All in TV

Ghost Adventures: Artifacts Review (TV, 2016)

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I feel like if you enjoy something and it’s not hurting anyone, you should be proud of it. Probably the closest I come to a guilty pleasure is the never-ending onslaught of ghost hunting shows. Travel Channel has most of them, though they are not alone in funding series where adults walk around in the dark and act like every draft from an old building is a sign of demonic possession. It’s silly horror TV with the occasional good scare and I’m down for it.

Afflicted Review (TV Series, 2018)

When I had cable, I made a bad habit out of binge watching medical realty shows on TLC and Discovery. I really could not get enough of shows about mystery illnesses, extreme surgeries, and rare conditions. The shows were utter trash--poorly edited, melodramatic for no reason, and filled with a false sense of artificial hope. Does it really matter if the subject revealed to be dead by the end of the special one time got dropped off in the shallow end of a pool and rolled around for bit? Not to be insensitive, but I'm not the one who decided to counteract 50 minutes of misery--hospital visits, medicinal montages, recollections of the worst moments in their lives, high risk surgery, blatant inaccessibility and suffering out in public--with a trip to the community center for poorly staged celebration of little triumphs.

The shows did at least attempt to impart medical knowledge in this package. The editing style was to create an entertaining or engaging show. You learned a little bit about their lives--hobbies, friends, lovers, families--but also learned about the history of the conditions, treatments, and state of research. The melodramatic scoring and forced personal triumph narrative were necessary evils to get nationwide exposure to these people and their medical conditions. The participants obviously agreed to be filmed, but I don't think they agreed to be treated like a modern day freak show. 

Afflicted is a documentary-style reality TV series on Netflix about people living with chronic illnesses. You can probably tell where I sit on the series by that introduction. It's terrible.

The Haunting of Hill House: A History

Yesterday, Netflix announced that Shirley Jackson's gothic masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House is coming to the streaming service as a 10 episode series. Mike Flanagan, the writer/director of Gerald's Game and Ouija: Origin of Evil, is the show runner. I'll be perfectly honest. I did not expect this. I don't know if there was an earlier announcement I missed, but I never could have anticipated The Haunting of Hill House would be adapted into such a long format.

The Haunting of Hill House is a touchstone of literary horror. Originally published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's masterful haunted house story is one of the rare horror novels to be a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction (1960). It is undeniably a gothic horror in the Victorian rather than Southern tradition, set in a sprawling mansion where scientific research standards are used to prove the existence of ghosts. The novel comes complete with a tragic and lonely heroine, doors that open and close on their own, locals who refuse to go anywhere near the mansion (especially at night), a phantom dog, and a dark secret in the attic. It is an especially sophisticated entry in the genre, as much a woman's journey of self-discovery as it is a terrifying text. 

Making It Review (TV, 2018)

I'm a reality TV junkie. Give me a talent show and I will watch it. Give me unscripted reality and I will...not change the channel, but maybe not actively invest in it. I'm old enough that my high school jazz band used to go hang out after rehearsals and watch the first season of Survivor. The viewing parties continued into the summer and tensions grew high over whether Richard really deserved to win with that attitude.

My tastes have softened considerably since then (although the aggression and shock value of the first few seasons of Real World will always hold a place in my heart) and I'd rather watch kind, talented people get a chance to show off what they can do with constructive feedback. This is more the Great British Bake Off or Chopped style. Bring the best who will do the show in, let them show off what they can do with clear skill even if they fail the challenge, and hand a nice prize to whoever performs the best.

Making It is NBC's craft version of this format and it's just a delight.