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The Greatest Monsters on TV – IndieWire Critics Survey

Move over, Demogorgon. These other creatures have turned the small screen upside-down.

The Terror

“The Terror”

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: What is your favorite monster/creature of all time on TV?

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

A tie for me, between “The Terror” (Season 1 on AMC) the Tuunbaq, which was a larger, toothier, freakishly lankier version of a polar bear crossed with a space alien sporting enormous claws and teeth. We met this monster in last summer’s breakout series, this lightning-fast terror within “The Terror” that was stalking, hunting and brutally killing the crew of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. It was a classic “and then there were none” scenario. The spiritual beast sported sci-fi elements and human-like hands and parts of its face adding to the creepy effect. Infamy, the next installment of “The Terror” for AMC this summer, cannot get here soon enough..

The tie is with Showtime’s evocative period horror yarn “Penny Dreadful” – specifically “The Monster” played by Rory Kinnear who portrayed his forlorn outcast blessed with superhuman strength coupled with a fierce intelligence and subtly menacing air. This besotted monster was obsessively jonesing for a mate as promised by Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) – and the object of his desire? The lovely undead Lily (Billie Piper). Fans of Kinnear can find him cast in the returning spin-off series “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels,” but as a German pediatrician named Dr. Peter Craft. Will he be a monster too? Remains to be seen, but the timeframe of the 1930s and anything “German” points that way.

Beebo, "DC's Legends of Tomorrow"

Beebo, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”

The CW

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

Is Beebo a monster/creature? Or is Beebo a God? Are Gods monsters/creatures? This is probably a question requiring a depth of introspection that I’m not prepared to delve into in this space. Therefore, my answer is Logan Echols from “Veronica Mars.”

Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR

Since I’m 100 years old, I’m going to reference a TV monster few others have probably seen: the Bigfoot from Lee Majors’ kitchy ‘70s adventure classic, “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Major played Steve Austin, an astronaut who was given a “bionic” mechanical arm, legs and eye after an accident. On the show, Bigfoot turned out to not only be real, but a fully mechanical/bionic robot who was protecting a group of aliens hiding in the California mountains. It’s a delightfully wacky concept of the sort that filled ’70s shows back in the day. But the bright glowing eyes and big fangs of Bigfoot – played by Andre the Giant, of course – actually scared me as a kid when I saw the episode back in 1976. A close second, for me, is another ‘70s delight: Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk on the 1978 series “The Incredible Hulk.” Whether it’s the bad green mullet wig or the green-colored slippers you might catch the former Mr. Universe wearing occasionally, the look of his Hulk is so bizarrely low-rent that it was fun to behold back then and a treasured childhood memory today.

Andre the Giant as Bigfoot, "The Six Million Dollar Man"

Andre the Giant as Bigfoot, “The Six Million Dollar Man”


Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

Does Matt Lauer count?

Obviously this question is connected to “Stranger Things,” which has given us some incredibly scary monster moments and some of that is due to extraordinary CGI design and modern tech. But I am throwing it back for my favorite monster (which should totally be a TV show) and going with “The Six Million Dollar Man’s” Bigfoot. Back when Lee Majors’ Steve Austin first battled the beast in 1976, I was a young’un and the idea of Bigfoot was having a moment in pop culture. Of course, being a sponge for that stuff and all about the Bionic man, this live-action iteration of the mythical monster was all I needed at the time. He was a massive and terrifying thing, with crazy eyes courtesy of Andre the Giant, the wrestling star under all the fur and face makeup, and he was really the only true challenger for Steve’s super-strength. When it was revealed during one of their slow-mo fights on the side of a mountain that Bigfoot was actually a robot being controlled by aliens from their stronghold deep inside the hill, I recall being both bummed that he wasn’t the real Bigfoot and also intrigued that aliens might be living deep within the woods. Remember, I was young. Anyway, it wound up with Bigfoot and Steve being allies at some point, which was very “Harry and the Hendersons,” but early on, he was scary and awesome and worthy of the action figure he wound up as. And really, that is all I ask from my TV creatures. Just be a good toy. Which, btw, Matt Lauer would not be.

Bill Cipher, "Gravity Falls"

Bill Cipher, “Gravity Falls”

Cartoon Network

Jacob Oller (@JacobOller), Paste Magazine

While not really in the midnight movie genre of monster, “Gravity Falls'” Bill Cipher is my pick this week because he’s just so wickedly scary. The Lynchian villain of the series is a one-eyed pyramid with a top hat and bow tie. The first thing he does when summoned to the setting of the ostensible kid’s show from the Nightmare Realm is psychically pull all the teeth out of a living deer. It’s the worst. The demon invades people’s minds, corrupting the friendless with charm and whispered promises – which is both scary for everyone and prescient for radicalization movements like those populated with Incels. He’s very funny, which makes the blithe cruelty and sadism he displays even scarier. Drenched in occultism and the vehicle for many of the show’s real-life hidden codes, Bill Cipher gives the clever show a real sense of danger and plenty of entertainment value all the way to his apocalyptic conclusion.

Big Mouth Connie Maurice

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

Maybe I’m just horror’d out after long binges of “Stranger Things” and “Handmaid’s Tale,” but the TV monsters coming to mind right now are all from comedies. There are the figurative yet unforgettable monsters like Dennis Reynolds and Selina Meyer, whose deeds are so dastardly you can’t help but cackle in horror. Then you’ve got the “fake” monsters like Werewolf Tracy Jordan, whose bar mitzvah tune is as infectious as his makeup is terrible, and Buster Bluth, who needs only to look at his claw-like hand to produce a haunting howl all his own. But if I’m forced to choose an actual monster, which feels only appropriate given the Demogorgon origins (Demogorigins?) of this question, then I’ll go with the Hormone Monster. “Big Mouth” is such an empathetic and connective animated comedy, but what helps the series break into uncomfortable conversations are the outlandish characters like Nick Kroll’s Hormone Monster. Having an actual monster embodying the oft-unimaginable urges of teen-dom helps set up back-and-forths about why these things happen, what can be done about them, and, ultimately, help limit the shame felt so strongly during puberty. Plus, you know, he’s really funny. Sometimes that’s what we need from a monster.

20th Century Fox TV

Emily VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

Barring some sort of “Twilight Zone”-esque “the real monster was man!!!” answer (though honestly, the gremlin on the wing from “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” would absolutely qualify), I’ve always been suitably terrified by The Gentlemen from “Buffy.” I’m sure this will prove a popular answer, but the way that Doug Jones (the creature actor expert who played the lead Gentleman) politely nods and applauds as his pals cut out a heart, or the way he sliiiiiiiiiiides across that window at just the right moment – geez. I still get shivers thinking about it, and I’m pretty hardened to horror tropes. There’s just something about the silent malevolence that pings something deep in my gut.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: TIE: “Baskets” and “Los Espookys” (two votes each)

Other contenders: “Euphoria,” “Pose,” “The Rook” (one vote each)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.

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