Smart Shows With Monsters In Them (I)

19 Sep

To me, there are really two kinds of television shows – the kind with monsters in them and the kind without.

If there’s a new show on television, and it doesn’t look like there are going to be any monsters in it, then there would have to be a pretty clear reason for me to sit around watching it.  Really good writing or acting, cool setting, something.

Maybe put Tom Selleck in it, I don’t know.

I like things besides monster shows, sure, that’s just the biggest pac man sized chunk of the pie chart, that’s all.

Like Glee, for instance. No monsters, but every ten minutes they dance and sing.  Other shows if they start getting boring, everyone just keeps standing around talking about it.  In Glee, at least you feel like they’re trying.

On the other hand, if your show has monsters in it, and the monsters are even halfway cool-looking, then I’ll probably watch your stupid monster show even if everything else about it sucks. I was still watching Star Trek: Enterprise when they yanked it, and I’ll tell you why – monsters.  Time traveling monsters.

It was so dumb you had to listen to Johnny Cash on your iPod while you watched it, but I was on board because they had weird bug monsters, and dolphin monsters, and possible bird monsters.  That’s just the kind of thing I’m looking for, frankly.

For some reason, the British are much more likely to put monsters in their television shows than we are.  Or more likely, I’m watching BBC America, and that’s where they put all their monster shows.  They’ve probably got tons of really smart non-monster shows, full of British people talking and talking to each other.

I’m not too into them.  They have a talk show guy I keep seeing commercials for while I’m watching my British monster shows – the talk show guy kind of gives me the willies.

They probably don’t send their smart stuff our way, now that I think about it.  I think they know about me and my stupid, lazy policy regarding shows without monsters in them, and I’ll bet it’s not a particularly unusual policy.

I’m definitely not trying to posture as a smart guy – please see above monster policy – but I think maybe BBC comes off as automatically smug, like NPR.  Even when it’s being genuinely smart, a big chunk of people just think you’re being smug, talking about it.

Well, you have to get over that, because you’re missing some really good shows with monsters in them.  And they count as smart shows because practically everybody in them is British.

In short, you get to watch monster shows and then later, if you feel like it, you can be smug about it.  The awesome part is the smugness is optional – you don’t have to tell anybody that you watched BBC at all.

Here are five monster shows on BBC America.  Please bear in mind, I am not a trained television reporter, and I have done zero research on any of these shows other than Googling one of them to make sure I was spelling it correctly (I wasn’t – in fact I had the name wrong altogether).

Any corrections or comments or clarifications or accusations or threats – all all welcome in the comment section.

Primeval – You’re not going to believe this.  Your dream show from when you were twelve years old is a reality now.  It’s set in Great Britain – which if you ask BBC is the Monster Capitol of the World – and these shimmering time portals start showing up all over the place at a rate of oh, I don’t know, about one a week.  Their appearance is random and usually brief, and they go to different random time periods.

So basically, there’s this government agency assigned to deal with the time portals and the various dinosaurs that keep coming through.  And again, to avoid a national panic, they don’t want to admit that there are time portals or dinosaurs.  For some reason, that’s a given – no one can know about time portals or dinosaurs!

So the show is about this hip, diverse group of British people and they’re like the Dinosaur Time Portal Squad or something.

Every week, it’s a different monster.  Sometimes giant centipedes from three hundred million years ago, sometimes a mastadon, sometimes a prehistoric shark in the Thames.  The CG can be a little weak – it’s clear they’ve got a budget to work within – and they do struggle a bit with the writing.  It’s a fine line between dinosaur movie and absurdity and they kind of have to trample all over it.

Again, the kind of writing I wouldn’t be able to excuse if they weren’t tossing me a monster every week, and they’re tightening up their game.  They have a hilarious Time Traveling Ex-Wife Super Villain, though I don’t think she’s supposed to be funny.  And she’s got a team of bald headed clones and a bunch of super predators from the future with mind control hats strapped on ’em.  I’ll tell you – I don’t know what the hell else you need. 

There’s also this weirdly distracting difference between what British audiences apparently find attractive and what we do here in the States.  And a whimsical lack of reality when it comes to things like high school kids figuring out time portals ahead of teams of experienced physicists, and a skinny kickboxing blonde woman who literally kicks a dinosaur in the head.  

A couple of times an episode, that kind of stuff really makes you wince.

Doesn’t matter – this is a Monster of the Week show that beats anything I ever got on Saturday afternoon when I was a kid.  I’ll take it.

Being Human  – This is some kind of vampire or werewolf show or something.  The British standard for disturbing things on television is way different from ours.  I would never watch a show this scary because then what if that really happened?  Screw that.

But I thought that I should include it because it fits the criteria.  Lots of British people=definitely smart.  And there are definitely monsters, but not the kind I like.  These are the super scary kind, so if you like monsters and you are not a big sissy, I’ll bet this show’s for you.  There’s simply no way for me to find out for sure.

Demons – I only saw a couple episodes of this one, but it definitely has monsters.  And the last descendent of the real Van Helsing from Dracula.   The new Van Helsing is a reluctant monster hunter but he’s got monster hunting in his blood, so he can run from it all he wants, etc.

And there’s a secret monster hunter Van Helsing Hideout he gets, and an old mentor -type guy.  Some kind of Wooden Stake Crossbow – seems like a vampire ought to be able to snatch that stake out of the air, but I guess it works or his mentor wouldn’t have given it to him.

It looked all right.  The other kind of Monster of the Week, is where it seemed to be going.  He’d fight gargoyles and mummies and Frankenstein, I guess.  Not my kind of monsters – I like them to be really big, and just go around busting stuff up – but definitely full of monsters.  And watered down a little bit from Being Human, such that for instance, I can watch it.

(Second half here tomorrow)


2 responses to “Smart Shows With Monsters In Them (I)

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