Tag Archive: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina


luke cage

Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

Manda

One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Wizards of the Coast and G4 are partnering for D&D Live 2021, a special two-day streaming event on July 16-17 and continuing with four all-new limited-run campaign series to premiere on G4 this Fall.  The two-day event will feature four games with star-studded casts playing with expert DMs, as well as hosted content featuring games, interviews, special product announcements, a Dungeon Master roundtable, and exclusive giveaways.  Watch the Wizards of the Coast website for more details.

A new sourcebook is heading your way next week:  The new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition campaign sourcebook Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft may just be the D&D your mother warned you about.  Okay, not really, but it is the darkest exploration yet of horror in the world’s most popular roleplaying game.  But it’s not for younger kids, going beyond R.L. Stine horrors and skipping ahead from the dark corners of Stephen King to the gorier realms of Clive Barker… slasher realms and beyond… but only if your gaming group so chooses.  It’s all part of the mysteries of Ravenloft, mist-shrouded lands where infamous Darklords lurk among ageless vampires, zombie hordes, cosmic terrors, and bloodier things.  Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is still a place for heroes to succeed, but not without mucking their way through terrors on their journey.   It all arrives next week.  You can pre-order the standard library cover here from Wizards of the Coast at Amazon now, or order the alternate shimmering, soft-touch edition from your local game shop.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A year ago here at borg we previewed the first look at Marvel Studios’ new series WandaVision, and based on the unusual trailer we asked the question:  What audience is WandaVision aimed at?  The series at last began this weekend on Disney+ and two half-hour episodes in, I’m no closer to answering this question.  In any other time that hasn’t been sidetracked by a pandemic, audiences would have already seen the big-screen release of Black Widow by now.  The commonality is that each is a story focused on characters that have already been killed off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  We won’t know until this summer about the prequel movie with Scarlet Johansson returning as Natasha Romanoff (killed off in Avengers: Endgame), but it is a welcome sight to see the return from the dead of Paul Bettany as cybernetic superhero Vision (killed in Avengers: Infinity War) reunited with Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff in this short, nine-episode mini-series.  But here we don’t even know when it takes place in relation to the Avengers movies.

Two episodes in and you’re going to ask:  What the heck did I just watch?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It had a promising first and third season, twists and turns, clever story arcs, and a contender for the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series from the past decade.  The creators of the fourth and final season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gave 2020 a much-needed batch of two complete seasons, and we already gave the third season kudos in the 2020 Best of TV review here at borg.  Kiernan Shipka proved to be one of TV’s best young actors, embodying a character that is next in line after Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, and Liv Moore as young genre heroines who led series you can count on the first time and after re-watches.  Already a contender for one of the best TV series of this century, and one of Netflix’s most creative efforts, how did the final season fare for our heroine Sabrina Spellman?

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Today we move from the big screen to the small screen with the Best TV Series of 2020.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2020 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching.  The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  Even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesAltered Carbon (Netflix).  Showing life in a world well past the merger of the organic and inorganic via stacks placed in human individuals’ vertebrae in the back of the neck, the second season of the series further revealed the dark side of being able to live forever.  What parts of life have the most value in a cybernetic world?  What crimes emerge when body and mind can be separated and re-shuffled?  Honorable mention: Star Trek: Picard (CBD All Access)–revisiting Star Trek’s old nemeses The Borg and introducing the cyborg-like nonbiological humanoids called Synths, the same term used in the BBC’s Humans.

Best TV Borg, Best TV VillainDarth Maul (played by Sam Witwer and Ray Park), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+).  The athletic performer Ray Park provided the best-ever lightsaber duel scenes in his co-starring performance in The Phantom Menace.  Watching the animated series this year it was clear Darth Maul wasn’t just another animated character.  Add another great duel to the books–Park’s motion capture abilities live on and continue to set the bar for Star Wars action sequences, and Witwer voices a character we never want to see go away again.  Honorable mention for Best TV Villain: Grand Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian (Disney+).

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Western TV SeriesThe Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which continues to be compared to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back more than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) now called Grogu, on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for a series that only gets better with each episode, despite their short lengths.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi TV Series: Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access).

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Happy Halloween!  Unfortunately it didn’t make it in time for Halloween, but the dark and fun Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is scheduled to arrive this year, sneaking in with an entire eight episodes for the fourth and final season December 31.  Over the course of the final eight episodes, The Eldritch Terrors will descend upon Greendale.  The coven must fight each terrifying threat one-by-one (The Weird, The Returned, The Darkness, etc.), all leading up to…The Void, which is the End of All Things.  As the witches wage war, with the help of The Fright Club, Nick begins to slowly earn his way back into Sabrina’s heart.  Will it be too late?

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October is almost here!

Your annual list of scary, ghostly, spooky, creepy, slashery, and generally monstrous films is back.  The goal?  Not to miss your favorite Halloween movies in October, and maybe find some new favorites.  You’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Need even more recommendations?  Check our borg lists of past recommendations here–Halloween doesn’t arrive each year until we’ve watched The Watcher in the Woods and Silver Bullet.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and modern fare.  Syfy′s “31 Days of Halloween” is back, along with Freeform′s “31 Nights of Halloween.”  AMC has its “Fear Fest” again, and as with last year you can get caught up on The Walking Dead airing throughout the entire month (you’ll have to check the AMC website for the last few days of the month, as the network doesn’t release its listings this far in advance).  Best of all, TCM hosts a day of monster movies on October 12 and 23, plus movies all month featuring Peter Cushing.  You’ll find this year all the usual suspects: Stephen King, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger.  Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month so you may want to check the Disney website for updates.

New for this year–check out the new remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Ratched, the brilliant zombie series Kingdom, the monster-filled October Faction, The Babysitter, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Enola Holmes on Netflix, The Vast of Night on Amazon, the horrors of love on Soulmates on AMC, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island on Starz and Vudu, or 2019’s Ready or Not on Vudu.  If you missed 2018’s Halloween movie with Jamie Lee Curtis, or Get Out, find them streaming on Vudu and other services–it’s not to be missed (and you can catch all the past entries in the series on AMC).  Also, if you missed Netflix’s latest seasons of Stranger Things or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, now’s a great time to catch up.  (Note: AMC and Syfy’s listings don’t always mention which versions of the movies are being aired (original or remake?), so your guess is as good as ours).

All month long on streaming services and premium channels like Netflix and Starz you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more, plus series like The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  Everything you see in AMC’s listings are offered via their on-demand services, so watch those whenever you’d like.  If all else fails, you can find your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (all these are highly recommended, and you can catch many of these airing this month, too).

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything, especially useful for many of the marathons, which often play in reverse order (?!).  We’ve bolded some of our recommendations.  All times listed are Central Time:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most twists and turns, the most clever story arcs, and the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series you’ve seen so far.  After a great first season but a ho-hum sophomore season, the creators of the third season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina kicked every aspect of the show into high gear, making for the best season of any series so far on the streaming provider (yep, including that first season of Stranger Things).  So often it’s easy to binge watch every new series.  But the best you reserve to savor, and each episode of the third season was like a good movie.  More magic, more of the supernatural, and more gold nuggets from centuries of folklore took these established characters and made them shine in exciting new ways, giving us the rare third season that bettered earlier seasons.  Great characters, great stories, great actors, and great writing as the witches of Greendale must fend off an attack by pagans that could mean the end for them and the mortals over eight action-packed episodes.  The season should put the series on anyone’s contender for best series of the year, even if we are only at February–it’s probably Netflix’s most riveting season of programming so far.

Has anyone done this before?  I’m talking about Robert Aguirre-Sacasa.  From the pages of Archie Comics, in 2014 Aguirre-Sacasa took Sabrina Spellman, a 50-year-old supporting character, and with a lot of love and dedication, and the visuals of artist Robert Hack, made her relevant for comic book readers in a new millennium in the pages of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Then he took her story to television and created a hit show to match, and kept it going for three seasons (with a fourth season due by year end).  Has any comic book series received this expert an adaptation and a singular champion of a classic character?

In front of the camera, Kiernan Shipka owns her title character and performs at the level of an actress who’s been doing it for 25 years.  Stunningly confident, she carries a swagger when called for as if Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger or some other big movie star’s badass character walked onto the set.  Viewers believe her because she knows this character, able to flip from several versions of a put-upon, angsty high school teen to a genuine leader, fierce manipulator, and ferocious force to be reckoned with–even the forces of evil know to stay out of her way.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With all the Netflix series being rolled out this year, October Faction might get overlooked.  It’s the latest monster series based on a comic book and it arrived on Netflix this past weekend.  Based on Steve Niles and Damien Worm’s graphic novel/comics of the same name, both the TV series (created by Sleepy Hollow and Stargate’s Damian Kindler) and the comics are a darker spin on The Addams Family–the comics even darker than the TV series, which is closer in tone to Riverdale, Charmed, and Stranger Things than, say, Grimm or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Unfortunately it’s not as well-constructed or visualized as any of those series, but it may be worth the time for fans of horror or stories of students with super powers.  It’s the super powers angle that demonstrates how closely linked superhero series are with supernatural and horror stories in the 21st century–Swap out a few words, monsters for malevolent aliens and witches and warlocks for superheroes and you’ll find October Faction has the same story beats as, say The Umbrella Academy or The Boys.  October Faction has an easier to digest, more accessible story than both of those series although the production values lack a certain tightness in editing and cinematography style.  It also could use a soundtrack that better matches the charging, creepy pitches found in Netflix’s three trailers for the series.

This is a story about a husband and wife and their twin 17-year-olds, and how the twins handle learning their parents belong to an age-old network of monster hunters.  Tamara Taylor (Bones, Altered Carbon, Lost, Serenity) is really in the driver’s seat as Deloris, the mom who always seems to have the right firearm close by, joined by husband Fred, played by J.C. MacKenzie, a character actor TV audiences have seen in dozens of police procedural series and movies, including The Irishman, The Departed, The Shield, and Hemlock Grove, as a father who is looking forward to a rest from the monster work.  If you agree MacKenzie is a ringer for a younger Matthew Modine, you might convince yourself October Faction is a prequel to Stranger Things (he also evokes Ed Begley, Jr.).  MacKenzie’s casting is an odd choice, like starring old school Fred MacMurray or Robert Young as a modern, mouthy murderer of monsters.  But he might grow on you.  The kids are more interesting: Newcomers Aurora Burghart plays Viv, an angsty teen who sketches morbid miscellany and can’t understand why she sees things before they happen, and Gabriel Darku is Geoff, her gay brother who is lost leaving behind his old friends for the family’s most recent relocation–and who also thinks he sees the deceased dead.

The level of horror and gore is about that of Shaun of the Dead, enough to establish genre while not becoming a full-on slasher show.  At first this appears to be another story of the Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers variety–black and white good and bad guys and monsters that are evil because ugly, unfamiliar, and different things are always evil.  Fortunately the story catches up in time and the theme becomes that of fellow monster series Grimm, that not all monsters are bad, and sometimes humans are the worst threat of all.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At last a new Nancy Drew television series has arrived, but except for the odd screencap (a quick shot of Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase, or Nancy Drew and The Secret in the Old Attic) it has little resemblance to the novels the series is based on.  Billed as a brilliant teen detective by the studio, CW’s Nancy Drew presents a heroine that is anything but, if the rest of the series is anything like the pilot episode.  If you like disinterested young adults begrudgingly solving crimes that would be solved quicker by reasonably motivated teenage kids with half a brain, then this is your show.  This is not the smart, driven hero detective beloved by generations of readers.

The pilot reveals yet another series-long mystery set-up, instead of a mystery-of-the-week a la The X-Files.  Coincidentally the pilot introduces the same kind of body-in-a-box mystery as the far more engrossing new series, Fox’s Prodigal Son (but compelling writing and acting is pulling me back for more of that series).  It even shares the same story of a split family and parents somehow conspiring (or not) over a corpse in a trunk, while tricking the younger version of the series lead that it was all a dream.  Nancy Drew unfortunately also shares a lead character much like the brooding under-achiever in this year’s new AMC mystery series NOS4A2, a series that handled strange mystery and a confused young woman protagonist more believably.

Nancy Drew is played by 23-year-old Kennedy McCann.  Sometimes a series will cast young adults for teenage roles and make it work, but McCann just doesn’t look like a high schooler (nor do her friends).  Nancy’s boyfriend is played by Tunji Fasim, and her key circle includes diner (think Twin Peaks, Riverdale, etc.) co-workers played by Maddison Jaizani, Leah Lewis, and Alex Saxon, with Nancy’s dad played by Scott Wolf, and his lover/city detective played by Alvina August.  The mystery begins with Nancy and her co-workers present as the last to see a local socialite alive–Nancy finds her dead in the diner parking lot, and everyone is hauled downtown to get interrogated.  The backdrop shuffled in is some local lore about a teenager who committed suicide by diving off a local cliff years ago, and Nancy coming to terms with her father after her mother recently died.

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