One of the [if not the] first original series aired on Showtime, The Hunger was created by Jeff Fazio [who seems to have only done The Hunger and the first half of the mini-series Atomic Train] and executive produced by Sir Ridley Scott and his brother Tony [who directed the pilot]. It was an adult anthology series dedicated to themes involving the darker obsessions of life – the hungers that we usually seek to control. Playing to those hungers, the series included a lot of nudity – not all of it entirely gratuitous.
Insofar as The Hunger’s episodes usually involved the supernatural and frequently had twist endings, it could be considered a Twilight Zone for grown-ups – though it was more inconsistent. Its best tales were adaptations from the works of horror greats like F. Paul Wilson [Ménage a Trois], Brian Lumley [Necros], Edgar Allan Poe [Lighthouse], Karl Edward Wagner [A River of Night’s Dreaming] and Graham Masterson [Bridal Suite and Anais]. Harlan Ellison wrote an original script for the series [The Face of Helene Bournouw] and another of his short stories [Footsteps] was adapted by Gerald Wexler – though in both cases, the episode credits read “By Cordwainer Bird,” suggesting that he believed they’d been royally screwed over by the time they were ready to air. Thriller writer David Morrell also contributed one of the better scripts – But At My Back I Always Hear.
The Hunger acquired a cult following, though the critics weren’t kid at the time. Still, most of the episodes were far better than they were given credit for. There are scenes – as in Swords, when James Chandler [Balthazar Getty] realizes what he’s taken from the mysterious Musidora [Amanda Ryan]; or in Lighthouse, when the new keeper [Bruce Davison] plasters the walls of the tower with a jumble of drawings that coalesce into his dream woman, whom he names Angelica – when the show works and works very well, indeed.
Some eps, like Anais, slip off into the truly surreal – and gain something from it. Others, like The Face of Helene Bournouw, play the supernatural elements as naturally as possible – to even greater effect. Even a few of the wholly original eps work well – like The Secret Shih Tan, which stars Jason Scott Lee as a supremely talented chef who is given the opportunity to read and prepare a selection from a legendary culinary tome whose recipes, if done justice, allow one to “taste God!”
The Hunger boasted a number of quality guest stars, as well. Besides those mentioned above, there are Karen Black, Lena Heady and Daniel Craig [all in one ep], Stephen McHattie [most recently seen in Watchmen], Colin Ferguson [Eureka], Timothy Spall [Sweeny Todd, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince], Chad Lowe , Joanna Cassidy [HawthoRNe], and Michael Gross [Tremors] – and a number of recognized character actors. Russell Mulcahy [Highlander] directed a number of eps.
The only feature is The Hunger Inside, a behind-the-scenes look at season two, which makes no sense since it’s not that good a tease for season two and I, personally, would like to know how the producers were able to induce Terrance Stamp to host [David Bowie, seemingly a more obvious choice, hosted season two].
Grade: The Hunger: The complete First Season – B
Grade: Features – D
Final Grade: B-