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
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"Comprehensive" -- -Wicked
"Exhaustive" -- -Interzone
"Informative and entertaining" -- -ARBA