Halloween comes but once a year.
And while we thoroughly enjoy all the Halloween-themed episodes on television, it's also nice to find shows that can scare the pants off you on a regular basis. We got lucky in 2011, because a variety of new shows provide the fright and stress of Halloween every week. Sometimes, they get to you through intellect or humor or psychology, but one thing's for sure: They'll keep the panic party going all season long.
Here are our picks for the best, new, scariest TV shows:
People hold grudges, that's a fact. But the title character in Revenge (10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC) takes that idea to a new level. The show premiered last month with Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) moving to a wealthy community to take down every, single person who conspired to put her father in jail decades ago for a crime he didn't commit.
She has spent her entire life waiting to ruin everyone's lives, and so far in her reign of undercover terror, she's ruined the career of a longtime senator, indirectly contributed to the murder of a woman, driven a deeper wedge between her neighbor couples' marriage -- and she's sleeping with their son to boot. And it seems as though she's just getting started.
Emily is willing to sacrifice her own personal happiness to make other people miserable. And while Revenge is a work of fiction, crazy people like this DO exist in lesser extremes. You've just got to hope you're not on the receiving end of their ire.
2. American Horror Story
It was only a matter of time before Ryan Murphy had to embrace his dark, twisted side -- the one we got to know so well during Nip/Tuck -- after working on a mostly lighthearted, mainstream show like Glee. And it seems like he's been saving up all kinds of perverse insanity for his newest offering, American Horror Story (10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX), which he co-created with two others, because every week after we watch it, we are totally creeped out and feel like taking a shower.
The show follows a somewhat troubled family living in an evil, haunted house, as they are taunted with creepy neighbors, weird sex happenings, hallucinations, murders, attacks and other such insanity. If this show doesn't give you the willies, then you're probably Ryan Murphy himself because AHS is a total freak show.
(Watch American Horror Story from the beginning during a four-episode marathon beginning at 10 p.m. Halloween night.)
3. Hillbilly Handfishin'
People have (apparently) been catching catfish with their bare hands for a long time, but it's safe to say that "noodling" is a fairly obscure hobby as far as the general public is concerned. And after watching a handful of episodes of the reality show, Hillbilly Handfishin' (10 p.m. Sundays, Animal Planet), it's easy to see why.
It takes a special kind of person to wade into a muddy lake or river -- sometimes up to their necks -- and stuff their entire arm into a catfish hole, then feel around to pull out one of the whiskered, sharp-toothed varmints. Why? Because it usually doesn't happen without the catfish clamping down on a hand, arm or foot, not to mention that it's entirely possible a snake, muskrat, beaver, snapping turtle or other critter is hiding in the hole, ready to defend its turf.
Sticking your hand in an underwater tunnel, sight unseen, knowing you're probably gonna get torn up is not only frightening, it's certainly not worth the one or two dinners you're going to get out of hand-catching a fish. I admire these people's sense of adventure, but I'd almost rather taken my chances spending one night in the American Horror Story house.
No. Thank. You.
4. Up All Night
Yes, Up All Night (8 p.m. Wednesdays, NBC) is technically a sitcom. What's so scary about it isn't the plot itself, but how sadly realistic it is. The show revolves around two spankin' new parents, Reagan and Chris Brinkley (Christina Applegate and Will Arnett), who want to be top-notch child-rearers, but don't want to give up being the cool kids on the block, either.
We understand. When you first have a baby, it's hard to digest that you're too tired to go out on the town, let alone stay up past 9 p.m. and drink two glasses of wine without passing out. You're lucky to get a shower, a decent meal and clean clothes some days, and if you think you're still gonna be able to digest and dissect new albums every Tuesday or keep up your two-book-a-week reading habit, think again.
Every week, we laugh at Reagan and Chris because we can identify with them -- and it's terrifying.