The new series of devilish comedy Eastwick premieres on MBC4 this week. Hannah Lewis pays homage with a look at other characters from the dark side
Kicking off this week on MBC4, season one of Eastwick sees three women befriended by a mysterious newcomer who helps them unleash special powers. Based on The Witches of Eastwick, a novel by John Updike, the series follows the women as they explore their new-found powers, overseen by the suspicious Darryl Van Horne. It seems he may be the devil, but we can’t be quite sure.
TV doesn’t always show us the horns these days, but devilish characters are proving popular than ever. We take a look at how the small screen has tried to breathe originality into one of the world’s oldest baddies.
Eastwick: Darryl Van Horne
Casting Due South’s Paul Gross as the mysterious, smooth-talking devil-type character Darryl Van Horne may seem a strange choice. Best known for his role as Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser, the sight of Gross playing Satan in ABC’s Eastwick may come as a bit of a shock – but that’s the idea. He was chosen specifically because the producers wanted him to make the character his own, rather than aping Jack Nicholson’s Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Evil rating: 4/5 Debuts on MBC4 on June 15
The Witches of Eastwick: Daryl Van Horne
As we’ve mentioned, Nicholson’s performance in this 1987 film was so memorable that it forced Eastwick to take a completely different path with the character (which also involved adding an extra R to his name). In this smash-hit movie, the original Daryl Van Horne manages to seduce Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer – quite the achievement – but his intelligence and bravado hide a powerfully manipulative side: when the women eventually try to get away from him, he makes their worst fears come true. Cue snakes, rapid ageing and unbearable pain. Nicholson is famous for his dark roles, but this one is peppered with more comedy than the others. Scary, but it’s no ‘Heeeere’s Johnny’. Evil rating: 4/5 Available now on DVD
Reaper: The Devil
On Sam’s 21st birthday, he discovers his parents accidentally sold his soul to Lucifer, forcing him to work as a bounty hunter for the devil, played by Ray Wise. A truly modern creation, Reaper’s devil is a perma-tanned, sharply dressed, slick-haired bargain master with a smile almost too white for TV. Charming and almost endearing, yet always threatening, the character sits somewhere between a used car salesman and a rottweiler – if you can make any sense of that idea. Sometimes he seems set on thwarting Sam at every step; sometimes he treats him as a son. His only consistency is his commitment to his suits, which he changes three times a day but which are all identical. Annoyingly (though unsurprisingly), the more we learn about him, the more we realise we don’t know much about him. Evil rating: 3/5 Available now on DVD
The Simpsons: Ned Flanders
The revelation that the devil was, in fact, religious do-gooder Ned Flanders in the ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’ episode was possibly one of the greatest moments in The Simpsons’ history (and there have been a few). Completely at odds with everything the character has done before and since, Flanders was chosen as the devil because, in his words, ‘it’s always the one you least expect’. The brilliance of the idea is sustained by voice artist Harry Shearer’s logic-defying ability to maintain the essential elements of Flanders while voicing a convincing devil. Very surreal. Evil rating: 5/5 Screens daily on Fox Series. Season 21 starts on June 11
American Gothic: Sheriff Lucas Buck
More uncertain than Reaper and Eastwick’s characters put together, the idea that American Gothic’s Sheriff Lucas Buck is the devil is still being debated almost 14 years after the series was canned. Using his apparently supernatural powers, Buck manipulates and terrorises the inhabitants of Trinity, a small town in South Carolina. Buck’s power, which seems to stretch over the whole town, makes the show a serious battle of good versus evil – of everyday people fighting the presence of ‘the devil’ in their lives. And his character is made all the more brilliant thanks to actor Gary Cole’s ability to bring humour to the role. Black humour, of course. In fact, Cole played this role so well we still wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley. Evil rating: 5/5 Available now on DVD