Harper's Island Harper's Island

It's been five years since CBS premiered Harper's Island, and in the words of another famous island inhabitant, "We have to go back!" A woefully underrated horror murder mystery, the 13-episode series, which is available on Netflix, follows a group of family and friends that heads to the titular locale for a destination wedding, only to learn that there's a killer among them. At least one character gets whacked each episode, always in spectacular fashion. It was awesome, and it got the shaft (no pun intended). CBS canceled the show after moving it from Thursdays to Saturdays, natch, but if they know what's good for them, they'd bring back the dead.

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Here are six reasons why CBS should resurrect Harper's Island — and why you should (re)watch.

1. It's fun!

News flash: Harper's Island is a murder mystery (duh) and it doesn't try to be anything but. Equal parts guilty pleasure and soap opera, the show has a tremendous sense of tone that makes it compulsively watchable. It's a shamelessly addictive mix of mystery, suspense, horror, gore, romance, melodrama and comedy (oh, the comedy!), and takes itself seriously just enough. The show was a refreshing departure from CBS' stable of procedurals, and with even more spin-offs on deck, the network could use the jolt of an edge-of-your-seat kill thrill ride.

2. The killer deaths!
Long before Hannibal was pushing the limits of violence on broadcast TV, Harper's Island brought grotesque gore to the small screen. Not unlike Final Destination, nearly every murder escalates in terms of both ridiculousness and grisliness. From a character literally being halved to another being harpooned (on land!), Harper's had a sick sense of fun with each murder. Each episode title is also an onomatopoeia for the sound of the murder weapon in action that week.


3. The killer cast
There's no pretense that these actors are giving Emmy-worthy performances (or that they were given Emmy-worthy dialogue to recite). That being said, the cast is phenomenal. Even when the show spirals so far into the absurd, none of the actors treat their job as a joke (but you will laugh at this show, no doubt about it). If you haven't watched Harper's, it's also a great chance to see the stars of your favorite shows in a completely new — and campy — light. Among the Harper's elite are Covert Affairs' Christopher Gorham, Supernatural's Jim Beaver (playing a character named Sheriff Mills, no less), Arrow's Katie Cassidy, One Tree Hill's Matt Barr, Graceland's Brandon Jay McLaren, Date Movie's Adam Campbell, Desperate Housewives' Richard Burgi, Continuum's Victor Webster and even Harry Hamlin. Except for two actors, the stars were not told about their characters' deaths and only found out when they got the scripts.

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4. It's better than a movie
is a big-screen slasher film amplified on the small screen. Horror films have a basic setup: the killer kills, people realize there's a killer, the killer's revealed and gets taken down. Rinse and repeat. Harper's doesn't break any new ground in that sense, but with 13 hours to play with instead of being tethered to a two-hour run-time, the show does everything a horror movie does — but bigger and better. There's ample time to build characters and backstories, explore the psychological impact of realizing that there's a deranged psychopath on the loose that films all too often gloss over or don't have time to service, and develop multiple subplots that all work in tandem to the overarching whodunnit. Or if you're just in it for the kills, there's a higher and nastier body count. By the end, it all makes for a far more earned and satisfying payoff that can't be duplicated on the silver screen.

5. The mystery keeps you guessing
In that same vein, Harper's is so focused on developing the show's mythology in the beginning that the characters don't even realize they're being picked off one by one until six episodes in. That's nearly half the series! While the characters are unaware at first, you are guaranteed to go all Sherlock on it from the start (we can all binge now, but the one-week wait back then felt interminable). But there are so many twists and turns on Harper's, even if you guessed the killer correctly at one point, the show is likely to change your mind multiple times before you reach the finale. That's because by the time you get to the end, no one is who you thought they were. Douchebags become heroes. Dumb blondes become martyrs. And creepy children... well, they still are pretty creepy. But you get our point.


6. It was ahead of its time
Don't laugh. The first season was designed as a close-ended mystery and every subsequent season would have had a new cast and a new mystery. Sound familiar? Harper's Island was an anthology/limited/event series — or whatever we're calling American Horror Story, True Detective and Fargo these days — before that became a thing. Those shows get all the glory (and big-name stars) now, but Harper's was the first spark in that modern TV flame, and frankly, with its And Then There Were None-esque premise, is better suited for such a format than AHS et al. are. Anthology series force viewers to appreciate the current story and characters because they won't be there next season; in Harper's case, characters might not even be there the next episode! TV wasn't ready for Harper's in 2009, but it is now.

Were you obsessed with Harper's Island? Do you want it to come back?

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)