Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some genre TV that took genuine approaches to creativity that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.
We begin… with “MonsterVision.“
- Aired from 1991 – 2000
- Aired on Turner Network Television
Once upon a time, cable television was an escape for various audiences that went in search of programming tailored toward them. The super stations though were a platform for whatever programming the networks could afford, allowing them to air blocks of movies and animated series that could fill time. Mornings on the USA Network saw airings of obscure kung fu movies, and on Saturday nights if you stayed up late enough you could entertain yourself with a classic horror or sci-fi film hosted by Joe Bob Briggs.
“Monstervision” was once mainly a creature feature programming block that aired late night with hosts Penn and Teller, but in 1996 it became a playground for the one and only Joe Bob Briggs. Briggs (real name: John Bloom), a very experienced newspaper columnist and satirist, was brought in fresh from The Movie Channel to host “Monstervision” after years on “Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater.” After a short time the show became synonymous with Joe Bob, who used the platform to deliver his own off the cuff rants about society and instill priceless nuggets of information and trivia to his fans.
“Monstervision” came at a time when the internet was still in its infancy, so Joe Bob’s information was often fresh and surprising, as well as incredibly funny. Probably my all time favorite episode of “Monstervision” was the airing of “The Warriors,” where Joe Bob laid out a map of New York City and showed the trail of the Warriors from the Bronx to Coney Island. There’s even the time he was scolded by Anne Francis during a screening of “Forbidden Planet.” TNT “Monstervision” allowed the Joe Bob character to emerge from his trademark trailer and cop a squat on his lawn chair.
With his own beer in a koozy, he’d introduce the pair of movies for the night. Oftentimes they had their own themes, and they’d come on late. One week Joe Bob aired a Dracula night where he aired 1992’s Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” alongside Mel Brooks’ “Dracula Dead and Loving It.” He also had “Joe Bob’s Summer School” which allowed him to interview folks like Clint Howard, Linnea Quigley, and Roddy Piper. He also sat down with army veterans questioning the credibility of “Red Dawn,” as well as a pet psychic. He could also be found at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant while hosting “Willy Wonka” and even did remotes for Superbowl weekends, hosting movies like “The Longest Yard” and “Semi-Tough.”
Who can forget the all night marathon of “Friday the 13th” films, sans “The Final Chapter,” which was an especially hard pill to swallow for Joe Bob, who would constantly call out TNT during the marathon. Joe Bob always had a punk edge to him, which made it tough to work within the confines of TNT; the network was increasingly cleaning up its image for a more family friendly section of the audience.
That said, Joe Bob was able to skirt the censors, constantly pointing out the scenes that were cut for sexual content, and never held back on what he thought of specific movies. Watch as Joe Bob spends the entirety of “The Fog” mocking its premise, and harping on how Carpenter is just so much better than the film itself. He even visibly suffers through 1995’s “The Howling: New Moon Rising,” giggling most of the time out of sheer incredulity at the film’s awfulness.
Joe Bob was just such a refreshing part of the late night cable experience, because he often seemed to be working without fear of reprimanding from his superiors. This meant we were almost always given a crusty Joe Bob, and always assured a dirty or funny joke as the show drew to a close. Joe Bob basically kept his format and good old fashioned shtick even when TNT retooled Monstervision to “Joe Bob’s Hollywood Saturday Night.”
There, the concept of Monstervision stretched in to films like “A League of Their Own,” “Look Who’s Talking Now” and “Twins,” but Joe Bob never ran out of quips and comebacks. Without much preamble, Monstervision ended in 2000. “Monstervision” remained a favorite for years, with Joe Bob constantly re-visiting memories of filming the show for fans during conventions and various interviews. The show ended when TNT retooled its entire network in the early aughts; but though it was cancelled, it never died in the hearts of movie buffs.
With the internet age, it garnered a ton of retrospectives and tributes, and inspired a new wave of horror hosts that carried the torch for Joe Bob.
Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? No, but the segments featuring host Joe Bob Briggs have been made available online, and the “Ice Cream Man” segments were made exclusively available to buyers of the Limited Edition of “Ice Cream Man.” After almost twenty years off the air, Joe Bob is returning for a movie marathon on the popular horror streaming service Shudder TV this Summer, and will surely breed a new generation of horror fanatics who have yet to learn about the horror gospel of Joe Bob.