...follow the trail until the end, and the deeper you go, the more dangerous it becomes. This sets up a character for the audience to relate to (the detective, but it doesn't have to be a police related show). In Harper's Island, we were supposed to relate to Abby Mills, the protagonist and center of the killings (revealed at the end), but we felt nothing for her because my mother wasn't brutally murdered seven years ago and I didn't immediately move to LA and not return home until now. How is that a relatable backstory? And then they didn't even flush out the backstory! They showed clips when it was convenient, thus the story had a very...make it up as we go...feel to it. Not exactly the kind of mood you want to set when trying to develop intrigue. Have these writers never read a mystery before?

I think TV offers many options to give a deep, deep horror movie like experience, but it has to play to it's strengths. A horror movie can only last at most, two hours, because people get sick of sitting through constant killings in a single sitting...however, with a TV series, you have (in the case of Harper's Island), about 8 hours to work through, so you can take your time establishing characters, settings, moods and motives (all of which were rushed together for 'spectacular murders' in Harper's Island). Downplay the death scene, play up the actual deaths and how they matter to the characters. I'm really tempted to write a letter to CBS, I'm afraid they are going to bail on the idea and miss-out on an opportunity to do something really unique and enveloping.

We'll see. Nathan out - ta.

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