The most distinctive thing about October is that it’s got Halloween at the end. Those of a sufficiently spooky and ooky disposition presumably tick off the days on an orange advent calendar. But weirdly, this doesn’t make it the natural focus for works of horror. In the cinema, jumpscare delivery vectors are formulaic enough, both in terms of production and reception, that you can just keep shovelling them out all year round – and looking at October’s television premieres, let me tell you, TV is no different. It’s as if people have forgotten the meaning of Halloween altogether.
Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns to the world of animation with this, a series in which primitive humans fight dinosaurs. Frankly, that’s all you or anyone should need to know. If you’re not already sold on that concept, then I don’t want to hear from you.
It’s very rare to find a project that’s this clear about what it wants to be. In a departure harking back to the pre-talkie days, Primal won’t have any dialogue. This seems perfectly reasonable on the face of it for two reasons – 1) it’s cavemen, why would they be speaking and 2) this leaves more time for cavemen and dinosaurs knocking seven bells out of each other. Not enough shows feature universally relatable subjects like this.
2. Letterkenny | October 14
A show about burly Canadian farmers sounds like the kind of thing reality TV turns out at half-four on a Friday. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s one of the most linguistically playful and inventive shows in years, so much so that when you’re watching it you start to think ‘yeah, wouldn’t it be good if I went out to a tiny town in Ontario and became a farmer?’.
Such are the delights of Letterkenny’s dialogue that it’s sometimes better when nothing’s happening – when it’s just the main power trio sitting about, waxing on the subject of nothing in particular. Vivian Mercier famously said that Waiting For Godot is a play in which ‘nothing happens, twice’. Letterkenny builds on that achievement by having nothing happen quite often, and also making it thigh-slappingly hilarious.
Although Letterkenny opts for British-style six-episode runs, it’s been pretty prolific – this is its seventh season in four short years. And take it from me, the charm isn’t wearing off any time soon.
3. Watchmen | October 20
Alan Moore’s given the world some wonderful stories over the years – V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and, yes, Watchmen, they’re all his. The comics industry, predictably, responded by crapping all over him. In response, he’s been about as pointed about the wider media as you might expect. He’s always profoundly disapproved of any film adaptation of his work, so this, a TV spinoff of one of those film adaptations, probably won’t see any comment from the maestro beyond a flick of the v’s and a loud fart sound.
It’s appropriate that Watchmen’s coming out not long after Joker, because it sees a very angry grassroots fandom springing up around the smelly, violent Rorschach. And while Rorschach was a takeoff on little-known objectivist superheroes Mr. A and The Question, he struck as much of a chord with a certain kind of disaffected man as Heath Ledger himself. With the in-show fandom wearing mocked-up masks just like his, it seems they’re nodding to the ‘Chanology’ movement – which was of course referencing the V For Vendetta movie. This seems like the kind of decision which could make Moore bite through his pen and take up gardening instead.
It’s possible there are other superheroes involved as well. Actually fronting the whole affair is Regina King, who’s not a particularly good candidate for a Rorschach-type for at least two reasons.
4. Catherine The Great | October 21
If you’re wondering how they could possibly adapt that one thing you’ve heard about Catherine the Great and her horse for TV, I’m afraid I have to tell you that was just a rumour. Russian court life may have been tough, but it also involved some Mean Girls-tier mudslinging.
This represents Helen Mirren ticking off another name from her bucket list of playing all the historically significant queens: she’s the only actor to have ever played both Elizabeths I and II. And Catherine the Great, it must be said, is right up there with those two – it was under her that Russia expanded into the vast, map-dominating territory we know and love. Like Lizes one and two, she had a long and prosperous reign. It’s not as if she’s gone down in history as ‘Catherine the Presentable’.
The meat of the show, though, will doubtless be the kind of backroom shenanigans and schemery that characterised the better seasons of Game of Thrones. Catherine came to power having deposed her own husband, so basically, imagine a Cersei Lannister figure, who has even more affairs.
5. BoJack Horseman| October 25
The previous season of BoJack Horseman ended on a surprisingly climactic note, especially for a show that had always defied that kind of everything’s-wrapped-up narratives. So, appropriately, it’s this season that’ll actually serve as the swansong, showing us what happens after the not-particularly-happily-ever-after.
‘Unconventional’ is a pretty broad term, but you can be pretty confident applying it to a show about kooky talking animals that offers a serious exploration of depression, insecurity, and generally what it means to be a good or bad person. You may have seen rehab narratives before, but it’s almost certainly not been a horse going through them. The closest thing in the long history of cartooning I can think of – and I’d be very surprised if Raphael-Bob Waksberg wasn’t at least aware of this – is Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, telling the story of his father surviving the Holocaust. Like BoJack, it features talking animals, and like BoJack, it doesn’t tend to make you look on the lighter side of life.
While cartoons aren’t all Looney Tunes, BoJack’s more thoughtful approach is still a rarity. Even within the badly misnamed subcategory of ‘adult animation’, most works just tend towards puerility. South Park has its moments, but it also has many more moments of knob and plop gags. There’s not much else out there with a very real possibility that the main character will top himself in the final episode – there’s even less that are likely to make it funny.
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