Most people who know me personally know that I find it extremely difficult to “bingewatch;” the phenomenon of retreating to a laptop and watching a series from start to finish in a short span of time was never something I was very good at or interested in, and that is a fact I’ve mentioned about myself here on a number of occasions. So, while everyone else uses the summertime to bingewatch a series streaming on Netflix, like Orange is the New Black, for instance, or Arrested Development (which was my failed undertaking of last summer, only having gotten through about half of season one), I have come to terms with the fact that I need my real television set, a tangible, physical cable box, replete with DVR and premium channels. With that in mind, I’d like to take the rest of this space to talk about a couple of TV shows that are already, or will be, airing this summer that I love or am looking forward to– and not surprisingly at all, they are all genre shows.
For one thing, I already sometimes (half-jokingly) consider myself the Scrooge of summertime– my pale, ginger skin merely freckles or burns in the sun, and my curly red locks basically explode with even the slightest percentage of humidity, and extreme heat basically nauseates me. Beyond all this though, my preexisting love for all things horror requires me to maintain a healthy dose of dreariness– the ultimate vitamin D, as far as I’m concerned.
Penny Dreadful has, thus far, been this vitamin for me. I love its Victorian-era goth aesthetic, and the way it cleverly pastiches together a number of familiar characters from legendary horror literature, weaving their stories into one larger narrative that is similarly reverent and referential, while also unique and mysterious. Airing on Showtime at 10 pm on Sundays, the show is named after cheap and somewhat seedy serial publications that were produced in this era and which told tales of horror. This particular tale of horror contains Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein, and hints of Dracula, not to mention something vaguely Egyptian going on too. Then there’s Vanessa Ives, played by Eva Green, who seems to be a medium, but there is a lot we have yet to learn about her, and Sir Malcolm Murray, played by Timothy Dalton, whose daughter Mina has been taken– presumably by the show’s vampires.
So, there is a lot going on, and yet the show does a pretty good job of keeping a careful balance, even if not within each episode then definitely from one to the next, so far anyway. Next week’s episode seems to center mostly upon Vanessa, which is exciting because she is definitely the most intriguing of the original characters. I am, however, biased when it comes to the literary story lines: the show’s representation and adaptation of Shelley’s Frankenstein is simply amazing. I took an entire course on Frankenstein and have read the original text and have encountered countless adaptations, both literary and cinematic; I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I am a huge fan. This show has, so far, remained impressively and refreshingly faithful to so many aspects of the novel that are so oft ignored or forgotten about, while still changing things just enough to fit into this new patchwork.
Speaking of a patchwork of horror creatures, I can’t abandon True Blood as we approach its final season on HBO. The series has wavered in the past few years, admittedly– last season was certainly better than that of two summers ago (all the Lilith stuff got really old for me, really fast), but allegedly, last season veered away from the trajectory of the novels way more than any previous season had. I cannot attest to this personally, because I did not read the novels, but I can say that the strange flash-forward of last season’s finale felt random and tacked on. This upcoming season appears to be as apocalyptic as ever, and I can only begin to wonder how they will choose to end the beloved series. That, and my level of commitment up until this point has been far too great for me to give up on it now; I have loved dearly almost every other season, and it has come to symbolize summer for me. I’ve always appreciated how campy it is, and that, at least, hasn’t changed much.
Finally, a new show which has not aired yet but which I am immensely excited for is The Strain. Guillermo del Toro is, after all, one of my favorite human beings on the planet, and I have no doubt that his creepy, gory, twisted vampire tale will translate flawlessly to the small screen. I have read two out of four of the graphic novel adaptations, and intend to read the original trilogy of novels that initially sparked those comics and this new series. It will be airing on FX in early July, and I have high hopes for this unique, grotesque take on the classic creature, and look forward to seeing this wholly original vampire mythology unfold in serial fashion.
Well, there you have it. While normal season shows are on their summer vacations, these bloody and broody programs get to take center stage– which is just how I like it.