The first six-episode season of the new horror anthology series by SyFy, "Channel Zero," kicked off Tuesday, September 27. The premier left horror fans feeling somewhat nostalgic for the bygone days of the '80s. The series release comes only a few months after the release of the Netflix instant classic "Stranger Things." "Stranger Things" draws a lot on '80s (and '90s) horror movies to great effect. Though "Stranger Things" conjures up memories of the best that '80s horror had to offer, Channel Zero seems to conjure up memories of cheesy B-grade movies and series such as "Masters of Horror" or "Tales from the Crypt." That being said, remembering the super cheesy fun that was the '80s doesn't have to be a bad thing at all. Even so, one can't help but think that SyFy's timing might be a bit off here. The release date draws an inevitable comparison between the two series, which makes "Channel Zero" look a little weak by comparison.
The main character, Mike Painter, is played by Paul Schneider, known for his portrayal of Mark Brendanawicz in the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation." Paul Schneider in the lead starts out looking like a weak choice. His nervous, almost apologetic interactions during the first part of the episode seem out of character for a lead character. Watching him on screen conjures up images of Sam Becket (Scott Bakula) from the "Quantum Leap" series stuck in the body of some guy returning to his hometown after a 30-year absence. We soon learn the reason behind Mike Painter's trepidation, though, and as the episode progresses Paul Schneider starts to feel like a perfect fit.
The supporting cast performs well, though we are reminded of the typical somewhat one-dimensional small town characters from '80s horror cinema. The flashback sequences help to establish the mood for the series and seem to follow the same type of systematic progression as we saw in movies like "It." The series will run for six episodes and we will likely see the flashbacks narrative progress throughout the series.
The cast of ghoulish characters from the "Candle Cove" kids' show that form a central part of the plot are genuinely creepy. Creepy in the inexplicable way that many '80s kids show characters are when you are young. Creepy in a way that would make parents start a petition to have it removed from the air if they listened too intently to what the characters were saying.
The first episode of Channel Zero was all-in-all an interesting genre-bending experience. The reappearance of the "Candle Cove" kids' show in the present and the disappearance of a little girl in the second part of the episode helped to escalate the suspense in the episode. The episode also included a solid introduction to the horror elements which will no doubt start to play a stronger part in later episodes.
Whether "Channel Zero" will become an instant classic like "Stranger Things" remains to be seen. For the moment we can at least say that it looks like an entertaining way to spend a Tuesday evening.