Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Wednesday, October 26, 2011. All times are Eastern.
American Horror Story (FX, 10 p.m.): We know we rag on this train wreck of a show for being so, well, train wreck-y, but we won’t lie: We haven’t had this much fun with a bad show since Happy Town, and it looks like this one’s going to stick around for some time to come. And in tonight and next week’s Halloween-themed two-parter, the show finally begins to figure out how to channel its rare brand of batshit insanity toward something… not good, exactly… but definitely something that’s like nothing else on TV and more or less makes sense as television. And while next week’s episode is better, tonight features some intriguing setup, the first sequence in the show that works as horror, and some really questionable character decisions (of course). Todd VanDerWerff lets you know what’s what.
The Middle (ABC, 8 p.m.): ABC’s breaking out two hours of Halloween episodes of their comedies, but for some reason, Modern Family decided not to participate, so the network is just rerunning last season’s (pretty darn good) Halloween episode. That leaves the rest of the shows to pick up the slack and the wacky costumes. Here’s hoping Neil Flynn dresses up as Frankenstein’s monster, and Will Harris dresses up like a cute lil’ kitty cat.
Survivor (CBS, 8 p.m.): “One tribe is left in shock when one of its players makes an extremely risky move,” says tonight’s plot summary, and we can only conclude that the “risky move” involves said player swimming out to sea, cutting himself, then swimming back, 50 sharks on his tail, and using said sharks to decimate the other tribe. (And, no, we do mean “reduce the other tribe’s numbers by exactly 10 percent.”) Renowned shark fan Carrie Raisler’s crossing her fingers.
Suburgatory (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): “Tessa’s costume rubs locals the wrong way,” says the summary. This better be something truly controversial, not just, like, Tessa dressing up as a sexy pirate or something because that’s been done. We’re expecting something like Piss Christ or the bloody corpse of a famous dead person or Spiro Agnew. We’re counting on you, Tessa. Shock us. Shock Ryan McGee. Shock the world.
America’s Next Top Model (The CW, 9 p.m.): “You wanna be on top?” asks the title sequence to this series, and it’s long since ceased to be a query that fits the show but, rather, a haunting question to all of us in an age when “being on top” means more and more, and the rest of us are forced to scrabble for the crumbs. What we’re saying is that Tyra Banks is the 1 percent, and we hope the various Top Model all-stars occupy her. Perhaps Margaret Eby could join in?
Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist (Bravo, 9 p.m.): Wouldn’t you, just once, like China Chow to proclaim, “Tonight’s challenge: Magna-Doodle!” and then all of the contestants have to use their Magna-Doodle in an artscape that confronts the pain and alienation of modern life in a crumbling republic? And next week’s challenge could be Lite Brite, right, John Teti?
Happy Endings (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): The evening of Halloween comedy concludes with an episode that will hopefully involve Elisha Cuthbert gathering the other characters around a campfire to tell a spooky story about a painting that came to life and stalked a bunch of 12-year-olds with vaguely Canadian accents around their school. David Sims doesn’t get this reference because he’s never watched Snick.
Revenge (ABC, 10 p.m.): “The tension between Emily and Tyler can no longer be contained,” says the episode summary. Translation: Emily can hold exactly 33 gallons of tension, while Tyler can hold exactly 44. If the writers of the show spill one kiloliter of tension over the two, how many buckets will be required to manage the spill-off, if each bucket holds five gallons. Show your work, as Carrie Raisler doesn’t want anyone cheating.
South Park (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.): Don’t tell anyone, but we’re huge fans of Randy plotlines, and tonight’s episode appears to have a really good one, as he becomes obsessed with Broadway shows after taking Sharon to see one in Denver. Perhaps Trey Parker and Matt Stone will offer some pointed commentary on their successful foray on the Great White Way? Perhaps we’ll stop talking like 1950s gossip columnists before Ryan McGee hits us?
TV CLUB CLASSIC
The Sopranos (1 p.m.): Carmela gets it on with her son's guidance counselor, played by everybody's favorite vaguely Northeastern, vaguely aristocratic authority figure, David Strathairn. Meanwhile, Tony Blundetto tries to set up a massage parlor to keep him on the straight and narrow. Look, we realize that this doesn't exactly sound exciting, but we promise it's riveting. Would Todd VanDerWerff like bad television this much? Don't answer that.
WHAT ELSE IS ON
8 Days A Week (BET, 8 p.m.): BET, which has been making a big move into scripted programming, checks in with this new drama series about kids attending a performing arts school. We know that you’re expecting them to sing and dance, but we hope it’s all obscure, off-putting performance art, and most of the episode consists of the actors barking poetry at passers-by and Jessica Jardine, who’s checking out the debut.
The Man Who Lost His Face/My Brand New Face (DFH, 8 p.m.): See, all he had to do was look under some things, and there it was, right where he left it!
Top Chef: Just Desserts (Bravo, 10 p.m.): It’s the season finale, which means that next week, it will finally be time for Top Chef: Super Sauciers to begin. So many gravies, reductions, and hollandaises, we won’t even know what to do with all of them. In the meantime, Phil Nugent’s stuck cleaning up after all of the sweet freaks on this show.
Whitechapel (BBC America, 10 p.m.): The network’s latest British import plays off of the long history and mythology surrounding the killings of Jack the Ripper, perfect fodder for Halloween week and for you to race around your apartment, saying, “The game’s afoot, guvnah!” then leaping about on top of your couch and pretending to be Springheeled Jack. (You need to get out more.) Meredith Blake cracks the case.
The Razor’s Edge (TCM, 8 p.m.): Tyrone Power plays a World War I flying ace (no, not that one) searching for spiritual peace and calm after the devastation of war, in the first film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel. The film was nominated for a handful of Oscars and won the Supporting Actress award for the performance of Anne Baxter.
Roger Dodger (Flix, 8:05 p.m.): Campbell Scott is great and magnetic in this underseen indie from 2002, in which he takes his nephew (a younger Jesse Eisenberg) out on the town to share his tips for relationships and picking up women. Isabella Rossellini also stars, but she sadly doesn’t once make mention of Arby’s.
World Series, Game 6: Rangers at Cardinals (Fox, 7:30 p.m.): The Rangers can put the Cardinals away, once and for all, by winning tonight, but some dude we read something by on the Internet said that the home team is pretty heavily favored in the final two games in World Series over the last 30 years. And while we haven’t checked his math or anything, sure, we’ll buy it. Go, baseball!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
The X Factor (Tuesday): A homeless man performed Katy Perry. A bunch of kids who’d been thrown together in a group for no real reason sang off-key. Some other group of girls performed “Come On, Eileen” and sounded like they were auditioning for a Mamma Mia sequel based on the songs of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. And the desperation from the show longing to become your next big thing was palpable. Emily Yoshida watched every single minute of it.