American Horror Story: 1984″ (Wednesdays, FX) is an unapologetic, unfettered case of giving people what they want: A straight-up slasher series in the mode of the “Friday the 13th” films, right down to the summer camp setting. The first of the 10 episodes, “Camp Redwood,” slathers on Eighties trappings like freeze-frames and grainy cinematography. We see the POV of a girl lifting her shirt over her head, and when her vision is cleared, her two kissing friends have been stabbed by a giant knife, their faces pinned together. It’s darkly funny — as is certainly intended by writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, in their ninth season helming this repertory anthology series — but it’s also cleverly brutal enough that we know “1984” respects its genre.
Iwatched the trailers of some notable fall TV premieres so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
The Terror” was one of the most gripping series of 2018, a rare horror TV show that maintains a creepy aura even with the escape provided by commercial breaks. It’s slow-paced, and it doesn’t stick the landing, so it barely missed my end-of-year list. But I’m happy to return for “The Terror: Infamy” (Mondays on AMC).
Scream: The TV Series” Season 3, long delayed because of the Weinstein scandal that put the ownership in limbo, isn’t exactly worth the wait, but still, it deserves more attention than it’s getting. It has been dumped onto MTV’s sister station, the celebrity reality show bastion VH1, for a three-night, six-hour airing (continuing at 9 p.m. Eastern Tuesday and Wednesday), at a time when everyone is bingeing and discussing “Stranger Things” Season 3.
Ihadn’t seen the 2014 movie “What We Do in the Shadows,” so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into FX’s spinoff series of the same name, but man, this show is hilarious. Basically, it’s like watching “The Office,” but with vampires.
As “Harper’s Island,” “Dead of Summer,” “Scream” and other slasher TV series have found, this medium can’t escape the law of diminishing returns the way a brisk movie can. As the story goes forward, the cast of characters gets dwindled until the mystery has evaporated: The killer is whoever is left. Also, we might get to really liking a character only to see them killed off, thus lessening our interest from that point forward.
Last season, when “iZombie” constructed its new reality wherein the U.S. government and the Fillmore Graves corporation team up to keep zombies and humans behind a wall in Seattle, I thought “This can’t last.” As “iZombie’s” fifth and final season (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on The CW) opens, we’re starting to see the specifics of why it can’t last. Meanwhile, creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are maintaining their delicate balance wherein Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and newly zombified Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) behave in humorous ways depending on whose brain they most recently consumed.
On the “Buffy” fan Facebook page I frequent, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) is often mentioned when someone asks “What’s a new show that’s sort of like ‘Buffy?’ ” It’s hard to resist the comparisons. After all, the nine episodes of Season 1, Part 2 end with (spoilers follow) …
CBS All Access’ new version of “The Twilight Zone” is certainly putting itself out there. Using the name of the revered Rod Serling series (1959-64) that hasn’t lost its cachet despite all the times it has been resurrected (this is the fourth series by that name), the new series is demanding attention but also setting the bar high. The network has made the pilot episode available for free on YouTube. But like the titular “Comedian” of the episode, its confidence is misplaced and unearned.
It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.