I am always excited when TV shows feature insects. For some reason, I don’t much care whether they get things completely right. Considering how much I grumble about news stories and websites getting their bug facts wrong, I feel like this should bother me more. Of course, I also tend to watch a lot of shows that aren’t based in reality. When people are travelling to alternate universes to battle bad guys, it’s hard to expect them to get their entomological facts straight!
Today I’m going to highlight 5 of my favorite insect-themed TV episodes that have been aired within the last few years. Crime dramas have latched onto forensic entomology like dung beetles on cow pies, but I’m going to ignore them in favor of some of the more ridiculous insect episodes I’ve seen. In no particular order, my 5 favorites are:
Immortality, Fringe, Season 3
I don’t know why I like Fringe as much as I do. The plots are COMPLETELY unrealistic and the situations the characters find themselves in are sometimes laughable, but I can’t stop watching. The show is a sort of X-Files style experience dealing with strange paranormal events that are investigated by a brilliant, but insane scientist, his estranged son, and a female FBI agent. Immortality takes place in the alternate universe that has become a major part of the show. You learn during the episode that an entomologist was just about to make a major health related breakthrough using “skelter beetles,” but the beetles’ sheep host went extinct before the research was completed. The entomologist alters the beetles to accept human hosts to continue his work and murders several people with the bugs, hence the Fringe Division is after him. The episode definitely has problems – the “beetles” are really roaches and no insect could reproduce as quickly as the beetles in the episode do – but it’s still a lot of fun!
SHow ME the Mummy, Eureka, Season 3
Eureka is a lot more “cute” than Fringe, but they’re very similar in many ways – lots of crazy, unrealistic science that just couldn’t happen. If you aren’t familiar with it, the show features a town full of scientists who work at a military R&D lab (Global Dynamics) developing some mind-boggling (i.e., impossible) inventions and scientific techniques. Show Me the Mummy is the show’s main insect offering. The episode begins with the usual snotty scientist with a massive ego arguing with a similar scientist over a mummy. Long story short, the sarcophagus is housing insects that have been in diapause (a sort of hibernation) for a couple thousand years, are reanimated, and require water to reproduce. The scientists at Global Dynamics happen to be full of water, so the bugs kill a few people and wreak havoc on the town of Eureka. Eventually, the town’s sheriff (of all people) suggests that they try killing them with cold. You can guess what happens from here – or just watch it yourself.
Sight Unseen, Stargate SG-1, Season 6
I finally got around to watching Stargate SG-1 recently and I really enjoyed it because I’m a massive geek. In it, the four member military team SG-1 travels to other planets via a transportation device called the Stargate. They battle aliens and whatnot and Richard Dean Anderson’s character makes a lot of jokes. Cheesy sci-fi goodness at its best! In Sight Unseen, the SG-1 team returns to Earth and start seeing giant bugs everywhere, bugs that phase in and out of sight. Then people in Colorado Springs start seeing them too and they know they’ve got a problem on their hands. You later discover that the giant bugs are in a different dimension (of course!) and that a radiation that is somehow transmitted from person to person by physical contact (yeah…) allows people to see through into the other dimension. The bugs aren’t really there after all! It’s a ludicrous plot, but I loved the giant bugs so this is one of my favorite episodes anyway.
All Mine, Reaper, Season 1
Ah, Reaper. This has an even worse overall plot than the other things I’ve mentioned so far and I’m kinda embarrassed I actually watched it. The general idea is that a young man learns that his parents sold his soul to the devil when he was a child – and the devil has come to collect! The guy then has to track down various baddies who have escaped from Hell and send them back using various objects the devil provides for collection. Seriously – cheesy, awful plot! In All Mine, the plot is even worse than usual. An escapee, this time a seductive woman, is killing people with bees. In turns out that her entire body is made up of bees! And then the main character and his inept friends send her back to Hell with a toaster… Yeah. Not a good episode, but it made me laugh anyway, so here we are. :)
Bzzzzzzz!, Pushing Daisies, Season 2
Pushing Daisies is one of my favorite shows of all time. It was bizarrely humorous and quirky, so I thought it was brilliant! The overall plot involves a guy who learned as a kid that he has a gift – he can bring dead things back to life with a touch. However, if he leaves them alive for longer than a minute, an equivalent organism must die in its place with some disastrous consequences. A private investigator stumbles onto his secret and they team up to solve murders by asking the murdered person who killed him/her. The main character brings his first and only love back to life in the first episode (but he can’t ever touch her or she’ll die for good) and she joins the team too. In Bzzzzzz!, the undead girlfriend goes undercover at the bee-based cosmetics company Betty’s Bees (think Burt’s Bees) to figure out who’s been murdering people there. Could it be the vindictive former owner, Betty, bitter over the loss of her company in a hostile takeover? Woolsey, the creepy new owner? The episode is creative, well written, and stunningly gorgeous. I can’t find it online, but if you ever have a chance to see it, it’s really great and I highly recommend it!
Any other recent bug episodes I’ve missed? I’d love to find some other great episodes to watch, so leave suggestions in the comments!
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12 thoughts on “Friday 5: Insect-Themed TV Show Episodes”
Well, not recent, but who can forget two Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes – one with the female high school teacher who lured males students and then turned into a Praying Mantis. Or the one about the guy who was actually a conglomeration of maggots. They just don’t makes ’em like that anymore.
Ah, Joss Whedon. I haven’t really watched Buffy apart from the musical episode (which I’ve seen several times, and not by choice!) because vampire movies/books/TV shows just don’t appeal to me for some reason. But maybe I should at least watch these two… Thanks for pointing them out!
I’m fond of the X-Files episode “War of the Coprophages” — a very funny story about a town in a panic over killer cockroaches, and possibly the only episode of a TV drama ever to name-check a specific family of odonates.
Ah, Reaper. It was bad, but it was so self-aware and intentional in its badness that it transcended the horribleness to become brilliant. Or I laughed at lot at it, at any rate. You have good taste in television overall. “Insects” also form a major part of the backstory of Stargate: Atlantis’ villains, but that isn’t discovered until later, and I can’t call it an insect themed episode.
It’s weird I can’t think of any other proper insect themed episodes than the ones already pointed out. Haven and Fringe both had episodes featuring killer butterflies that turn out to be a dream sequence, but that hardly counts. What’s up with that anyway? Somebody watch too much Cowboy Bebop? Speaking of anime, Blue Gender features insects as the primary antagonists. Giant human devouring insects! Good series except for the last two episodes which just ticked me off by going all wushy-mystical.
Buffy isn’t really a Vampire series. Despite the title, Buffy actually spends relatively little time fighting vampires. For instance, only 5 of the first season’s 12 episodes feature vampires as primary antagonists, and it fell off from there. Besides, just because vampires are overdone (man are they overdone) doesn’t mean there can’t be good stuff built on them. If nothing else, watch Buffy for the worst werewolf costume in the history of television. : – )
I’m glad to hear that there were other people who actually watched Reaper as I have yet to come across anyone who has. And you’re right about the Fringe episode with the imaginary killer butterflies not really being a bug-themed episode. I was SO disappointed that the butterflies weren’t the real villain! I also wholeheartedly agree with you about the skelter beetle hosts! That plot was even more ridiculous than most, but it was oh so fun too. Maybe the pigs had gone extinct too? I don’t know, but I loved the “beetles” and how they came exploding out of their hosts, regardless of how far I had to suspend my disbelief..
Considering how big of a Stargate devotee my husband is, you’d think he would have told me about the “insects” in SG Atlantis! Hmmm… Might need to actually watch the show now… :)
However, I can’t get into Buffy! I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve liked every other Joss Whedon offering (I love Dr. Horrible!!!), so I blame it on the vampires. I know there aren’t a whole lot of vampires in the series, but there’s something about Buffy that doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t bring myself to invest the time in watching SO many episodes of it!
Addenda: What I didn’t get about the Fringe episode was… why humans? Sure, their host is extinct, you need to save them, yeah, okay, but humans? Is everything extinct but humans? Engineer them to grow on pigs or something. Honestly!
OMG. I’m currently obsessed with Fringe (yes, completely ridiculous; and yes, I love it too), and totally love Eureka and SG-1. It’s like you wrote this list for me. Great episodes.
And I JUST showed my husband the mantis Buffy episode. Campy to the max. Love it. (Love the musical episode too. I think the musical episode and almost-silent episode are two of my faves from that show.)
P.S. I did steal your “Friday 5” idea, but I gave you credit! Also, I got the mug!
Cool! I am always happy to share ideas, so I’m thrilled you started doing it too. And yea for the mug’s arrival! I am assuming it arrived intact since you didn’t mention it being in 50 pieces. :)
There was a PBS special years ago that observed a yard that was left unmowed and the animal and insect life that moved in. At the end the, when you had come to appreciate the complex life web, the lawn was mowed. If anyone knows the name I’d love to try and track it down for another view.
You should contact May Berenbaum at U-Illinois. She used to have an insect-themed film festival featuring all of those outrageous sci-fi flicks from the 60’s. A character in the X-File series was named after her…Dr. Bambi Berenbaum. I enjoy your newsletter and tweets…good show!
Dr. Berenbaum’s Insect Fear Film Festival is still ongoing and I hope I have a chance to attend sometime! She’s got a list of a whole bunch of insect horror and sci-fi movies published in The Encyclopedia of Insects too. Anyone who has any interest in terrible sci-fi/horror movies should definitely hunt down the book for the list! There are some fabulously bad movies on it.