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Terror Television: American Series, 1970-1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0786408900
ISBN-10: 0786408901
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With the popularity of The X-Files and horror movies, producing a reference work on television series featuring terror is a timely effort. Not only do genre aficionados want to compare productions, but social anthropologists and the mass media may find this information revealing.

Muir writes reference works on television regularly for McFarland. This volume has the same format as his other television series works and shows his thorough research and expertise. He begins his coverage with Rod Serling's Night Gallery, which debuted in 1970, because the program "was the first prime-time, color network TV series devoted exclusively to macabre tales." Muir also notes that special effects and sophisticated makeup reached a higher level with the opening of Planet of the Apes in 1968. Coverage is limited to "live" productions aimed at adult audiences, so cartoon series are not treated.

The volume is divided into three parts: the series themselves (comprising about 85 percent of the work), series similar to the genre, and a number of appendixes providing the author's own classifications of terror elements. An adequate index refers to key people and titles.

In part 1, each of the 40 series is arranged chronologically and allocated from 3 pages (for a show that lasted only a couple of episodes) to more than 40 pages (for The X-Files); entries average about 20 pages. Each entry begins with a few quotes from critics, then explains the series format, traces the program's history, provides a critical commentary reflecting the author's personal point of view, and finishes with a listing of each episode (writer, director, airdate, guest cast, and short plot summary). History and critique overlap somewhat because the author tends to editorialize about each series' rise and fall. The reader can tell that Muir is well versed in his subject, but a greater variety of opinions would have been welcomed; in general, he waxes enthusiastic about most efforts. The tone is factual yet personal and clearly shows the author's perspective (e.g., "The first complaint came from the moral watchdogs, those despicable people who make a living telling other viewers what they should or should not watch.")

Part 2 briefly covers other television series that touch upon terror. Most are grouped under "Anthologies" such as The Outer Limits. Among other groupings are "'Man-on- the-Run' Series" (Nowhere Man) and "Horror Lite" (The Munsters Today). This section is rather limited.

Part 3 is, frankly, fun. Muir lists his favorite (The X-Files being the natural pick) and his least favorite terror series. Probably the most insightful appendix is a list of 50 common concepts in terror TV (astral projection, dreams, vampires, etc.), with a list of illustrative episodes. Another appendix lists "sups" (supporting actors) who appear in several series. The usual McFarland reference format holds: two columns, no illustrations, dense text.

Coverage is sound, and the author's dedication to the genre is sincere and informed. For larger collections with a readership in this area, the volume provides useful information. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"Analyses are first-rate...superlative television history" -- -Big Reel

"Comprehensive" -- -Wicked

"Exhaustive" -- -Interzone

"Informative and entertaining" -- -ARBA

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 685 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786408901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786408900
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,941,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By James Christopulos on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are many of us who grew up with, and absolutely love, the TV shows that gave us goosebumps and nightmares in our youth. While some of the older shows (like Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits) have been exhaustively written about in both books and magazines, later fright fests have been largely ignored by scholars and historians. That's where this excellent book comes in. Starting in the year 1970, Terror Television gives in-depth coverage to all of the American horror programs that follow. Each decade is well-represented and includes the famous (Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Kolchak The Night Stalker [70's]; Tales from the Crypt, The Hitchhiker [80's]; Twin Peaks, X-Files [90's]), the not-so-famous-but-known-by-fans (Ghost Story, The Sixth Sense [70's]; Freddie's Nightmares, Monsters [80's]; Nightmare Cafe, Dark Shadows [90's]), and the downright obscure (does anyone remember the U.S. airing of Australia's Evil Touch in '73?). In all, Muir delves into twenty seven shows and icludes a section on critical reception, format, history, his own critical commentary, and (an extremely useful) episode guide for each. He's a fine writer who clearly has an extensive knowledge of (and unbridled enthusiasm for) his topic. I love this book and, if you're a fan of these kinds of shows, you should have this on your shelf at home. It's the kind of book that one returns to often.
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Format: Hardcover
People seem to enjoy being scared out of their wits. Big-budget movies have done it with relative ease, but trying to portray terror in a 30 or 60 minute TV show, complete with commercials, is a bit more difficult. There have been some major successes ("Kolchak: The Night Stalker", "The X-Files", "Buffy" and "Angel", but there have been some real dogs ---anyone remember 'Manimal'? This author presents the definitive work on TV horror shows, starting with Rod Serling's "Night Gallery." He reviews each episode, gives complete cast/crew credits, and doesn't waste words in analyzing each show. "Boos" and "ghouls" of all ages will find this a treasure-trove of TV terror.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Kenneth Muir looks at American horror television between the years 1970-1999 (the book was published in 2000) and comes up with some surprising critiques. As a long standing fan of Darren McGavin's 1970s series Kolchak, The Night Stalker, I was pleased that Muir doesn't dismiss the series a campy trash. He liked The X-Files and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer but had me taking a second look at Friday The Thirteenth, The Series which probably wasn't as good as I had thought back in the day. Neither was HBO's The Hitchhiker and even Tales From The Crypt (though Muir did like the Crypt Keeper). I found myself taking a second look at some series (Tales From The Darkside and Fox's short-lived Werewolf for instance) I had previously dismissed.
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