Hey guys, happy Hallowe’en. Hope you’re all having the greatest thrills of your life.
Today, I’m counting down what I consider the eleven darkest television shows that have ever been broadcast. Why eleven? Because I like to go one step beyond. For this list, I’m including those that have a lot of the time sent shivers down the spine, included elements of black humour/drama and/or just plain not exactly been sunshine, lollipops or rainbows throughout, regardless of target audience and whatever the genre. Plus I’m only including those that I’ve seen enough episodes of to convince myself that they can make this list.
Also, to discipline myself, I shall keep this post as short as possible. Any spoilers I give, I shall highlight in red.
So here is my Top 11 Darkest TV Shows.
The Animals Of Farthing Wood (1993 – 1995)
This list begins with a European cartoon based on a series of novels about a group of wild animals who are forced to flee their home-forest, Farthing Wood, after it’s destroyed by careless human construction workers spilling their building ingredients on the land, to cut a long story short, human negligence.
The Animals Of Farthing Wood experienced numerous characters getting killed off, during their trip to their new home and afterwards. The deaths occur mostly due to human negligence (again!), i.e. via acid spillage in the river, getting shot or falling in traps and/or animals killing each other. There’s a scene where two hedgehogs are crossing the road and get so paralysed with fear that they end up getting run over. In another clip, Adder injects her venomous teeth in Scarface’s leg, which of course takes his life. These scenes are one of the reasons why I personally rate The Animals Of Farthing Wood so high. It ain’t like many other children’s cartoons. Rather, it relies much less on comedic elements and is told from a brutally realistic point of view of the animals.
If you thought Bambi’s mom’s death was traumatic enough, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons (1967 – 1968)
If Stingray and Thunderbirds were more light-hearted, Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons took a much darker turn. I talked quite a lot about this show during some of my previous blogs, but for those who don’t know, Captain Scarlet is about a worldwide organisation called Spectrum who are at war with the Mysterons, mysterious aliens who reside on Mars and possess the ability to duplicate an object and/or person which they must destroy first. Meanwhile, Scarlet, one of the agents, gets duplicated himself. However, after some events, he sides back with Spectrum and is declared indestructible.
Captain Scarlet is loosely based on the then-on-going events of the Cold War and represents the Mysterons as terrorists – that theme being extremely rare in children’s television. Unlike many of Gerry Anderson’s previous shows, this one lowered down on humour. There is humour in it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s mostly unintentional. During the original broadcast, some viewers got incredibly shocked; Francis Matthews’ (the voice of the title character) kids apparently got scared and even the producers was like; “what have we done? We’ve created something that children ain’t going to watch.” As a kid, I most certainly remember enjoying each viewing of Captain Scarlet, but of course, who can blame some viewers? Good guys getting killed and turning into sort-of zombies. Some of the characters die in incredibly violent ways. For instance, there’s a scene where a Spectrum agent suicide-bombs the building. Ya know, for kids! And I’m sure the Nostalgia Critic would agree if he was watching it right now.
The Incredible Hulk (1978 – 1982)
“Don’t make me angry, you won’t like me when I’m angry”
Next, we have a show which is based on a superhero created by Marvel Comics. There have been many versions of The Incredible Hulk. This TV show is one of them. I call The Incredible Hulk dark, not only this series, but in general, because it’s about a guy, named David Banner, who is haunted by the time he failed to save his wife from a car accident. But that’s not all, each time somebody or somethings burn him up, he transforms into the Incredible Hulk, a giant green creature, and sometimes wrecks havoc.
The Incredible Hulk may not sound too dark, but try and imagine if you was that guy and forced to try really hard to control your anger. Not easy is it? Plus it could unintentionally lead to creating enemies. It’s kind of like being a werewolf who can’t control oneself each time a full moon rises. In the Hulk’s case, it’s his anger management. Think about it.
Even the theme tune contributes to the drama.
Game Of Thrones (2011 – Present)
Most readers of this post have probably got the feel of Game Of Thrones by now. I have to admit I’ve only seen the first two seasons so far. But my excuse is that I don’t have the appropriate TV channels to keep up, so I’ve had to get DVDs. And I have to admit, Game Of Thrones is a great show.
Speaking of The Animals Of Farthing Wood earlier on, a YouTube user once said that it was “a kiddie friendly version of Game Of Thrones”. By that, the user meant that numerous characters have been killed off as the series progressed, plus let’s not forget the many confrontations.
But the deaths in Game Of Thrones (I won’t say which characters die, because I don’t want to spoil it) are not the only thing dark about the show. It’s how they die and the filming techniques that are used. One of the story arcs involves numerous families fighting over who’s going to claim the throne.
I could go on and on and on about Game Of Thrones, but I should let you watch it and see for yourself.
The League Of Gentlemen (1999 – 2002)
The League Of Gentlemen is a BBC sitcom set in a fictional Yorkshire town called Royston Vasey. Unlike many other comedy shows, it’s mainly inspired by horror movies/media-projects, and yes, there have been some quite horrific scenes throughout its run time.
The characters certainly contribute to the darkness of The League Of Gentlemen. I would especially say Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, who both own a Local Shop which they only target for local people and do away with any non-local who enters. Another example is Papa Lazarou, an evil clown who causes a number of wives to mysteriously disappear. And let’s not forget Dr Chinnery – a veterinarian with an inability to cure animals (see clip above).
Sonic The Hedgehog/Sonic SatAM (1993 – 1995)
Sonic The Hedgehog, also known as Sonic SatAM, was made the exact same time when another cartoon based on the video game character of the same named called Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog. The Adventures Of is an incredibly feel-good TV adaptation. Sonic SatAM on the other hand features a more dramatic and dark story.
What’s the story?; Dr Julian Ivo Robotnik has pretty much dominated the planet of Mobius. He uses some sort of device which ‘roboticizes’ the inhabitants of the world. Sonic and the Freedom Fighters, including Miles “Tails” Prowers, Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot and Antoine Depardieu do their very best to liberate Mobius.
One recurring plot through the series is that Sonic’s Uncle Chuck, the inventor of the device, is one of those who got robiticized and finds it very hard to side with the Freedom Fighters.
Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991)
Twin Peaks certainly scared its viewers during broadcast. The pilot certainly started it all. It begins with a local logger discovering a corpse wrapped in plastic by the river. The next thing, Agent Cooper who investigates has a feeling that the girl’s death relates to a murderer of another girl from the previous year and therefore, it’s possible that the killer lives somewhere around Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks was created by David Lynch, the same guy who directed the Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. He was very known for portraying surreal imagery and/or story-lines and Twin Peaks is no exception. It’s theme tune may be relaxing and fit the atmosphere of the establishing shots of the town during the intro, but then, its slow-pacing does make some of us feel that something horrific may happen later on in the episode. Even the establishing shots don’t show any people on-screen, kinda like a ghost town. It ain’t really, but with the amount of deaths covered, it may soon be.
One Foot In The Grave (1990 – 2000)
One Foot In The Grave is one of them incredibly unique BBC sitcoms. It combines elements of comedy, farce, drama and a bit of thriller. When David Renwick wrote the series, he included MacGuffins, many which were indeed funny, but some which were extremely haunting.
One Foot In The Grave is no stranger to controversy. Remember the episode where Victor and Margaret found a frozen cat in the freezer (see clip above)? Apparently that bit got viewers complaining to the BBC. If that wasn’t enough, there was another episode where the couple are looking after a friend’s pet tortoise and Victor accidentally incinerates it with a pile of garden trash, leading the couple to debate whether to come clean or to stay clear from upsetting the friends. Unfortunately, both things occur leading to the owners of the original tortoise to bury the replacement one alive. Black comedy at its best!
Probably the darkest episodes of One Foot In The Grave are Hearts Of Darkness (when Victor, Margaret, Mrs Warboys and Mr Swainey get lost in the middle of nowhere and Victor seeks help from a nursing home, only to find that the residents are being abused), most of the Christmas Specials and of course the final episode, Things Aren’t Simple Anymore (in which Victor gets killed through a hit-and-run accident and the culprit turns out to be the person Margaret least suspects).
South Park (1997 – Present)
One more comedy programme. I talked quite a bit about South Park when I ranked what I considered the worst-to-best adult animated series, so I’ll try to keep this short. South Park may look like a crappy children’s cartoon, but that was part of the comedic idea. It is in fact pure adult.
South Park contains a lot of swearing, sexual references and political humour, but also much like The League Of Gentlemen, most of the episodes contain subjects considered taboo. For one thing, Kenny dies in nearly every episode due to a hilarious if indeed violent consequence. One occasion, he’s picked up by a heavy metal musician and gets his head bitten off. But that’s not all. In another episode, some citizens in a suicidal way slingshot themselves on a building in protest against an obnoxious TV show. Dare I need to mention more?
The X-Files (1993 – 2002, 2016 – Present)
Mark Snow’s well-known theme tune is not the only thing spooky about the X-Files. If you dig deeper into the episodes, you’ll certainly feel chills to the bones.
The X-Files is about two FBI agents; Fox Mulder, who believes in aliens and anything considered paranormal, and Dana Scully, a medical guru/scientist who’s more skeptical on the existence of alien/paranormal life. Each episode sees them investigating strange cases which apparently involve them lifeforms and which they experience certain conspiracy theories. It’ll take a bit of rocket science to explain a bit more about it, but they’re certainly smartly written.
The X-Files is what you call a sci-fi/horror/drama/mystery/thriller/supernatural series and putting them all together, you can certainly get the feel of the darkness. Occasional shades, but that ain’t the darkest part. Deaths included, that’s a contribution, but that ain’t the darkest part. Actually, it’s how the witnesses and/or victims witness the events which lead to the cases and the build-ups which differ episode-by-episode.
I shall give you an example; in the 1998 Christmas Special (How The Ghosts Stoke Christmas), the duo take on a case which takes place in a haunted house. Yeah, exactly, taking place at what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. They come across some ‘spirits’ of the long dead residents who soon turn Mulder and Scully against each other. Geez!
There’s another episode (The Calusari) where a two year-old kid is killed by a train. His older brother doesn’t grieve and appears to be psychologically troubled.
I could go on and on about this show, but I shan’t bore you with the details.
Before I reveal the number one pick, I’d like to give some honorable mentions;
Luther (2010 – Present)
Family Guy (1999 – 2003, 2005 – Present)
Psychoville (2009 – 2011)
Batman: The Animated Series (1992 – 1995)
And the Number #1 darkest TV show is…;
Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)
“I am not in danger, Skyler, I AM the danger”
And Thunderbirds are go! Yes folks, the show that was created by the same guy who was executive producer on the X-Files. Breaking Bad remains a hugely popular TV show of all time. However, this is so not the reason why I consider it the darkest show I’ve ever watched in my life.
Let’s start with a few fun facts. Fact 1; One of the inspirations for Breaking Bad was that X-Files episode, Drive, which also starred Bryan Cranston – he played a guy who has a mysterious illness and kidnaps Mulder forcing him to drive a long distance. Fact 2; This was kind of the reason why Vince Gilligan wanted to cast Bryan as Walter White, but some of the AMC executives was doubtful about him fitting the part due to their familiarity only with Bryan’s character Hal in Malcolm In The Middle. Indeed, Malcolm In The Middle, a more light-hearted family friendly sitcom. Rather different to a purely adult drug-related crime drama like Breaking Bad. But then, after researching the X-Files episode, the executives was eventually like “okay, let’s give Bryan a go”.
For those who ain’t seen Breaking Bad, it’s about a chemistry teacher, named Walter White, who develops lung cancer, so he teams up with former student Jesse Pinkman and manufactures drugs to sell in order to secure his family’s financial futures when he eventually passes on.
Breaking Bad is a sort of modernised version of Macbeth; by that, I mean the protagonist becomes the antagonist; in Walter’s case, he becomes ‘the danger’. Don’t get me wrong, Walter doesn’t turn all bad. He still thinks about his family, but he does get driven to do some really evil things and I ain’t just talking about making/selling drugs, hence when he kills Krazy 8. Deep down, you do feel for this guy. All he wants is his family to be okay and the salary he gets through his teaching job isn’t exactly contributing to the support. Plus, you can actually feel the pain of the cancer Walter’s suffering from.
Breaking Bad is a nightmarish, yet interesting experience. I’m sure some viewers may not want to watch it every day, but episode by episode, they’d certainly feel invested with the storyline.
So this was my Top 11 Darkest Shows in TV History. Some of you may agree, some may not, but if you feel there’s a few shows I missed out, feel free to comment below.
Again, I wish you a Happy Halloween!