Brand New Cherry Flavor, a.k.a. Channel Zero: Season Five on Netflix

At first, I was surprised there wasn’t a thread for this. It’s horror, it’s a miniseries with a pedigree and even a touch of star power, and it’s widely available. Yet none of you guys is even curious about it? Oh, wait, a search result shows a few people mentioned it in one of those godawful catch-all threads where conversations go to die before they even begin. Big surprise…

Anyway, the main selling point for this is that it’s pretty much season five of Channel Zero. Nick Antosca is the guy who corralled various talent for Syfy’s Channel Zero, which started out promisingly, had some brilliant flashes, and – to my mind – really peaked with E.L. Katz’s Pretzel Jack storyline in season four…and that was the end of Channel Zero. Syfy was done with it. Canceled.

But what’s this? Nick Antosca, working with someone named Lenore Zion, putting together an eight-episode horror miniseries for Netflex, minus the Channel Zero branding? Count me in! So what if it’s based on a novel about how hard it is to make it in Hollywood?

Once you get past its tidily obligatory Hollywood-is-brutal-isms, you’ll find a nifty Bechdel-worthy contest between two women: the adorable Rosa Salazar as a young filmmaker wronged by the industry, and Catherine Keener in top form as, uh, well, I guess a homeless person who’s a witch and not actually homeless. There’s more to it than that – mysterious backstories are the bread and butter of Brand New Cherry Flavor – but what a wonderful role for Keener, and she has tons of fun with it, especially when she’s sparring with an exasperated Salazar who’s sick of her mystical bullshit. Really, these two women are reason enough to watch the series. They’re both really good, they’re both obviously committed to the material (Salazar was a producer), and they’re both given a lot of room to show their talent.

Salazar never really registered for me until I heard her doing voicework in an animated series with Bob Odenkirk. She’s really good. And she’s tragically wasted in Alita: Battle Angel, where Robert Rodriguez thought it would be a great idea to draw cartoon eyes over her face. But it’s all her in Brand New Cherry Flavor, which she lends a lot more than just her face and voice. There’s a great physicality to her performance, and she’s a commanding presence here. There’s also a sense that she really trusts the filmmakers here. She’s willing to do weird stuff. She doesn’t seem to have an ounce of vanity, whether it’s spitting up bodily fluids, Cronenberg sexual body horror, being wigged out on psychedelic drugs, or just romping around in a horrible outfit (I kept wishing she’d go home and change during the last two episodes). Her and her character’s willingness are a delicious contrast to Keener’s wizened languid cynicism.

Then there’s Eric Lange, a character actor you’ll probably recognize, but have no idea where you know him from. His (intentionally?) awful wig won’t help matters. I pretty quickly recognized him from a horror short called AM1200 that I really like, but he’s one of those actors with well over a hundred credits*. Brand New Cherry Flavor basically uses him as a whipping post. The storyline is mostly concerned with how he gets ground up as the relationship developers between Rosa Salazar’s hungry young filmmaker and Catherine Keener’s weirdly wordly witch. He’s the perfect progtagonist in a post-#me-too era.

This is another one of those scripts that probably should have been a ninety-minute movie. But because it’s stretched over eight episodes, ranging from a half hour to fifty minutes, you get to spend a lot of time with the main actors, and they’re all three well worth the time. In fact, if this were a ninety-minute movie, I’d probably wish it were a miniseries to give the actors more time with each other.

As the story progresses and secrets are revealed, it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to end up in one of about three or four conclusions. Unfortunately, I feel that it picked the least interesting conclusion. And on the way there, Brand New Cherry Flavor has its share of contrivance and filler. This wouldn’t be my favorite season of Channel Zero, but it would be my favorite cast. None of the other seasons had this much acting talent on display.

It also looks very much like a season of Channel Zero. This is especially true of the production design, which prefers sets where it can do playful things that might not be possible on location (mysterious doors, a jungle greenhouse, out of control vines, a chaotic Beverly Hills mansion). At times, Brand New Cherry Flavor looks like experimental theater. This was also true of some of Channel Zero, and I consider that a strength. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brand New Cherry Flavor was shot on some of the same Vancouver soundstages as Channel Zero.

But all in all, it retains the same sense of horror, weirdness, and production design that powered Channel Zero. If you’re a fan of the series, the good news is that it didn’t die; it just shed its title.


* I was close. He only has 93 credits on IMDB.

I started this based on a Polygon article that boosted it, but never got that far and was turned off by a couple of negative reviews. You’ve given me reason to dive back in Tom.

I read a little about it, but I didn’t know anything about the Channel Zero connection. Will be watching it ASAP.

It’s not just voicework. The show (Undone - watch it, it’s great) is rotoscoped, so that’s her physical performance too.

I just finished this yesterday, and while it was fairly predictable, it did hold my interest for much of the length. I think that’s attributed to the strong cast and the committed performances. Some decent SFX gore, too!

I hadn’t heard of Channel Zero, but I’ll look it up now. Thanks, @tomchick!

I enjoyed the performances, creative design, and retro callbacks, but the body horror was almost too much in parts. Luckily not quite rising to the level of Cronenberg-bugs-fucking-eachother-and-now-I-will-have-nightmares-forever!

Just watched the entire series last night. The actors in this thing knocked it out of the park, and the storytelling did a masterful job of changing your perspectives ever so slightly as the series wore on. I can’t emphasize enough how critical the 2 leads acting jobs were to making this amazing. With some of the dreck I’ve watched recently it, it only highlights just how much an actor can ruin something if they’re not incredibly talented.

This is one reason I had a problem with the ending. It felt like a set-up for another season instead of a self-contained storyline, but it swaps out its strongest actor for arguably its weakest?


I’ve breezed past this thread a number of times over the last few days because seriously, didn’t do themselves any favors with the name choice but I guess Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts must have been taken. But I’m intrigued now that I finally committed to that first click, so I’ll add this to my queue. Which means I’ll probably get to it in five or so years.

Today I learned there were four seasons of something called Channel Zero.

I’ve had it on my to-do list. I was LTTP and have to wrap up Fauda and then finish the new Money Heist episodes then this!

I watched Brand New Cherry Flavor, but I don’t think Channel Zero was ever available on any service I subscribe to.

I only kind of liked BNCF. It had just enough weirdness to keep me watching, but I was never really satisfied with any of the story beats, resolutions, or outcomes. They really hyped up the “final scene” of the horror movie, and I thought, “oh, they’re never going to show us that, nothing could possibly live up to what they’ve hyped it up to be, better to leave it to the imagination”, and then they show it. It’s good, but… yeah, they hyped it up too much.

It’s just, like, the viewer knows about three episodes before the protagonist that she’s getting totally screwed over by this witch, but she just never figures it out, or figures it out, but then doesn’t do anything about it. Like, one scene she’s digging into the witch’s past to try to get one over on her, and the next she’s offering to cough up a cat for her (or maybe that was in the other order, but still).

Catherine Keener is great. Obviously.

Well, the point of stories about people making deals with witches is that they always get screwed over by the witch. That’s just what witches do. See also, deals with the devil.

But what they’re doing here is telling a story about a woman whose drive for revenge is so great that she simply doesn’t care if she gets screwed over. That seems to be the central premise of Brand New Cherry Flavor as a novel from the 90s, and this adaptation casts it against the backdrop of Hollywood’s history with sexual abuse and predation as we see it post-#me-too. Whether or not it works is certainly open to discussion, but I would say your observation isn’t a narrative flaw so much as the actual narrative intent.

But it definitely feels contrived at times, doesn’t it? Which is another reason I wonder if it would have been better as a 90-minute movie forced to focus on that angle rather than letting it dangle in the gaps between plot points.


Well, I’d argue she does care. She says, “Hey, I’m in constant pain and he has the hiccups”. So she knows, and she cares, and in one instance she tries to do something about it (dig into her history), but that doesn’t work so she gives up and just does what she’s told. Oh, and she says “I’m not coughing up any more cats”, but that doesn’t work out, so she just gives up on that too.

I mean, I’m not really making a rational argument here. I’m just saying it was hard for me to enjoy the show when the protagonist basically has no agency after the first episode. Shit happens to her and she just takes it. Also, I have this thing where I like when weird stuff happens, but it has to be connected to the story, it can’t just be weird shit for it’s own sake. BNCF was actually not terrible about this (the panther and the mother account for most things). Still, at times, it seemed like just weird for the sake of weird. Like, why does the plant grow like that? What does it mean? Why is there nobody else in this apartment building in the middle of L.A.?

But hey, Jason Mendoza (from Good Place) is in it. So there’s that.

You’re ignoring my point, so I’ll just restate it:

It’s a story about the destructive power of revenge. If your problem is whether the protagonist has any agency after signing her pact with the devil, I’d say you’re missing the point of pacts with the devil. Did it bother you that Faust, Don Giovanni, Rosemary Woodhouse, and Johnny Favorite had no agency?

Is this your first Channel Zero? :)

I wondered about some of the unexplained stuff, too. Seems like some of it is just carried over from the novel. For instance, Boro was a biker/tattoo artist dude in the book. And there were apparently a ton more characters in the book collapsed into the handful of characters in the TV show. I still don’t understand the relationship between all the ancillary characters in the TV show. Not that I cared about any of them. That Roy Hardaway character was about the flimsiest fake “celebrity” I’ve ever seen. And how is it that Lisa Nova’s friends just hang out with the famous wunderkind director who gets spontaneously combusted at the party? If she’s got connections like that, why does she need Lou Burke?

That’s where I recognized that guy from! I loved that actor, but they didn’t really give him much to do.


Sorry! Not on purpose. I guess I just didn’t understand it. Anyway, moving on…

I don’t know what movies those first two guys are from*, but as far as the last two, that’s a good question. Did it bother me? I guess it didn’t. I don’t claim to be consistent, but I think the reason it didn’t bother me is that those two movies are (at least partially), mysteries. Rosemary and Johnny spend the movie believing that they do have agency, and eventually discover that they never did. Whatever BNCF is, it isn’t that. I wasn’t drawn into the story of whether or not she had agency. She just wanders around, watching people burst into flame or climbing down through mysterious trap doors.

Now who is ignoring who! I said I don’t think Channel Zero ever appeared on any service I subscribe to. I’ve heard you talking about it, and I would totally watch the seasons you suggested if I could!

That’s the same actor as the (hopefully deliberately) ridiculous “Deke” in Agents of Shield . He was (briefly) in Hacks, too!

*I’m kidding, geez!

I believe that’s because Jason Mendoza sells him drugs.

Not trying to be tedious, but just to clarify: You brought up that the viewer knows before Lisa Nova that she’s going to get screwed over by her deal with Boro, and that Lisa Nova “never figures it out” or “never does anything about it”.

I responded that’s because it’s a story about someone who cares more about revenge than what happens to her.

You then said she cares about what happens to her.

I just wanted to correct you that my point wasn’t about whether she cares what happens to her, but my point was that she cares more about revenge. You seemed to think I was saying “she doesn’t care what happens to her”. But I didn’t mean to imply that. Of course she cares. Of course she doesn’t enjoy puking kittens, eating stinky stew, and questing for pubes. But she blindly goes along with Boro’s scheme because she cares mostly about hurting Lou Burke.

So, again, not trying to be tedious, but I just wanted to clarify why I was being tedious. :)

Sure, totally fair points, but I do think the agency question is worth separating from your observations about the meandering back-and-forth in Brand New Cherry Flavor. I would say the lack of agency is inherent to the formula (deals with the devil), whereas the desultory and sometimes messy narrative is just Brand New Cherry Flavor being a typical TV series structure in which multiple writers fill an eight-episode season; sometimes that feels like a cohesive four-hour movie and sometimes it feels like multiple writers filling an eight-episode season. I think we both agree that Brand New Cherry Flavor is definitely the latter.

Also, I think I would push back on someone saying Lisa Nova didn’t have any agency. Because I feel she does. And it leads to two of Brand New Cherry Flavor’s more memorable scenes. For instance, the Cronenberg-style kitten vagina sex was a direct result of Lisa Nova declaring that she wouldn’t puke kittens anymore. That was agency. Similarly, that great dinner scene with Leland Orser and the kids. That was a direct result of Lisa Nova sleuthing out Boro’s Jennifer identity. To me, both of those attempts to defy Boro count as agency.

They don’t work, of course. They’re both set-ups to show how powerful Boro is, which arguably supports your take on Lisa Nova’s lack of agency, but at least Lisa was trying! So in that regard, I do think she belongs in the same category as Rosemary Woodhouse and Johnny Favorite.


Ok, I get it, and I suppose I can’t argue with that. She is certainly willing to climb a mountain of crap to get revenge (“you need a kitten?”), but she gets angry when it seems she’s not getting what she paid for (“he has the hiccups!”). And, I suppose, in the end she does get what she paid for, although the cost is very high. Also, my memory is already fading so I might be misremembering how it ended.

While I agree it is potentially worth doing, I don’t think I can. Partly because I don’t remember all the events clearly enough (and I’m not going to watch it again!), and partly because I think that requires some amount of mind reading of the writers. When Lisa has, as you put it, Cronenberg-style kitten vagina sex (nice one), is that her taking control of her messed-up situation? Exerting agency in something she still has control over? Or did the writers just think it would be a cool gross thing to put in the script?

Anyway, this conversation has been more interesting to me than BNCF, so thanks for making my investment worthwhile. Next time I watch something I’m going to get in a discussion about with you, I’ll try to remember to take notes :)

He’s also in the new series on Prime Video with Nicole Kidman: Nine Perfect Strangers (which I’m watching and wish they would have just released the whole thing instead of weekly drops).