Summer Genre TV Watchlist

It’s very clear that the summer season has become the best time for genre TV shows. Maybe it has to do with there being less competition in the air waves, but in any case this summer has quite a selection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror TV shows either returning or debuting. Leaving out pure garbage like Under The Dome, these are the most anticipated TV shows.

defiance second seasonDefiance (June 19): Syfy’s ambitious TV series about aliens and humans sharing an uneasy peace in the future in the town called Defiance returns for its sophomore season. The first season was uneven in quality, but showed potential as the characters were fleshed out and compelling mysteries were explored. Hopefully Defiance can continue going up in quality.

Doctor Who (August): Peter Capaldi’s turn as the Twelfth Doctor begins this August. The long-running sci-series about a time-traveling alien and his adventures is as popular as it was when it premiered way back in 1963.

Dominion (June 19): A sequel to the 2010 supernatural thriller Legion, Dominion takes place in a future where angels and humanity are at war with each other. Legion was so-so, but based on the trailers and its premise, Dominion warrants a viewing or two.

Extant (July 9): Halle Berry stars in this Steven Spielberg-exec-produced sci-fi mystery. She plays an astronaut who after coming home from a solo mission may have brought back an alien life form. That’s because while in space by herself, she became pregnant. Expect lots of jaw-dropping revelations.

Falling Skies (June 22): The alien invasion saga is back for its fourth season. The ragtag humans continue their desperate war against the spider-like Skitters and now the tired sci-fi trope of young alien/human hybrids that age rapidly. Still Falling Skies in the past has been a generally well-done and exciting TV show, so it should pull it off again.

The Last Ship (June 22): Based on the last shipbook by William Brinkley, this post-apocalyptic drama focuses on a lone U.S. Navy ship and its crew. An important change from the book is that instead of surviving a nuclear war, the ship and its crew grapple in a world where a pandemic wiped out most of humanity. The previews make it look quite exciting and riveting.

The Leftovers (June 29): Former Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof presents this HBO series set in a world where the Rapture caused two percent of its human population to disappear. As expected, people go off the deep end as fringe cults and chaos comes to the fore.

Outlander (Aug 9): Noted showrunner, Ronald D. Moore executive produces this new STARZ  series about a World War II-era British nurse who winds up in Scotland in the year 1743. This romantic time travel drama is based on Diana Gabaldon’s popular books, and it looks like an epic book romance come to life.

strain

The Strain (July 13): This one looks scary! Based on director Guillermo Del Toro’s book trilogy, this FX TV show is about scientists trying to stop a virus that turns people into vicious, deadly vampires. Will this replace our summer vampire fix now that True Blood is ending?

true blood castTrue Blood (June 22): Coming back for its seventh and final season, the HBO vampire drama as expected wraps up its storylines about a world where vampires have come out and struggle to get along in society. Although True Blood isn’t as buzzworthy as in the past, its racy scenes, bloody gore and ever-twisting plotlines still deliver.

Annette DeForrester

Advertisements

Humanity Vs. Vampires: Our Advantages, Their Weaknesses

In many forms of media, vampires have been feared by humans and for good reasons. But one frightening element about them is their physical superiority to mere humans. Vampires in most stories possess superhuman strength, speed and reflexes. They’re also semi-telepathic and can fly, not to mention are nearly immortal. Recent tales have vampires living in complex secret societies and only tolerate humans who they consider to be glorified cattle.

So if it came down to it, how would humanity fare if vampires decided to take over? Well it wouldn’t be an automatic victory for vampires.

Think about it, sure vampires have all these fantastic powers but they have a severe weakness­­ ­— they’re vulnerable to sunlight. At best, as in the original Dracula novel, vampires while able to survive in the daytime are very weak. At worst, see an episode of True Blood or Being Human were vampires literally burst into flame when exposed to sunlight. If they were to actually exist that could be why they haven’t come out and conquered us. If there were an open war between humans and vampires, humans only need to wait until dawn to open coffins containing the vampires and expose them to direct sunlight. One thing that sunlight contains is ultraviolet radiation. Perhaps that radiation can be weaponized for night battles.

They have other weaknesses as well. Traditionally, they’re sensitive to garlic, holy water and religious symbols like crosses. Modern vampire tales like those written by Anne Rice have it that those so-called weapons are useless and have no effect on vampires. In Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, it’s stated that for a cross to work, the human bearing it must have religious faith. However, vampires in modern tales are still vulnerable to wooden stakes and sometimes silver (as seen in True Blood where the metal is used to incapacitate the night creatures).

Aside from sunlight and wooden stakes, a good beheading is a guaranteed way to kill vampires. Just ask the Winchester Brothers in Supernatural. In that TV show, beheadings are the only way to kill vampires, which early in the show’s run were considered an endangered species.

Movies like Blade and The Lost Boys feature heroes who come up with unique and clever adaptations of vampire weaknesses. For instance, the young heroes in The Lost Boys filled up ordinary water guns with holy water. Let’s not get into how formidable Blade was with his weapons. He was a bonafide one-man army against the undead with all the stabbing weapons and guns. In True Blood and the books the show is based on (known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris) vampires openly exist alongside humans, so police and militia groups routinely use wooden bullets against vampires along with silver. In one of the recent episodes when the Vampire Authority began to run amok, a human general threatened them. He revealed that humanity’s armies had already devised weapons to be used in the event of a war with the undead. Viewers got a taste of what a war would look like in second season episodes of True Blood where a radical, armed religious group threatened to wipe out vampires.

So if a state of war were to occur, humanity though physically outmatched has many aces up its collective sleeves. It’s been implied in many modern stories that humans far outnumber vampires which is one reason why they haven’t tried to conquer the planet. In the case of war, the huge numbers of humans will be a decided advantage and don’t forget that time and time again, we have shown an ability to adapt and refine battle tactics.

Probably the only way that vampires can counter humanity is in the form of a fast spreading virus. There are many page-turning books about a world overrun by vampires. The most famous one is Richard Mathesen’s I Am Legend, which was adapted three times into film. In I Am Legend, a pandemic is responsible for turning Earth’s population into vampire-like creatures. Other recent books that explore this theme of a virus transforming people into vampires are Justin Cronin’s The Passage and The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

The recent film Daybreakers is also about a world where a virus transforms humans into vampires. The outbreak was so severe that in the space of a few years, vampires had overrun human civilization, reducing the few humans left into cattle.

But unless a virus  quickly devastates humanity in the same way as shown in I Am Legend, don’t be so sure to count out humanity if war broke out against vampires. Sure one on one, a human probably cannot beat a vampire but it’s being demonstrated in these tales that a vampire can lose.

Waldermann Rivera

Nice Werewolves Finish Last

This time of year, all you see are countless shows and movies featuring vampires and zombies. True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead for example. They’re very popular so why isn’t there a craving for werewolves?

Sure they pop up as supporting characters or villains in vampire productions (see True Blood, Being Human, Underworld and Twilight) but it seems like any attempt to have werewolves as the main draw falls flat.

The most recent example was last year’s film The Wolfman that came and went without much notice. In fact, I believe the last breakout films about them were The Howling and An American Werewolf in London (and their sequels were awful). That was back in the ’80s when their makeup was revolutionary. Maybe it has to do with the way they are usually shown nowadays. Often they use obvious CGI or actual wolves whereas vamps and zombies are done with makeup that still carries the day. Filmmakers need to perfect a new way of presenting werewolves that doesn’t look like CGI.

The Undead Reach New Heights

Some may argue that since the ’90s vampires have been portrayed as very sexual and alluring hence their popularity. That take on vampires actually began with Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula back in the ’30s. But it wasn’t until Anne Rice’s vampire books that the concept of sensual, tortured vampires truly took off then went to an entire different level of popularity when the Twilight phenomenon started. The result was that the vampire became the superstar of the monster world leaving werewolves and others biting the dust. In terms of novels, there are many werewolf romance novel but they have yet to capture the public’s eye like Twilight has.

For zombies, they appealed to those wanting pure horror soaked with blood and guts and a dash of the apocalypse. When it comes to gore, werewolves can’t compete with cannibalistic zombies in the ick factor. As everyone knows the modern zombie genre started with George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead film and its sequels. Zombies also gained a strong presence with other media like Max Brooks’ World War Z novel, Robert Kirkman’s comic book The Walking Dead and numerous video games such as Resident Evil and House of the Dead. How can a poor werewolf compete with hordes of the undead rampaging through the streets? It’s gotten so bad that a recent episode of Spike TV’s show Deadliest Warrior featured a matchup of vampires against zombies with hardly a mention of lycanthropes.

Sign Of The Times

Many say that the public’s fascination with creatures of the underworld has to do with the times. Modern zombies are seen as a statement about modern materialistic society. IOW we are the undead; mindless drones who only consume. They’re also the great equalizer in the so-called social class struggle. As they feed on the rich and poor alike without regard, zombies have shown that we are all equal when it comes to food. Werewolves aren’t associated with the end of civilization and the one thing they had over zombies, being fast and savage, has been co-opted by recent zombie films.

Vampires not only explore themes of forbidden sexuality but of adapting to the new age while lamenting the old world and its more dignified culture. But the werewolf theme of man losing his humanity and giving in to his bestial nature is a compelling subject. Being Human explored this very well to the point that the werewolf protagonist is a well developed and sympathetic character. Other examples include The Wolfman, Marvel Comics’ Werewolf By Night and the American Werewolf films. There have been attempts to explore the sexual aspects of werewolves, most notably Neil Jordan’s film In The Company Of Wolves and Mike Nichols’ Wolf with mixed results. The gist of werewolf sexuality is the attraction to the rough, bestial nature of someone cursed as a werewolf. The ultimate good girl likes bad boy concept.

Nice Werewolves Finish Last?

Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood has a fascination with the werewolf Alcide that goes beyond her love for Bill and Eric. The attraction could be because Alcide comes off as more human and kinder than the vampires in the show and books. In many of these incarnations, the main character is shown to be a really nice, meek middle class person who uncontrollably releases the primal side. The film Wolf embraces this theme as Jack Nicholson’s character succeeds in life when he embraces his bestial side and stops letting others step all over him. Or take David Naughton’s character in An American Werewolf In London who is a comical, everyday kind of guy who transforms into a murderous lycanthrope with tragic results. The entire concept can be interpreted as an examination of how humanity is cut off from their true bestial selves that need expression.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why werewolves haven’t quite captured the general public’s eye like all the apocalyptic zombies and emo vampires. Perhaps it’s because werewolves aren’t the undead just specialized shape-shifters. Everyone is fascinated with death and the afterlife and zombies and vamps give us a glimpse of this in a way that werewolves cannot. Maybe it has to do with timing and frankly I wonder how much longer the vampire and zombie fascination will continue. To me it seems we’re oversaturated and the public’s attention will eventually shift to something else.

But the real reason for the lack of popularity probably has to do with the story itself. Recently there isn’t a truly captivating character or storyline that grabs the current zeitgeist. It can happen out of the blue; times and taste will change and the lycanthropes will capture the public eye with a crossover novel, game or film. They’ll get their moment in the moon before long.

Waldermann Rivera