A Harper's Island Community
CBS (ended 2009)

It's been five years since CBS launched Harper's Island, and in the words of another famous island inhabitant, "We have to go back!" The 13-episode series—a woefully underrated horror murder mystery that is now available on Netflix—followed a group of family and friends that traveled to the titular locale for a destination wedding, only to learn that there was a killer among them. At least one character got whacked in each episode, always in spectacular fashion. The show was awesome, and it got the shaft (no pun intended) when CBS canceled the series after moving it from Thursdays to Saturdays. So here are six reasons why the network should resurrect Harper's Island—and why you should (re-)watch.


1. It's fun!

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 it takes itself just seriously enough. When it debuted, Harper's Island was a refreshing departure from CBS's 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 began pushing the limits of violence on broadcast TV, Harper's Island brought grotesque gore to the small screen. Not unlike the deaths Final Destination, nearly every one of Harper's Island's murders escalates in terms of both ridiculousness and grisliness. From a character literally being halved to another being harpooned (on land!), Harper's has a sick sense of humor. Each episode title is also an onomatopoeia for the sound of the murder weapon in action that week.



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3. The killer cast

There's no pretense that Harper's Island's contains any Emmy-worthy performances (or that the actors have any Emmy-worthy dialogue to recite). But with that said, the cast is phenomenal. Even when the show spirals so far into the absurd, none of the performers treat their job as a joke (but you will laugh at the show, no doubt about it). And if you haven't ever seen the show, it's a great chance to see some of your current favorite TV stars 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. With the exception of two actors, none of the cast was told when their characters would die and only found out when they received the script.


4. It's better than a movie

Harper's is a big-screen slasher film amplified on the small screen. Horror films have a basic set-up: The killer kills, people realize there's a killer on the loose, the killer is 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 (as opposed to being tethered to a two-hour runtime), the show does everything a horror movie does—but bigger and better. There's ample time to build characters and backstories, to explore the psychological impact of discovering that there's a deranged psychopath on the loose (which films all too often gloss over or don't have time to service), and to develop multiple subplots that all work in tandem with the overarching whodunnit. Or if you're just in it for the kills, there's a higher and nastier body count. Ultimately, it all makes for a far more earned and satisfying pay-off 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 its 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 initially unaware, you are guaranteed to go all Sherlock on it from the start (we can all binge now, but the one-week wait back in 2009 felt interminable). There are so many twists and turns on Harper's that even if you guess 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're still pretty creepy. But you get the point.



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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've 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 StoryTrue Detective, and Fargo—before that became a thing. Those shows get all the glory (and big-name stars) these days, but Harper's was the first spark in that modern TV flame, and frankly, with its And Then There Were None-esque premise, it was better suited for such a format than many of today's entries in the field. Anthology series force viewers to appreciate the current story and characters because they won't be back next season; in the case of Harper's, characters might not even be there in the next episode! TV wasn't ready for Harper's in 2009, but it is now.


Were you obsessed with Harper's Island? Would you want to see it return?


This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

82 Comments
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loved this!!! and the poor attempt of something similar ie netflix's scream is an insult!
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Loved this show. Got a friend addicted now 6 yrs later. Need something like this back on TV.
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I loved this show. I would love for CBS to bring this back. I've been re watching it on Netflix
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Yes. Please! I'd like to see it being revived onto a fresher story line..
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i've actually recently re-watched it
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I'd watch anything with Chris Gorham in it. I actually liked this show a lot, but I'm not sure if it had enough premise for a revival. But if Chris Gorham returns...
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I loved that show
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I haven't read all your comments, so bear with me if this is a repeat...........

The show had so much potential, especially with the "gifted" child, but not much was done with it. The first 6 or so episodes were great, and then it was as if the writers knew it was over, and the quality diminished. Perhaps there were more than 6 great episodes, but looking back I remember that the show degraded into an obvious finale that was poorly written; a real missed opportunity!
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Come on, the show was AWFUL! How about encouraging better shows instead?
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Watched and enjoyed as a guilty pleasure show. Harper's Island worked as a mini-series but don't think it would work as well if it returned. I think the death of the week episodes would feel like retreads.
A similar but better show, in my opinion, was Happy Town which got a bum's rush with a hastily pulled together finale. I could see another season for that show.
Actually, did think of another one that almost fit the criteria and might still be going strong if it had been more self contained per season.... The Killing.. Thankfully Netflix is giving it a well deserved send-off with some new episodes.
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I'd prefer to stay with actors in roles I actually like and/or am familiar with than sully them in this.
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I loved this mini/series? The wife and I always wanted more and we do not like horror movies/shows usually.
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I watched it when it was live and then I re-watched it when it came on Netflix...soooo good! Would love to see it come back as long as it is done as well as the first time round :)
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If you get Harper's Island back, then I get The Unusuals back. Both debuted at the same time and cratered. Amber Tamblyn's best role.
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I loved The Unusuals so much and was sad to see it go :(

Though on the other hand, it worked out pretty well for Jeremy Renner's career. And most importantly, if The Unusuals had run for a few seasons we may not have been gifted with Noah Hawley's take on Fargo :)
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Yes...one of the best horrorseriers in a long time...
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if they did revive it... completely new cast at the same locale OR same cast with new characters and new potential killer ala american horror story. But i would watch it. I mean when they had it on, they had this whole side promo of who do you think it is so that was neat. .
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I remember wishing that the characters had a little more depth to them, especially in the early episodes when one or two of them would just die and you couldn't even remember their names. By the final few episodes, however, after spending so much time with the remaining cast, it was tough to say goodbye. Cassidy in particular was great in the final hours.
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yes and yes
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it was good, but not good enough to resurrect!!
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I remember I watched the 13 episodes on a weekend and LOVED the show.
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Hehe, Harper's Island was a fun miniseries that I find myself thinking about often (especially when one of it's many stars appears on another series). I really like it as a miniseries, I don't know if there's anywhere to go with that particular story. But it'd be cool to see another season, with a new cast and story (like how Fargo and True Detective are going to handle their second seasons).
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Who needs CBS? Grab a video camera and film us a "limited event" web series in which a TV.com staff member gets offed each week in gruesome/ridiculous fashion! And if you can manage some guest stars... it would be great if a cast member whose show got panned by TV.com offed the appropriate writer each week! Although I don't think I could handle a Revolution/Under the Dome tag-team on Tim!

Tracy Spiradakos: "So you think it's funny when I get punched, huh?" (Cue '60s Batman "Bop!" "Pow!" "Wham!" effects)


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I'd like it if they took the exact same cast but made them different characters with a different plot and location and let them go! It'd be interesting to see different characters interact and see who has chemistry and who is now more sinister/good than before! :)
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Don't get me wrong I loved Harper's Island, I've re-watched it multiple times. BUT there isn't any plot left, it ended nicely. One of the things I appreciated most about it was the fact it didn't try to drag things out and make it a multiple season series, because than things would have just gotten ridiculous as they try to create more twists to keep it going, I draw your attention to the atrocity that is Pretty Little Liars. This was an amazing show with an amazing cast and they shouldn't mess with it or cheapen it by trying to add to it.

Now that being said, I wouldn't mind if they created other shows with a similar premise somewhere else with different characters. I do prefer the shorter seasons, with a nice clean story arc.
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When Harper's Island was first advertised to be on TV, I thought "oh that looks good, I'm totally watching it." And after the first couple episodes I was hooked! Having 15 characters as your "main characters" can be a tough sell, but Harper's Island is very well done. The backgrounds of each character are really well written and the actor play them well too. And each character develops through the course of the series as they adapt to the things happening around them.
I'm a sucker for mystery shows and usually there are enough clues/hints dropped along the way that I can figure out who the killer is before the show tells me, but this show really kept me guessing! The problem with trying to use deduction to figure out who the killer is on Harper's Island is that the more you find out about the characters and their connections to each other the more you realize that everyone has a motive to kill everyone else as well as the means and opportunity (they're all stuck on an island together...) so it really could be anyone.
I didn't know Harper's Island was envisioned as a series of short-run seasons with different casts and mysteries, but it would be fun to see what else the writers can come up with for this setting. I mean it seemed like there was no shortage of secrets on that island. If CBS is short on summer programming, and the same writers are available, I'd love to know what a second season of Harper's would be like!
Also a note about point #6, Harper's Island being ahead of it's time. Another show that comes to mind whenever someone talks about a show being ahead of it's time is Moonlight. Moonlight aired 16 episodes on CBS from Fall 2008 to Spring 2009 during the writer's strike that occurred during that same time. It's cancellation was blamed on the writer's strike and low viewership. But given how many different variations there are now and over the last couple of years on the "vampire story" in movies, books, and TV I can't help thinking Moonlight should have/could have stuck around if people were as into vampire then as they are now. It has a much better story and much less teenage drama.
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I completely agree about Moonlight, it was great, there was so much potential.
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I luved Harper's Island!! Perfect guilty pleasure for the summer...or maybe even for the fall around Halloween time!
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I loved Harper's Island and guessed the killer by episode 4, but was not disappointed because I guessed it. It was a fun and the premise was ahead of it's time.
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This was the best thing I've read all day.. THANK YOU! I loved this show...it's where I discovered Chris Gorham lol
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I loved Harper's Island! I was so disappointed when they didn't bring it back.
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From the moment the boat left the dock to head to the island...hey, where's Cousin Ben?
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Oh man, I forgot about this show! Well, I only watched the first half I believe, but considering it was on my least favorite channel ever, I enjoyed what I saw. We all know how CBS feels about taking risks. I gotta go back and 're-watch/finish it. Also, when they were coming the show, the producers had said they were filming with the idea of releasing an unedited version on DVD with even grislier deaths. I would like that.
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I loved Harper's Island. I thought it was just show for the summer thought (like Under the Dome was meant to be). The story did conclude at the end of the 13 episodes so didn't think it was cancelled.
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Loved Harper's Island!
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Oh boy I really loved Harpers Island. It was fun to watch, with great characters and a good storyline. Plus everbody could die at anytime so I was always on the edge of my seat whether they would kill "Bobby" or not ;)

P.S. I am still creeped out by the little girl? I mean what is her deal? :D
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must have worked for her, she lived didn't she? lol
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yes yes yes yes yes and yes
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I was hooked after watching the first episode. I'm a fan of Richard Burgi, Kate Cassidy and Jim Beaver's talent. It was intriguing and I loved how the promo where the little girl said "One by one". The ending threw me and I didn't see that coming at all. So yeah resurrect it please.
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One of the great things about Harper's Island was the mystery of it, I figured out half of it but the other half I was in denial for a while. It was suspenseful and yes had a little gore, but I appreciate that it wasn't all sex or just gross imagery, everything had a point. Great show for sure. and that little girl was really creepy.
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I thought it was a good fast paced miniseries. The scenes I loved the most when Thomas Wellington got in in the church when the thing came down on him from the chandelier. When Sheriff Mills pulled in the wire from the water and realized at the end was the head of Reverend Fayne. The killer had no intention of marrying his fiancee it was all about Abby Mills. Some death scenes were unbelievable. Also I think everyone kinda figured that John Wakefield wasn't dead.
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that was an enjoyable show and anybody I recommended it loved it or enjoyed it. Sometimes a jewel gets overlooked while newbies claim their originality but people who have seen Harpers Island know better.
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it was a mess, but i liked it... better than The River lOLOLOL
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I watched this show before and I really thought it was good, this is one of the reasons why I do not trust CBS judgement with what will be axed or not.
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It was an awesome show no doubt!!!
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I remember stumbling across this show late one night years ago and was hooked from almost the start. It was a show that hung on the border of so bad that it was still somehow good but it was definitely a guilty pleasure of a show I looked forward to watching each week...
I had thought I was one of the few people in the world to have realised what an underratted gem it was.
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I wish "Reunion" was never cancelled. :(
It was such a unique show, it was a drama with one murder to solve.

Harper was fun! I would totally watch another murder mistery show like it.
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ahhh I thought I was the only one who had seen reunion. :) I get why they cancelled it but wish we could have seen a full season.
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'Harpers Island' didn't need revival it was 'Swingtown' that was a one season summer show on CBS that should have been renewed. It had a great story, a great cast AND SOMETHING RARE FOR A CBS SHOW - it wasn't about murders. Its only problem was that it was on a network not known for interesting programs without the soap opera criminal justice aspect anymore. Its cancellation is why I don't watch CBS any more. 'Harper's Island' had some moments but never really amounted to anything - It had little bits that worked but in general it ended up being a pretty deep pile of crap. Christopher Gorham was completely boring.. read TERRIBLE ... in that show signaling the slow turn to the end of his boring career as well. (The corpse of his career is still flopping around that P.O.S. show 'Covert Affairs' though.) Katie Cassidy began to not really be watchable as an actress after this experiment as well. It was summer fluff and nothing more. 'SWINGTOWN''s cancellation still bums me out though.
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Definitely a guilty pleasure. I own it on DVD and it's such a good watch
I LOVE slasher movies and it annoys me that that genre is dead. Horror movies today are either torture porn or about ghosts/spirits/demons.
I love the scream franchise, I know and I still know what you did last summer, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Urban Legends and it's such a shame these kinda movies do not get made anymore and that's what Harper's Island felt like.. a good old slasher flick
I doubt it would get the ratings because America craves procedural shows (WHY?!) but i'd love another series of Harper's now that 'anthology' series are in....

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I too own the DVD. I lend it to people to spread the word, lol. They've all said how good it is.
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I liked the show. I don't think a resurrection would work but I'd watch a season 2. If it had a new cast and new storyline. They could still be on an island with a killer but a different island with different characters. I'd still want a great cast like the original had.
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I absolutely loved this show and often re-watch it whenever I need a good scare. Not to mention seeing Matt Barr on my screen, swoon. Now I need to go watch it again.
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It was a one of a kind show. I'm glad you guys realized that.
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It was splendid, one of my most memorable series. I felt connected to the characters and it kept me guessing on my toes every week - for that it really deserves much more recognition.
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Harper's Island was such a fantastic show! I loved it.
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It was truly ahead of its time. One of the best shows CBS ever produced tbh.
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