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A Land of Both Shadow and Substance, of Things and Ideas

The fourth season of True Blood starts tonight. I’ve been looking forward to this for almost a year, ever since season three ended. I’m a big fan of this show. Well, let’s get this out up front: I’m a fantasy/horror whore. (Whoo, say that three times fast.) Sci-fi and I are on friendly enough terms, but fantasy and horror and I have been going steady since we were introduced in junior high.
I have my last babysitter to thank for this. At the end of sixth grade, my mother went back to work, and decided that I was one year away from being old enough to be a latchkey kid, especially one with her younger brother as a ward. (To be fair, we didn’t get along, and it was a very serious concern that she would come home and find one or the other of us murdered in a creative way.) She found a local girl willing to watch us for the summer. It must have been a decent enough gig: I was twelve and didn’t want to do anything but read, and my brother was eight and I believe spent the entire summer riding up and down our street on his bike. She was a big reader, too. One day, I picked up one of her books.  No cover – she got them from garage sales, usually. I was looking for something new to start. “Can I read this?” I asked. She thought about it, and then acquiesced. “Yes, but if there’s anything in there you don’t think your mother would approve of you reading about – well, don’t tell her about it, ok?” she said.
It was Stephen King’s The Stand. I have had small affairs ever since, but horror and I are very, very serious about each other. Fantasy joined us a few years later. We’re very happy with one another. That summer, and for the next year or so, I burned through Stephen King books like a desert castaway coming upon an oasis. I still love Mr. King. I know he has his detractors, but I’ll read anything and everything he puts out, for the rest of his career. I’m not so blindly devoted I can’t see which of his books I like more than others (It and The Stand are my all-time favorites; not as big of a fan of Duma Key or Lisey’s Story; The Dark Tower series is in a class of its own for sheer depth and breadth and brilliance) but reading his work is always like coming home to an old friend. You know their voice and you love them, even if they’ve changed since last you met.
If there’s a horror or fantasy series on television, I will watch it. I’ll at least give it a chance. Sometimes I’ll give up – they’re not always good (coughKingdomHospitalcough) – but they’re usually something I’m interested enough in to watch.
I thought today, in honor of it being True Blood day, I’d list my top 10 favorite horror/fantasy/sci-fi series of all time.
There may be spoilers here. Probably not too recent; to be honest, I am approximately 7 months behind on almost all of the programs I watch right now, so you will probably be safe. But if you want to be sure you remain completely spoiler-free, you should stop reading now. Also – yes, I know A Game of Thrones is not on here, and a lot of you are going to be saying, it is the best thing ever, how can it have been left off? I haven’t seen it yet. I’m finishing the book first. There are a lot of things I had to leave off because I liked these ten best, as well.
#10         Fringe   This show didn’t wow me immediately. To be honest, I started watching it for Joshua Jackson. Yes, I have a Pacey thing. Be honest with yourself – you don’t know a lot of women who don’t. (And in real life, he’s educated, well-spoken, and seems kind. Bonus!) But once I got into it, I stayed. John Noble is a big part of that. His performance as Walter Bishop, and as his own doppelganger – has been nothing short of brilliant over the years. Give the man a Golden Globe, already. (Also, did I mention Pacey is in it? Because he is.)
#9           Supernatural     Hot boys with daddy issues fight supernatural creatures. I know. It sounds teeny-bopper stupid. It’s actually very intelligent; it’s got heart; it’s well-written; and ok, fine, Jensen Ackles is one of the most attractive men to ever grace a television screen, but that’s beside the point, really. The show is wonderful.
#8           Lost        This would have scored higher if I wasn’t one of the people who hated the ending. I know, I know, it was deep, and maybe I was too stupid to get it. Thing is, they promised everything would tie together at the end – and it didn’t. There’s nothing I hate more than making a promise, then not carrying through. That being said, when this show was good, it was brilliant. It had some of the best cliffhangers and season premieres in television history. And it turned everyone into armchair geeks the next morning, discussing theories, which I loved.
#7           The Walking Dead          This has only been on for one very short season, and it’s already an instant favorite. This show pulls no punches. It shows everything, no matter how gory. But it’s not just about gore. The writing and acting are top-notch; the cinematography is beautiful and desolate; and the stakes are so high you both imagine what you’d do in the same situation and thank your lucky stars you aren’t in that situation (yet! Mu-ha-ha.)
#6           Firefly   Heads up, I’m a huge Joss junkie. (Angel and Dollhouse almost made the cut, but not quite.) I didn’t watch this show when it aired – didn’t think I’d like it, because at the time, I didn’t think I liked sci-fi or westerns enough to like it. I should have trusted Joss. It’s a space western. You love each and every member of the crew. And it being cancelled after one season is one of the biggest travesties on television today. I can’t single out any one crew member as being my favorite, because I love them all, like the dysfunctional family you make for yourself out of friends, you know? And it has one of the best theme songs of all time.
#5           True Blood          I like the books; I’m obsessed with the series. Alan Ball gave it legs and let it develop on its own, and it’s wonderful. He listened to the fans and kept characters around that were murdered in the books because they were beloved. He made (thank you, Mr. Ball!) Eric more three-dimensional and a lot more interesting. (And gave him a haircut. And women around the world squeed.) And tying in vampires coming out with homosexuality in America was a brilliant touch. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
#4           Quantum Leap  I was young when this aired, but it remains one of the first shows I became truly invested in. I wanted Sam to find his way home. I cheered for him. I wept for him. And that last episode, and that final line of text, right before the credits – did anyone see this? Is it still spoiling, if the show went off the air like twenty years ago? “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” Oh my word. Shows today wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. So ahead of its time. Brilliant.
#3           The Twilight Zone            I think it’s a testament to this show that I am glued to the television when the marathons of this air every fourth of July and New Year’s. I even re-watch the episodes I’ve already seen. But the one I always re-watch, no matter what I’m doing, the one I plan my holiday around, is “Time Enough at Last” with Burgess Meredith. Best moment in Twilight Zone history, hands down, the last minute of that episode. It makes me cry just thinking about it, because I am a bookworm, and I wear glasses, and I know if I were the last person on Earth, reading would be all I would want to do. The first time I watched that I was wrecked. I walked around like the survivor of a natural disaster. I’d break into tears at the drop of a hat. That is lasting television and brilliance and just storytelling and imagination at its finest.
#2           The X-Files          Pretend this show ended before the shenanigans at the end occurred, with new agents, and Mulder and Scully having a kid, and Mulder missing, and less Scully. Wipe the slate clean of that. Now imagine “Home,” or “Humbug” (Mulder standing on the steps of the trailer, in profile, reviled by the circus geek as one of the “norms”) or “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” This show was brilliant, back when it was brilliant. Mulder and Scully’s chemistry was equaled by none; the stories were crisp and heart-rending and heart-racing; and sometimes people you loved died. It was true, and it was a show about finding what was true, and when it was good, it was better than good. It was goddamn regal.
#1           Buffy the Vampire Slayer             No show will ever live up to my gold-standard, my Buffy. I knew the characters. I lived their lives with them. I celebrated and cried with them. I hurt with them. I fell in love and fell out of love and was hurt with them. “The Body” remains, and will always remain, one of the most affecting hours of television ever aired. “Hush” managed brilliance without more than a couple of words for an entire hour. “Once More, with Feeling” was a freaking musical episode, back before everyone was doing those. I’ve seen the episodes so many times I can usually watch a few minutes of one and tell you its name and season its from. I see Buffy alumnae in other shows (even Buffy writers in other shows) and I melt a little. So, to you, Buffy, I give you the title: Best. Show. Ever.
I know, I know. I left off Star Trek. (Never watched it.) Same with Dr. Who. (Sorry. I’m a heathen.) But this is my top ten. And what’s great is, I could revisit this a year from now and it might be completely different.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? I’m curious, what would you have put on/left off?
Enjoy True Blood tonight – I’ll be the one quietly ogling Eric from my couch.
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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

One response to “A Land of Both Shadow and Substance, of Things and Ideas

  • Amanda Stratton

    I haven't watched more than an episode or two of shows 10-7, but you are bang on with 6-1, as far as I'm concerned. I couldn't agree with you more about Buffy – I frequently refer to my intimate connection with Buffy as the closest thing I've ever experienced to religion. Wait… that's not weird, is it?

    Great post and great blog!

    Like

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