It’s that time of year, spooky season is here again – and what a spooky season, with horror kingfish like John Carpenter, Mike Flanagan, and R. L. Stine himself on the menu. Even this October’s shows that aren’t made by all-time titans of terror have, at best, a pretty unnerving quality about them. So, sit back, dim the lights, have some popcorn out of a plastic tub made up a bit like a pumpkin, and get ready to foul yourself with fright.
If you’re trying to fill up your watchlist over the coming month, here are the biggest new TV shows of October 2023.
New TV In October 2023
1. Everything Now | October 5th, 2023
The kids aren’t alright. The mid-life crisis gave way to the quarter-life crisis, then things were having to be split into eighths, and before long you get this – a 17-year-old girl taking a serious run at her bucket list after being hospitalised with anorexia. Item one: eat a cake.
This bore the working title of ‘The Fuck It Bucket’, though even on Netflix that would never have flown, at least without some embarrassing asterisks like ‘The End Of The F**king World’. But it is billed as a coming-of-age story, so may be a bit more life-affirming and less morbid than the basic facts make it seem.
This does bear the sting in the tail that Sophie Wilde’s main character is called Mia – not immediately a warning sign, but within pro-eating disorder communities, because that is sadly the world we live in, ‘Mia’ is used as a fun, affectionate nickname for bulimia. It should be unthinkable that a pro-bulimia show would make it past script level, but then, this wouldn’t be the first time Netflix turned out a program that made viewers want to harm themselves.
2. The Fall Of The House Of Usher | October 12th, 2023
Off the back of his other big-ticket adaptations, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, if anything it’s just surprising it took Mike Flanagan this long to get around to some Poe. Bly Manor was based on a book that was set in Essex, for goodness’ sake.
Like Flanagan’s other adaptations, Usher brings the underlying musculature of Poe’s works into the present day. Since it follows the horrible CEO of a horrible pharmaceutical company and his horrible family, it might initially seem more like a Succession than it does a horror. But since Flanagan is about the only creator who can still use a jump-scare without it seeming forced, we can give him the benefit of the doubt.
This isn’t just drawing on Poe’s original ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’, but rather weaving in several of Poe’s greatest hits. There’s a certain C. Auguste Dupin and Arthur Pym on the character list for starters – and really, could any creator possibly resist the impulse to have a tell-tale heart thumping away beneath the floorboards? In Halloween season?
3. Goosebumps | October 13th, 2023
Viewer beware, you’re in for a – well, mainly a nostalgia experience, if we’re honest with each other. Forget your Draculas, wolf-men, and sons of Kong, for a certain generation your real icons of terror are titles like Welcome To Dead House, Revenge Of The Lawn Gnomes, and It Came From Beneath The Sink!
Thanks to cancel culture, Halloween is not set to – and never will – fall on Friday the 13th, so this is the closest manageable compromise. Goosebumps creator R. L. Stine, much like his less G-rated counterpart Stephen King, is prolific enough that any adaptation like this could handily cover ten seasons without coming anywhere near running out of material.
The show’s co-runner Rob Letterman was also behind the recent film adaptation of Goosebumps, which may have had tepid reviews, but also had Jack Black as Stine himself in a bit of stunt casting the industry is really yet to equal. If they can get him in again for this show, I guarantee it will win every existing award for excellence in television.
4. John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams | October 13th, 2023
Following in the spirit of The Amityville Horror and many many more, Carpenter is here spinning some spooks and ooks out of various suburbanites who have pretty weird stories to share. Let us not here devolve into the tired argument over whether stories which involve ghosts are ‘real’. The flickering light of the TV is, here, pretty much a campfire that brings its own scary stories to tell in the dark.
The actual meat of the show is a mishmash of ‘first-hand accounts’ from the ‘witnesses’ alongside archive footage and staged recreations. It’s just like any documentary that makes the scepticism rise in your gullet, except with a much lower bar over which your suspended disbelief needs to pass. Not to harp on a point from the last entry, but it is nearly Halloween after all.
5. Fellow Travelers | October 29th, 2023
A romance spanning the latter half of the twentieth century does not seem, on the face of it, to be natural material for two days before Halloween night. But it makes more sense if you know it’s a gay romance that starts off in the tense McCarthy era: ‘Fellow Travelers’ does not in and of itself denote Soviet spies, but does denote people far too left-wing for old Big Mac not to start a file on. This is, straightforwardly, as much as forty years of the terror of hiding in plain sight.
As ever with romances, and particularly ones we’re meant to stay invested in for more than 30 minutes at a throw, the show will depend heavily on how much chemistry leads Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey can gin up between them. The trailer doesn’t give much away in that regard, mainly showing them peering out from behind slatted blinds – but they do have the advantage in that we will inevitably want them to get away with it. In drama it’s called tension, in comedy it’s farce.
The cast also includes Chris Bauer as Senator McCarthy, and Will Brill as McCarthy’s hatchet man Roy Cohn, a profoundly nasty historical figure whose personal life made his professional life of rooting out secret homosexuals deeply ironic.
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