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25 Oct 2017

True TV: 'Stranger Things' and 'Blindspot' Return; Try Black Sabbath and RiffTrax for Halloween

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 Season 2 of Stranger Things picks up a year later, on Halloween 1984, with Eleven returning from The Upside Down to help the gang take on a new crop of weirdness in Hawkins. Season 2 of Stranger Things picks up a year later, on Halloween 1984, with Eleven returning from The Upside Down to help the gang take on a new crop of weirdness in Hawkins.

Look, I liked the first go-round of Stranger Things (Season 2 premiere Friday, Oct. 27, Netflix) just fine, sort of like Panda Express takeout: filling, not quite dog food, coulda been worse. But then you people whipped up a breathless hype frenzy like it was The Greatest TV Show of All Time, and things just got ’80s-romanticizing-stoopider from there. And Barb? She’s dead; get over it. Season 2 of Stranger Things picks up a year later, on Halloween 1984, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) returning from The Upside Down to help the gang take on a new crop of weirdness in Hawkins. Meanwhile, Joyce (Winona Ryder) as cray as ever. (Hey, if ain’t broke.) There’s also the Reagan/Bush re-election campaign to deal with—boo!

What an ambitious year 2015 was for broadcast network dramas—successful, not so much. Scream Queens, Limitless, Blood and Oil, Heroes Reborn, The Player, Wicked City, Rosewood, Minority Report—all dust in the wind. Quantico is (sort of) still alive, as is Blindspot (Season 3 premiere Friday, Oct. 27, NBC), the crime-conspiracy thriller that went from “The next Blacklist!” to Friday-night filler in two seasons. There are still mysteries to be solved in Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and her tattoos, but first, she has to face her vengeance-bent bent brother Roman (Luke Mitchell) and rescue her former FBI team from his clutches (which really raises questions about said team’s competency). So, Blindspot … still on.

Saturday Night Live was a groundbreaking, counterculture oddity in the ’70s; today, it’s a meme generator. Tom Hanks’ “David S. Pumpkins” appeared twice on SNL last season, which has somehow led to The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special (special, Saturday, Oct. 28, NBC) being a thing. But it’s not much of a thing: It’s just a half-hour, barely animated special featuring the voices of Hanks and ex-SNLer Bobby Moynihan, as well as Peter Dinklage (!), wherein nonsensical character Pumpkins shows kiddies “the true meaning of Halloween”(?). The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special is just another pointless, cynical SNL cash-grab that should make Lorne Michaels roll over in his grave.

Some of us were lucky enough to see Ozzy and Co. on their final tour last year; for the rest of you, there’s Black Sabbath: The End of the End (special, Saturday, Oct. 28, Showtime), the concert film capturing the finale of the influential metal band’s 49-year run. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler put on a hell (ha!) of a show for being 60-something vampires, backed by a younger sit-in for drummer Bill Ward who literally looked like Jesus; and an inaudible off-stage keyboardist/guitarist whom I’m assuming collected an equal paycheck. With the exception of anything from 1978’s underrated Never Say Die! album, The End of the End features every classic Sabbath song. Play it loud.

So far, there are not a lot of scary Halloween recommendations, right? Might I suggest a few selections from RiffTrax (streaming, Amazon Prime), the guys who spun off from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy) into something completely … well, the same? They still hilariously mock terrible movies, and there are a handful of their horror offerings available on Amazon Prime, like When a Stranger Calls Back, The Last Slumber Party, Frankenstein Island, House on Haunted Hill, The Revenge of Doctor X and the incomparably awful Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare. (Seriously—I challenge you to make it through that one.) Or just keep binge-ing Stranger Things.

Why is Stan Against Evil (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Nov. 1, IFC) returning the day after Halloween? And, while we’re at it, why isn’t Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead coming back until February 2018? You B-level cable outlets are killin’ me. Anyway: Stan Against Evil, a thinly veiled rip-off of/homage to Ash vs. Evil Dead that will do for now, I suppose, remains a reliably goofy/scary vehicle for comedy vet John C. McGinley to rage-shrug as the former sheriff of a demon-plagued town built on the site of a 17th-century witch-burning. This time, he’s begrudgingly trying to save his replacement sheriff (Janet Varney), who’s trapped in another time. (February 2018? Take me!)

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