From creepy robots in AMC’s Humans to masked murderers in MTV’s Scream to mentally connected freaks in Netflix’s Sense8, networks are leaning into horror flicks to scare up ratings.
Six new horror, sci-fi or supernatural series are scheduled to debut in June alone, showcasing the breadth and depth of the genre. Along with the aforementioned series, BBC America will debut on June 13 a supernatural-themed series, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, in which two magicians battle to establish dominance in 19th-century England.
Syfy will roll out two action thrillers set in space: Dark Matter (premiering June 12), in which a spaceship crew must find a way to survive after they wake up with no memories of who they are or why they’re on board; and Killjoy (June 19), which follows the exploits of three space-faring bounty hunters.
Those June premieres will join two returning genre series from TNT — the plague-themed The Last Ship, which was last year’s most-watched freshman summer series, and the final season of alien-invasion drama Falling Skies — as well as ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars.
Horror TV has been hot for a few years now, with the success of such shows as AMC’s The Walking Dead — the most-watched series on cable — as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, FX’s The Strain and American Horror Story, and Netflix’s Hemlock Grove.
MTV, which has already mined the horror genre to success with Teen Wolf, will take another stab at horror with a reimagining of the popular 1990s Scream movie franchise, senior vice president of scripted programming Mina Lefevre said. The series, which debuts June 30, will not be an extension of the movie franchise, but will feature elements of the movie with a more contemporary look and storyline.
“We have to reinvent it to where the horror and thriller genre is today, which is a little darker and more sophisticated,” she said.
Still, Lefevre said she believes the movie franchise and the genre itself remain extremely popular with MTV’s core millennial audience.
“Television right now is where we’re breaking new ground with content, so the idea of reinventing a franchise like Scream became exciting, especially for our audience,” she said. “The viewers who do watch these types of horror movies are smack in our 18-34 demo, and given where TV is at — where it’s doing so much interesting genre work — it would be great to bring it to our audience.”
The incredible pace of technological advancement has created new, horrific real-life scenarios that are resonating with millennials and younger viewers, ABC Family executive vice president of programming and development Karey Burke said.
The network’s new series Stitchers, in which a covert government agency employs a college student to tap into the memories of dead people as a way of circumventing crimes, garnered a respectable 1.2 million viewers in its June 2 debut.
“The main character is a flawed woman whose flaws actually serve as an unlikely skill set … she is a character who is [more] comfortable in technology than she is in a relationship with other human beings, which makes her unique and appealing to our millennial audience,” Burke said.
USA Network’s Mr. Robot, a psychological thriller about a cybersecurity engineer/hacker recruited by a mysterious group to destroy companies digitally, is another series that taps into the interests — and fears — of technologysavvy millennial viewers, USA Network executive vice president of original series Jackie de Crinis said.
“Mr. Robot is not a super hero … but everything in this series can [happen] and is happening today,” de Crinis said. “It’s reflective of millennial cyber-hackers of today who have the capacity to break down these systems and wreak havoc. It’s literally a new form of terror for viewers.”
ALIENS AND ROBOTS
USA will play in the traditional sci-fi/horror genre this fall with Colony, which follows residents of an alien-occupied Los Angeles.
AMC is betting that potential advancements in artificial intelligence will spur interest in its new series Humans, in which ”synths,” or sophisticated robots, are the must-have device in every home, but often with unintended consequences.
“We feel strongly there is a passionate sci-fi audience out there that is fascinated by the topic of AI and the potential impact it has on our future” AMC senior vice president of international programming Kristin Jones said, “yet we also believe the storylines in Humans will draw in broader drama fans.”
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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