There have always been two kinds of supernatural shows on TV: those that were trying to be funny, like I Dream of Jeannie and Big Wolf on Campus, and those that were trying to be scary, like The Twilight Zone and Friday the 13th: The Series. Some straddled the line, managing both with equal skill, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Supernatural manages to be pretty scary most of the time, but many shows have aimed for scary and fallen horribly short. Here are a few of the most egregious examples.
10. Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974-1975)
That title alone sets the bar pretty high for scariness, but when the frighteningly named Kolchak turns out to be Ralphie's dad from A Christmas Story, wearing a pork pie hat and investigating supernatural killers in between covering fashion shows, you might have a disconnect. And the killers -- including guys dressed like magicians, women pretending to be mannequins, and Spanish moss creatures -- aren't remotely scary, even by 1970s standards.
9. Moonlight (2007-2008)
Even with its regular dose of Whedonesque humor, Angel was pretty scary a lot of the time. Vampires lurked in the darkness, demons stalked the streets and humans were nothing but cattle to the forces of evil. Moonlight, however, thought it would be a good idea to let vampires walk around in the sun with only mild discomfort, have an on-call clean-up service for "accidents" and actually be a mostly sentimental and weepy lot. It's not the first work of fiction to portray them as such, but this show seemed to make them particularly non-threatening.
8. Charmed (1998-2006)
While I would be uneasy at the thought of a visit from my three annoying, argumentative sisters, there wasn't anything at all scary about this tale of young, career-oriented witches. True, they fought the forces of darkness in between straightening out their jobs and love lives, but did you notice that after the first couple of seasons, the forces of darkness looked a lot like ordinary people?
7. Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
Sure, Dark Shadows started out as a plain old soap opera, but the addition of ghosts and vampires didn't make it any less a soap opera. When you're shooting a daily television drama, your money goes towards paying the writers and actors, not re-shooting awkward line readings or awful performances, and certainly not making that rubber bat on a string look any more real.
6. Ghost Whisperer (2005-present)
Maybe some of the ghosts on this show could have scared us by suddenly popping up and acting all creepy, but we were usually too distracted by obnoxious sidekick Jay Mohr (recently replaced by the equally obnoxious Jaime Kennedy) and/or Jennifer Love Hewitt's low-cut sundress to notice. Seriously, the scariest thing on that show is the fear that Hewitt might put on a turtleneck and the ratings would go down the toilet.
5. The Others (2000)
How forgettable was this show about a group of psychics? So forgettable that they made a movie with the same title a year later, and they didn't think it would really be an issue. Beat-up looking ghosts and women speaking ominously from the corner of a dark room only underlined the fact that most of the threats they faced were COMPLETELY IMMATERIAL.
4. Forever Knight (1992-1996)/Blood Ties (2007-2008)
Judging by these two very similar shows, Toronto seems to have a lot of vampires, and they all seem to be very keen on helping people. Maybe it's just the Canadian blood in them? In Forever Knight, an 800-year-old vampire becomes a police detective, which is jarringly unbelievable on multiple levels. And in Blood Ties a 480-year-old vampire helps an ex-police detective solve crimes... when he's not working as a graphic novelist. His chosen profession, combined with his male-model good looks, make him even less scary than a vampire sworn to uphold the law.
3. Haunted (2002)
If Matthew Fox could display fear, terror or any other emotion other than "detached numbness," maybe this show about a private detective who can talk to the dead would have been more frightening. Also, if they hadn't cast so many members of Blink 182 and Green Day in guest roles.
2. Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003)
Although the talking cat was good for the occasional feeling of despair, overall the show lacked much of a scare factor, or even -- Wait, this was supposed to be funny?
1. Swamp Thing (1990-1993)
Our theory about this TV series is that, after filming both Swamp Thing movies, the producers couldn't get Dick Durock out of the rubber suit (the zipper had rusted shut) and they needed to put him to work. Since the protagonist and the antagonist of the series were both scientists (one of them just very, very ugly), and they couldn't afford to have a dwarfish genetic monstrosity in every episode, the series was mostly Swamp Thing wandering the swamp, hiding behind trees and speaking cryptically, which does not make for a scary TV show. As you can see in this clip:
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