US TV season rich in mystery and horror

AFP
Actors Justin Theroux and Liv Tyler attend 'The Leftovers' premiere at NYU Skirball Center in New York, on June 23, 2014
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Los Angeles (AFP) - As American TV viewers await the Emmy Awards honoring last year's programs, the new season opened this summer and it is rich in stars, horror and mystery.

The glitzy names being served up include the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Clive Owen, Guillermo del Toro, Liv Tyler and Halle Berry.

One program, "The Strain," co-written and co-produced by del Toro, explores a theme already addressed by vampire series such as "True Blood" or zombies in "Walking Dead," but through the prism of horror flicks.

It follows one Ephraim Goodweather, a disease control center head (played by Corey Stoll, one of the main actors in the first season of "House of Cards"), in his family dealings and as he faces an epidemic that turns people into zombie-vampires.

The fast-paced show has aired on FX since July 13 and received good reviews from critics.

"I think 'The Strain' works exceptionally well as a true horror show," said Tom Nunan, a producer and teacher at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

"There are all kinds of suspense dramas and thrillers, but not so many fashioned horror shows."

- People go missing -

Another prominent drama in the new season is "The Knick" (on cable channel Cinemax), about a fictitious hospital a century ago in New York. It is the work of Steven Soderbergh, the Hollywood director who last year made the Liberace film "Behind the Candelabra" for television.

Clive Owen plays the lead as Doctor John Thackery, a cold, racist and drug-addicted surgery professor. But he is also brilliant and obsessed with making progress in his field.

Crude and bloody, the series promises to be a hit, mainly thanks to the duel between Owen and Andre Holland, a highly educated black doctor with whom Thackery has to learn to work with, despite himself.

"It is evoking the difference in the perception of life between the turn of the 20th century and now," Nunan said.

Plus, "Clive Owen is delicious to watch."

Nunan is disappointed, however, with "The Leftovers," the HBO series starring Justin Theroux and Liv Tyler which has been renewed for a second season and is adapted from the novel of the same name by Tom Perotta.

It goes like this: two percent of the world's population has vanished without a trace and no one knows why.

In a small village outside New York, those who remain try to understand why their loved ones disappeared. And everyone lives with the fear that it will happen again.

In "Extant," a sci-fi series in which Steven Spielberg is the executive producer, Halle Berry is an astronaut who comes back to Earth after spending 13 months alone in space.

As she tries to re-adapt to life back home with her scientist husband and android son, she realizes she is somehow pregnant. This slow moving series with great camera work opened July 9 on CBS.

Another movie star, Maggie Gyllenhal, has the main role in the mini-series "The Honourable Woman."

It is a US-British production by the BBC and Sundance TV about an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman, Nessa Stein, who becomes committed to helping the Palestinians.

Bucking the trend to recruit Hollywood stars, in "Outlander" (Starz channel) the lead role is played by a relative unknown, Ireland's Caitriona Balfe.

She plays a young nurse, married and living in 1945 England, when she strangely is transported through time and finds herself in 1743 and forced to marry a man in a world in which her life is in jeopardy.

It is one of the most popular series so far, receiving a score of 82 percent thumbs-up on the web site Rottentomatoes.

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