Horror television has finally returned to the mainstream. Though mysteries and thrillers like “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” captivated audiences during the later years of the Golden Age of Television, there was a major shift in programming in the late 60’s and early 70’s, with networks focusing more on police dramas and sitcoms.
While they were incredibly popular, horror series like “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Outer Limits” reboot were restricted to the late-night weekend schedules of premium cable channels, but today, blood, gore and cerebral terror are dominating prime time on both cable and network television.
The following are the top five horror programs on television today.
The FX anthology series “American Horror Story” has just finished its third season and has been renewed for a fourth, set to premiere in late 2014. What sets “American Horror Story” apart from other shows is that each season is more of a stand-alone miniseries, than a serial continuing from year to year. This format has made it possible for the show to cast actors, like Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange and James Cromwell, who are generally more known for their work in film than as major players on television. The show has won 20 awards, including four Emmy’s and one Golden Globe.
The critical response for “American Horror Story” has been consistently positive, as have the ratings, making it one of the highest rated shows in FX’s history.
The CW’s “Supernatural”, now in its ninth season, is one of the longest running scripted series, currently in production. The show follows a pair of demon hunting brothers, out to vanquish any and all sinister beings of a supernatural or paranormal nature.
Though the ratings have been relatively low compared to other primetime network shows, the series has received strong reviews from critics and has attained cult status, with its devoted following creating fan-fiction and travelling around the world to attend conventions dedicated to the show. Reruns of “Supernatural” are currently in syndication, with three-episode blocks running Monday through Friday on TNT. The series has been renewed for a tenth season and a spin-off series, titled “Supernatural: Tribes”, has been announced.
3. Bates Motel
In an ode to the Hitchcock classic “Psycho”, A&E’s “Bates Motel” had a generally well received first season. The series premiere drew three million viewers, breaking the network record for an original drama series, previously held by “Longmire”.
Executives at A&E believed in the show from the beginning, bypassing a pilot episode and ordering the 10-episode first season directly. The second season of “Bates Motel” premieres on March 3.
Loosely based on the Thomas Harris novel, “Red Dragon”, NBC’s “Hannibal” had a dynamic first season. Though the show’s gore and violence are a bit more extreme than most people are used to seeing on primetime network television, critics have praised the show’s writing and well developed characters.
Unlike other series on network TV, “Hannibal” only consists of 13 episodes per season. The reason for this is probably the need for broadcast networks to compete with the more condensed cable dramas that have begun to beat network series in the ratings for the first time since cable’s inception. “Hannibal” enters its second season on February 28.
“The Walking Dead” has been a pop cultural and ratings juggernaut, obliterating cable television records, season after season. The fourth season premiere holds the record for the most watched non-sports program in cable television history, with an unheard of 16.1 Million viewers.
Currently in the second half of its fourth season, AMC has expectedly renewed the zombie thriller for a fifth season, as well as a spin-off companion series set to debut in 2015. Though the network has not announced the details of the show’s plot, rumors suggest that it may be a prequel to the original series, possibly explaining the origins of the outbreak that caused the dead to rise.