Think of this as a change of pace from all of the holiday TV shows currently ruling the airwaves. It’s just a little sampling of truly strange TV shows that take us away from our routine lives and plunk us down in the middle of Crazytown. Enjoy.
In terms of sheer mindbending entertainment, nothing beats this British series from the 1960s. Patrick McGoohan played Number Six, a spy who is kidnapped and forced to live in what looks like a Willy Wonka-themed nursing home facility. It’s all filled with twists and turns about the nature of reality and free will. Plus, there’s (swear to God) a giant, floating white balloon that captures people who try to escape.
Someone explain to me again why it was a good idea to have a sitcom about silly Nazis running a POW camp during World War II? I actually watched this show as a kid and never once questioned whether it was in good taste. But it’s really kind of messed up.
Now, here’s a show that reveled in its strangeness. It involved a small carnival in the 1930s, where a dark, menacing mood hung over everything. “Carnivale” ran only two seasons, but it gripped viewers with a grand story of good vs. evil. Plus it had Adrienne Barbeau as a snake dancer.
The influence of “Twin Peaks” cannot be overstated. It proved just how powerful a serialized, atmospheric story could be to modern audiences. And my goodness, it was nuts. You had a dead girl, lunatic townspeople, an enigmatic detective – and a dwarf! Without it, we’d never have had …
Was it a tad disappointing by the end? Sure. But no other show has ever had so many utterly jaw-dropping plot twists. The early flashbacks were great, and the later flash forwards were brilliant. Then you had, let’s see: a smoke monster, cursed numbers, a polar bear, time travel and a couple of God-like characters fighting over which one their mom liked better.
LIFE ON MARS
Speaking of time travel, here’s a nifty premise. A modern day cop is nearly killed, only to wake up back in the 1970s, with a new identity, working as a police detective in a squad led by Harvey Keitel. Is the guy dreaming? Did he actually die and this is purgatory? Cryptic clues keep him guessing, until the short-lived series concludes in one of the most bizarre endings in TV history.
A soap opera about vampires – that should be enough right there, shouldn’t it? Except the strange quality of this show came out of the mixture of horror elements with the extremely slow pace of the soap opera format. It was all the typical soap opera talking, talking, drinking tea, talking, etc. But the topics were vampires, werewolves, ghosts and curses. And people loved it.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
Some of that same “Dark Shadows” mood inhabits “American Horror Story,” which came out of nowhere this season on FX. Led by the great Connie Britton, it’s about a family that moves into a haunted house. There’s a combination of foreboding, weird characters and sex at work here that brings viewers back for more. Of course, they also wanted to figure out why a guy in a black rubber suit (the Rubber Man from this post’s first photo) kept showing up.
I bet there are plenty of strange shows I’ve forgotten. Add your favorites!