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Supernatural shows haunt new TV season

(Posted September 9, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

Oooowoooooooo! This year, the networks have heard the howl of the creatures of the night — and they’ve given them primetime slots. A frighteningly high number of new shows are crawling with ghosts, ghouls and gremlins — most notably “The Night Stalker” (ABC, Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET) and “Supernatural” (WB, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET), along with Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “Ghost Whisperer” (CBS, Fridays, 8 p.m. ET), plus several science-fiction shows that mingle horror elements among the aliens and spaceships.

Is it a response to the popularity of scary movies like “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” or have networks finally realized that there’s been a horror hole in the schedule since “Buffy” and “Angel” turned to dust? How many doctor, lawyer and cop shows can a network air before viewers grow weary of courtroom and operating-room scenes? Sure, shows like “Tru Calling” and Matthew Fox’s “Haunted” gave the supernatural thriller genre a whirl in recent years, but they never caught on with a mass audience. What were they missing? And what do this season’s shows need to deliver to make sure they scare up high ratings?

Author Joe Nassise, president of the Horror Writers Association, a group of writers that has counted genre heavyweights like Dean Koontz and Clive Barker among its members, says that labeling a TV show as horror can scare some viewers away. “The general public equates horror to the slasher flicks of the 80s and the 90s,” Nassise says. “Horror is so much bigger than that.”

Many viewers probably don’t even realize their favorite show incorporates themes and elements common to the horror genre. (“Lost,” anyone?) The most successful are those that blend scares and suspense with rich characters, the right ratio of humor to shocks, and a big-picture storyline that can carry a show — and its viewers — along, episode after episode.

While last season’s surprise supernatural hit “Medium” may have paved the way for the spate of new shows, “Lost” proved that horror can find a broad audience. With its unseen-things-in-the-jungle tension, ghostly apparitions, a telekinetic kid, and mysterious healings, “Lost” quickly became the most mainstream horror show in recent years.

The drama demonstrated viewers’ fervor for supernatural elements combined with thrills, mystery and — most important — character development. Though it’s a tough act to follow, shows looking to catch on with a mass audience can take a lesson from “Lost,” as well as from a pair of nosy FBI agents and a certain beloved vampire slayer.

Source: MSNBC News

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