R-Rated Basic Cable

This ain’t yo mama’s TV!

Remember in the old days when you couldn’t say “bitch” on network TV?  Or the even older days when 2 married adults couldn’t be shown sharing a bed?!?  Well I’m glad to put those days far, far behind us and indulge in 2 basic cable network shows that would make your grandma blush and scare the pants off Great Uncle Ted.

American Horror Story

Created by Glee wunderkinds Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, this brand new series on F/X stars TV veterans Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton playing Ben and Vivien Harmon.  Along with their daughter (played by Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera and looking so very much like her) they have moved into a new home in order to “start over”.  Only their Image of American Horror Story Titlenew home isn’t new – it’s very old and filled with secrets and has every intention of inflicting all sorts of oddities upon its new owners.

McDermott does what he does best – plays the weak, unlikable “protagonist”.  Just as he did on The Practice, lo those many years ago.  He’s not so bad that we actively wish him ill, but he’s a weasel and we don’t much mind seeing the house have its way with him.  Farmiga has a similar role – nasty enough that the horrors the house is intent on delivering don’t feel like drowning kittens.  Britton is the only real upstanding citizen here – she’s our true heroine.

But the plum role in American Horror Story goes to Jessica Lange.  She’s the super creepy next door neighbor and plays the part with a relish that’s absolutely delicious.  The show is filled with sex and violence and is very, very scary.  I’ve never seen so many warnings about objectionable content at the beginning of a show.  It’s rated TV-MA with every qualifier that exists.  So far, I love it.

You can find it on Wednesday nights on F/X and can catch missed episodes on Hulu.

The Walking Dead

This is the second season for AMC’s zombie drama.  Created by veteran film director Frank Darabont (who I will love forever for writing and directing The Shawshank Redemption) The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal Image of The Walking Dead Titleand Sarah Wayne Callies as survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse.  Yes, it sounds ludicrous – and it is – but the program is character driven enough to give weight to this preposterous plight.

Terrific special effects are the backbone of this one.  The zombies really are scary.  Very.  Referred to as “walkers” by the living, they seem to travel in packs and are seriously dangerous.  They aren’t lightning fast, but they aren’t really the lumbering hulks of old.  The motley pack of survivors that we follow is a fairly typical melange of Americana, with a redneck, a battered woman, one family unit, an eccentric old guy and quite a bit of drama within the group.  You’ll note that Laurie Holden – that would be Marita Covarrubias to all you X-Files fans still out there – has a great role as the survivor who isn’t sure survival is what she wants.

So far the balance between character development and zombie action has kept the series tight and well paced.  Though I’m not thrilled that Darabont has stepped back from the day to day operations of the show, he’s still on board as an executive producer and reports are that his replacement at the helm was hand picked.  It’s going to take a big change to chase me away from The Walking Dead.  This program has the current distinction of having the highest rated cable episode ever with it’s season 2 opener.  It’s filled with violence and gore – don’t eat while watching.  But do watch.  Definitely watch.

You’ll find The Walking Dead on AMC on Monday nights and you can catch up with last season via DVD.

I love you, basic cable

Admittedly, this type of adult-themed material will not suit every viewer.  But I’m glad to see the days of TV prudity disappearing (far more quickly on cable than on network, but that’s certainly not surprising).  There’s plenty of material for kids and families, it’s nice to have great shows just for the grown-ups, too.  So I’ll happily watch Glee and Modern Family and then, after the kids go to bed, I’ll break out some American Horror Story and Walking Dead.  Bring it on, basic cable!

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