When AMC revealed its upcoming projects for 2018 and beyond at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour last weekend, one show looked particularly Lovecraftian.
Based on Victor LaValle’s novella about “sorcery and skulduggery in Jazz Age New York” and executive-produced by the author himself, The Ballad of Black Tom is a foray into weird fiction that goes beneath the skin of a pulsing city into something that throbs with terror.
There seems to be nothing paranormal about street musician Charles Thomas Tester (though that last name is pretty darn ominous) as he hustles his way through life in New York City to keep himself and his father from starving and getting evicted. The only magic he knows is smoke and mirrors—until an occult book materializes. Venturing into the heart of Queens to deliver the tome to a witch who prefers to stay in the shadows, Tom awakens powerful sorcery that entangles him in a sinister conspiracy and may soon have the world in its teeth.
In a way, Tester reminds me of Joseph Curwen from Lovecraft's The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward, who used the Necronomicon to bring unholy destruction to everything from his bloodline to the local graveyard. Curwen’s proverbial deal with the devil through that cursed book made him immortal at a price, corrupting into pure evil and summoning unspeakable things from the deep. Never mind every other Lovecraftian character whose obsessive curiosity led them to prod and probe things better left undisturbed (or dead). It remains to be seen how far Tester tests the limits of the otherworld, and whether he falls screaming into the same fate.
“We are at our best when we bet on and support exceptional talent … from exceptional creators with distinct points of view,” said AMC’s Charlie Collier, who also hinted that the channel will have “a commitment to worlds you’ve never seen on TV before.”
If inspiration from the master of weird fiction himself isn’t a distinct point of view, I don’t know what is. No word yet on whether this series will involve tentacles.