Sci Fi TV Genre Gems: American Gothic (1995)

What Is It? This supernatural horror series from the mid-90’s takes place in the town of Trinity, South Carolina where Sherriff Lucas Buck has a sinister hold over the people that live there. But the young Caleb Temple appears to have powers of his own and the ability to resist the Sherriff’s influence, and this sets up a standoff between good and evil in this small town.

Why It Stands Out: With some strong talent behind it, this show delivers some creepy, atmospheric tales unlike almost anything else on television at the time.

The Skinny: This show was an odd entry on the CBS schedule for the 1995-96 season that delivered supernatural-driven tales of mystery and horror which followed a loose story arc long before that was an accepted format for a Prime Time drama. It was created by former Hardy Boy and teen heart-throb Shaun Cassidy, and Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert were onboard as executive producers (David Eick, who would go on to the Battlestar: Galactica revival was producing as well). They managed to deliver a unique, moody show that misfired at times but that more often than not delivered a first-rate supernatural drama.

Key to the show’s success were its two leads: Gary Cole as Sheriff Buck and Lucas Black as Caleb Temple. The versatile Cole (whose rolls have ranged from Brady dad in the Brady Bunch revival movies, starship captain in Babylon 5 spin-off series Crusade, and middle-management, trolling boss in Office Space), is obviously having great fun chewing the scenery as the sinister town boss. And the young Black steers far from the annoying cute-kid stereotype as he manages to hold his own next to the older, veteran actor. And not to be forgotten, a young Paige Turco (Person of Interest, The 100) delivered a strong female co-lead next to these two dominating actors.

Unfortunately, the show was a bit too far from the typical Prime Time fare that audiences expected and it never managed to build much of a following during its initial run. CBS cancelled it after one season, though apparently gave the producers enough notice that they were able to wrap up at least some of the show’s storylines. There were plans to reboot the property on the big screen around 2004, and Gary Cole would have returned as Sheriff Lucas Buck. Several other series regulars were set to reprise their roles as well with Sam Raimi returning as producer, though a new actor would have played Caleb as Lucas Black had grown too old to play the character. However, the movie plans stalled over various concerns and were eventually shelved altogether in 2005. But we still have the one season from the television series which is worth checking out as an odd but intriguing little entry that may have just been a bit ahead of its time.

Notable Cast and Crew: Gary Cole (Sherriff Lucas Buck), Paige Turco (Gail Emory), Sarah Paulson (Merlyn Temple), Sam Raimi (Executive Producer), Robert Tapert (Executive Producer), Shaun Cassidy (Creator, Executive Producer), David Eick (Producer)

Did You Know? This was the first of three genre shows created or co-created by Shaun Cassidy that would last for one season or less. The other two were Roar (FOX, 1997, starring a young Heath Ledger) and Invasion (ABC, 2005).

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