Out of the Box

Out of the Box

Halloween is, admittedly, my favorite holiday. It’s the only time of the year when celebrating horror and the macabre is encouraged, where folks can let their freak flags fly.

For those of us too old to trick-or-treat, childless or who simply prefer to stay in with a good Halloween marathon, here’s how to make the most of it.

On Thursday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. ABC Family will air The Addams Family starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd and a young Christina Ricci. Come for one of Raul Julia’s final roles, stay for MC Hammer’s “Addams Family Groove.”

Following the film, flip the channel to the Animal Planet for the return of the nightmare-inducing Monsters Inside Me (9 p.m.), a foray into all that is unholy. True accounts of parasites, insect and other such infestations will delight morbid minds. Prepare to become a severe hypochondriac.

On Friday, Oct. 30, there’s no need to be anywhere other than in front of a television tuned to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for a marathon of Russian-American horror director and screenwriter Val Lewton’s classic, unsettling films, beginning with 1942’s Cat People (8 p.m.) followed by Martin Scorsese Presents, Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows, a look into Lewton’s career as a filmmaker (11 p.m.)

All of this leads us directly into early Halloween morning as Lewton’s infamously creepy The Seventh Victim (11 p.m.) and The Body Snatcher (2:45 a.m.) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are aired.

Halloween night is when all manner of creepy kids will be roaming your neighborhood in search of a blood sacrifice (or candy, whatever). Fear not, you’ll be near the safety of your television as you await the premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead (9 p.m. on Starz).

Cult hero/icon Bruce Campbell returns to his legendary role as Ash Williams, the chainsaw-armed (literally) hero of The Evil Dead franchise. The TV series was co-created by Campbell and Sam Raimi, who later went on to single-handedly invigorate the superhero film craze with 2001’s Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire. Expect lots and lots of campy gore and quirky one-liners, preceded by a 24-hour-marathon of The Evil Dead films (including The Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness)

American Movie Classics’ (AMC) FearFest will air marathons of the genre-defining Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films beginning on Thursday and ending Saturday night.

Lastly, for the cord-cutters who aren’t confined by the horrors of television scheduling, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime offer up a plethora of Halloween treats.

Netflix has the teen horror series Goosebumps based on R.L. Stine’s young-adult book series of the 1990s (for fans of extremely campy horror á la Re-Animator; the show gets away with some creepy stuff that wouldn’t fly today), as well as the under-the-radar horror/comedy iZombie in its first season about a doctor-turned-detective after gaining memories of the recently deceased by, well, eating brains. The BBC’s Ripper Street follows detectives left to clean up a world post-Jack the Ripper and is gruesome in a way that only the English can portray.

Hulu has the entirety of The X-Files, which is returning in January, so here’s your excuse to get caught up with Mulder and Scully, as well as the 1990s revival of The Outer Limits, which went hardcore into terrifyingly surreal sci-fi.

Over on Amazon, the original series’ pilot for The Man in the High Castle, based on iconic sci-fi writer Phillip K Dick’s novel, is scary enough as it imagines a world wherein the Nazis won.

Many of you will be out and about on Halloween night, but sometimes there are better things than socializing. I say stay in, grab a bowl of popcorn and power through the scariest time of the year with your old friend the television.


Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.

Out of the Box

Out of the Box

Growing up hooked on the boob tube, I found that the entertainment it provided via the shows I watched did one of three things: 1. Provided an escape. 2. Provided a world I could relate to. 3. Provided a situation that would make me feel better about my reality.

Now imagine all of these elements of escape, attachment and superiority rolled into one harmonious mess that makes you come back for more. That’s Shameless.

Ever since I disconnected from cable and went to streaming in 2013, I have found a whole other world of shows I have fallen in love with. While I was slow at first to try something new, watching reruns of Sex and the City and Cheers, I eventually broke away from Netflix, went full speed ahead with Hulu and finally caved in and subscribed to Showtime ($11 per month). After binge-watching any number of series available on the premium channel, I found my new love. Now, to be honest, the only reason I gave this show a chance was because, as a big fan of Fargo, anything that William H. Macy attached himself to had to be at least worth a shot or, more literally, an hour of my time. With the entire new season released last week, now it’s been over 50 hours of my time in the last few months. And here’s why.

While Frank Gallagher (Macy) a binge-drinking sociopath who would sell out his own daughter for cash, is the most familiar face, with the exception of Joan Cusak as Sheila Jackson, an oblivious, neurotic, wannabe-Stepford wife who wields dildos to show her affection for her hubby and others, the show is focused primarily on Frank’s oldest daughter, Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum.

Fiona has had nothing but crap for luck her whole life, with both parents (the mother is a selfish succubus who happens to be bipolar) abandoning her and her five siblings, leaving Fiona to try to raise them on her own, each with a unique set of serious issues. Lip is the oldest brother, whose high sex drive and super intelligence often keep him stuck in life. Ian, the second oldest, embraces his sexuality and shows signs of his mother’s teeter-totter of emotions, and then there are the three youngest: Carl, barely a teen who will be a great mob hitman when he grows up; Debbie, the ever-so-horny and overly blunt preteen; and Liam, the youngest, who is just a toddler and also happens to be black, apparently the result of a one-night stand of the good-for-nothing mother. Fiona’s desperation, however, to see each one of them grow up to be something she never was or can be, keeps her going, though from time to time, she will shirk all of her responsibilities to live, just a little, and it eventually always catches up with her. But it’s not just about the Gallaghers.

There is the hunky Kevin Ball, who is ever so faithful and loving and just reeks of the bad-boy-but-nurturing guy. Kevin is hooked up with Fiona’s best friend, Veronica Fisher, who, while abrasive, keeps everything honest and out on the table. There is also Mickey Milkovich who is as awful and screwed-up as he is sincere and endearing; he’s a totally perplexing character.

Everyone’s secrets are out in the open, and it’s believable because, one way or another, you will find one of your secrets right there out in the open, too. But you can also watch it to escape and be glad your life isn’t that bad. While it might be a bit difficult to get through the first episode or two, do it for Fiona’s sake. She needs your support.


Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content. 

Out of the Box

Out of the Box

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris recently premiered, and already we’ve seen the inimitable NPH talk Reese Witherspoon into racing up a 15-story tower and down a zip line. He has pranked the judges of The Voice and landed a backflip off a giant pogo stick. He has sung “I Will Survive” with disco diva Gloria Gaynor and given away a whole mess of cash and prizes. To be sure, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, the new live variety show on NBC, is big, frenetic and fun. Except when it’s not.

The realization that live TV can happen in fits and starts comes early in the first episode when Harris says, “What am I doing here?” For a tense split second it feels as if live TV is about to go terribly, terribly wrong. But just when we think he’s gone all Andy Kaufman on us, we realize that he’s teasing an upcoming prank. Cue the collective sigh of relief, or disappointment, depending on your point of view.  

Overall, Harris keeps the party rolling on the sheer power of charisma, adrenaline and impeccable tailoring. For every drawn-out, cringe-worthy moment there are more than a few that are funny, surprising or sweet. As when a man puts his life and dignity on the line before proposing to his girlfriend; even though the segment goes on a little long, it ends up reaffirming the belief that some people really will do anything for love.

While many reality and competition shows make sport of bringing out the worst in people, there’s something endearing about a show that’s all about having a good, albeit probably not the best, time ever. Everything’s done in good fun, even if some of the pranks can get a little squirmy. For instance, Harris shows some newlyweds hidden video coverage of him secretly crashing their wedding, hiding in their limo and rolling around on their bed in the honeymoon suite. In the end everyone laughs and the couple wins a trip to Antigua, but it just goes to show there’s a fine line between celebrity hijinks and felonious stalking.

Best Time Ever is inspired by the British phenom Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and executive-produced by that show’s stars, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly. The two shows follow an almost identical format, with performances, pranks, games, sing-alongs, stunts and celebrity appearances. Both culminate in an over-the-top End of the Show Show and feature a former Pussycat Doll as a sidekick. The U.S. show has Nicole Scherzinger, who proves she’s more than a pretty everything. She easily goes from bantering with Harris or giving an audience member a PG-rated lap dance to backing up, or more accurately shoring up, Bonnie Tyler’s performance of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Scherzinger even does wacky pretty well as she hams it up with Little NPH, played by Nathaniel Motulsky.

Another regular feature of the show is the star guest announcer. The perky Reese Witherspoon proves to be a great sport in the premiere, even when Carrot Top appears out of nowhere. (Think about that too long and you’ll have nightmares.) The second episode features Alec Baldwin, who lends a slightly sardonic vibe that doesn’t quite mesh with the show’s exuberance. By far the most impressive segment is The End of the Show Show. It starts slow but when it gets rolling, it is full of jaw-dropping surprises. When all is said and done, the show isn’t the best time ever but it will leave you feeling good and that’s not bad.


Best Time Ever airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content. Ojai resident Emily Dodi has been writing about television for more than 20 years.


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