In 1997 cable premium channel Showtime decided to launch a
dark fantasy anthology series. Labeling
it The Hunger, the show was edgier
than most shows found on network TV or even basic cable.
Dealing with ghouls, monsters, and vampires,
the program had a built in audience.
Throw in a lot of sex in each episode and teleplays based on
some established SF and horror writers and the show apparently couldn't
miss. Unfortunately it only lasted two
seasons however, and never got a lot of buzz even in SF and horror
circles. Was that because it was just
marketed incorrectly and never found an audience or was the show just
good. It turns out that it was probably
a mixture of the two. Now E1
Entertainment has released the first season on DVD, so fans can find
Hosted this first season by Terence Stamp, each episode of The
Hunger involves a tale of someone
wanting something desperately. Not only
food, or blood, the show revolves around people yearning for love,
sex. In Plain Brown Envelope
a woman wants some adventure in her life,
along with a story for her editor, so she sticks out her thumb and
hitchhiking. In The River of
Night's Dreaming a convict hungers for freedom and
she sees her chance when the van that's transporting her crashes. She finds refuge in the house of an old lady,
which might not offer the safety she was hoping for.
It's an interesting concept, and one that is executed with a
lot of style. All of the episodes are
gorgeous to look at. The sets and
decorations along with the lighting and direction create wonderful
that do a great job of capturing the emotions of the story. From the dark and gritty underground rave to
a high class French restaurant the places look and feel authentic. The atmosphere of the show is a slightly dark
and moody and it works extremely well with the tales they are telling.
The flaw with the show is that the stories, while very
intriguing in the set up and execution, rarely deliver the good in the
conclusion. Like a Saturday Night Live
skit where all the jokes are told in the beginning that ends without a
line, when a good portion of these episodes end viewers are left
A good example of this occurs in the episode The Swords. Mick, the heir to a large cosmetic company,
who has no interest in the business what so ever, is sent to London for a
conference. There he starts hanging out
with a couple of
gay men who take him to a club that has an unusual floor show. At about 2 AM the stage is cleared and a
beautiful woman, Musidora, is brought out. The MC takes a long steel sword and slowly
pushes it into her stomach. The sword
emerges from her back, without a drop of blood spilling.
The MC removes the sword and offers to let
audience members "poke her", for a small fee of course.
The next day the MC finds Mick and basically
pimps out Musidora.
After money changes hands it's arranged that she'll arrive at
room that evening where he can do "whatever he wants."
That evening Mick and Musidora have sex,
and they start seeing each other. Things
are going well and Musidora eventually reveals that she doesn't feel
when she's skewered since she's under a spell.
When the lovely woman professes her love for Mick however, he
being asleep. He doesn't want to get
tied down to one woman after all. That
night she gets on the stage to perform just as Mick discovers a large
of her blood on his sheets. He
to the venue, as the girl with a sad look on her face nods her okay to
through. This time however there is
blood and she dies. The end.
While the opening was entrancing, the conclusion doesn't
pack the emotional wallop it should. It
feels like a cheat and that the writer had to end the story quickly. There are a lot of episodes like that, where
the end feels very rushed to the detriment of the show.
With only half an hour to work with, the
stories have to be tightly written.
Since this was originally shown on a cable network, there's sex
episodes too. (Frontal female nudity
appears in just about ever episode.)
Sometimes the sex fits into story well, and other times it
in every case it eats up precious minutes that could be used to wrap
up in a more satisfying way.
The stereo soundtrack isn't that exciting, but I really
wasn't expecting anything much from a TV show from the 90's. The dialog is clear and there is no
distortion, but the soundstage isn't used as much as it could be. This show sounds fine, but not spectacular.
The full frame video is about average for a show from a
decade ago. The image is a bit soft and
there's a little bit of detail lost in shadows, but it's not too bad. There are some digital artifacts, aliasing is
present and banding appears too. The
prints are generally in good shape, though a few spots do appear
The only extra is "Inside the Hunger" a half hour look
behind the scenes of the show. It
appears to have been made as a promotion for the second season and
really talk about the episodes included in this set.
Not really all the informative or
interesting, I guess it's better than nothing.
The Hunger is a case of style
over substance. It's a very pretty show to
watch and the
stories all start out well and really grab the viewers.
Unfortunately they have a bit of trouble
coming up with satisfying conclusions to many of the tales, but even
while a bit of a let down, are engaging to watch. Fans
of dark fantasy should check this series