With the creation of streaming entertainment, we have decades of television at our fingertips along with exclusive and international series. I still remember the days of three channels, four if I could manage to move the rabbit ears and attach some tin foil. With all these television shows now available on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Why bother searching through when there are plenty of regular television programs to watch? Trust me, with a little digging, you’ll find some gems out there.
The perfect mix of ‘80s nostalgia, scares, and Dungeons and Dragons. This Netflix exclusive series is modern, but set in the rock and roll days of the 1980s. It revolves around a group of children that try to find a friend who has been lost in “The Upside Down,” a realm terrorized by a carnivorous creature. They find a girl named Eleven who has escaped from a nearby government lab and has mental powers. They’re trying to find their friend, escape government agents and kill a monster, all set to the tunes of a gnarly retro soundtrack. It also features Wenona Rider as the mother of the missing child and Matthew Modine as the lead government agent. Anyone who loves Dungeons and Dragons or grew up in the ‘80s will love how integral both aspects play into the plot. We couldn’t wait to watch the next episode, and the end of the first season came way too soon.
For the past decade or so, there has been a surge of darkly-themed game shows, which merge the fun of money-hungry contestants with the characterization of role playing games. One that effectively set itself apart from the pack was Hellevator. It starred horror mavens Jen and Sylvia Soska as the masterminds behind the creepy challenges. Each show centered around a horror theme such as the abandoned hospital or lunatic asylum. Players had to get on the Hellevator and be taken to different areas where they participated in unsettling tasks. What I loved about this show was the ever-changing cast of characters, including circus freaks and psychotic patients, that contestants had to work through. They also did a great job of crafting a story behind each episode.
In the 1960s, someone had the great idea of creating a horror soap opera, and Dark Shadows was born. There have been a few incarnations through the years, including a horrible Johnny Depp movie, but the original is the one to watch. The series was about the Collin family and all the strange and supernatural occurrences that happened to them, including the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins. What made this such a great show was the over-the-top soap opera acting and occasional flubs. Back then, they didn’t have a lot of money for reshoots, so when bad things happened, such as doors not opening or sets falling, you had to roll with it.
This was an Australian import about a police officer who was demoted to the late shift of a small Australian town. He is charged with taking the late night phone calls from residents. Needless to say, the strange calls involve bizarre happenings, often laced with macabre flair. Besides the odd situations, he finds himself partnered with a kooky old man who has been facing the strange for years. The show featured an actual chicken man, mermaids and all manner of weird things. It only lasted six episodes, but they’re definitely worth a binge watch. There was briefly an American version in the works starring Daniel Stern, but it didn’t go anywhere.
Poltergeist: The Legacy
You might think this show was all about the movie series, but the opposite is true. I’m sure at the time many people were tricked into thinking that. Poltergeist: The Legacy is about a group of ghost and monster hunters led by Derek Rayne. They have a high tech laboratory and seemingly endless supply of money provided by The Legacy organization. The show lasted four seasons, starting in 1996. For a television show, it had great stories and decent 1990s special effects. I remember watching this and Highlander through most of my high school and college years.