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CBS's 'Evil' has procedural elements while also telling the type of stylistic, genuinely creepy story that hasn’t been seen on network TV since 'Hannibal'.

Gothtober: 5 reasons why you should watch CBS’s ‘Evil’

It’s not always a hard & fast rule, but certain television networks tend to be known for a certain kind of show. The CW, for example, is teen drama and superhero shows. ABC? Soapy dramas and comedies about families. AMC? Boundary-pushing dramas of all genres. We could go on, but we won’t.

We watch a lot of television; put a list of anonymous loglines in front of us and we could match them to their networks. Sometimes, a network does attempt to go out of its comfort zone, however. CBS, for example, tried to produce their own superhero show with Supergirl. It didn’t work, and the show is now on The CW – but they tried and we salute them for that.

CBS’s bread and butter is procedural dramas and multi-cam sitcoms, with a distinct focus on older audience demographics. The stuff aimed at the youths, meanwhile, lives on CBS All Access.

All this is why Evil is such a surprise hit for CBS, acting as a much needed breath of fresh air. The show has all the procedural elements while also telling the type of stylistic, genuinely creepy story that hasn’t been seen on network TV since Hannibal

Psychologist Kristin Bouchard (Katja Herbers), contractor Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), and priest-i–training David Acosta (Mike Colter) act as assessors for the Catholic Church in possible cases of possession, haunting, miracles, etc. They have to figure out whether or not the Church’s intervention is needed.

Evil having scored an early season two renewal after airing just four episodes, it’s clear CBS wants the show to stick around for awhile. Here’s why you should tune in for Evil. 

We may have our next Mulder & Scully

Broadcast tends to not be the medium of stylistically challenging series, which are covered more by the cable and streaming alleys. When an unusual network show does appear, however, it tends to be unique in more ways than one. Evil features deep ruminations on the nature of good & evil and the struggle between faith & science.

Colter & Herbers have that Mulder-Scully chemistry, replete with the age-old struggle of two very different worldviews. Kristin Bouchard believes in facts: demons are internal rather than external; every so-called supernatural event has an explanation in the natural. David meanwhile believes evil comes in all forms, but sometimes there are supernatural forces that we can’t explain – and people need protection from them. 

Representing these contrasting worldviews are two people who respect and fascinate each other in equal measure. Of course, Kristen is married to an absentee husband and David is training to be a Catholic priest (and is therefore celibate). Needless to say, the forbidden potential for romance is a classic audience-pleasing dramatic tension.

Not to say that Evil’s all about the chemistry. Herbers runs the gamut of emotions from terror to wry amusement of the goings-on around her. Colter possesses that calming and gentle presence you would want in a priest, while hiding some deep issues underneath. 

Rounding out the trio is Mandvi’s Ben, a skeptic like Kristen. He also has a clearly fascinating backstory as he struggles with his own (possibly?) lapsed faith & family. Ben also provides great sarcasm, necessary to lighten Evil’s often dark mood.

Evil toes the line between serious business & camp 

Evil is a genuinely creepy series at times, but it also toes the line with scenery-chewing camp. Not that we’re complaining: The X-Files and Fringe toed that line quite well over their respective runs. 

Evil’s creators, The Good Wife’s Robert and Michelle King made BrainDead, a comedy about aliens taking over Washington that had musical numbers in it. So the numerous juxtapositions can be interpreted with humor or not depending on the bent of the viewer.

Michael Emerson (Person of Interest) plays Leland Townsend, who tries to subvert the good guys and encourages people to follow the evil in their hearts. After making a career out of playing morally ambiguous characters, Emerson is clearly enjoying being an absolute horrible person as Townsend.

Genuinely creepy moments = goosebumps

Horror shows, as a rule, tend not to do well on broadcast, for reasons probably relating to ratings and target demographics. There are surely studies done on such things, but we won’t bore you with the details.

So when shows do bring the creepy fear factor, such as the beautifully macabre Hannibal, then it definitely gets audiences attention. Evil, for all it toes the line between drama and camp, definitely brings on those hair-raising moments. 

In “October 31st”, Kristen’s daughters (Brooklyn Shuck, Skylar Grey, Maddy Crocco, Dayla Knapp) spend time with friends after returning from trick-or-treating. The daughters tell their mother that new girl Brenda is “weird”, so no one thinks anything of it when she acts that way (not taking off her plastic full face mask, getting them to play a creepy game).

Brenda takes the group to a graveyard under their grandmother’s (Christine Lahti) nose. The terror is further compounded when said grandmother gets a call from Brenda’s mother: Brenda’s sick and at home. We never know who Not-Brenda is, but this child actor is deliciously creepy either way. The situation plays on every parent’s worst fears, making the tension all the more palpable. 

Evil is very effective at tying in scares that feel more grounded in reality, versus those beyond our understanding of the world.

Just like real life, Evil keeps you guessing about the existence of the supernatural

Belief in supernatural phenomena in real life comes down to a matter of faith: there are varying shades of such beliefs. Some people believe in every superstition and folklore, folding it into their worldview. Others believe in none of it, requiring hard data in order to believe. Then there are those who straddle a middle ground. 

Many believe in the supernatural, but no consensus exists. Evil, in that sense, reflects social reality. Just as in life, there are instances of phenomena that cannot be explained, such as a ghostly image caught on a camera.

Evil’s own modus operandi occupies a middle ground. In the end, it all just comes down to your own belief in such things. The show provides a refreshing balance between credulous and skeptical. 

Evil = fun 

Sometimes “must-watch TV” is like homework. Everyone talks about it, so clearly you need to watch it. You either love it or you hate it, but you feel like you need to be educated on it because you don’t want to seem like a cultureless heathen to those around you.

Taste may be subjective, but Evil is an objectively well crafted and well written show that is also a fun watch. Robert and Michelle King know how to package a TV series in an effective manner for a large audience to enjoy. The hour-long drama breezes by with stunning sets, great character moments, and a challenge to the audience to wrestle with their own views of good & evil in the world.

Evil’s focus on morality sounds like a lot to ask of people late on Thursday nights, but the questions are not heavy-handed. They enhance an experience that leaves you guessing about the forces of the world that surrounds our characters. It’s like a haunted house: people are screaming & laughing in equal measure. It’s all in the enjoyment of some great entertainment. 

Evil airs Thursdays at 10/9c on CBS.

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