Nets, cable put scare on the air

New shows hope to lure viewers to dark side

Webheads are increasingly looking to scare up ratings by scaring their viewers.

Network lineups in the coming months will feature a pair of new shows with spooky storylines, including the “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”-like CW dramedy “Reaper.” Even conservative CBS is looking to bring some bite to its sked with “Moonlight,” a copshow featuring a vampire as its lead character.

New skeins follow the success of CW’s “Supernatural,” which has found a winning formula by having two good-looking young guys chase goblins and ghouls around the country, all to the sounds of a cool classic-rock soundtrack.

Unlike the bloodbaths filling the silver screen, most of TV’s fright fests fall strictly into the PG-13 category of chills. Because they’re trying to reach mainstream auds, network execs are careful to make sure such shows are more “Scream” than “Saw.”

“You can’t show as much on television, and gore and really super-scary stuff would turn off a broader audience,” says Thom Sherman, head of drama development for the CW. “We’re going for more suspense than true horror.”

It’s a different story on cable, however.

In addition to Sci Fi, which dabbles in scares, two major horror-themed cable/broadband nets have launched in the past year. And they’re a bit more willing to show off some gore.

Comcast, Lionsgate and Sony are partnered on FEARnet, a multiplatform network that offers screams on demand via both TV and the Internet. In addition to offering up hardcore titles such as “Night of the Living Dead,” the net is also pacting with horrormeisters such as Sam Raimi to create original content (example: the Internet-based series “Devil’s Trade”).

Then there’s Chiller, the NBC U cabler that serves up a mix of TV shows (“Tales From the Crypt”) and films (“Child’s Play”) designed to give auds the creeps. Its distribution on DirecTV makes it the biggest beastie of all in the race to scare the hell out of TV viewers.

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