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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Presenting the TOP 25 HORROR TV SERIES OF ALL TIME!

As promised some weeks ago, at long last I bring to you my ultimate endeavor to determine the greatest horror-themed television shows of all time. Long-time readers will remember that years back, The Vault presented a series of "Best Of" lists covering topics like "The Greatest Horror Films of All Time", "The Greatest Horror Literature of All Time", "The Greatest Foreign Horror of All Time", "The Horror Canon", and "The Greatest Contemporary Horror Films".

Yet, I specifically avoided covering horror television series. The reason for this was that I (naively) didn't really think there were enough truly high-quality shows to warrant an extensive list. However, in the past four years certain things have changed: For one thing, horror on television within the past few years has improved noticeably. Also, I admit that my awareness of great horror television has broadened thanks in large part to working on The Vault all these years. And so the time came to revisit the concept.

As before, I enlisted the help of some of the best and brightest online horror writers/bloggers out there, the group once (inflammatorially) referred to as "The Cyber Horror Elite". Elite or not, these excellent thinkers and superfans were asked to send me their personal top 10 horror TV shows of all time. Only ongoing, regular series were eligible, meaning made-for-TV movies and miniseries were excluded (For the record, they were actually eligible for inclusion in the Greatest Horror Films of All Time list--only Salem's Lot made the cut.)

Once I received everybody's lists, I ranked them on a points system--ten points for a number-one choice, nine points for a number-two choice, etc. Then I compiled a master list of the top 25 scoring shows, which I now present to you.

So here it is--the Top 25 Horror TV Series of All Time, as voted on by the horror blogosphere:

1.       The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) CBS
2.       The X-Files (1993-2002) FOX
3.       Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996) HBO
4.       Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) ABC
5.       Twin Peaks (1990-1991) ABC
6.       Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) WB
7.       Dark Shadows (1966-1971) ABC
8.       The Walking Dead (2010-present) AMC
9.       The Outer Limits (1963-1965) ABC
10.   American Horror Story (2011-present) FX
11.   Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1970-1973) NBC
12.   Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-2000) YTV/Nickelodeon
13.   Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988) Syndicated
14.   Dexter (2006-present) Showtime
15.   Supernatural (2005-present) WB/CW
16.   Boris Karloff's Thriller (1960-1962) NBC
17.   Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990) Syndicated
18.   Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965) CBS/NBC
19.   Millennium (1996-1999) FOX
20.   Masters of Horror (2005-2007) Showtime
21.   True Blood (2008-present) HBO
22.   American Gothic (1995-1996) CBS
23.   Goosebumps (1995-1998) YTV/Fox Kids
24.   Monsters (1988-1991) Syndicated
25.   The Hitchhiker (1983-1991) HBO/First Choice/USA

Other vote-getters worth mentioning included: Being Human (UK), Angel, The Kingdom, Brimstone, The Addams Family, Werewolf, Fringe, Riget, The Munsters and Gareth Marenghi's Darkplace.

More than with any other list, this time out, the number one choice was quite literally a mandate. Not only was The Twilight Zone included on nearly every single list submitted to me, it was at or near the very top, every time. As a result, it scored a full 50% higher than the second-place show, The X-Files, and was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. 

Speaking of X-Files, that show, along with the #3, Tales from the Crypt, and #4, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, received a general consensus as well, appearing on most of the lists submitted. After the top four, there was a noticeable drop-off as individuals' personal tastes came into play and a multitude of different series were selected. But it's worth noting that the group in general gave a very solid stamp of approval to those top four shows, which is not really all that surprising.

Decades Breakdown:

1990s: 9
1960s: 5
2000s: 5
1980s: 4
2010s: 4
1970s: 2
1950s: 1

In the event of shows airing in two different decades, I went with the one that contained the vast majority of the seasons (1990s for The X-Files, 1960s for Twilight Zone, etc.). Shows that were fairly evenly aired in two different decades were counted for both (Alfred Hitchcock Presents for both the 1950s and 1960s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer for both the 1990s and 2000s, etc.) It's very interesting to note that the most heavily represented decade is the 1990s, which was by far the least represented decade for horror films. I guess most of the best horror that decade was confined to the small screen!

By Network:

ABC: 4
CBS: 3
HBO: 3
Syndication: 3
NBC: 3
FOX: 2
WB/CW: 2
YTV: 2
Showtime: 2
And one each for AMC, FX, Nickelodeon, Fox Kids, First Choice and USA

In addition to the three syndicated shows, 13 of the shows were aired on broadcast TV, and 9 were cable programs. Certain programs were run on more than one network during their run, and so were counted for both.

Other Interesting Facts:
  • All shows were American productions, with the exception of Goosebumps (Canadian), as well as Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Friday the 13th: The Series, which were American/Canadian co-productions.
  • Five of the 25 shows on the list, or a full 20%, are currently still running on television (Dexter, True Blood, Walking Dead, Supernatural and American Horror Story). I'd say that says a lot about the current state of horror on TV. Either that or the importance of short-term memory.
  • Despite that last stat, only one of the top seven shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was in production during the past decade. And five of the top ten shows aired more than 20 years ago, with the top five all airing at least a decade ago or more.
  • Six shows on the list ran for only two seasons or less. Some shows only get their due later...
  • Four of the top ten shows were aired on ABC.
  • The longest-running show on the list is the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which ran for 11 seasons.
As always, I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit to the many knowledgeable individuals who contributed their personal picks for this list. Thanks to you all!

BJ-C of Day of the Woman
Heidi Honeycutt of Planet Etheria and Planet Fury
John Morehead of Theofantastique
Unkle Lancifer of Kindertrauma
Dr. Gangrene, horror host and writer of Tales from the Lab
Dod March of The WGON Helicopter
John Kenneth Muir, literary/film critic and writer of Reflections on Cult Movies & Classic Television
Rondal Scott of Strange Kids Club
James Gracey of Behind the Couch, Fangoria contibutor, author of Dario Argento
Chris Hallock of All Things Horror
John Cozzoli of Zombos Closet of Terror, majordomo of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers
Christine Hadden of Fascination with Fear, Fangoria contributor
The Lightning Bug of The Lightning Bug's Lair
Bryan White of Cinema Suicide
Stu Conover of Buy Zombie
Nate Yapp, formerly of Classic-Horror.com
Nia Edwards-Behi of the Abertoir Horror Festival and Brutal as Hell
Jeff Allard of Dinner with Max Jenke
The Mike of From Midnight, With Love
Melissa Yearian, formerly of Chickapin Parish
Michelle Moricola of Fright Skool
Ryne Barber of The Moon Is a Dead World
Pax Romano, formerly of Billy Loves Stu
Jose Cruz of Grim Reader
The Divemistress of The Avod podcast
The Monster Scholar of Monster Land
Emily Intravia of The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense
Matt Suzaka of Chuck Norris Ate My Baby
And yours truly, of course.

There you have it. Digest. Discuss. Debate. Distribute.





14 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Awesome list and a great project. Mine, as would everyone else's list, would rank differently, but we all have our own opinions. I like it! :)

B-Sol said...

I'm interested to know, Joe--how would yours differ? And my apologies for not including you!

Caffeinated Joe said...

First off, no apologies! Happy to just read through the list!

Here's is my take, just off the top of my head:

1. Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990)
2. The X-Files (1993-2002) FOX
3. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) CBS
4. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965) CBS/NBC
5. The Outer Limits (1963-1965) ABC
6. Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988) Syndicated
7. Masters of Horror (2005-2007) Showtime
8. Supernatural (2005-present) WB/CW
9. Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) ABC
10. The Walking Dead (2010-present) AMC
11. Monsters (1988-1991) Syndicated
12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) WB
13. The Hitchhiker (1983-1991) HBO/First Choice/USA
14. American Horror Story (2011-present) FX
15. Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1970-1973) NBC
16. Dexter (2006-present) Showtime
17. Boris Karloff's Thriller (1960-1962) NBC
18. Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996) HBO
19. Millennium (1996-1999) FOX
20. The Munsters
21. The Addams Family
22. Dark Shadows (1966-1971) ABC
23. True Blood (2008-present) HBO
24. American Gothic (1995-1996) CBS
25. Goosebumps (1995-1998) YTV/Fox Kids

Like I said, this was just spur of the moment. And my personal preferences just take priority when it is my own list! :)

Diandra said...

Great feature! I'd add the UK zombie miniseries Dead Set to the list, but I don't know how many people have seen it. It's excellent.
There's also the bizarre horror comedy Psychoville, also from the UK, which aired on Fearnet last year, but it doesn't appeal to everyone. The League of Gentlemen, an earlier comedy show by more or less the same team, also incorporated many horror elements.

Anonymous said...

I still think Night Gallery was a better show than The Twilight Zone.

Strange Kid said...

Really great list, B! I like the additional effort of breaking things down by trend (decades, country of origin, etc). Some pretty interesting factoids.

Jose said...

I find it fascinating that The Twilight Zone, even though I myself chose it for #1, ranked at the top of list for horror TV shows when there were just a handful of episodes that superficially fit snugly into the genre... "The Howling Man," "The Dummy," "The New Exhibit," etc. Some could argue that it was more of a fantasy/SF series.

But I think it says something very important about horror (and I'll try not to sound too hoighty-toighty). TZ showed us that we didn't need hoary tropes like old castles or wandering spirits to truly exemplify terror. The true horror existed in some of the most unexpected places... space explorers being reclaimed by an invisible Force, children who disappear into another dimension, suburbanites who become vindictive monsters. It's the idea that this weird stuff can and will happen to these normal, everyday people at any given moment that makes the show truly unnerving. And that's what horror, the kind that shakes us and forces us to peer over our shoulders, really is.

B-Sol said...

Diandra, it's too bad no UK shows made the cut--I was surprised that Hammer's House of Horrors didn't make it. I guess the reason was that most contributors were American, and we didn't get a whole lot of UK horror stuff here on TV. It is worth mentioning that Dr. Who actually received a few votes.

Rondal, thanks for taking part! I really enjoy putting these lists together, it's a labor of love.

Joe, it's true that TZ really explored horror in very unconventional ways. It was a true genre TV show in the grand tradition of the golden age of science fiction, which itself incorporated a lot of unorthodox horror elements.

teddy crescendo said...

B-Sol, no British shows made the list because they`re all garbage in comparison to the greatness of the American shows, i just thought i`d clarify that.

steve prefontaine said...

THE most iconic image in the entire 76 year history of television is Rod Serling smoking the cigarette as he prepares to introduce each episode of The Twilight Zone.

Dod said...

Actually, I wanted to include Dead Set, but since it was a mini-series, I refrained. It's a really frenzied, adrenalized offering that I would have ranked pretty high in my top ten.

Thanks for including me, B-sol! It was fun going back and thinking about these shows again.

Oh, and I LOVE how someone included Garth Marenghi's Darkplace!

Johnny Concho said...

Just with regards to what Steve said (which i completely agree with by the way): In the 1980`s re-do of The Twilight Zone (not a bad little show actually) it was great to see that image of Rod Serling on screen just for a couple of seconds at the beginning of each episode as a tribute to the long departed and undisputed supreme master of the genre.

Keyser Soze said...

Great list and blog. I think i will go re-watch Tales of the Crypt :).

Movie Memorabilia

B-Sol said...

Thanks, sir! Never a bad reason to do that!

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